Caesar's Devotees

The group called the inhabitants of the earth represents men who are omitted from the Book of Life because they give their allegiance to Caesar. In Revelation, the group labeled the “inhabitants of the earth” is unrelenting in its hostility to the “Lamb” and those who follow him “wherever he goes.” Its members even celebrate the violent deaths of his “Two Witnesses.” Unlike the “nations” and the “kings of the earth,” this group is beyond redemption, and the names of its members are excluded from the “Book of Life.”

The “inhabitants of the earth” show their devotion to Caesar and his Empire by rendering homage to the “Beast from the Sea” and its “image.” In doing so, they repudiate the sovereignty of the “Lamb” and reject his pleas to repent before it is too late.

World Map - Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash
[World Map - Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash]

The term rendered “
inhabitants” in Revelation translates the Greek verb katoikeĆ“, meaning, “to dwell, inhabit.” In Revelation, it occurs only with negative connotations, and almost exclusively is used for “INHABITANTS of the earth,” a group that is always hostile to Jesus.

IN PERGAMOS


The first use of the term is in the “letter” to the “messenger” of the church in Pergamos. In many interpretations, the phrase “where Satan dwells” is applied either to the seat of the Roman provincial government that was based in Pergamos or to its temple dedicated to the veneration of the emperor. Either view may be correct. However, there is something larger in view. (Revelation 2:12-13).

In Pergamos, “dwell” is applied to Satan and to the church, and the latter certainly did not reside in the governor’s residence or the emperor’s temple.  Likewise, ‘Antipas,’ would not have been executed in either location. Most likely, he died outside the city walls. And members of the congregation dwelled in the city. Yet Jesus assured them he was certainly aware that they lived where “Satan dwells.”

Jesus promised the church in Philadelphia that he would keep them “from the hour of trial, which is going to come upon the WHOLE HABITABLE EARTH, to try the INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH.”

The terms “whole habitable earth” and “inhabitants of the earth” are applied to the same situation. Implicit is the wider geographical area that will be affected by this coming “hour of trial.” It will involve populations beyond the confines of Philadelphia and Pergamos– (Revelation 3:10).

IN DANIEL


The term, inhabitants of the earth,” is derived from a passage in Daniel. After his downfall and restoration to the throne, Nebuchadnezzar declared to the residents of his kingdom:

  • (Daniel 4:34-35) – “And I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him that lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom from generation to generation; and all the INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH are reputed as nothing; and he does according to his will in the HOST OF HEAVEN, and among the INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH; and none can stay his hand or say unto him, What are you doing?

In Chapter 6 of Revelation, the “Lamb” opened the “fifth seal” and John saw the “souls of them who had been slain for the testimony they held” underneath the “altar.” The image is based on the altar of burnt offerings detailed in the Book of Leviticus. The blood of sacrificial victims was poured out at its base.

And that is the picture behind the vision of the martyred “souls” found at the base of the “altar,” where they plead for vindication against the “inhabitants of the earth” – (Revelation 6:9-11).

Similarly, after the first four trumpets sounded, John saw an “eagle” pronouncing a warning - “Woe, woe, woe, for the INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH, because of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels who are yet to sound!” – (Revelation 8:13).

The first four trumpets unleashed “plagues” against the economy of the empire – its seaborne commerce, fresh water sources, and the like. The last three harmed the “inhabitants of the earth” themselves. “By these three plagues was the third part of men killed.” Nevertheless, they “repented not of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.”

THE BEAST


When the “Beast from the Abyss” killed the “Two Witnesses,” the “INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH rejoiced over them and made merry… for these two prophets tormented the inhabitants of the earth.” While it was the “Beast from the Abyss” that carried out these violent acts, the “inhabitants of the earth” certainly took pleasure in the deaths of the “Two Witnesses.”

In Chapter 12, after the “son” was “snatched” to the “throne,” Satan was expelled from heaven and “cast down to the earth.” While heaven “rejoiced,” the “great voice in heaven” declared an ominous warning to the “inhabitants of the earth”:

  • Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you that tabernacle in them. Woe for the INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH and the sea because the Devil is gone down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time.” – (Revelation 12:12).

Here, two groups are contrasted, and this is indicated by the two verbs used: “tabernacle” and “inhabit.” “Tabernacle” or “tent” indicates something temporary, such as a “tent” pitched during a journey. “Inhabit” or “dwell” suggests something more permanent. And note the expansion of the expression to the “inhabitants of the earth and THE SEA.”

Unless the passage is a warning to sea creatures, the references are not geographical. Elsewhere in the book, the “sea” is associated with the Abyss, and is a source of great evil that must be pacified.

As for the men who were “tabernacling in heaven,” the expulsion of the Devil meant rejoicing. For the “inhabitants of the earth,” it signified something far more ominous. The identity of the ones who were “tabernacling in heaven” is provided by the context - the “brethren” who “overcame the Dragon by the blood of the Lamb.”

Precisely why the downfall of the “Dragon” meant “woe” to the “inhabitants of the earth” is not stated in the immediate passage. More relevant is the reaction of the “Dragon” to the knowledge that he has a “short time.” He vents his wrath, but NOT against the “inhabitants of the earth,” but instead, against “those who have the testimony of Jesus.”

And the last clause links the latter group to the martyrs who were seen “under the altar” in the “fifth seal,” the ones who were slain on account of “their testimony.”

