“The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies…”
Revelation 13:5a (NIV)
Antithesis (noun) \ an-ˈti-thə-səs\ : 1. The direct opposite
From the very beginning, evil has been the antithesis of good. The evil one has opposed God. Evil is good’s opposite. Jesus’ ministry began by being tempted by the Evil One with the same basic three temptations the Serpent tempted Adam and Eve. Jesus’ earthly ministry ended by declaring that the “prince of this world” stands condemned (John 16:11). At the very heart of the Great Story lies the struggle between opposing forces: God, and the evil one who opposes God.
Along my journey, I have often found it helpful to reduce life’s complexities to the root binaries such as good or evil, death or life, and/or positive or negative before I choose my way.
Today’s chapter is the source material for some of the most commonly known elements of Revelation from which many heavy metal rock bands have gotten the dark themes they use to tap into the imaginations of rebellious teenagers motivated to extol the antithesis of anything their parents believe or desire of them. In this chapter, we meet the “beast” or “antichrist” who declares that no one can buy or sell anything without taking “the mark of the beast” on his/her hand or forehead. John goes on to say that anyone who has insight can calculate the “number of the beast,” the infamous “666.”
This chapter is filled with so much prophetic imagery that it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of its puzzling metaphors. Yet, as I read and meditated on imagery, I found it important to reduce what is being presented to its roots: God and Anti-god.
An unholy trinity arises: the dragon (e.g. satan, anti-Father), the beast of the sea (e.g. anti-Christ), and the beast of the earth (e.g. anti-Holy Spirit).
The beast who is the anti-Christ has a mock resurrection in the form of a fatal wound from which he is healed.
As Jesus was the incarnate Word of God (John 1) sent to proclaim the words of Father, from the anti-Father dragon the anti-Christ beast is given a mouth to utter “proud words and blasphemies.”
As Jesus was the “Prince of Peace” sent from the Father who gave His Son that none should perish but all might have eternal life. the anti-Christ beast was given the power to wage war against God’s people and kill them.
As those who follow Jesus have their names written in the “Book of Life,” those who worship the anti-Christ beast do not have their names written there.
As Holy Spirit was sent into the world on behalf of Christ to draw people to Christ and to indwell believers with His presence and His power to perform signs and wonders, the anti-Holy Spirit beast is given “all the authority” of the anti-Christ beast to make the earth’s inhabitants to worship the anti-Christ beast as well as to perform “great signs.”
Just as Holy Spirit was sent to lead people to Jesus, the Truth, the anti-Holy Spirit beast decieves people into worshipping the anti-Christ beast.
As Jesus made the way for any and all who decide open their hearts to Him and choose to follow, the anti-Christ and anti-Holy Spirit beasts “made the earth and inhabitants worship” the anti-Christ, then “ordered” them to set up an image in honor of the anti-Christ. Any who did not obey are killed. They then “force” “all people” to receive a mark on their hands or foreheads in order to participate in the world’s economy.
Much of the imagery in today’s chapter was perceived by those who received it to correlate directly to the Roman Empire and its Emporers. The “Imperial Cult” made Caesar to be god and all Romans were forced to pledge their allegiance to participate in Roman commerce. Christians had been killed en masse by Nero and his successors. Both the Hebrew and Greek languages use alphabets in which letters also serve as numbers and the idea of names having corresponding numbers was popular. “Nero” when spelled a certain way in Hebrew adds up to 666.
So, does this mean that Revelation is only about the contemporary events and poeple of John’s day?
Prophetic literature is never “either-or,” but “both-and.” Many of the Hebrew prophets wrote about contemporary leader and events, but they are also about the coming Messiah. God’s base language is metaphor, and metaphor is always layered with meaning. Additionally, the Roman empire has always inspired subsequent empires and would be emporers from the Mafia to Hitler’s Third Reich, so it’s very easy to believe that it will also inspire an unholy trinity (6-6-6) that is the antithesis of the complete and Holy Trinity (7-7-7) in the end times.
In the quiet this morning, my mind and spirit humbly embrace (once again) the reality that I don’t know exactly how all these things will specifically play out. When I boil things down to the root of things, however, here’s what I do know:
I will choose God over the evil one.
I will choose good over evil.
I will choose Life over death.
I will choose Truth over deception.
I will choose humility over pride.
I will choose love over hatred.
I will choose joy over anger.
I will choose peace over discord.
I will choose patience over impatience.
I will choose kindness over harshness.
I will choose goodness over vengeance.
I will choose faithfulness over abandonment.
I will choose gentleness over forcefulness.
I will choose self-control over indulgence.
I will choose surrender over demand.
I will choose hope over despair.
As a follower of Jesus, this is the only way.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.