The Persecuting Beast

The Book of Revelation graphically portrays the cosmic conflict between Satan and Jesus, one that plays out in the daily struggles of the “Seven Assemblies of Asia.” On Earth, the agents of the “Dragon” execute his attacks on the Church, 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 persecution.

TRex - Photo by Amy-Leigh Barnard on Unsplash
[Photo by Amy-Leigh Barnard on Unsplash]

The Devil’s various assaults on the Church will culminate in a 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 the place called “Armageddon.” Likewise, at the end of the “Thousand Years,” all the “nations of the Earth” are gathered by Satan for his final and global attack on the “saints” - (Revelation 13:7-10, 16:12-16, 19:17-21, 20:8-10).

Revelation is addressed to congregations located in seven key cities in 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 and every 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 Roman authorities. The reference to “Satan’s Throne” in the city of Pergamos alludes either to the Roman provincial government centered there or to its temple dedicated to the veneration of Caesar and “Roma,” the patron deity of Rome - (Revelation 2:13).

The Seven Letters to the Assemblies of Asia provide a microcosmic perspective on the cosmic war being waged between the “Dragon” and the “Lamb.” The visions recorded in Chapters 4 through 20 provide the macrocosmic perspective behind the daily struggles of the marginalized believers who live in a largely pagan society.

Humanity is divided into two groups. The men who follow the “Lamb,” and the “Inhabitants of the Earth” who give homage to the “Beast from the Sea.” A person either has the “seal of God” or the “Mark of the Beast” - (Revelation 3:10, 6:10, 7:1-4, 8:13, 14:1-5, 20:4).

Individuals can change sides. An “Inhabitant of the Earth” may decide to follow the “Lamb.” Likewise, a follower of the “Lamb” might apostatize and swear allegiance 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 the Book, 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” that are 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 in Revelation, “lampstands” represent churches, 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 of the house of David, and Joshua, the high priest.  This explains why there are “Two Lampstands” and “Two Witnesses” rather than seven. The image of the “two olive trees” points to the Church in its role as the “kingdom of priests” - (Zechariah 4:1-14, Revelation 1:6, 5:9-10, 20:6).

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 complete their prophetic mission. Only then does this creature “ascend” and carry out this dastardly deed. Hence, the “Beast” makes war on churches, not on nation-states.

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,” he wages “war against the seed of the woman,” and this “seed” is 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.” The same reality or “war” is in view in the vision of 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,” Satan stands on the “seashore” summoning his own “seed” to execute his “war,” 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” - (Revelation 11:7, 13:1-10).

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

Hence, Satan wages “war” against the Church, not nation-states or conventional military forces. The language of warfare is metaphorical and portrays the activities of the “Beast” that are intended to destroy the followers of the “Lamb.” The “war” unfolds especially in the activities of deceivers in the Church, as well as attempts to persecute the Church by outsiders.

The Devil’s final onslaught is launched 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).

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

In Chapter 20, 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 in the Promised Land. The language is metaphorical. The verse does not refer to old Jerusalem or to Jews camping in the Judean wilderness. This is the “camp of the SAINTS,” 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).

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).

Revelation provides no descriptions of bloody battles waged between conventional armies or nation-states. The victims targeted by the “Dragon” are the “saints,” beginning with the “Seven Churches of Asia.”



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