OVERVIEW – The Beast from the sea was authorized to wage war against the followers of the Lamb on behalf of its overlord, the Dragon – Revelation 13:6-10.
The “Dragon” tasked the “beast from the sea” with annihilating the “saints.” To facilitate this, he was given authority over all nations and peoples. In the vision, humanity is divided into two groups: Those who “render homage to the Beast,” the “inhabitants of the earth,” and those who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes,” those who “tabernacle in heaven,” the “saints.”
The “victory” of the “beast” over the “saints” is the very thing that vindicates them but seals the fate of the “Dragon” and his “seed,” the “beast from the sea” and the “false prophet,” all of whom are cast into the “lake of fire.” For “overcomers,” martyrdom is not defeat.
- (Revelation 13:6-10) – “And he opened his mouth for slander against God, to slander his name and his tabernacle, they who were tabernacling in heaven. And it was given to him TO MAKE WAR WITH THE SAINTS AND TO OVERCOME THEM; and there was given him authority against EVERY TRIBE AND PEOPLE AND TONGUE AND NATION. And all the inhabitants of the earth will do homage to him, everyone whose name is not WRITTEN IN THE SCROLL of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear: let him hear. If anyone is for captivity, into captivity he must go. If anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword he must be slain. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints.”
The “beast slandered” God, His “name” and “tabernacle,” and those who were “tabernacling in heaven.” The imagery is derived from the portable Tabernacle carried by Israel in the wilderness – (Revelation 15:5, “After these things I saw the sanctuary of the tent of testimony in heaven”).
When John was commanded to “measure the sanctuary,” the “outer court” was handed over to the “nations” and “trampled” for “forty-two months.” Likewise, the “beast” was authorized to “slander the tabernacle and they who tabernacle in heaven” over the same period – “forty-two months.”
The “priestly” company John saw worshiping in the “sanctuary” is identical to the group described here as those who are “tabernacling in heaven”; during the “forty-two months,” the “beast” is authorized to slander and “trample underfoot” the “saints” – (Revelation 11:1-2).
Those who “tabernacle in heaven” are not supernatural beings but believers, here in contrast to the “inhabitants of the earth.” The Greek verb rendered “tabernacling” or skénoō is from the noun skéné, that is, a “tent.” The same noun is used in the Greek Septuagint version of the Hebrew Bible for the “tabernacle” of Israel. Elsewhere, both the noun and verb portray the people of God, His “tabernacle” – (Exodus 25:9, 26:1-35, Revelation 3:10, 15:5, 21:3).
This understanding is demonstrated by the clause, “His name and his tabernacle, those tabernacling in heaven.” There is no conjunction, no “and” preceding the two clauses. The clause, “those that tabernacle in heaven,” identifies the “tabernacle” that is slandered. The New American Standard Version reflects the correct sense by rendering it – “His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.”
“Blasphemy” or “slander” refers to accusations made against God’s people, not to profanity. Among the seven churches of Asia, this manifested in accusations laid against them by members of the “synagogue of Satan” – (Revelation 2:9, 3:9, 12:10).
The description of the “beast” having authority over all nations alludes to the story of King Nebuchadnezzar and his “great golden image.” The Babylonian ruler commanded all “peoples and nations” to render homage to his image:
- (Daniel 3:4-7) – “Therefore, at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the cornet… all the peoples, nations, and tongues fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”
Whether the “Dragon” wages war against Michael, the “Lamb,” the “saints,” the “seed of the woman,” or “they who have the testimony of Jesus,” amounts to the same thing. Satan attacks the “Lamb” by persecuting anyone whose name is written in the “book of life.” The description of the war against the “saints” by the “beast” uses language from the Book of Daniel, a passage used previously in Revelation:
- (Daniel 7:21) – “I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.”
- (Revelation 11:7) – “When they finish their testimony, the Beast that is ascending out of the Abyss will MAKE WAR WITH THEM, OVERCOME THEM, AND KILL THEM.”
- (Revelation 12:17) – “The dragon waxed wroth with the woman and went away TO MAKE WAR WITH THE REST OF HER SEED, they that keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.”
- (Revelation 13:7-8) – “And it was given to it TO MAKE WAR WITH THE SAINTS AND TO OVERCOME THEM. And all the inhabitants of the earth render homage to it, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that has been slain.”
