Image to the Beast
Revelation 13, Verses 15 to 16b
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13:15a
Statue comes to life

   For the context, let's remember verse 14: "And [the beast from the earth] deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live."

   So the earth beast deceives the earth dwellers, advising them to make an image to the sea beast who has now recovered from his wound. What or who is this image? Looking at the next verse provides a clue:
   "And he [the beast from the earth] had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed." (verse 15)

   Do you recall a Bible story about an image being made and the death penalty declared for those who would refuse to worship it? Try Daniel 3.
   "Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace." (Dan. 3:3-6)

   In the previous chapter, Nebuchadnezzar had been shown a dream revealing him to be the golden head of an image with other metals for lower parts representing kingdoms that would follow his. Neb liked the first part of the dream but gradually became discontent about other kingdoms following his own. His determination to override the prophecy was expressed by his making the all-gold image. When the command was made, Daniel's friends refused to bow down and were thrown into the furnace. They were being faithful to God who had said, in the second commandment of the decalogue:
   "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments." (Ex. 20:4-6)

   As you remember, the Son of God appeared in the furnace with the three Hebrews and they came out without being burned. You might want to read again Daniel chapters 2 to 4 from your Bible. And see a discussion with Daniel 3 in this commentary da03.

In what way will we be asked to bow to the image?
   We do not know what form the "image to the beast" in our chapter will take. I expect it to be some kind of powerful body backed (or given life) by the earth beast (US government) and requiring obedience to a law (created by the breath) in defiance of God's law. I believe that those who refuse to bow to it will pass through experiences similar to those of Daniel's three friends. Whether God will save all of them from punishment, we don't know. He saved the three Hebrews but He didn't save John the Baptist. I expect many will suffer.

   I am determined, by the grace of Jesus Christ, to be faithful to our Creator no matter how impressive or how powerful the image and its support system might be. I know you feel the same way.
 
 
Notes
#   Where was Daniel when all were to bow? We don't know. Although his title, as in 2:48, included the governorship of the province of Babylon, he was possibly exempted from attendance. Perhaps he was in charge of the city while so many were outside it at the image site. He likely prayed for his friends, too. 
#   We read the second commandment. Did you notice in it that God promised mercy to thousands of generations who love Him and keep His commandments? Although the term may not have been used in a strictly mathematical sense, it is clear, by the comparison it makes to the three or four generations of the disobedient, that those commandments are permanent (Ps. 119:89; Matt. 5:18). Matthew counted only 42 generations between Abraham and Christ (Matt. 1:17). The commandment also reveals that the God was then a God of mercy as well as of justice. Praise His name. 
#   The second commandment and the fourth (Ex. 20:8-11) were set aside by the dominant church of the Middle Ages and today are still considered by that church as not binding. 

 

13:15b
Valley of the shadow

    "And he [the beast from the earth] had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed." (verse 15)

   The verse literally begins, "And it was given to give life to the image. . . ." In the preceding verse, we find similar wording: The earth beast deceives by the signs he was granted, by God, to perform. Chapter 13 shows two periods of oppression separated by the wounding of the beast Rev. 13, note b. During the pre-wound oppression, in verses 5 and 7, the beast from the sea was given a mouth to speak blasphemies (allowed to make laws in defiance of God); and "it was given him to make war with the saints." Daniel wrote about both the blasphemous laws and the oppression of the righteous in Dan. 7:25.
    In the post-wound oppression discussed in our verse, the image is given power to speak (make laws) and to use capital punishment to enforce them.
   As we noted earlier, God is in charge. I believe He permits the forces of evil to exist in order to clarify for eternity that His is the true way of happiness. Soon the time of walking through the "valley of the shadow of death" will be over and we will "dwell in the house of the LORD forever" (Ps. 23:6). Although life is often unfair, God will make it all right. We can trust Him.

 

13:15c
Image of whom?

     "And he [the beast from the earth] had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed." (verse 15)

   We saw how the beast from the earth set up an image following the motif of the image which Nebuchadnezzar set up. We saw that just as failure to worship the image in Babylon carried the death penalty, so the image here threatens the death penalty for anyone who fails to worship it. We perhaps didn't notice who or what the image was an image of. It is the image of/to the beast. What does that tell us?

