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Revelation 13

Pett's Commentary on the BiblePett's Commentary

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Verse 1

‘And the monster waxed wroth with the woman and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus, and he stood on the sand of the sea.’

The mention of ‘the commandments of God’ may be intended to connect this situation with the Exodus and Mount Sinai, although ‘commandments’ is in fact a favourite word of John having also in mind the commandments of Jesus (John 14:15; John 14:21; John 15:10; 1 John 2:4; 1 John 3:22; 1 John 3:24; 1Jn 5:2-3 ; 2 John 1:6; Revelation 14:12; Revelation 22:21).

The anger of the monster, unable to snatch his prey, is now turned against ‘the rest of her seed’, i.e. the remainder other than ‘the son, the male child’. This refers to those who have become part of the children of Israel by submission to Christ. They ‘keep the commandments of God’ thus demonstrating that they have been brought within the covenant of grace of Sinai.

We must remember that what we call the ten commandments was in fact a covenant of grace whereby Yahweh, having delivered His people, declared His overlordship and what He had done for them through grace, and outlined His requirements from them as His subject people. It is in the form of a typical suzerainty treaty of that time.

Combined with keeping His commandments these ‘children’ of the true Israel also ‘hold the testimony of Jesus’, declaring their loyalty to Him because of what He has done for them as well as obeying His commandments. As they are the seed of the woman they are ‘true’ children of Israel.

‘And he stood on the sand of the sea’. Now is to be outlined the monster’s activity against the people of God through those who dwell on earth. He has failed in the wilderness sands, which proved his enemy and swallowed up his wrath, for the wilderness is never his friend and, as the place of solitude and waiting on God, always protects the people of God. So now he will attack from another position. Now he stands on the sandy shore of the great sea to see emerge from there the instruments of his wrath. The basic idea comes from Daniel 7:3. The great sea is the Mediterranean which appeared as a great sea to Israel (Numbers 34:6 and often).

To Israel the sea was an enemy. It was always seeking to break its bounds and overwhelm them, although tightly controlled by God. But unlike in other ancient literature the sea is never depicted in the Bible as out of God’s control or battling with God. He always has overwhelming mastery of it (Job 38:8-11; Psalms 65:7). Its battle is with the world.

They remembered how the sea had swallowed up the Egyptian armies (Exodus 15:10; Joshua 24:7 and often), and how it was depicted as overwhelming Babylon (Jeremiah 51:42). The psalmist also likened the sea to a proud enemy whom God controlled, symbolic of the enemies of God, who were seen in the guise of a great sea monster, probably there representing Egypt (Psalms 89:9-10 compare Ezekiel 32:2). The sea roars, like the roaring of a lion and thus again symbolises the enemies of Israel (Isaiah 5:29-30 compare Jeremiah 31:35). Psalms 65:7 compares the roaring of the seas and the waves to ‘the tumult of the peoples’ (compare Isaiah 17:12; Ezekiel 26:3). Indeed ‘the wicked are like the troubled sea, for it cannot rest, and its waters cast up mire and dirt’ (Isaiah 57:20). So the sea symbolises destructive power, the powerful threatening of the people of God, and tumult and restlessness among peoples.

‘The sand of the sea’ is also an Old Testament phrase and signifies a number beyond counting (Genesis 32:12; Genesis 41:49; Psalms 78:27; Isaiah 10:22; Jeremiah 15:8; Jeremiah 33:22; Hosea 1:10 see also 1 Samuel 13:5; 2 Samuel 17:11; 1 Kings 4:20). Here therefore it is intended to bring to mind the innumerable numbers of peoples who will be used by him to try to overwhelm the people of God.

‘He stood on the sand of the sea’ is in direct contrast with the strong angel who ‘was standing on the sea and on the earth’ in Revelation 10:5. The strong angel declares the total dominion of God, Satan’s is only partial.

The sand of the sea, however, is also the impregnable barrier that the sea cannot pass (Jeremiah 5:22). Possibly there is therefore here also the idea that the dragon is standing there with a view to breaking that barrier down.

So sand and sea together can be seen as representing the nations and peoples of the world in tumult and as threatening the people of God.

Verse 2

‘And the wild beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth was as the mouth of a lion, and the monster gave him his power, and his throne and great authority.’

