Chapter 13 becomes an engrossing story of the most vivid imagery so far in this book. The interpretation of the beasts, (not to mention the number 666) have been the source of countless speculation, wild prophetic claims, and even fuel for exciting movies. I want to be clear when I say that I am not certain of any of the interpretations that I make in this writing; and I urge the reader to be very skeptical of any commentator who claims to be sure of his own. I do not think that John’s statement in verse 18 that “this calls for wisdom” is one made lightly. But I do have my own opinions about some of it that I will share.
I feel pretty certain that the beast out of the sea represents world governments that are hostile to Christians, beginning of course with the Roman Empire. Other commentators have interpreted the seven heads as representing some of these, such as Babylon, Medo-Persia, Egypt, Assyria, Greece, Rome and one that would rise at a time later than the book’s writing (how much later is anyone’s guess).
As for the beast out of the earth, I would agree with others that this one is about false religions to a large extent – but more than that, it represents Satan’s effort to use these hostile governments, as well as those who espouse a disbelief in God, to attempt to bring the Christians of the world captive to him, with intent to bring about the very destruction of the Lord’s church.
The number of the beast has been analyzed to try to fit such figures as Nero, Autokrator Kaisar Dometianus Germanicus, Vicarius Filii Dei, Hitler, and even more modern scoundrels. I have my doubts whether the number 666 is actually even a reference to a single man, but feel strongly that it could refer instead to a particular movement or sociological group. But notice that the scripture speaks of the mark being worn by those who serve the beast. Remembering that the chapter divisions are man-made – not inspired – look at the next verse, which is the start of chapter 14.
Chapter 14 begins with John seeing the 144,000 (or the multitude of faithful that nobody can number – from chapter 7). Notice that they have the name of “the lamb” and “his Father” on their foreheads. This is, of course, not a literal name on their foreheads, and (in my opinion) the number 666 in the previous verse is not a literal number either. The number 7 is a symbolically sacred and complete number throughout scripture. Six hundred sixty and six would seem to be a very large representation of all that falls short of what is good. The symbolic 144,000 faithful Christians are protected by the three angels because of their faithfulness, and their refusal to serve the beast; and the “one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head” in verse 14 is clearly Jesus. What follows culminates in judgement, which will end well for the faithful.
Bible Reading Schedule for this month
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All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.