The Image of the Beast (Rebekah Liu Dissertation): (1) Word Study

When Rebekah Liu of China was in the New Testament doctoral program at Andrews University, she came to me one day to talk about the topic of her dissertation. She suggested exploring the image of the beast of Revelation 13:14-15. She noted that the topic had not been widely explored by scholars and that it would be of great interest to Seventh-day Adventists around the world, two good reasons for the choice. I noted that “image of the beast” is introduced in chapter thirteen, but is not described. While the phrase occurs several times more, it is not directly identified with any later beast or symbol in Revelation. For me, the best candidate was the beast of Revelation 17, which looks like the beast of Revelation 13, hence could be termed the “image of the (sea) beast”. In any case, I was delighted to work with her on that topic and she commenced work almost immediately. What I am sharing here is a summary of key points in her dissertation, with particular focus on the implications of the topic for Revelation 17. I do not imply that this is the best summary or even the best I could do with more time. I am sharing this summary for the sake of those followers who have requested such a summary. With Rebekah’s permission, I may one day add it as an excursis to my commentary on Revelation 17.

After an Introduction and a chapter exploring the literature on previous attempts to interpret the image of the beast, chapter 3 reports on Rebekah’s exegesis of Revelation 13:14-15. She begins with a word study of “image” (Greek: eikôn) and “beast” (Greek: thȇrion) in the Bible and the ancient world. Since both words occur in the creation story of Genesis, creation seems to be one of the primary sources of Revelation 13:15. The main meaning of eikôn is as a similitude of another figure, basically an idol. In a metaphorical and positive sense human beings are portrayed as idol-images of God. To be in the image of God means to bear enough resemblance to God to be God’s representative to the creation. In Second Temple Judaism (the period between the Testaments) and the pagan Greco-Roman world, the meaning of eikôn is similar. It can mean a likeness or portrait, a copy of something else, the cult statue of a god, or the same form as something else. In the New Testament, “image” also means a likeness/portait and a living image, like the original Adam or like Jesus Christ, who is the visible image of God. In summary, eikôn seems to have three primary meanings in the ancient world; 1) the image or likeness of a prototype (like the idol image of a god), 2) it can refer to outward forms and appearances, or 3) it can be a living representation of someone or something else.

When human beings were created in the image of God, it meant God’s image lies in human beings and nowhere else (therefore the second commandment). Because of the Fall, the image of God was damaged or marred in human beings, requiring a restoration of God’s image in humanity, beginning with Jesus Christ. That future restoration implies an eschatological meaning for “image”. While the “image of God” is never mentioned in Revelation, the “image of the beast” is an obverse allusion to the original image and the problem of sin. In Revelation, the beasts of Revelation are setting in motion a counterfeit of the image of God. People who have lost the image of God are recreated into the image of the beast. In the end, human beings become like the gods they worship. They will either embrace the restoration of God’s image and character in their lives or become more and more like the dragon (Satan). The image of the beast is more than just an identifying mark, it represents a change of character in the assembly of the unfaithful. The image of the beast is a composite of all who end up serving Satan in the final era of earth’s history.

The primary meaning of “beast” (Greek: thȇrion) in the Bible and the Greco-Roman world is “wild animal,” especially the kind of wild animal that is hostile to human beings. Metaphorically, it can represent people who are cruel. As part of creation, the wild animals were placed under the dominion of human beings which were created in the image of God. It was after the Fall that the beasts became hostile to human beings. So the dominion over the animals proved to be conditional on human obedience to God. King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 represented how far from the image of God human beings could fall. In Revelation 13 the beasts are hostile to God and appear as allies of the dragon/Satan. Given the background, the image of the beast recalls the king of Babylon’s fall and represents a counter-attack against God’s end-time plan to restore His image in the human race.