The war against the “saints” is the same “war” as the one waged against the “two witnesses” and the “seed of the woman.” “Enraged” after his expulsion from heaven, the “Dragon” began his final assault against the “seed of the Woman” by raising up “his seed,” the “beast from the sea” and the “beast from the earth,” the “false prophet” – (Revelation 11:7, 12:17-13:1).
Rather than against nation-states or conventional armies. The “beast” wages “war” on the “saints,” those whose name is “written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
The “beast” cannot persecute the “saints” until authorized to do so – (“it was given to it”). The same verbal formula was used when one of its “ten horns” received a “mouth speaking blasphemies against…those who were tabernacling in the heaven.” Thus, those who were “tabernacling in heaven” are identical with the “saints” persecuted by the “beast” – (Revelation5:8, 8:3-4, 11:18, 14:12).
The passage ends with the exhortation, “Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” That the “saints” were followers of Jesus is made clear in the expanded form of this declaration in the next chapter, “Here is the perseverance of the saints, they who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” – (Revelation 13:10, 14:12).
The “inhabitants of the earth” are identified negatively: “Everyone whose name is not written in the book of life of the Lamb.” What determined identity was whether one rendered homage to the “beast” or followed the “Lamb.”
“Slain from the foundation of the world.” The clause employs the same Greek verb for “slain” used previously for the “slain Lamb.” It was also applied to the souls under the altar that were “slain for their testimony,” to the deadly wound of the “beast” in imitation of the Lamb, and later, to the “blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth” by “Babylon” – (Revelation 5:6-12, 6:9, 13:3, 18:24).
This does not mean Jesus has died repeatedly since the creation. The participle is in the perfect tense, signifying an action completed in the past with results continuing into the present. Revelation traces the destructive efforts by the “Dragon” to the Garden of Eden, which is why he is identified also as the “ancient serpent.” From the moment of humanity’s downfall, Yahweh promised that Adam’s “seed” would crush the head of the serpent – (Genesis 3:15, Revelation 12:9, 20:1-3).
Similarly, the “beast” is a trans-historical figure that has existed since, at least, the incident at the Tower of Babel. It “was, is not, and is going to ascend out of the Abyss.” Its seven heads represent “seven kings; five are fallen, one is, the other is not yet come; and when he comes, he must continue a little while.” While there is a final incarnation of the “beast” to come, it will certainly not be the first – (Genesis 11:1-9, Revelation 17:8-10).
The passage concludes with the exhortation: “If anyone is FOR CAPTIVITY, INTO CAPTIVITY he goes. If anyone is to be slain WITH SWORD, WITH SWORD must he be slain.” Saints do not escape persecution. The verse alludes to a pronouncement in Jeremiah that applied originally to the kingdom of Judah:
- (Jeremiah 15:1-2) – “Then said Yahweh to me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind would not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight and let them depart. And it shall come to pass, when they say to you, Where shall we go forth? Then you will tell them, Thus says Yahweh, Such as are FOR DEATH, TO DEATH; and such as are FOR THE SWORD, TO THE SWORD; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as are FOR CAPTIVITY, TO CAPTIVITY.”
But Revelation gives the passage an ironic twist. What was a word of judgment on Judah becomes the means by which the “saints” overcome the “beast” and end-time “Babylon.” The latter’s “victory” over the “saints” is only apparent. God will remember her sins and “judge your judgment on her… And in an hour she was desolated,” for in her was found the “blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that have been slain upon the earth” – (Revelation 17:6, 18:20-24).
The call to “hear” echoes the repeated exhortation given in each of the letters to the seven churches – “If anyone has an ear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
“Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” The persecution that “saints” suffer is their “perseverance.” The verse begins with the adverb hōde or “here,” which is emphatic in the Greek clause. What looked like defeat to the “inhabitants of the earth,” in fact, becomes the victory of the “saints.”
Believers are called to endure trials and persevere in their testimony. This is not only how they “overcome,” but more importantly, how God uses them to bear “witness” to the “inhabitants of the earth.” They overcame by the “blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony, and because they loved not their life unto death” – (Revelation 12:11).
In summary, the victims of the Dragon’s “war” are the “saints,” those who “have the testimony of Jesus” and follow him “wherever he goes,” even into death. As for the rest of humanity, already the “inhabitants of the earth” are under the authority of the “beast,” and therefore, they render homage to it. What would be the point of waging war against them or the “nations” over which the “beast” was given authority?