CONTRASTING GROUPS


The same two groups are found again in Chapter 13, those who “tabernacle in heaven” and the “inhabitants of the earth” - (Revelation 13:4-10).

The rhetorical question concerning the “Beast from the Sea,” - “Who is like him, and who can make war with him” - is reminiscent of Nebuchadnezzar’s declaration - “He does according to his will in the host of heaven, and among the INHABITANTS OF THE EARTH, and none can stay his hand or say to him, What are you doing?”

As is now clear, the literary source of the two contrasting groups, those who “tabernacle in heaven [HOST OF HEAVEN]” and the “inhabitants of the earth,” is the same passage in the book of Daniel - (Daniel 4:34-35).

In Chapter 13, the “slander” of the “mouth that was given to the Beast” is directed against “those who tabernacle in heaven.” The reference is NOT spatial. These two terms differentiate between two groups based on their allegiance either to the “Lamb” or to the “Beast.” The followers of the “Lamb” have not taken up permanent residence in the present age, on the earth, or in the sky, therefore, they are described as “tabernacling.”

The term “slander” refers to accusations brought against the saints by the “accuser of the brethren,” presumably, in the earthly courts of the Empire. A parallel is found in the letter to the church at Smyrna where the congregation is “slandered” before local authorities by Jews from the “synagogue of Satan.”

What identifies a person as a member of the “inhabitants of the earth” is not his physical location, but whether his name is excluded from “the Lamb’s Book of Life.” In other words, all those who render homage to the “Beast.”

THE FALSE PROPHET


The second “Beast from the earth,” the “False Prophet,” is seen ascending from the “earth” to deceive the “earth and its inhabitants.” This demonstrates that “earth” means something beyond the physical planet.

Just as the “Sea” and the “Abyss” are sources of evil, so, also, is the “earth.” This explains why the expulsion of Satan from heaven means “woe” to those “inhabiting the earth and the sea.” It will mean disaster to the unrepentant since his unleashing to persecute the church will culminate in the final judgment on all whose names are not “written in the Book of Life.”

This “False Prophet” has two horns “like a lamb,” and performs the same “signs” done previously by the “Two Witnesses.” Thus, he imitates the “Lamb” and his “witnesses.” Similarly, the “first Beast” received the “stroke of death” but lived, a parody of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

This suggests that the deceptions propagated by Satan’s earthly agents mimic and counterfeit the true faith. In response to the “signs” performed by the “False Prophet,” the “inhabitants of the earth” take the “mark of the Beast,” sealing their ominous fate.

In Chapter 14, an angel “flying in mid-heaven” proclaims the everlasting gospel to the “inhabitants of the earth,” AND to “every nation and tribe and tongue and people.” This means the “nations” and the “inhabitants of the earth” are not necessarily identical.

The angel summons his target audience to “fear God and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment is come.” Rather than to the “Beast,” they must “render homage to him that made the heaven and the earth and the Sea and the fountains of waters.” Two more angels follow and pronounce judgment on “Babylon.” This means God has provided the “inhabitants of the earth” ample opportunities to repent - (Revelation 14:6-13).

Babylon, the Great Harlot” is described in detail in Chapter 17. She is the one with whom the “kings of the earth” and the “inhabitants of the earth” commit “fornication.”

As with the “nations,” so the “kings of the earth” are distinguished from the “inhabitants of the earth,” though both groups are corrupted by “Babylon,” she who is drunk with the “blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.”

This “Great Harlot” is carried by the “Beast” that has “seven heads and ten horns.” It “was and is not; and is going to ascend from the Abyss,” references to the previous slaying and revivification of the “Beast from the Sea,” and to the ascent of the “Beast from the Abyss” that destroyed the “Two Witnesses.”

The book of Revelation pulls together themes from the preceding visions. The constant factor in the several visions is the hostility of the “inhabitants of the earth” to the “Lamb” and his servants, and their choice of the “Beast from the Sea,” his “name,” and his “mark”:

  • And the inhabitants of the earth shall wonder, whose name has not been written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world when they behold the Beast, how that he was, and is not, and shall come” – (Revelation 17:1-8).

Their consistent refusal to render homage to the “Lamb” explains why their “name is not written in the Book of Life.” At the final judgment, “Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire, the second death. And if anyone was not found written in the Book of Life, he was cast into the lake of fire” – (Revelation 20:11-15).

Their history of unrelenting hostility to the “Lamb” explains why the “inhabitants of the earth” are nowhere found in the “city of New Jerusalem” in chapters 21 and 22. In Revelation, at times, the “nations” and the “kings of the earth” resist the “Lamb.” Nevertheless, both groups are found at the end of the book in the holy city, therefore, they are not without hope:

  • And the city has no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine upon it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the lamp thereof is the Lamb. And the NATIONS shall walk amidst the light thereof: and the KINGS OF THE EARTH bring their glory into it” - (Revelation 21:23-24).

But, as a group, the “inhabitants of the earth” are beyond redemption, not because God is powerless to save them, but because they refuse His every offer. No matter how many plagues He sends, they refuse to repent, nor do they respond to His summons to repent, and only harden their hearts even more.

Rather than follow the “Lamb,” the “inhabitants of the earth… render homage to the Beast” and welcome its “mark.” They prefer the counterfeit faith offered by Satan’s earthly agents. And so, their names are excluded from the “Book of Life.” God’s condemnation of the unrepentant to the “Lake of Fire” is fully justified.


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