6 thoughts on “The Image of the Beast (Rebekah Liu Dissertation): (1) Word Study

  1. Rustin Sweeney

    Would you elaborate more on why we translate thȇrion into “beast’ for the earth beast of Revelation 13? It would seem more fitting to translate it into “dangerous animal”, or something along those lines. (Strong’s a dangerous animal: – (venomous, wild) beast.) Can I understand that the word “beast” has a negative connotation in this passage? In preparing thoughts concerning the earth beast of Revelation 13 it has struck me that most of our literature portrays this beast as either a lamb or a bison. It would seem more realistic to portray the earth beast as a dangerous animal. Should not the word “beast” in this passage be understood in a negative context? Would not have John said “lamblike animal” instead of “beast” if indeed he saw an animal that operated on different principles than all the other previous beasts? I’ve read Liu’s comments on beast in her dissertation but was wondering if you might have some added insight. Seems to me the earth beast has operated very often in a “beastly” manner.

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      I think you’re on the right track. The sense is wild animal hostile to humans. In my Revelation Seminar the artist portrayed the land beast in quite a ferocious manner. But in translating, I prefer to render the original as simply as possible. I just checked 8 of the top dozen English translations and they all simply say “beast”.

  2. Marrian Stinson

    I read many of the replies on Rebekah Liu’s Dissertation, and some came close to the truth but still did not get it! What should have been done is to start with the understanding of Daniel Chapter Seven first. Daniel is the first who introduces us to the beast of Rev Chapter 13. We must know and understand that three major kingdoms made up the beast. Babylon, the lion, Persia, the bear, and Greece the four-headed leopard. Daniel Chapter Eight mentions the last two beasts, but the animals are different! This is extremely important to decipher. History shows that kingdoms from the past and the present always used animals to depict the strength of their kingdom. It would appear that a ram would be more powerful than a goat but, yet the goat destroyed the ram. Here, YAHWEH was introducing that the dream Nebuchadnezzar saw was in line with the dreams that Daniel saw, himself! Daniel’s dreams were more detailed and were based on the failure of these kingdoms against HIS POWER!
    Gen Chapter 10, Nimrod, the Kushite is the only one that ruled the entire world. The Bible lets you know that his empire stretched further than most realizes today. The capital of his kingdom was Babylon, where religion was introduced against the true worship of ELOHE! YAHWEH disperse the people based on their ethnicity. Part of the false religion went with each of them along with the true worship to YAHWEH!
    Babylon was the city that was most sought after. These people before and after the flood knew more about the stars, and scientists recognize this fact to be true. Sadly, the churches turn a deaf ear to these facts! The Chaldean during the Neo-period formed a university of studies on the stars. The priests already at Babylon were wise in this knowledge, and the Chaldeans knew this along with their knowledge. Satan used this to his advantage. YAHWEH shows that these beasts symbolize the various parts of the religion of Nimrod! Babylon, the head had the major part, Persia had another part, but Greece had the controlling part that stretches to modern democracy and church religions today.
    The fourth beast in Daniel showed that on the beast’s head was 10 horns. Rome was introduced as the teeth of the lion. Rome had forceful strength, but really follow the belief and ideology of Greece! Theology comes from Greece and its gods. Nothing about this word relates to THE MOST HIGH! Then a little stout horn was introduced, that would become powerful under Rome; it appeared to make a change. Paul saw and warned the new assembly of people that again, was falling into sin. He wrote letters to all of the Gentiles, except the Bereans. Greece was uniting all the false religions together. Rome’s new emperor Constantine the Great, was a great believer in Mithras of Persia. The truth about YAHSHUA dying on a stake was changed to a cross. This was an ancient pagan belief and Constantine easily believe that THE SAVIOR really was Mithras. The Christians had accepted a pagan name Christo, they had stopped following THE WAY or being part of the truth! It was easy to adopt a universal pagan religion that Satan had started with Nimrod. Satan still loves evil diversity and disputes. He had formed these religions from Mithras, Hindu, Buddha! He then introduces Islam, which is close to Catholicism. The ten horns represent the kingdoms that formed after Rome broke up. Rome’s strength remain in these kingdom’s minds, each wanted to take and reunite Rome, not with power, but with their religion. Catholicism had allowed all of the pagan religions that were in Europe to be accepted under the church. History shows that the Aryan tribes all believed in Christo/Mithras and monotheism. It was the belief in Satan who had four faces like the Hindu but one body. Satan knew that there were THREE INDIVIDUAL ELOHIYM’S and he replace the truth to accept his figure instead. This is how the trinity was easily introduced through the Catholic Church and the Protestants continue to accept this lie.
