Preaching Series on Revelation (4 of 5)

Week 4 in a 5-week preaching series on the book of Revelation

Moses by John August Swanson. Image from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, Tenn. Original source © 1983 by John August Swanson.

August 29, 2021

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Commentary on Revelation 13:1-18

Week 4 (Aug. 29, 2021)

Preaching text: Revelation 13:1-18; accompanying text John 12:30-32

The Two Beasts

Revelation’s vision of the beast from the land and beast from the sea is one of the most discussed parts of the book. In the popular imagination the beast from the sea is the Antichrist (although the term “antichrist” appears only in 1 & 2 John and not in Revelation).

The most helpful way to think about the word pictures in this passage is by comparing them to the word pictures used in political cartoons. In American media you find an elephant and donkey representing political parties, a bull and a bear representing the stock market trends.

In Revelation we find the beast from the sea and his associate representing political authority that has become as destructive as a beast. The monster is set up as the ultimate authority, a power to be worshiped above all else.

Revelation portrayed the Roman political system in this way in order to ask people about their highest loyalties. In 13:4 you find people thinking the destructive system has become invincible, but that is not what Revelation sees. The beast is the opposite of the Lamb, who gives people their true identity. The beast conquers by tyranny (13:7) but the Lamb conquers by the sacrifice that frees (5:5-6). The mark of the beast (13:16-18) is the opposite of the seal of God and the Lamb (7:1-3).

The imagery challenges people to ask to whom they truly belong: to the forces that destroy or the Lamb who liberates?