"The Roundheads, on the other hand, were clean-shaven and wore tall,conical hats, white ties, and sombre garments
. Under these circumstances,
a Civil war was inevitable."
W.C.Sellar and R.J.Yeatman, "1066 and All That" (ch35)
I want to offer some thoughts on Revelation ch.13 vv5-10
This is the last portion of ch.13 which needs to be covered before moving on to the opposite side of the conflict.
I'm going to be asking the question; must
the Beast make war on the saints?
It's the kind of question historians are always asking about any war- "was the war inevitable?" So I'm going to tackle it in the standard way by
tracking the war back to its original causes.
The starting-point must be the long-term roots of the war, which can be found in ch.12.
There's a vision at the beginning of ch.12 about the birth of a male child, who is to "rule over the nations with a rod of iron". The child is
Christ himself, of course. The child is then "caught up to God and to his throne".
What follows on from that is the "war in heaven" between Michael and the dragon, which I've described elsewhere as a dramatised version of the
doctrine of the Atonement. It's about the impact of the "catching up to Heaven" (the Cross and the Resurrection) on the power of evil.
And we must note the close involvement of the "woman in Heaven", representing the people of God;
The woman in Heaven
And the effect of the Atonement?
Satan is known as "the Accuser". His function, in Jewish tradition, is to make sure that God knows about our sins. Thus his power in our lives
really rests on the existence of sin, which gives him his material.
So the Atonement strikes at the root of his power- his evidence has no value and his accusations have no force when set against the Forgiveness of
We're told that the brethren overcame him "by the blood of the Lamb"; that is, they destroyed his power in their lives by accepting the Forgiveness
that was offered.
And they overcame him "by the word of their testimony"; that is, they were destroying his power in other people's lives by telling them about the
So that was the nature of Satan's fall from power, being "thrown down from heaven".
Satan fell from Heaven
And the effect of the downfall?
The devil is said to be "in great wrath", which drives him in vengeful pursuit of the "woman". When that fails, he turns to making war on her
"children"- which leads him to summon up the "Beast from the sea".
This brings us to the more immediate reasons for war, which can be found in ch.13.
By analogy with the beasts in the vision of Daniel ch.7, we can identify the "Beast from the sea" as a political state or states. The Beast is
always powerful, but the real turning point comes with the episode of the "mortal wound", and the recovery from it.
Then the world "wonders after the Beast". We find in ch.17 that the "ten kings", the rulers of the world at large, "are of one mind and give over
their power and authority to the Beast". The result is that the Beast is able to exercise authority, either directly or indirectly, over "every
tribe and people and tongue and nation" (v7). Its power has been extended world-wide.
Does this world-wide power make war inevitable? It depends on the attitude of the Beast.
We were told at the beginning of the chapter that the heads of the Beast carried a blasphemous name. I can't improve on the comment I made
So the dominating political power thinks it's God? Yes, that rather goes with the territory. There are reasons why absolute monarchies are
called "absolute". There are reasons why totalitarian states are called "totalitarian". Political power tends towards making its claim to
obedience more and more unconditional, until the point is reached when it encroaches on what belongs to God.
But the real turning-point, once again, is the episode of the "mortal wound". After that, the challenge becomes open. "The Beast was given a mouth
uttering haughty thoughts and blasphemous words" against God (v7). The "mouth" seems to be another name for the second "Beast", which takes on
the task of compelling the world to worship the first Beast.
Does this attempt to supplant God make war inevitable? It depends on the response of God's people.
There are many of God's people (as we learn from the fact that the Beast has to find a way of dealing with them) who are unwilling to take part in
Their unwillingness would follow inexorably from that first and most fundamental commandment; "You shall have no other gods but me".
This tells them that they cannot follow their God and the Beast at the same time. They must choose one or the other.
Does this resistance make war inevitable? It depends on the reaction of the Beast.
War becomes inevitable when the Beast chooses not to allow God's people to remain outside his system
So it is the Beast who is incurring the "war-guilt" (and, if we follow through the "Versailles" analogy, it is the Beast who will have to pay the
I would regard the distribution of the "Mark" as the opening move in the persecution, the first response to finding out about the resistance-
"Let's pinpoint exactly
where they are." This leads on to the boycotting and the other social pressures, and ultimately the
We're told in v7 that the Beast is allowed to make war on the saints "and to conquer them". That last phrase should not be misunderstood. He may be
able to seize their bodies and drive the community out of public life, but this does not mean that he can conquer their faith.
We can find a common theme in the remarks at the end of the passage;
"If anyone has an ear, let him hear"
That instruction can be found in the gospels, attached to the parable of the Sower, which is interesting. It may be warning the believers facing this
crisis not to become those who "when tribulation or persecution arise because of the word, immediately they fall away". (Mark ch.4 v17)
It's also a refrain in the "letters to the seven churches". This is important, because there are two things happening in those letters.
On the one hand, the churches are being warned about the twin dangers of persecution and spiritual seduction.
On the other hand, there's encouragement in every letter for those who can "conquer" the dangers. Every letter, one way or another, reminds them of
that promise of eternal life.
So repeating that comment here reminds us that, although there's trouble close at hand, there's also the promise of Life on the other side of the
"If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes"
This comes from a little verse in Jeremiah, about the various fates awaiting the inhabitants of Jerusalem, when the city was to be conquered by the
"Those who are for pestilence, to pestilence
And those who are for the sword, to the sword.
Those who are for famine, to famine
And those who are for captivity, to captivity"- Jeremiah ch.15 v2
In other words, their immediate fate would be inescapable.
On the other hand, we all know that this Exile was followed by the Return, when Jerusalem and the Temple were rebuilt.
So anything that reminds us about the fate of Jerusalem also reminds us of the end of the story
There's trouble close at hand, and in the immediate future the trouble may be inescapable.
Nevertheless, there's the prospect of Life on the other side of the trouble.
"If anyone slays with the sword, with the sword must he be slain"
This sounds like an echo of the second line in Jeremiah's verse, but it's really quoting the rebuke made by Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, in
the arrest scene;
"All who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matthew ch.26 v52).
In effect, he's telling the disciples "This is going to happen- you can't fight it".
Which is the same point that Jeremiah was making.
On the other hand, once again, we know the end of the story.
The arrest and the crucifixion were followed by the Resurrection.
So the unspoken message is the same as it was in the previous case.
There is trouble close at hand, and in the immediate future the trouble may be inescapable.
Nevertheless, there is the prospect of Life on the other side of the trouble.
"Here is a call for the endurance and the faith of the saints"
The endurance and the faith are necessary because there is trouble close at hand.
On the other hand, the endurance and the faith become possible because there is the promise of Life on the other side of the trouble.
Those who believe in the promise are the ones who will be able to "overcome".
[edit on 8-8-2010 by DISRAELI]