   Because the image will look like the beast, remembering the beast will help us understand. So who is the beast? We have already answered that question, 1305b, but taking a fresh view of the evidence helps us be extra sure. And when we talk about the beast's mark, we need to know what beast we are talking about. From the beginning of Revelation 13, we know that:
   (1) the beast arose with ten crowns on ten horns, verse 1,
   (2) the dragon gave him power, throne, and authority, verse 2, and
   (3) it was given power to make war with the saints for a period of time, verses 5-7.
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Identifying the beast as the papacy (not specifically the pope, by the way). Here is the evidence:
   (1) From the succession of animals described in Daniel 7 and by comparison with Daniel 8, we may infer that the dreadful beast da0707 which followed the leopard-like beast was Pagan Rome which followed Greece. From the head of the dreadful beast, developed the little horn. This was after the ten horns were in place. Here in Revelation 13, in a different set of symbols, we see a beast rise from the sea with the characteristics of the little horn of Daniel. The time of its appearance is noted by horns on the crowns (where they had been on the heads of the dragon, re1203. This marks the time of the beast's rise as the time of what we call "The Holy Roman Empire" which was a federation of mostly Germanic tribal governments that developed from the disintegration of the Roman Empire.
   The ten horns represent kings, following the motif in Daniel 7 da0724, re1712. The horns, as European kingdoms, wore the crowns. Each had its own political and military power but were themselves controlled (more at some times than at others) by the papal power as a beast uses its horns to enforce its will.
   (2) The dominant church arose to significant power by the support of the last Pagan emperors of the Western Roman Empire. It soon filled the leadership power void left by the fallen empire. To bring the Pagans on board, its worship practices were Christianized. Paganism tends more to the worship of Satan, the dragon. Thus the dragon gave to the beast his power, throne, and authority. 
   (3) The papal power as the beast from the sea of people (Rev. 17:15) influenced the political powers its horns to put to the sword those who chose not to conform to its teachings and honor its leadership (Dan. 8:24). This is echoed by the uprooting of three of the kingdoms which opposed it (Dan. 7:8). We have also seen it in (a) the conquest of the Western World for Christianity by the elimination (genocide) of entire nations of peoples (b) the St. Bartholomew's Massacre in France, (c) the dealings with the Waldensees in Italy, and (e) the Crusades. Unfortunately history is silent on much of this activity. We saw the church rising to significant political power in the middle of the 6th century. The medal illustrated here (front and back) was coined for the papacy in honor of the St. Bartholomew's massacre.

   When the image comes into power, we may expect it to behave like the beast although the beast itself will be alive and well. Besides the image to the beast in our verse, we will also see its mark, it's name, and its number (verses 16, 17). As events unfold, we need to come back and reread this chapter and others. I don't believe we have long to wait.
   Because what I understand from this prophecy paints a dark picture of the Roman church, I want to emphasize that we may judge error while loving and respecting the people who hold it. I and others follow the Protestant reformers in seeing the papacy in prophecy.

   Praise God for His love for us while were yet in darkness. We have no right to act as the Pharisees who told the Lord how glad he was not like other men!

13:15d
Why "both speak and cause. . . ." ?

      Rev. 13:15: "And he [the beast from the earth] had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.  [16] And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: [17] And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name."

   Why would "speak" and "cause" be mentioned? The earth beast was allowed to give breath to the image, and we may assume that the image then used the breath to speak. The speaking of an ecclesiastical and military power would be in its pronouncements or its laws. Thus we may expect a law, followed by enforcement.
   From reading the verses 16 and 17 which follow, we may see the speaking and the causing. The legal requirement is to accept the mark, and the economic isolation which follows is the severe penalty avoided by all but those who are totally loyal to Jesus. Please reread the passage to see if you agree.

   The God who permits evil also provides the way to escape the temptation to bow to its pressures (1 Cor. 10:13). Amazing grace!

