(cf. Rev. 13:4-10)
Notice in verse 4 it says, “they worshiped the dragon…” – the dragon here is Satan (cf. Rev. 12:9), and also “…they worshiped the beast,…” – this is not primarily political power. There is a spiritual element here. The dragon wants worship. If you go back to the temptation experience of Jesus, that’s what satan wanted from Jesus. The devil is out to take God’s place; that seems to be the whole thing of the fall. If you can see satan behind the king of Babylon, the king of Tyre in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, i think you can notice it down here. And then it says, “…Who is like the beast,…” – there are two possibilities: if you see Leviathan as the background to the dragon, this may be an allusion to Job 41:33-34. But if you see it as a parody of God again, and the phrase in Old Testament “who is like Yahweh”, then you go back to Exodus 15:11, and you can see the background to this. This concept of evil parodying good.
Now in verse 5, “There was given to him a mouth…” – this whole concept of “was given” is very significant here in verse 5 through 7. It’s said several times, and it appears again in verses 14 & 15. Was permission given by the devil to the beast? Yes that is the immediate context, but behind the immediate context is the idea that God the Father allowed the devil to have this power, and to give it to the beast. So there’s something here of God in control of history, and even of evil. Now this “…arrogant words and blasphemies,…” – exactly what this is, i’m not sure. But it’s obviously Daniel 7:8 where he claims to be God. and that’s the idea of blasphemy having religious connotations. “…and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.” – that goes back to Daniel 7:25. This 42 months is mentioned as a time and times and a half time, obviously a half of seven, it seems to me to be a symbolic number for the period of persecution in Daniel. It speaks with a period of Antiochus Epiphanes. I think in the words of Jesus in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, it spoke of the period where the army of Rome under Titus would destroy Jerusalem. Obviously, in this period it was something of the reign of Domitian in John’s day. I think in the future, it’s going to be the period of an aggressive tribulation and persecution that precedes the Second Coming. Many people, in here see Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 about the Abomination of Desolation which seemed to apply it to Titus in Matthew 24 now applied to the anti-Christ.
Now notice where it says, “And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle…” – this person is against God and all that God stands for, and all of God’s people. In verse 7 permission was given him, and there’s that idea that God is in control again even if the evil one is the one giving the Beast this permission to make war on God’s people (cf. Daniel 7:21 & 25). Really, there is more going on in the spiritual realm than we understand, but we know the nature of God, we know the heart of God, we know the love of God. Though we don’t understand, we can trust Him in the midst of it all. They can’t take away our salvation, but the saints though protected with a seal are going to have to die and be hurt. God help us! “…and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.” – this makes me think that this is much wider that just 1st century Rome. Rome wasn’t the known whole world of that day, and this thing is going to be a world-wide kind of thing – this is going to be the end-times.
In verse 8, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” – notice that only those who are unbelievers will be tricked into worshiping the beast. The ‘inhabitants of the earth’ is that phrase used so often in the book of Revelation which referred to the unredeemed. Notice where it says, “whose name has not been written….in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. RSV says that our names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the world. this little phrase, ‘…before the foundation of the world…” is very interesting. It’s used several different times in the Bible to show us some things that happened even before creation: Matt. 25:34; John 17:24; 1 Pet. 1:19-20. You might want to look up Matt. 13:35; Luke 11:50; Heb. 4:3; Heb. 9:26; and Rev. 17:8 and realize that there’s a great blessing in knowing what God has already done for us, and this little catchphrase, for those who know their Bibles would pick up on that and realize all that God has done for all of us. Now the deal about a ‘slaughtered Lamb’, we find that so often back in Rev. 7:14 and 12:11; it’s the sacrificial death that is so significant. That phrase about Jesus’ death, and His cross, and His blood, and His sacrifice is used over, and over, and over; that concept in the book of Revelation is the key theme of how the saints have overcome. Now the ‘Book of Life’ goes back to Daniel 12:1-2; Rev. 20:12-15, and when a man’s name is written in the Book of Life, he will not be forgotten. His place is secure.
Verse 10 has textual difficulties; NIV believes both couplets refer to the persecuted while AV refers both to the persecutors. I would like to think that both couplets refer to the persecuted saints. The first couplet teaches an acceptance of the realities of life. If in God’s providence a Christian is taken captive, then to captivity he goes (cf. Jer. 15:2). The second couplet has the idea of a requital, and seems to be an allusion to the words of Jesus in Matt. 16:52, “…for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword”. The clause closes with, in this way is shown “the perseverance and the faith of the saints”. The persecuted saints will know for a fact that the last word is not with the persecutors, but the last word is with the sovereign God who works out His good and perfect will. The saints trust the sovereign God who is in control of history, and in control of evil.