This description links the wild beast with those in Daniel chapter 7, with the idea that this wild beast combines in itself all the power, might and glory of those kingdoms. It is stressing his huge superiority. He represents all empires. This suggests he is parallel with the fourth beast, ‘terrible, powerful and exceedingly strong with great iron teeth’ (Daniel 7:7) which, at least initially, symbolises Rome, but in the end represents the mega-empire, summing up all empires of all ages. The source of his kingship is revealed by John to be Satanic (compare Revelation 2:13 see 1 Corinthians 10:20-21).

As chapter 17 will make clear there is another wild beast, a scarlet beast (known elsewhere as the beast of the abyss), which, while encompassing Rome, signifies more than Rome. It has a future after the destruction of Rome (see on chapter 17-19).

However, the seven heads representing ‘kings’ are Roman Emperors, for five are fallen, one is and one is coming. The seven heads are also the seven mountains on which Rome is established. But the ten kings and the beast are not limited to Rome. They are anti-Christ, as we shall see.

It was the great red monster of chapter twelve who initially had the seven heads and the ten horns. Satan is the one who controls the earthly kings and empires of the future following the resurrection and enthronement of Christ in Heaven. This wild beast in chapter 13 is also shown as having the seven heads and the ten horns. This links it specifically with the red monster. The wild beast is Satan’s tool. The wild beast from the abyss in chapter 17 has the same. Both beasts look back to the same source and there is a continuity in them based on their connection with Satan.

But the wild beast from the abyss is shown to have ceased, and to have begun again after being raised from the abyss, and it is then that the ten kings arise. So the wild beast primarily represents the bestial nature of earthly empire, summing up in itself all past empires. Significantly that earthly empire will know a cessation and a recommencement so that the final empire is not necessarily Rome although it was Rome in its commencement. Here then in chapter 13 we have the wild beast as Rome. In chapter 17 the wild beast is the empire and its ruler in the end times who experience more immediate Satanic possession.

Verses 3-4

‘And I saw one of his heads which seemed as though it had been smitten unto death, and its death stroke was healed, and the whole earth wondered after the beast, and they worshipped the monster because he gave his authority to the beast, and they worshipped the beast saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to make war with him?”.’

The mention of one of the heads demonstrates that in this chapter it is the heads which are prominent. This smitten head probably refers to the illness that brought Caligula near to death, but from which he recovered seemingly miraculously. The ‘as though it had been smitten to death’ may be seeing his illness as caused by the ‘two-edged sword’ of the Son of Man (Revelation 1:16).

Through his seemingly mortal illness Christ is seen as reminding Caligula of his mortality but he ignores the warning. The Eastern part of the Empire, which only saw the Emperors at a distance and took their divinity seriously (it was this part of the Empire e.g. Pergamum (Revelation 2:13), which most enthusiastically enforced Emperor worship), may well have amplified rumours about this event which Caligula no doubt used to further belief in his divinity. This, or some other well known event, had clearly given impetus to such Imperial claims. As the rumours circulated they would no doubt grow in intensity. The purpose of John in stating it is to show that Rome is anti-Christ (setting itself up as a rival of Christ), claiming divinity and mimicking the death and resurrection of Christ.

When the religion of Rome was enforced, twofold worship was in view, the worship of the Emperor and the worship of Roma (Rome) itself, both demanding sacrifices and thus seen by Christians as devil worship (1 Corinthians 10:20-21). And thus it continued from emperor to emperor. The question about who could ‘compare with the beast’ echoes the view taken by the people of the Empire of the all-conquering legions, ‘who is like Rome?’. ‘Who is like the beast’ also contrasts with the meaning of the name of the Archangel Michael, ‘who is like God?’.

Verse 5

‘And a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies was given to him and he was given authority to continue for forty two months.’

This refers to the head that was smitten to death and was healed (v. 3). ‘Was given to him’. Up to now this phrase has signified God’s permitting. Now it has a twofold meaning. Outwardly it is the Serpent who ‘gives’ his authority to him, but John recognises that behind this, as behind all things, is God (compare 1 Chronicles 21:1 with 2 Samuel 24:1).