    Sunday has always been the main worship of all the ancient pagan beliefs. Nimrod changed this from the beginning and it never stopped! Satan knew that changing the Sabbath would change how people would worship YAHWEH! When the people of the ten kingdoms came to the new land that belong to the American Indians of all of America, things would take a swift change. The Europeans claiming to be Christians with the love of Jesus yet took the Indian’s land by any means. These Protestants stating, they were being mistreated under the rule of Catholicism but showed the same cruelty. They took their cousins, the Hamites who were once great and powerful rulers and builders, and demean them. The Hamites knew YAHWEH but fell short of their mission and their glory diminish. They now became slaves, treated like beasts marked as property.
    Rev Chapter 13, showed that the beast over periods of time remain. The three religions had merged and the Bible clearly states that Satan had given the beast his seat (take a notice of this), his power, and also great authority! The Chapter continues with a lamblike beast. The buffalo male has horns like a lamb. This beast comes from America and is now also label as the false prophet. This should make sense because the Protestants proved in these last days who they really are! Even those, who were led through the Millerites Movement and realize the truth of the judgment and the Sabbath, the majority of them again will fail. However, YAHSHUA thru THE HOLY SPIRIT will find those who will struggle with EL, THE SON, and overcome. They are known at first as the remnant. But is shown they are the true IsraEL, from all nationalities. They will follow all the Commandments of ELOHIYM and they will have the Testimony of YAHSHUA. The Sabbath was never a mark because it is a day. These people are 144,000 but Daniel’s last Chapter states that others will rise to everlasting life. The Chapter shows that Daniel will be one of them. People of YAHWEH, throughout the centuries, will rise to everlasting life and they with the 144,000 will finish the work. These are the messengers flying in midair to spread the Gospel.
    Rev Chapter 17 tells the mystery of the whore and the beast. The Protestants, in America, appeared to hate the Catholic Church at the beginning but now they have changed. However, she is shown to control the beast for a while here in America. The beast is controlled by Satan himself and please remember Satan gives him his seat! The beast begins to hate the whore and his power must and will be restored! The Catholic Church is shown to gain power at the end of time and during the Time of Trouble. Here is the mystery about her she befriends the Rabbinic Judaism and the Protestants who once hated them, also loves them too! They are now accepted as the chosen people, even though they do not believe in YAHSHUA! Now that’s strange! Now, the Catholic Church has one goal to rule in Jerusalem. This city never was the same after the death of THE SAVIOR. It fell under Tiras and had a pagan name but the name came to be called Jerusalem, instead of Yerushalayim! The papacy feels that if he rules this city, he will be recognized worldwide as both the father and the son! Now, the city has various Protestant religions that are the daughter of Catholicism. The dominant religion is the Catholic Church. Like Nimrod’s Babylon, Jerusalem has, “become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.” But the mystery now turns to the beast.
