Tag Archives: Rebekah Liu

The Image of the Beast (Rebekah Liu Dissertation): (4) The Image of the Beast in Rev 14-20

The big challenge for interpreters of the image of the beast is the fact that the image is mentioned repeatedly in Revelation 14-20, yet is never explicitly portrayed. Is it to be equated with Babylon? With the beast of Revelation 17? With both of them together? Is there some other symbol in chapters 14-20 that plays the role of the image? Or is it acting only in 13:13-17 and does not appear again? Another challenge is the fact that the image of the beast is mentioned in every chapter from Revelation 14-20 except chapters 17 and 18, which center on Babylon. What is there about Babylon that might cause the author of Revelation not to mention the image of the beast in the same chapter? Rebekah Liu’s dissertation goes chapter by chapter through Revelation 14-20, looking for clues to solve the identity of the image of the beast in those chapters.

Revelation 14 provides a “divine perspective” on the activities of the two beasts and the image in Revelation 13. It provides insights into the fate of those who resist the worship of the beast and its image. Chapter 14 continues the theme of worship, which was central to chapter 13. But it adds a new theme, the theme of Babylon, introduced for the first time in 14:8. The fact that it appears without a visual description or a historical background suggests it has appeared in the book before in some form. The readers are expected to already know who this is. That an entity could appear in a variety of forms is already clear in Revelation. The dragon is identified as the devil and Satan, the ancient serpent and the deceiver of the world. Satan is also called Apollyon and Abaddon in Rev 9:11. Jesus is called the Son of Man, the Lamb and Michael. Is there a character earlier in the book of Revelation who corresponds to the Babylon of Revelation 14?

Since the first appearance of Babylon the Great is in chapter 14, it is possible that the previous action of Babylon is found in chapter 13. Rebekah Liu notices four pairs of parallel passages in Revelation 13 and 14. I won’t be offering the detailed observations that led to this structure, the reader will need to consult the dissertation itself for that. Revelation 13:1-6 is parallel with 14:1-5. The second pair is found in Rev 13:11-14 and 14:6-7. The fourth pair of parallels is Rev 13:16 and 14:9. That outline leaves a third pair unaccounted for, Rev 13:15 and 14:8. The figure in Revelation 13 most parallel to Babylon in Revelation 14 is the image of the beast. Both the image of the beast and Babylon are at the front line of the conflict between the dragon and God. If they are identified with each other, then drinking the wine of Babylon is identified with worshipping the beast and its image (Rev 13:15-17; 14:8-11). Identifying them as the same character, therefore, is not only logically possible, it would simplify the argument of the book and give it dramatic punch.

Revelation 15 is relatively brief. The image of the beast is mentioned in passing in 15:2. Those on the sea of glass had gained the victory over the beast and his image. Chapter 15 introduces the themes of temple and the seven bowl-plagues. But while the image of the beast is clearly a key component of the forces opposed to God and His faithful ones, seven-bowl-plagues do not specifically target the image of the beast in chapters 15 or 16. Where is the judgment of the image in Revelation?