The claim to Imperial divinity was first emphasised under Augustus (although earlier Caesars were accepted as divine by many), but it was Gaius Caligula who assiduously propagated such a belief in his own divinity throughout the Empire, and even sought to enforce it by force among the Roman aristocracy who naturally were most wary of his claims. While the Roman aristocracy were happy to see the common people worshipping the Emperor, they were the last to believe in the divinity of Emperors, for they knew them too well, and under Caligula some of them suffered for it.

He also included in his efforts the aim of setting up his image in the Jerusalem Temple, and images in other places, and he reacted against any attempts to deny him worship. Tiberius had laid little emphasis on the Imperial cult. Caligula brought it to the fore. This would naturally result in many conflicts with Christians who at various times would find themselves in a position where they had to deny his deity and refuse to offer sacrifices to ‘Rome and the Emperor’. (Historically he is not viewed as strictly a wholesale persecutor of Christians per se, for he persecuted everybody, but contemporary Christians who suffered and saw others suffering under his claims no doubt saw it differently).

His reign was the first in which emperor worship became a major issue and lasted for three years and ten months. John sees this is significant and dates from the early part of his reign, putting it in terms of prophetic terminology as ‘forty two months’ (between three and four years - note that the forty two months is not strictly said to be the length of his reign, thus a short period can be seen as excluded at the beginning before his persecutions really got under way).

As we have mentioned Tiberius had not been an enthusiastic propagator of his divinity, and the shock with which Caligula’s emphatic proclamation of divinity and demand for worship from all was received by Christians is clear from John’s reference to it here. It brought a new perspective to, and emphasis on, Emperor worship which boded ill for the future. But in the end it is not the specific activity of Caligula that is finally in mind but the continued activity of the wild beast.

Verses 6-8

‘And he opened his mouth for blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, even those who tabernacle in Heaven (those who meet with Him there). And it was given to him to make war with God’s people and to overcome them, and authority was given to him over every tribe and people and tongue and nation. And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, every one whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the slain Lamb.’

‘And he -- .’ The wild beast, whichever ‘head’ was in power.

‘His tabernacle.’ The place where God dwells and is met with, in this case probably the heavenly equivalent of the tabernacle.

‘Even those who tabernacle in heaven.’ This probably includes the heavenly beings (note how the cherubim were also represented in the earthly Tabernacle) and also possibly the people of God. Compare Luke 16:9 which speaks of ‘the eternal tabernacles’ or dwelling places where the righteous dead dwell.

The horror of Imperial claims comes through here. Imperial worship blasphemes God’s name and his tabernacle, and even those who dwell in Heaven.

It is possible that the threat to the earthly Temple by Caligula could be in mind here, (it was probably still used by Jewish Christians as a place to meet and worship in as they did in Acts), but the Temple is never actually called the Tabernacle in the New Testament and had lost its significance for the majority of Christians, so that it seems unlikely.

Thus if the tabernacle referred to is to be seen as earthly at all it more probably represents Christians (Acts 15:16; 2Co 5:1 ; 2 Corinthians 5:4; 2 Peter 1:13-14). However, it is almost certainly the heavenly Tabernacle that is in mind (Hebrews 8:2 and often; Revelation 15:5; Revelation 21:3)). It is God Himself, the heavenly Tabernacle and the spiritual beings in it, who are blasphemed by these Imperial claims.

But it is not just the one head but the whole wild beast with its blasphemous claims which is now in mind, and after Caligula’s death the claims and the persecutions go on even when not positively sought by the Emperors, reaching a high point of intensity in Rome with Nero, and later in short bursts with Domitian, and even later in wholesale and widespread persecution. Caligula’s importance lay not in the intensity of his persecutions nor in the effectiveness of his actions, but in the new positive enforcement of divinity which he symbolised.

This description parallels Paul’s in 2 Thessalonians 2:4. The day of the Lord will not be ‘except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, he who opposes and exalts himself against all that is called divine or that is worshipped, so that he sits in the sanctuary as God (or ‘as a god’ or ‘of God’) setting himself forth as the supreme deity.’

We translate the first ‘theon’ as divine as that is clearly its meaning here. ‘All that is called God’ refers to anything that is called divine. He is thus claiming to be the supreme deity. Worship of Rome and the Emperor superseded all other religions which were only tolerated as ‘superstitions’ as long as Rome was given its due worship.