    The Bible clearly states in Jude 2:6 that Satan and his angels were kicked out of Heaven. Rev 12:7-9 gives THE NAME MICHAEL for YAHSHUA in Heaven. THE PRINCE kicked these fallen angels out from THE PRESENCE of HIS FATHER! The word earth is not correct for the Greek word, “ge.” The word represent somewhere that has a landmass like Heaven. EGW in Spirit of Prophecy Vol. 1, saw they were kicked out before the earth was created. 2 Peter 2:4, Rev 9:1, all show that only Satan is allowed to roam freely. The angels that fell are in prison and this place is a planet of some source. They can only be released for a given time and must return to this place. This is where Satan’s seat is and not the earth. He still commands those who are released to do his bidding. The beast who allowed the Whore/the Catholic Church to lead him, he realized she was a fake. While she was riding him, he had become completely sinful. The Bible shows that for a while he is gone, no one knows who he is! Where is he? The Bible tells you, the king of the bottomless pit in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, he has the name Apollyon. Both means destroyer and he has taken the beast to his kingdom. It does not look like a prison and this will take place during the Time of Trouble! The Rabbinic Jews were already planning the rebuilding of the temple for their belief. However, the Catholic Church wanted it to be built differently with a seat in the most holy place, recognizing that she is the queen, who will be seated in the temple. The 7 Trumpets begin to blow and they are the wrath of the LAMB upon the wicked. The Time of Trouble is calamity everywhere and the 144,000 will have the power to execute, given by THE HOLY SPIRIT! Four Trumpets will be released and then the last three Trumpets are woes to the people of the earth. The first woe is the 5th Trumpet. Satan angels will be released first and listen carefully! YAHWEH states clearly to them that they cannot touch those who will be sealed by the Gospel that the 144,000 will be preaching along with those risen to assist them throughout the earth centuries. The great multitude will stand that no man can number! YAHWEH tells these evil angels that they can only torcher the wicked, but they cannot kill them! The Catholic Church cannot overpower them and she is losing control over the world. Now, Satan sends back to earth the beast. Most people today believe in aliens, and here he is! The false prophet is building up the alien propaganda and that the Catholic Pope has no true power to stop the Gospel. Now, all will know who the beast is. The Time of Trouble is over and there is no more intercession. This man will incite the ten horns or powerful people who have no kingdoms yet. Instead, they give their power to the beast from all over the regions of the world. They go on a world spree of destroying the Bible everywhere! The Seven last plagues are the WRATH of THE FATHER takes place during this time!
    The beast needs to be in control. He shows that the papacy could not do what he had the power to do, and that is to stop and destroy the Gospel. Daniel shows that YAHSHUA will now scatter safely, HIS people. They had come in the same POWER that Elijah had to finish the work. It is done and now the power of the wicked in high places has taken over! The beast shows his strength and power and he will rule the world. This is the battle of Armageddon. The two wicket powers are warring and the beast wins and sits in the temple. Now, the false prophet tells the world to make an image to the beast. But something strange happens this image becomes alive! The false prophet is shown that he had the power to make this image come alive and it speaks. That is what has been overlooked. The image comes alive and also speaks. This is so simple and some were close, this is Satan! Satan is not going to let a man rule. Satan has always wanted to rule men from the beginning. He, now have the beast get ready to fight YAHSHUA, who HIS FATHER tells the saints, HE IS on the way! Yes, the beast and the false prophet are seen in the Lake of Fire. The image is also captured in Rev Chapter 12 and this time Satan is going to be lockdown in prison along with his angels. He roams no more for a thousand years!

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      Thanks for sharing this blizzard of ideas on a wide variety of prophecies. Not sure I understood your main point or its relation to Rebekah Liu’s dissertation.

  3. Hansen

    Dr. Paulien, I realize the topic here is the image to the beast rather than the mark of the beast. I wonder, however, why, in the SDA material I’ve seen on the mark and image of the beast [certainly related], there are not any references to the work of Adolph Deissmann on the mark of the beast? He devotes several pages [240-247] to the subject in his book “Bible Studies.” The “mark” was, historically, a seal of imperial Rome:
    “To sum up: χαραγμα is the name of the imperial seal, giving the year and the name of the reigning emperor (possibly also his effigy), and found on bills of sale and similar documents of the 1st and 2nd centuries.”

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      Deissmann’s work is very important but somewhat dated now, as all our scholarly work will one day be. I was not aware of the specific reference. It does make sense with everything else I have learned about the mark and seal. Thanks for sharing this.

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