Monthly Archives: April 2018

The Connection Between Chapters 12 and 13 (Thirteen 2)

The thirteenth chapter of Revelation introduces two new characters into the story of Revelation 12, a beast from the sea (13:1-7) and a beast from the earth (13:11). After their introductions, both beasts play a major role in the final crisis of earth’s history. Together with the dragon, the opponents of God and His people number three. The number three is associated with the godhead in chapter one and with Babylon in chapter 16 (verse 19). So this grouping of three functions as a “counterfeit trinity” in chapter 13.

The relationship between chapters 12 and 13 is clarified when one takes the time to look at a textual issue at the intersection between the chapters. The King James Version opens the chapter with John standing on the sands of the sea (Greek: estathên—“I stood”), while most newer versions tell us that the dragon, the subject of Rev, 12:17, stood (Greek: estathê—“he stood”: ESV, NASB, NIV, RSV, NRSV) there. The Greek manuscripts of Revelation are divided on this reading, but the earliest and most reliable manuscripts and the early translations read “he stood,” referring to the dragon.

This reading better connects Rev. 12:17 with the story of Rev. 13, where the dragon calls up allies from the sea and the land to assist him in the final conflict. That means that the calling up of the two beasts in chapter 13 is the way that the dragon wages war against the remnant of 12:17. Chapter 14, then, elaborates on the remnant’s response to the dragon’s attacks. Read in this way, Revelation 12:17 offers the final battle in a summary nutshell, followed by elaboration on the two key characters in the nutshell summary, the dragon (elaborated in chapter 13) and the remnant (elaborated in chapter 14). The final battle is further elaborated in chapters 15-19.

Satan and His Two Allies (Thirteen 1)

Revelation thirteen elaborates on the dragon’s side of the war with the remnant that was announced in Rev. 12:17. In chapter thirteen, the dragon gains two allies for the final conflict; a beast that comes up out of the sea (Rev. 13:1-10) and a beast that comes up out of the earth (Rev. 13:11-18). The dragon, sea beast and earth beast together form a counterfeit of the true godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Both beasts are described and given a historical introduction (Rev. 13:1-7, 11) before their actions in the end-time are portrayed (Rev. 13:8-10, 12-18).

Careful exegetical study of this chapter introduces the following themes:

1. A Textual Issue in Rev. 13:1. I posted on this in the series of blogs on chapter twelve. A careful look at the manuscript tradition helps to underline the connection of the story of Revelation 13 with 12:17.
2. Grounds for a Historical Reading of Revelation 13. This section explores the relationship of the two beasts in this chapter with the historical timeline of Revelation 12.
3. The Sea Beast as a Counterfeit of Christ.
4. The Symbolic Meaning of “Earth.” “Earth” is an ambiguous symbol in Revelation, sometimes positive and sometimes negative.
5. The Identity of the Land Beast. Evidence that the land beast represents the United States of America in the final conflict.
6. Rev. 13:14-18 and Dan. 3.

The next six blogs will go more deeply into each of these issues.

Studies in this chapter also lead me to reflect on 1) the root issue behind all forms of distorted religion and 2) how believers should relate to those who believe and practice unbiblical forms of religion.