We consider ‘the sanctuary as God (or ‘a god’)’ to be the better reading as it is the harder reading in later ears and therefore more likely to be correct (later Christians would not like comparing the emperor to God), but either way the message is the same. Here is one who claims divinity, and sets up his image in divine temples, possibly to be seen as declaring them to be ‘the sanctuary of God’, exalting himself above all that is called divine. This is what certain emperors actually enforced themselves, at other times it was done by others as flattery. But to Rome the worship of Roma and the Emperor had always to be central.

Even if we read as ‘the sanctuary of God’ we must remember that Paul considers that the Jerusalem Temple has been replaced by the new Temple of God, His people (2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:21). John’s thinking does not centre on the Jerusalem Temple, which he sees as replaced by the people of God, and he is thus unlikely to be speaking of that particular temple. He nowhere elsewhere speaks of it or points to it, and he knows that Jesus has predicted its destruction within a generation. In his eyes it has become irrelevant to the Christian church. So ‘the sanctuary of God’ here would refer to the claim made by the Emperors that their temples were ‘the sanctuary of God’.

‘It was given to him to make war with God’s people (the saints) and to overcome them’ The Imperial claims necessarily bring them into conflict with God’s people in different parts of the Empire and persecution results. Christians are dragged before tribunals and must either submit to the worship of Rome or face terrible punishment. For a large part of the time persecution will depend on local officials and the attitudes of local people, but the wild beast will not relax his grip.

We note here a parallel to chapter 12 where the woman is persecuted for forty two months followed by war on the remainder of her children. In Revelation 11:7 the war on the saints also follows a three and a half year period, although in that case only brief. Three and a half years is clearly looked on as a symbolic period of persecution, which results in further persecution. Once again the overcomers are seemingly overcome.

‘Every tribe and people and tongue and nation’. These words are taken from Daniel 3:29 where they denote disparate peoples in a large empire, but it is not necessarily universal. The Roman Empire was composed of such people.

‘All that dwell on earth shall worship him’. This was what Rome officially demanded, having the Roman world in mind (Acts 11:28; Acts 19:27; Acts 24:5; Romans 1:8). And on the whole they would receive what they demanded. These demands necessarily brought the authorities into conflict with Christians. ‘Those who dwell on earth’ contrasts with those whose citizenship is in Heaven who are strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Philippians 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11).

‘Everyone who name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the slain Lamb’. See on Revelation 3:5. Those who are Christians have their names written in the Lamb’s book of life, where they have been written from before time began (see Revelation 17:8). Both book and Lamb are eternal, for He wrote in the book before the foundation of the world. This is intended to strengthen living Christians against the persecutions ahead as well as to assure them of the safety of those who have previously been martyred. They can be content because their names are written in Heaven from the foundation of the world, written there by the slain Lamb, Who is also therefore there before the foundation of the world. They have true immortality.

Verse 9

‘If anyone has an ear let him hear.’

This phrase was at the end of the letters to the seven churches, and connects with them. The message is still to them and the worldwide church. Only those whose ears are opened will understand what he is referring to, and they will demonstrate it by their response.

Verse 10

‘Here is the patient endurance and faith of God’s people (the saints).’

God’s people rest in the will of God and trust Him through adversity recognising that He is over all, whatever happens. They know that their fate is in the hands of the God Who will one day raise them from the dead and give them rich rewards.

Note. The Continuing Nature Of This Vision.

As we have demonstrated the first reference of this chapter is to the blasphemous claims of Imperial Rome and its idolatrous religion. However, the genius of apocalyptic lies in its ability to convey intrinsic ideas and that is nowhere more true than here. John’s eyes were naturally on Rome but the wild beast will in its essential nature go on through the ages, for anti-Christ will ever arise and it thus represents anti-Christ and his empires wherever such are found (chapter 17). The essential wild beast did not die with the Roman Empire.

It must, however, be granted that this empire as an ‘idea’ has in fact itself reared its head a number of times through the ages. Charlemagne, the grand dukes of Moscow (16th century) and Mussolini (20th century) have all seen themselves as reviving it, and the Roman church has until fairly recently perpetuated the idea and still utilises the title Pontifex Maximus used by the Roman emperors.

Wherever religions and philosophies set themselves up against Christ, seeking to set up something to replace Him and enforcing themselves by political persuasion, there we have the wild beast, there we have anti-Christ (that which stands over against Christ) represented by the wild beast. Whether it be the rise of Islam, the degenerate kings and worldly popes of the Middle Ages, Russian and Chinese communism, the modern rise of Islam, or whatever else, each simply carries on the role of the wild beast. They depict man as he really is.

