SYNOPSIS: The Beast from the sea now wages war on the followers of the Lamb in obedience to the Dragon – Revelation 13:6-10.
The Beast from the sea is the Dragon’s agent assigned to annihilate the “saints.” For a time, the Beast is given authority over all nations and peoples with which to execute this task. Humanity is divided into two groups: Men and women who render homage to the Beast and Dragon, the “inhabitants of the earth,” and the men and women who follow the Lamb regardless of where he leads, the “saints,” “them who tabernacle in heaven.” The latter, consequently, suffer persecution and martyrdom.
The divine paradox is that the “victory” over the saints by the Beast is the very thing that vindicates them but seals the fate of the Dragon and his minions. Martyrdom is not contrary to the redemptive plan unveiled by the Lamb, but an integral part of it.
(Revelation 13:6-10) – “And he opened his mouth for blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name and his tent — them who in heaven were tabernacling. And it was given unto him, to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and there was given him authority against every tribe and people and tongue and nation. And all they who are dwelling upon the earth will do homage unto him —every one whose name is not written in the scroll of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone hath an ear: let him hear. If anyone carrieth into captivity, into captivity he goeth away. If anyone with a sword doth slay, he must with a sword be slain. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints” – (The Emphasized Bible).
The Beast is authorized to slander God, His name, His sanctuary, even those who “tabernacle in heaven.” The imagery used is not derived from the Temple in old Jerusalem, but instead, from the portable Tabernacle that Israel carried in the wilderness (Revelation 15:5 – “After these things I saw the sanctuary of the tent of testimony in heaven”).
The “trampling” of the outer court by the nations that John saw when he “measured the sanctuary” is connected to the reality now described as the Beast profanes God and His tabernacle. The “priests” that John saw worshiping in the sanctuary are identical with those described here, the ones who “tabernacle in heaven.” Thus, during this period, the “forty-two months,” the Beast is authorized to slander and, otherwise, “trample underfoot” the saints (Revelation 11:1-2).
The ones who “tabernacle in heaven” are not supernatural beings but believers contrasted with unbelievers, that is, the “inhabitants of the earth.” The Greek verb used for “tabernacling” is skénoō, from the noun skéné or “tent, tabernacle,” the same noun used in the Greek Septuagint version for the portable “tabernacle” carried by Israel in the Wilderness. Elsewhere, both noun and verb portray God’s people as His “tabernacle” (Exodus 25:9, 26:1-35, Revelation 3:10, 15:5, 21:3).
This understanding is demonstrated by Verse 6: “His name and his tabernacle, those tabernacling in heaven.” There is no conjunction, no “and” preceding the last clause. “Those that tabernacle in heaven” is in apposition to “his tabernacle” and defines it. The New American Standard Version reflects this sense, rendering it, “His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.”
“Blasphemy” refers not to profanity but, instead, to slander, that is, false accusations against God’s people. Among the seven churches of Asia, this manifested in accusations before local magistrates against Christians (Revelation 2:9, 3:9, 12:10).
The image of the Beast having authority over all nations alludes to the story of King Nebuchadnezzar and his “great image” erected in the “plain of Dura.” The Babylonian monarch commanded all the peoples and nations in his realm to render homage to the image. That same passage from the book of Daniel is used also in the next vision of the Beast from the earth; the dimensions of Nebuchadnezzar’s image provide the basis for the “number of the Beast” or ‘666’ (Revelation 13:11-18).
- (Daniel 7:21) – “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.”
- (Daniel 3:4-7) – “Therefore, at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the cornet…all the peoples, nations, and tongues fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”
- (Daniel 12:1) – “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands for the children of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people will be delivered, everyone that will be found written in the book.”
The repeated use of Daniel 7:21 links several passages that deal with the same subject matter. Whether the Dragon wages “war” against Michael, the Lamb, “saints,” the “seed of the woman,” or “they who have the testimony of Jesus,” it amounts to the same thing. Satan attacks the Lamb by persecuting everyone whose name is written in his “book of life.” Compare the following:
- (Revelation 11:7) – “When they finish their testimony, the Beast that is ascending out of the Abyss will make war with them, overcome them, and kill them.”
- (Revelation 12:17) – “The dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, they that keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus.”
- (Revelation 13:7) – “And it was given to it to make war with the saints and to overcome them.”
- (Revelation 17:14) – “These will war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings.”
The war against the saints is the same reality as the “war” of the Beast against the “Two Witnesses” and the “seed of the woman.” It is the outworking on the earth of the heavenly “war” between the Dragon and Michael. “Enraged” after his expulsion from heaven, the Dragon begins his final assault against the “seed of the Woman” by means of his “seed,” the beasts from the sea and the earth (Revelation 11:7, 12:17).
