The Peresecuting Beast

The Book of Revelation graphically portrays the ongoing cosmic conflict between Satan and Jesus that manifests itself in the daily struggles of the “Seven Assemblies of Asia.” On Earth, the agents of the “Dragon” execute his attacks on the people of God, especially the “Beast from the Sea,” the “False Prophet,” and “Babylon, the Great Whore.” This “war” is waged by the Devil with deception and compromise even more so than outright persecution and violence.

Satan’s assaults on the Church will culminate in a final effort to annihilate the followers of the “Lamb” near or at the end of the age. After the “Sixth Bowl of Wrath” was emptied, the persecuting efforts of the “Dragon” produced the final confrontation at the place called “Armageddon.”

T-Rex 2 - Photo by Amy-Leigh Barnard on Unsplash
[Photo by Amy-Leigh Barnard on Unsplash]

Likewise, at the end of the “
Thousand Years,” all the “nations of the Earth” are gathered by Satan for his final worldwide attack on the “saints” - (Revelation 13:7-10, 16:12-16, 19:17-21, 20:8-10 – “The nations were gathered from the four corners of the Earth…. And they ascended over the breadth of the Earth and surrounded the camp of the Saints”).

The Book is addressed to congregations in seven key cities of the Roman province of Asia. Its contents concern the “things that must come to pass shortly” that will affect them. They were under assault from within and without.

Persecution, false teachers, deception, and pressure to compromise with the surrounding society all play their part in this cosmic drama. The source behind each attack on the Asian assemblies is the “Devil” - (Revelation 1:4, 1:11, 2:8-13, 3:9).

There were growing conflicts between the Asian congregations and local governing authorities. The reference to “Satan’s Throne” in the city of Pergamos alludes either to the Roman provincial government centered there or its temple dedicated to the veneration of Caesar and “Roma,” the patron deity of Rome - (Revelation 2:13).

The letters to the Seven Assemblies provide a microcosmic perspective on the larger and centuries-long war that is being waged between the “Dragon” and the “Lamb.” The visions recorded in Chapters 4 through 20 provide the macrocosmic view of the daily struggles of the marginalized believers who live in a largely pagan society.

In Revelation, Humanity is divided into two groups. Those men who follow the “Lamb wherever he goes,” and the “Inhabitants of the Earth” who their allegiance to the “Beast from the Sea.” An individual either bears the “Seal of God” or is branded with the “Mark of the Beast” - (Revelation 3:10, 6:10, 7:1-4, 8:13, 14:1-5, 20:4).

WAR AGAINST THE SAINTS


Consistently in Revelation, this “war” is described borrowing language from Daniel’s vision of the “Little Horn” that persecuted the “saints.” References to the “war” occur first in the vision of the “Two Witnesses” who were slain by the “Beast from the Abyss” - (Revelation 11:7, Daniel 7:21).

The “Two Witnesses” represent the “Two Olive Trees and the Two Lampstands.” Elsewhere in the Book, lampstands” symbolize churches, therefore, the “Two Witnesses” portray congregations of believers engaged in prophetic testimony before the world, saints who are attacked for “having the Testimony of Jesus” - (Zechariah 4:1-14, Revelation 1:20, 11:7, 12:17).

At the end of their ministry, the “Beast will ascend from the Abyss to wage war on them and slay them.”  The “Beast” cannot overcome the “Two Witnesses” until they have completed their prophetic mission. Hence, the “Beast” wages war against churches rather than nation-states - On the followers of the “Lamb.”

In Chapter 12, after being expelled from Heaven, the enraged “Dragon” launches his “war” against the “seed of the woman” - (Revelation 12:7-8, 17).

The “Dragon” failed to destroy the Messianic “Son,” and accordingly, he was expelled from heaven. No longer able to accuse the “brethren,” he began to wage “war against the seed of the woman,” and this “seed” is identified as those who keep the “commandments of God and who have the Testimony of Jesus” - (Revelation 12:17).

To carry out his “war against the seed of the woman,” Satan is seen standing on the “seashore” as he summons his own “seed” to launch his attack, namely, the “Beast from the Sea” and the “Beast from the Earth.” Moreover, the “Beast from the Sea” is identical to the “Beast from the Abyss” that attacked the “Two Witnesses” - (Revelation 11:7, 13:1-10).

The “Beast” is authorized “to MAKE war with the saints and to overcome them,” and here, the “saints” are identical to those “who have the testimony of Jesus” in Chapter 12 - (Revelation 12:17, 13:7, 14:12).

Thus, the Devil wages “war” against the Assembly of Jesus, not nation-states or conventional military forces. The language of warfare is metaphorical and used to portray the persecuting activities of the “Beast” intended to destroy the Church. This “war” unfolds especially in the activities of deceivers in the Church, as well as attempts to persecute believers by outsiders and governing authorities.

Storm - Photo by Justin Leniger on Unsplash
[Photo by Justin Leniger on Unsplash]

Satan’s final onslaught is launched in Chapter 20 at the end of the “
Thousand Years” after the “Ancient Serpent” is released from the “Abyss.” This last attempt to annihilate the “saints” is described in language from the Book of Ezekiel:

  • And as soon as the thousand years are ended, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison and will go forth to deceive the nations that are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to the war, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they ascended over the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints, the beloved city. And fire came down out of heaven and devoured them; and the Devil who was deceiving them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where were both the Beast and the False Prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night unto the ages of ages” - (Revelation 20:7-10).

However, in the Book of Revelation, Ezekiel’s vision is universalized. The Hebrew prophet saw regional powers attacking Israel in Palestine, whereas John saw the nations from the four corners of the Earth attacking the “camp of the saints.”

In Chapter 20, the Book mixes its metaphors. “Camp” echoes the story of Israel as the pilgrim people wandering in the wilderness.  “City” speaks of the permanent residence of the nation in the Promised Land. Once again, the language is metaphorical.

The passage does not refer to old Jerusalem or depict Jews camping in the Judean wilderness. This image represents the followers of the “Lamb,” those who have the “Testimony of Jesus” - (Revelation 5:8, 8:3-4, 11:18, 13:7-10, 14:12, 16:6, 17:6, 18:24, 19:8).

In the end, Satan will “deceive the nations” and “gather them to the war” from the furthest regions of the planet. This repeats a phrase seen previously, “the war,” singular. In each case, it refers not to one “war” among many, but to “THE war” waged by the “Dragon” against the saints of God, beginning with the “Seven Assemblies of Asia.”



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