11 October 2022

Caesar's Power


In Revelation, the False Prophet uses economic power against those saints who refuse to give their allegiance to the Beast

Dollar bill - Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash
In 
Revelation, the “False Prophet” is authorized by the “Beast” to wield its economic might against anyone who refuses to submit to its imperial edicts, and he employs the “mark of the Beast” to compel compliance. The ability to level economic sanctions against nations, communities, and individuals is key to the Empire’s power - [Photo by Alexander Schimmeck on Unsplash].

We often assume the success of this beastly Empire lies in its military might. And while it may indeed possess the necessary might to subdue nations through naked force, in Revelation, its domination over the “inhabitants of the earth” is dependent on its control over global commerce.

The book contrasts the “inhabitants of the earth” with the followers of the “Lamb.” Members of the former group have the “number of the Beast” branded on their “right hand,” but the “saints” have the name of the “Lamb written on their foreheads,” and therefore, their names are written in his “book of life.”

And so, the “mark of the Beast” is the Devil’s counterfeit of the “seal of God,” just as the Beast’s “name” is a pale imitation of the “name” of the Father that identifies the men who belong to Him - (Revelation 7:1-3, 14:1-4).

ECONOMIC CONTROL


Except for overcoming “saints,” all the “inhabitants of the earth” take the “mark of the Beast,” and therefore, they remain legally authorized to engage in trade - to “buy and sell.” But the men who belong to the “Lamb” suffer economic deprivation and even martyrdom - (Revelation 13:16-18).

In contrast, the followers of the “Lamb” have been “purchased from the earth,” and because they bear his name, they are prohibited by the “False Prophet” from participating in the economic life of the empire. Their reward lies elsewhere.

In the book, humanity is divided into two recognizable groups - the men who follow the “Lamb” and the “inhabitants of the earth.” And the latter is comprised of the men who give fealty to the “Beast from the sea,” and by proxy, to the “Dragon.” There is no middle ground, no neutral position.

To which group one belongs determines whether one’s name is included in the “Lamb’s book of life” or erased from it. And in the relevant passages, references to the “earth” and “Zion” are NOT geographical, but relational. One’s final fate is determined by how he or she responds to the “Lamb.”

And it is the “Beast from the earth,” the “False Prophet,” who uses the authority of the first “Beast” to determine who may engage in commerce and who may not. The “False Prophet” imposes the “mark of the Beast” on one and all to enforce and maintain imperial economic control over the earth.

THE BEAST’S MARK


The “mark” or “number” of this beastly system designates whether one belongs to the “Beast.” Without it, no one may participate in the imperial economy. The “mark” or “brand” is also called the Beast’s “name” and the “number of its name.”

Functionally, each designation accomplishes the same thing – whether anyone may engage in trade. One’s ability to “buy and sell” is dependent on submission to and cooperation with the “Beast.”


Commerce Street - Photo by Mark König on Unsplash
[Photo by Mark König on Unsplash]


But, in the end, what is far more important is that having the Beast’s “mark” will exclude a man or woman from the “book of life.” And placing the “mark” on the “forehead” or “right hand” is a twisted counterfeit of the ancient summons for Israel to worship Yahweh alone - “You will bind [His commandments] for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes” - (Deuteronomy 6:5-8).

And if the “seal of God” is figurative, so is the “mark of the Beast.” And anyone who gives allegiance to the “Beast” takes its “mark” and “number,” just as everyone who follows the “Lamb” receives the “seal of God” and the “name of the Lamb.”

The fundamental choice of every man is between who or what he worships – To whom he gives his allegiance – the “Dragon” or the “Lamb” - (Revelation 14:9-11).

AN ANCIENT NUMBER


The description of the “Beast from the earth” in chapter 13 of Revelation utilizes language from the third and seventh chapters of Daniel (“These four great BEASTS are four kings that will ascend from the earth” – Daniel 7:17).

The Babylonian ruler erected a “golden image” and required everyone in his empire to “bow down and render homage to the image I have erected.”

The same passage is the source for the number 666 in Revelation, and it is derived from the measurements of Nebuchadnezzar’s great “golden image” - “Its height was sixty and its breadth six cubits.” The link to this story emphasizes the idolatrous nature of the Empire and the homage it demands - (Daniel 3:1-7).

Those who are “wise” must “count” (psephizō) the “number of the Beast.” The Greek verb signifies the tallying up of two or more numbers; in this case, the numbers 6, 60, and 600, or 666.

In Revelation, numbers are figurative and often tripled and even cubed. For instance, the number 12 is compounded into 144,000 (12 x 12 x 1000). The “ten days of tribulation” become the “thousand years” (10 x 10 x 10).

In the Greek text, the “number of the Beast” is listed as “six-hundred sixty and six,” or exakosioi (600) exékonta (60) ex (6), three distinct whole numbers.  They, in turn, represent the three entities that plot against the “Lamb” - The “Dragon,” the “Beast from the sea,” and the “Beast from the earth.”

For its number is also of man” (anthrōpou estin kai ho arithmos autou). Here, anthrōpou is used for “humanity” in general, not for “a man” or “the man.” The point is not to identify an individual by decoding the number, but to link it to humanity in some capacity, to show the reader the true significance of the number.

Just as the “golden image” of Nebuchadnezzar was “his image,” so, also, the “number of the Beast” is linked to humanity in its idolatrous political and civic religion.

What distinguishes the “image of the Beast” is not its shape, size, or form, but the total allegiance it requires, the absolute loyalty that belongs to God alone. It is the ultimate form of idolatry, in this case, state idolatry, the political order demanding the absolute allegiance that belongs to the Creator of all things, including government.

NAME OF THE BEAST


The “name of the Beast” is just that – “Beast.” The book of Revelation uses the diminutive form of the Greek noun for “beast” or ‘thérion,’ and it corresponds to the diminutive form applied to the “Lamb” (‘arnion’). Thus, the “Beast from the sea” is an imposter, a false Christ who mimics Jesus and his lordship. The “Beast” is the satanic counterpart to the “Lamb of God,” a false messiah.

The last paragraph of chapter 13 alludes to the conclusion of the book of Daniel:

  • (Revelation 13:17) - “Here is wisdom. Let him that has understanding count the number of the beast.”
  • (Daniel 12:9-10) - “Shut up and seal the prophecy until the season of the end. Many will purify themselves and make themselves white and be refined…but none of the wicked will understand, but they that are wise shall understand.”

Only those with wisdom from above understand the significance of the “number of the Beast.” It cannot be decoded or calculated by mathematical formulas or mystical interpretations.

When a political entity appears on the world scene that uses its economic might promiscuously against nations, peoples, and individuals that do not submit to its demands, that will be the first clue that the “Beast” is beginning to “ascend from the sea.” We should especially take note when religious figures and “false prophets” within the church provide ideological support for the policies and actions of the beastly Empire.

When the “Beast” does appear, we must choose whether to submit to it or “follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” If we do the latter, we will find ourselves marginalized in the economic sphere, if not persecuted. But we will also find ourselves standing one day before the “Lamb” and the “throne” in the “city of New Jerusalem.”

But if we submit to the “Beast” and its imperial designs to preserve our economic standing, we will find our names expunged - “blotted out” - from “the book of life of the Lamb.”

If there is a relevant message, it is the warning to exercise painstaking discernment before blindly embracing the political and cultural values of the surrounding society. When we imbibe its ideologies and practices, we begin to take the “mark of the Beast.”



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