Chapter 13 nowhere refers to any war waged by the Beast against nations or their standing armies. Nothing is said of an attack by it on the nation of Israel or the Jewish people. Instead, war is waged on the “saints.” And “saints” are not identified by their ethnicity but by their names being written in the Lamb’s “book of life.” Whether or not the Beast does make war against other regimes and nations is not the concern of the passage.
The Beast is not able to persecute the saints until the authority to do so is “given to it” (edothé). This is the same formula used in Verse 5 where one of its horns was given a mouth speaking blasphemies against God and against “them that tabernacle in the heaven.” This demonstrates that the group that “who tabernacles in heaven” is identical with the “saints” in Verse 7. Elsewhere, the category “saints” refers to men and women from every ethnic and national group redeemed by the Lamb (Revelation 5:8, 8:3-4, 11:18, 14:12).
The passage ends with the exhortation, “Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” That “saints” refers to followers of Jesus is made clear in the expanded form found in the next chapter – “Here is the perseverance of the saints, they who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”(Revelation 13:10, 14:12).
The “inhabitants of the earth” are defined negatively – “Everyone whose name is not written in the book of life of the Lamb.” What determines status is whether one renders homage to the Beast or follows the Lamb.
“Written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The clause is derived from Daniel 12:1 – “And at that time your people will be delivered, everyone that will be found written in the book.” But now it is expanded into the “book of the life of the Lamb.” It is the death of the Lamb that redeems men so their names can be inscribed in the book (compare – Revelation 3:20, 21:27).
The “book of Life” belongs to the Lamb and he determines whose name is included. Whether this book is identical to the book sealed with seven seals, is not stated. Since the Lamb alone is worthy to open that scroll, this is a possibility. On the other hand, this book is the “Lamb’s book of life,” whereas, the Sealed Scroll included judgments that resulted in the destruction of the enemies of the Lamb.
“Slain from the foundation of the world.” The clause uses the same Greek verb for “slain” as that used for the “slain Lamb.” The same verb is applied to the souls under the altar “slain for their testimony,” the deadly wound of the Beast in imitation of the Lamb, and the “blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth” (Revelation 5:6-12, 6:9, 13:3, 18:24).
“Having been slain from the foundation of the world.” This does not mean the Son has died repeatedly since the original creation. The participle is in a perfect tense and signifies an action completed in the past with results continuing into the present. Revelation traces the effort by the Dragon to destroy mankind back to the Garden of Eden, which is why he is identified as the “ancient serpent” (Revelation 12:9, 20:1-3).
Likewise, the Beast is a trans-historical figure that has existed since the incident at the Tower of Babel. The Beast that John saw “was, is not, and is going to ascend out of the Abyss,” its seven heads represent “seven kings; five are fallen, one is, the other is not yet come; and when he comes he must continue a little while.” All whose names have not been written in the book of life “from the foundation of the world” wonder after the Beast when they see “how he was, and is not, and will come” (Genesis 11:1-9, Revelation 17:8-10).
The Beast mimics the Lamb and God. It has a death and “resurrection,” just as the Lamb did. The description, “He was, and is not, and will come,” echoes the earlier one applied to God, the One “who is, who was and who is coming” (Revelation 1:4, 4:8, 11:17).
“Slain from the foundation of the world” does not mean Jesus has suffered death since then, any more than “those whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world” means believers have existed since the dawn of creation. Just as God knew the men and women who were His from the beginning, so His redemptive plan has been in process since the creation.
The passage concludes with an exhortation: “If anyone is for captivity, into captivity he goes. If anyone is to be slain with sword, with sword must he be slain.” Saints do not escape persecution and are destined to endure captivity, persecution, and even violent death. The verse alludes to a prophecy from Jeremiah originally against the kingdom of Judah, a prophecy that anticipated Judah’s captivity in Babylon:
(Jeremiah 15:1-2) – “Then said Yahweh to me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind would not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth. And it shall come to pass, when they say to you, Where shall we go forth? Then you will tell them, Thus says Yahweh, Such as are for death, to death; and such as are for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are for captivity, to captivity.”
The book of Revelation gives it an ironic twist – What was a word of judgment becomes the means by which saints overcome Babylon. They do suffer at her hands, but her victory over the saints is only apparent. God will remember her sins and “judge your judgment on her…and in an hour she shall be desolated,” for in her was found the “blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that have been slain upon the earth” (Revelation 17:6, 18:20-24).
The call to “hear” recalls the repeated exhortation in the letters to the seven churches concerning how believers overcome: “If anyone has an ear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
“Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” The captivity and death that “saints” experience at the hands of the Beast is their “perseverance.” The verse begins with the adverb hōde or “here,” which is emphatic to stress the point. What looks like defeat to the “inhabitants of the earth” turns out to be the victory of the “saints.”
A noteworthy point is how the book of Revelation nowhere depicts or mentions any escape from suffering as an option for followers of the Lamb. Believers are called to endure trials faithfully and to persevere in their witness. This is not only how they “overcome” but, more importantly, how God uses them to redeem many members of the “inhabitants of the earth.”