The beasts’ (all three of them) calls to worship (Rev. 13:4, 8, 12, 15) come in the context of multiple counterfeits of the First Table of the ten commandments. The first commandment forbids worship of any other God. The beast, on the other hand, demands worship (13:4, 8). The second commandment forbids idolatry. The land beast sets up an image to be worshipped (13:15). The third commandment forbids taking the Lord’s name in vain. The beast, on the other hand, excels in blasphemy (13:6). The fourth commandment is the seal of the covenant, containing the name of the ruler (Yahweh), the territory He rules over, and the basis for God’s rule (Exod. 20:8-11). In contrast to this seal of God, the world is offered the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16-17).
This entire section of Revelation is centered in the commandments of God (12:17; 14:12). But in chapter 13 the focus narrows down to the first table of the ten, the four commandments that deal specifically with our relationship to God. These four commandments concern who to worship, how, what not to do, and when to worship. In their words and actions, the dragon and his allies counterfeit each of the first four commandments. This sets the table for the decisive allusion to the fourth commandment in the first angel’s message (Rev. 14:7, cf. Exod. 20:11). The references to the ten commandments in Revelation 12-14 move from the general focus (12:17; 14:12) to the first table of the law (Rev 13) to a specific focus on the fourth commandment (Rev 14:7), which I will elaborate on in the next post.
Revelation 12:17 speaks of a war that the dragon will wage against the remnant. In chapter thirteen the dragon goes to the beach and calls up a pair of allies to help him in the conflict, the beast from the sea and the beast from the earth. The language of this conflict is military—“make war” (Rev 12:17). But a careful look at Revelation 13 makes it clear that this is not primarily a military battle, it is a “war of words” like the war in heaven portrayed in chapter twelve. The surface impression of Revelation is that it is all about the grand political schemes of the world’s nations. But closer examination shows that there is an overarching spiritual purpose in this apocalyptic vision. The unholy trinity seeks through deception and intimidation to shake the loyalty of God’s people and draw them away from faithfulness. The purpose of Revelation is to empower God’s people to resist all such encroachments.