Revelation Chapter 13, continued
VERSE 3 “And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.”
For the TIME of this verse, see the explanation at the opening of the Chapter 13 discussion.
AND ONE OF HIS HEADS: We have just seen in Verse 2 that the beast had been given great authority. We now see the historical result of this: ONE of his seven heads — one of his overall ruling AUTHORITIES — has that authority challenged significantly. If our speculation be correct, it is the THIRD head which is here meant.
AS IF IT HAD BEEN SLAIN:
NOTE VERY CAREFULLY: There is a change of pronouns in this context. When the beast is the subject, the pronouns are HIS or HIM; when the head is the subject, the pronoun is IT. This is important in interpretation.
13:3 continued —
AS IF IT HAD BEEN SLAIN: * IF the head were slain and IF there were no other head to take its place that would have been the end of the beast. IN ACTUALITY, the HEAD was slain in a sense, and not in another. This sounds like double-talk! But, the nature of the fulfillment of this prophecy is very subtle. The beast, or course, is the church-state cooperation between the “little horn” and the civil power. While the “little horn” has retained its identity over the centuries, the HEADS have changed. The first SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT (head) was that of the Roman emperor (Justinian) as civil head with the “little horn” as chief religious ruler. The second SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT (head) was a clear division between east and west Rome. The empire over which Justinian had ruled yet existed in Constantinople. But the west was now rather independent and was under a new western emperor, Charlemagne. Charlemagne was actually TRICKED by the Pope into letting the Pope put the crown on the emperor’s head. But Charlemagne allowed it and, subsequently, felt a bit embarrassed by the whole thing as it caused a rift with the eastern empire. Nevertheless, the SYMBOLISM of the act, and the virtual new arrangement in the west, constituted a new HEAD. Later, in 962 a third SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT (head) came into being under Otto the Great. This head gave the new arrangement the title of HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE, the first word of which magnifies the place of the “little horn.” East and West Rome were now officially and actually two separate and distinct empires.
It is this THIRD HEAD, the HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE, which was “slain” by the Reformation. Historians confidently claim that the harm done to the Holy Roman Empire by the Reformation was so great as to constitute “. . . the virtual dissolution of the empire.”
*AS IF IT HAD BEEN SLAIN: The peculiar nature of this expression demands attention. The head was, indeed, slain. But to history the slaying seemed to be TEMPORARY in that the Holy Roman Empire made a comeback. When it DID come back, it REALLY had a new head, but because it did not change its NAME, it appears to the casual eye to be the same old creature unchanged. But it WAS changed — in nearly all ways except by name.
It might be of interest to note that the emperor at the time of Luther was Charles V. It was he who presided at the famous Diet of Worms which proclaimed Luther a heretic. But the German princes protected Luther, absorbed his religion, and, thus, wiped out the very seal of Charles V’s empire.
HIS FATAL WOUND WAS HEALED:
NOTE: It was NOT the head (not “its” wound) that was healed. It was HIS (the beast’s wound that was healed). The Holy Roman Empire DID NOT DISSOLVE! It reconstituted itself and CAME BACK UNDER THE SAME NAME, but under a DIFFERENT HEAD. The period between Charles V and the Peace of Westphalia was a period of reorganization for the Holy Roman Empire. When it RECOVERED from its Reformation wound, it WAS A DIFFERENT BEAST with the same name. Thus, since the Peace of Westphalia, the Holy Roman Empire had a NEW HEAD or system of government — the FOURTH head and beast. This arrangement continued until Napoleon came along, destroyed the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, and created a NEW HEAD, the FIFTH.
AND THE WHOLE EARTH WAS AMAZED AFTER THE BEAST: The Reformation challenge to the Roman church-state empire was SO great that it WAS no less than amazing that the Holy Roman Empire withstood its onslaught and retained as much prestige as it did. The beast WAS hurt, but it recovered. It NEEDED little support which is why we will later see in Verse 12 that the advent of the two-horned beast was a blessing for the beast; the formation of a like beast in England helped the Europeans acknowledge the ten-horned beast of a viable sort of entity.
VERSE 4 “So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”
AND THEY WORSHIPED THE DRAGON: It must be remembered that the allegiance of peoples to their governments is as strong as their allegiance to the churches affiliated with those governments. The Holy Roman Empire thus continued with the adoration of its subjects, and a Roman Catholic part of Europe was insured.
BECAUSE HE GAVE HIS AUTHORITY TO THE BEAST: The co-dependency of church and state is inescapable. If the empire says “The Papacy is our spiritual head; it gives us God’s right to rule,” the people say — Amen to government and Pope forming one grand beast!
THEY WORSHIPED THE BEAST: NOT the church, remember, but the church-dominated arrangement. We must await Chapter 17 before we can clearly separate the woman from the beast.
WHO IS LIKE THE BEAST?: Catholic Holy Roman Empire was great and extensive. Even after Protestantism had taken its toll on former parts of the Empire, the question was still valid — “Is there any empire like THIS one?”
WHO IS ABLE TO WAGE WAR WITH HIM?: Who can successfully oppose the Papal -Roman Empire? The question was getting a little hollow after the Reformation, but the answer was still “NO ONE YET!” Napoleon would give it a try later; in a sense, however, he would not destroy it — merely alter it once more, give it a new head. He WOULD destroy the Holy Roman Empire, but he would NOT destroy the beast — the church-state system.
VERSE 5 “And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.”
AND THERE WAS GIVEN TO HIM: This phrase begins another look at this beast, one which clicks back in time. (See comments on construction of this chapter at the beginning of the notes on Chapter 13.)
