We are continuing to work through the Book of Revelation with a focus on four major views of the so-called Apocalypse of John. You may read the commentary to date by clicking here.
Whether you’re a preterist, who sees the events of Revelation as fulfilled in the first centuries of the Christian era, a historicist, who views the events of Revelation as unfolding throughout the course of history, a futurist, who sees most of Revelation as yet unfulfilled, or an idealist, who sees Revelation setting forth timeless truths concerning the battle between good and evil, there are important truths the Lord reveals to all of us in this book.
We would do well to approach Revelation with caution — and with great anticipation, knowing God will fulfill all His promises to us. We also should be comforted by the fact that Revelation is the only book in Scripture specifically promising a blessing to those who hear its prophecies and keep them.
With that in mind, and to make it easier to keep our notes together, we have captured the commentary into single Adobe files (pdfs) that you may download, print and share. Click on the links below to capture notes on chapter 13. If you missed the link to notes on chapters 1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9, 10, 11, or 12, links are provided as well.
Rev. 13:15 – He was permitted to give a spirit to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could both speak and cause whoever would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. (HCSB)
He was permitted to give a spirit to the image
In verse 15 John writes of the false prophet, “He was permitted to give a spirit to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast could both speak and cause whoever would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.”
Note first that the false prophet is permitted to give life to the image of the beast. His power comes from Satan; his permission comes from God. Thusly armed, he gives a “spirit” to the image. The Greek word pneuma is used more than 300 times in scripture and may be translated “spirit,” “breath” or “breeze.” It also may refer to the human spirit or rational soul; an angel, demon, or the Holy Spirit; or even a ghost. Here it appears to be best translated “breath” or “life,” for the image speaks and acts.
This is a stunning miracle, for it convinces many to worship the first beast. It’s quite possible that the false prophet uses sleight-of-hand tricks to make it appear the image is speaking. However, it could be that demonic forces are at work. In confronting the Corinthians with the truth about hand-carved idols, Paul pulls back the veil to expose the truth that those who offer sacrifices to idols – which cannot speak or act – are in fact sacrificing to demons, which the idols represent (1 Cor. 10:20). But in Revelation, John depicts the idol as being alive – or apparently so. Whether animated by demons or creative illusions, the image of the beast inspires both wonder and terror in the hearts of people, for he pronounces death sentences on those who hold fast their allegiance to Christ.
Rev. 13:9 – If anyone has an ear, he should listen: 10If anyone is destined for captivity, into captivity he goes. If anyone is to be killed with a sword, with a sword he will be killed. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints. (HCSB)
If anyone has an ear
This section concludes with a cautionary message: “If anyone has an ear, he should listen: If anyone is destined for captivity, into captivity he goes. If anyone is to be killed with a sword, with a sword he will be killed. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints” (vv. 9-10). The beginning of this message echoes similar words Jesus used to underscore the importance of what’s being said. For example, He closes the Sermon on the Mount with, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine …” (Matt. 7:24). He concludes the parable of the sower with the words, “Anyone who has ears should listen” (Matt. 13:9). And He uses the same phrase after explaining the parable of the wheat and tares (Matt. 13:43). And, of course, Jesus ends each of his letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor with the words, “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.”
It appears there are complementary lessons in these words. First, the Holy Spirit through John is encouraging persecuted saints to persevere, even to the point of death. They already have been assured that God ultimately will vindicate them and reward them in heaven (see, for example, Matt. 5:10-12; Rev. 2:10; 6:9-11). Second, the Lord is reminding the persecuted saints – and perhaps even their persecutors – that He will judge the wicked. The complaint that the wicked prosper and go unpunished is common throughout scripture; many Psalms of David are deep laments, for example. God, however, reminds us that evil is not forever and the wicked do not “get away with it.”
Rev. 13:5 – A mouth was given to him to speak boasts and blasphemies. He was also given authority to act for 42 months. 6He began to speak blasphemies against God: to blaspheme His name and His dwelling – those who dwell in heaven. (HCSB)
A mouth was given to him
The dragon, who has given the beast his power, authority and throne, also endows him with great rhetorical skills and he uses them to blaspheme God, His name, and His dwelling.
In the Old Testament, the root meaning of the word “blasphemy” is an act of effrontery in which a person insults the honor of God and for which he or she may be put to death by stoning (see Lev. 24:10-23; 1 Kings 21:9ff). In the New Testament, the meaning is extended to include God’s representatives. For example, Jews from the Freedman’s Synagogue accuse Stephen of “speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God” (Acts 6:11).
Rev. 13:4 – They worshiped the dragon because he gave authority to the beast. And they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to wage war against him?”
They worshiped the dragon and the beast
Witnessing the spectacle of the beast’s miraculous recovery (or resurrection), the earth’s inhabitants “worshiped the dragon because he gave authority to the beast. And they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to wage war against him?’” (v. 4).
Verse 8 makes it clear that the world’s unbelievers – not Christians – worship and dragon and the beast: “All those who live on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered.” This miraculous deception – a counterfeit of the resurrection of Jesus and an answer to the resurrection of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 – is enough to convince the world’s lost people that a savior has come.
How interesting it is to observe the selective belief of those who reject Jesus. In Rev. 11:9-10, people from every tribe, language and nation display the corpses of God’s two witnesses, rejoice over their deaths, and even exchange celebratory gifts. But when God raises the witnesses from the dead, they are terrified and give glory to the God of heaven. That is, they acknowledge a divine miracle but do not commit their lives to the One who performs it. When we get to Rev. 13, however, and the apparent healing / resurrection of the beast, the earth’s unbelievers do more than pay lip service to the one who performs the miracle – they worship the dragon and the beast.