 

13:16a
Exploring characteristics of the mark

   The mark of the beast and the number 666 are often the focus of discussion. As with some other Bible terms, they are either made to appear trivial by joking about them, or they are made to seem absurd by being given sensational interpretations. Either error is easy to fall into. As Bible students, we need fervent prayer and careful study of the Word. Peter told us that prophecy is not for "private interpretation" (2 Peter 1:20). An explanation is not true because I say so or because anyone else does. Let's look at our new verse:

     "And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." (Rev. 13:16, 17)

   I will share my idea of what the mark will be, but let's be sure we are understanding the text. To begin, why the list of "small and great, rich and poor, free and bond"? I see in the three opposites people at all social levels, at all economic levels, and in all political situations. This seems to indicate the universal nature of the command, perhaps more.
   In looking ahead we find also three ways to escape the isolation (verse 17). And as we continue we will find more threes, including a three-part coalition which opposes God (16:13), and three groups which mourn over the demise of Babylon (ch. 18). We have already seen the three enemies of God in the dragon, the beast and the beast from the earth. Watch for more sets of three. Is there a relation between the threes and 666?
   Our next question: Why the choice between hand and forehead for the placement of the mark?

13:16b
Why forehead and hand?

     "And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (Rev. 13:16, 17)

   What would it mean to receive the special mark in the hand or in the forehead? Let's go back to the source of the imagery.
   "And Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the LORD brought you out from this place. . . . Seven days thou shalt eat unleavened bread, and in the seventh day shall be a feast to the LORD. . . . And thou shalt shew thy son . . . saying, This is done because of that which the LORD did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt. And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the LORD'S law may be in thy mouth: for with a strong hand hath the LORD brought thee out of Egypt." (Ex. 13:3-9)

   Hmmm. The sign in the hand and the memorial between the eyes (forehead) in this context don't sound like the mark of the beast. The beast's mark is a counterfeit of these marks of commitment to God. As we just saw, the marks in hand and head were to be a sign that God's law was in the mouth. They pointed back to His having brought them out of Egypt. The ten commandments have the same setting.
   "And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage." (Ex. 20:1)

   In Deuteronomy 5 Moses repeated the commandments. Then he relates how the people were afraid to hear more so asked him to go find out what God wanted and they would do it. God accepted this and exclaimed:
   "O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!" (Deut. 5:29)

   We see, in the divine statement, God's desire for the people to follow Him in fear and in keeping the commandments. This is like the forehead and the hand or like the mind and the behavior. Continuing at the beginning of chapter 6:
   "Now these are the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go to possess it: That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God, to keep all his statutes and his commandments, which I command thee. . . . And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes." (Deut. 6:1, 2, 5-8).

   This brings us back to the hand and the forehead. In Jesus' time the scribes and Pharisees would wear little scrolls with words from these passages strapped to their arms and foreheads. (See. Matt. 23:5). I think God wanted them to simply accept the truth of His laws in their minds and to practice them (their hands). Is this same allegiance what the image in Revelation 13 is demanding everyone give to the beast? I believe it is. Jesus reminds us that we cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). So wondering after the beast and receiving the mark is going to mean turning away from obedience to God's law and accepting a counterfeit or competing law in order to please Satan.

Do the righteous have a mark?
   In the symbols of Revelation, have we seen a mark for the righteous? By examining it, we could better understand the counterfeit the beast's mark.
   "And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, Saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I hear the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel." (Rev. 7:2-4)
   "And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name [character] written in their foreheads." (Rev. 14:1)

   See the note below on the significance of the 144,000.
   So the choice is between the mark of the beast and the seal of God. The blowing of the winds here is God's final wrath in the seven last plagues (Rev. 15:1). This time is also seen in the symbol of the wrath of God unmixed with mercy described by the third angel:
   "And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation. . . ." (Rev. 14:9, 10)

   We have more to clarify. I want God's seal in my forehead and I know you do, too. The seal is His character in our minds, and His character of love is expressed in His law.

144,000 and the Jews

   We examined the meaning of the 144,000 when we studied chapter Rev. 7:4b. Some today believe that these are only the Jews or that they are the first group of saved ones; but remember that we are dealing here with symbols so we may expect the 144,000 to represent spiritual Israel. This is evident in the text itself. Those to be sealed are simply "the servants of our God." (7:3, quoted above). They are not an elite class of His servants but all the faithful ones living at the time when the wrath of God will be poured out and the angels will let the winds blow. (See Luke 12:37; Rev. 16:15
   Paul clarifies to us that God does not distinguish between Jews and non-Jews in their relationship to Him. All the faithful receive the promises given to Abraham. 
  "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Gal. 3:27-29)

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