Persecuting Beast

The “Dragon” and his earthly vassals wage war against the saints, the followers of the Lamb, and not against other nation-states

T-Rex - Photo by Huang Yingone on Unsplash
The book of 
Revelation portrays the cosmic conflict between Satan and Jesus, one that plays out in the daily struggles of the church. On the earth, the agents of the “Dragon” execute his attacks on the Church, especially the “beast from the sea,” the “false prophet,” and “Babylon.” This “war” is waged by the Devil with deception, compromise, and persecution - [T-Rex - Photo by Huang Yingone on Unsplash].

The assaults on the church culminate in the final effort to annihilate the followers of the “Lamb” 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 “Armageddon.” Likewise, at the end of the “thousand-years,” all the “nations of the earth” are gathered by Satan to his final global assault against the “saints” - (Revelation 13:7-10, 16:12-16, 19:17-21, 20:8-10).

Revelation is addressed to churches located in seven key cities in the Roman province of Asia. Its contents concern the “things that must come to pass shortly” to those churches. At the time, they were under assault from within and without by persecution, false teachers, deception, and pressure to compromise with the surrounding society. The source behind every attack was the “Devil” - (Revelation 1:41:11, 2:8-133:9).

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

The seven letters to the churches of Asia provide a microcosmic perspective on the cosmic war that is being waged between the “Dragon” and the “Lamb.” The visions recorded in chapters 4-20 provide the macrocosmic perspective behind the daily struggles of marginalized believers living in a pagan society.

Humanity is divided into two groups - the men who follow the “Lamb,” and the “inhabitants of the earth” who render homage to the “beast.” One either has the “seal of God” or the “mark of the Beast” - (Revelation 3:10, 6:10, 7:1-4, 8:13, 14:1-520:4).

Individuals can change sides. An “inhabitant of the earth” may decide to follow the “Lamb.” Likewise, a follower of the “Lamb” might apostatize and render homage to the “beast”; hence, the admonishments to believers to “overcome” and reject the lies of “Jezebel,” the “Nicolaitans,” the false “apostles,” and the “doctrines of Balaam.”

Consistently in Revelation, this final “war” is described with 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” that were slain by the “beast from the Abyss”:
  • (Revelation 11:7) - “And as soon as they completed their testimony the Beast that is to ascend from the Abyss will MAKE WAR WITH THEM, AND OVERCOME THEM, AND SLAY THEM.”
  • (Daniel 7:21) – “I continued looking when this horn MADE WAR WITH THE SAINTS AND PREVAILED AGAINST THEM.
The “witnesses” are the “two olive trees and two lampstands.” Elsewhere, “lamp-stands” represent churches, and therefore, they symbolize churches engaged in prophetic testimony to the world - (Revelation 1:20).

The “two olive trees” link the passage to the vision of Zechariah when he saw “two anointed ones who stand near the Lord of all the earth,” Zerubbabel, the ruler from the house of David, and Joshua, the high priest.  This explains why there are “two lampstands” and “two witnesses,” rather than seven. The “two olive trees” point to the church in its role as the “kingdom of priests” - (Zechariah 4:1-14, Revelation 1:65:9-1020:6).

At the end of their ministry, the “beast will ascend from the Abyss to make war against them and slay them.”  The “beast” cannot overcome the “two witnesses” until they have completed their mission. Only then does he “ascend” and carry out this dastardly deed. This “beast” makes war on churches, not on nation-states.

Church Ruins - Photo by Osman Kahraman on Unsplash
Photo by Osman Kahraman on Unsplash

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) - “And there came to be war in heaven: Michael and his angels going forth to war with the Dragon; and the Dragon fought and his angels. And he prevailed not, neither was place found for them any longer in heaven… And the Dragon was enraged against the woman and went away TO MAKE WAR WITH THE REST OF HER SEED, with those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.”
  • (Daniel 7:21) – “I continued looking when this horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them.
The “Dragon” failed to destroy the messianic “Son” and was expelled from heaven. No longer able to accuse the “brethren,” the “Dragon” proceeded to wage “war against the seed of the woman” identified as those who keep the “commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus” - (Revelation 12:17).

Likewise, in Daniel, the “little horn” made war against the “saints” and “prevailed over them.” Thus, the same reality or “war” is in view in the war by the “beast from the Abyss” to slay the “two witnesses,” and in the assault by the “Dragon” on the “seed of the woman.”

To carry out his “war,” the “Dragon” stands on the “seashore” to summon his own “seed” to execute his “war,” the “beast from the sea” and the “beast from the earth.” And the “beast that ascended from the sea” is identical to the “beast that ascended from the Abyss” - (Revelation 11:7, 13:1-10).

The “beast” is authorized “TO MAKE WAR with the saints and TO OVERCOME THEM.” Once again, language from Daniel is applied. Here, the “saints” are identical to those “who have the testimony of Jesus” from the preceding chapter - (Revelation 12:17, 13:7, 14:12).

Thus, Satan makes “war” against the church, not nation-states. The language of warfare is metaphorical and portrays the activities of the “beast” intended to destroy the followers of the “Lamb.” The “war” unfolds in the activities of deceivers within the church, and in attempts to oppose and persecute the church by outsiders.

The final onslaught is launched at the end of the “thousand-years” after the “ancient serpent” is released from the “Abyss.” This attempt to annihilate the “saints” is described with language from 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).
But in Revelation, the language from Ezekiel’s vision is universalized. The prophet saw regional powers attacking Israel in the promised land, but John saw all the “nations of the earth” ascending over the earth to attack the “camp of the saints.”

And here, Revelation mixes its metaphors. “Camp” echoes the story of Israel, the pilgrim people wandering in the wilderness.  “City” speaks of the permanent residence of the people of Yahweh in the Promised Land. The language is metaphorical. The verse does not refer to old Jerusalem in Palestine, or to Jews camping in the Judean wilderness. This is the “camp of the SAINTS,” the followers of the “Lamb.” They have the “testimony of Jesus,” and by it, they overcome the “Dragon” - (Revelation 5:8, 8:3-4, 11:18, 13:7-10, 14:12, 16:6, 17:6, 18:24, 19:8).

Satan “deceives the nations” and “gathers them to THE WAR.” This repeats the phrase seen previously. In each case, it refers not to one “war” among many, but to “THE war, singular - (Revelation 16:14, 19:19).

The language portrays the cosmic battle that is being waged between God and the Devil, but one that plays out on the earth as Satan’s earthly agents work to destroy the church. Revelation provides no descriptions of bloody battles waged between conventional armies or nation-states. The victims targeted by the “Dragon” are the “saints,” the Church, beginning with the “seven churches of Asia.”



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