A MOUTH SPEAKING ARROGANT WORDS AND BLASPHEMIES: This is a clear reference to Dan. 7:8, 11, and 25. A brief history of this “mouth” is found in Volumes II and III. Papacy was the mouth. (Papacy, remember, is NOT a head, but a horn with prominent eyes and mouth.) Papacy was the bark of the beast; the civil powers were the bite.
AND AUTHORITY TO DO FOR FORTY-TWO MONTHS: Papacy “did” things most indirectly — through the state. But this authority to “do” through the state went practically unchallenged unto 1799 when the forty-two months expired.
VERSE 6 “Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.”
AND HE OPENED HIS MOUTH IN BLASPHEME: It was Papacy’s practice to destroy by condemnation – evil speaking (blaspheme).
AGAINST GOD, TO BLASPHEME HIS NAME: This is the first of THREE targets of his blaspheme. The doctrines of Papacy totally misrepresent the character (name) of God, thus making sure few could truly know God.
AND HIS TABERNACLE: This is the second target of his blaspheme. The tabernacle and temple represent God’s plans and purposes — the tabernacle more particularly the plan of redemption. The mass and other abominations totally destroy the concepts of God’s plan.
THOSE WHO DWELL IN HEAVEN: This is the third target of the blasphemes. It might be considered by some that the saints (those who dwell in) ARE the tabernacle. This is true to a degree. But the parallel text in Daniel 7:25 mentions the same three targets of Papacy: the Most High, the Saints, and the Plan (“times and law”). The saints dwell in the holy of the tabernacle, a sanctuary of spiritual light, food, and prayer.
VERSE 7 “It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.”
AND IT WAS GIVEN TO HIM TO MAKE WAR WITH THE SAINTS AND TO OVERCOME THEM: It is most likely that this sentence is spurious. This “given” was already covered in Verses 5 and 6. It seems redundant to repeat it here. It is easy of explanation if it is legitimate, but it is likely not.
AND THE AUTHORITY WAS GIVEN TO HIM: Once again we have another section introduced by the beast’s being given something. In this case the focus is on people:
Note the THREE authorities given to the beast by this time —
- The GREAT AUTHORITY of ruler-ship (Verse 2).
- The TIMED authority to wear out the saints (Verse 5).
- The authority over the masses of people.
OVER EVERY TRIBE AND PEOPLE AND TONGUE AND NATION: This four-part name represents the “sea” class of humanity — the restless masses (Compare Rev 17:15.) The thought is that this beast had control over everyone in its domain — even people who might not have much interest in its leadership.
VERSE 8 “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
AND ALL WHO DWELL ON THE EARTH: This class represents those with an interest in the status quo – people with rooted interests in the present order of things. This verse is here to show a CONTRAST. Even though the beast has authority over all (Verse 7), ONLY those who like the socio-political arrangement because their own selfish interests are tied to it (“those who dwell on the earth”):
WORSHIP HIM: No one else EXCEPT the “dwell-on-the-earth” class could possibly worship this monster. Note what might SEEM a contradiction. In Rev 13:3, 4 it states that the whole earth worshiped the dragon and beast. This however is not contradictory as EARTH represents established society, the equivalent here of “those who dwell on the earth.” The group in 13:7 is the “sea,” class, not the “earth” class.
(HE) WHOSE NAME HAS NOT BEEN WRITTEN FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD IN THE BOOK OF LIFE OF THE LAMB WHO HAS BEEN SLAIN: This long description, amplifying “those who dwell on the earth,” must be significant because of the amount of space it takes! First, it clearly identifies this class as being non-spirit-begotten. Secondly, and more importantly, it encourages the spirit-begotten ones who must live through the experience.
It does so by reminding them that (1) the place of the TRUE Church has been established long before the false came along and will, therefore, not be neglected or hurt by this beast, and that (2) the lamb, which they follow, experienced death which they might also experience. But, (3) death is of no significance if your name is recorded in the BOOK of LIFE.
VERSE 9 “If anyone has an ear, let him hear.”
IF ANYONE HAS AN EAR, LET HIM HEAR: This refrain carries us back to the messages to the seven churches (Chapters 2 & 3). It is always coupled there with (and here, no doubt, is meant to bring to mind) the words: TO HIM WHO OVERCOMETH. Most of the Church has had to overcome the beast. The rewards will be stipulated to all who refer back to Chapters 2 & 3.
VERSE 10 “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”
This verse is a summary lesson following all of the foregoing descriptions of the beast. It is a lesson in overcoming implied in Verse 9. Its lesson is clarified by a comparison with Jer 15:1, 2.
IF ANYONE IS FOR CAPTIVITY, TO CAPTIVITY HE GOES; IF ANYONE KILLS WITH THE SWORD, WITH THE SWORD HE MUST BE KILLED: The lesson here is one of reaping what has been sown. It is the Lord’s rule: those who favored slavery for others will be enslaved by their own devices; those who use violence or deception will be victims of the same.
HERE IS THE PERSEVERANCE AND THE FAITH OF THE SAINTS: This phrase occurs again in Rev 14:12 following the description of the decades of Babylon’s decline and fall during the harvest. The Message in both passages is clear: the saints MUST ENDURE the wait while all about them SEEMS to take so long. Both passages (Rev 13:9 and 14:8-11) describe either the promise or the fact of Babylon’s punishments. The faith and perseverance of the saints DEPEND on their belief that this retribution WILL come. This is part of the reason for the long description in Rev 13:8. Faith in the glorious results is a mainstay.
Continued with next post.
Excerpts taken from the New Albany Notes on Revelation