We therefore do not need to doubt that if Christ delays His coming yet other anti-Christs will arise as the end approaches, possibly, but not necessarily, even connected with Rome in a revived ‘Roman Empire’. There is the wild beast who was and is not (Revelation 17:8), and will yet ‘be’, to come again. And when he does come we will be able to apply these chapters to him because the monster’s method and approach do not change.

In chapter 13 the Roman Empire is primarily in John’s mind, but only because Rome was the bestial empire of that time. That the idea stretches further chapter 17 makes clear. The message of Revelation applied to the idea of ‘anti-Christ’ and did not fade out or cease to be meaningful at the fall of ancient Rome. Its essential teaching applies throughout history, and will apply until the end. In the end anti-Christ, whatever its form, will be destroyed by the manifestation of His coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

End of note.

Verse 11

‘And I saw another wild beast coming up out of the earth and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke like a monster.’

In contrast with the Lamb Who came from Heaven, this wild beast with two horns like a lamb comes from the earth. Whatever his pretensions he has no heavenly connection. The two horns like a lamb contrast with the two witnesses of chapter 11, and represent false testimony in contrast with the true testimony of the two witnesses, while the likeness to the Lamb reveal him also to be anti-Christ (over against Christ) in motive and behaviour.

‘He spoke like a monster’. Although he appeared to be a lamb his words were Satanic, guileful and deceitful (compare Genesis 3:1; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 2 Corinthians 11:14). He is the Roman equivalent of ‘the False Prophet’ (Revelation 16:13; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:10), but he is not given that name for the False Prophet is the Prophet of Satanism, a religion that supersedes that of Rome.

That the second wild beast represents more than one person is demonstrated by the two horns which must represent two who arise from the one. So we have here another combined figure, and in view of its ‘ministry’ it must represent those who encourage and enforce the worship of Roma and the emperor.

The two wild beasts therefore represent the false messiahs and false prophets of whom Jesus warned, (including the Emperors), who would, if it were possible, even lead the chosen of God astray (Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:11; Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22). Together with Satan, the monster, they represent an anti-Trinity. It is clear that the second wild beast, with its twofold spokesmen, represents in the first place the Roman priesthood and its seers, and all who officially seek to enforce the worship of the first wild beast, but intrinsically it represents the principle of false teaching.

Possibly by the two horns John originally had two known protagonists of Caligula’s claims in mind, but the fact that there is a separate wild beast, and not just a horn, shows that there is a continuity and that a continuing group is in mind (compare how wild beasts represent individual kings and their empires in Daniel, and the son of man represents the Messiah and the people of the most High). The contrast with the two godly witnesses of chapter 11 is stressed in that this wild beast with its two spokesmen also behaves like Elijah (Revelation 13:13 compare Revelation 11:6), in this case bringing fire down from heaven (see 1 Kings 18:38; 2 Kings 1:10; 2 Kings 1:12).

Verse 12

‘And he exercises all the authority of the first wild beast in his sight. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first wild beast whose death stroke was healed.’

Initially the false prophet exalts Caligula. But the second wild beast continues to exalt the Roman beast as emperor replaces emperor, and has the authority of Rome behind him. ‘He’ is the proclaimer of the Emperor’s divinity and the religious enforcer of his worship. Later Domitian will demand to be called ‘dominus et deus noster’, ‘our Lord and God’, and the second beast, the officials, priests and seers in charge of Emperor worship, will enforce it.

Verse 13

‘And he performs great signs that he should even make fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by reason of the signs which it was given him to do in the sight of the wild beast, telling those who dwell on the earth that they should make an image to the beast who has the stroke of the sword and lived, and it was given to him to give breath to it, even to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should speak, and he will cause that as many as will not worship the image of the beast should be killed.’

The reference to fire coming down from heaven specifically points to Elijah (1 Kings 18:38). Thus he will be the anti-Elijah. These words parallel Paul’s in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, ‘he whose coming is according to the working of Satan, with all powers and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for those who are perishing’.

The bringing of fire down ‘from heaven’ may be through the manipulation of natural phenomena (claiming lightning strikes as his work) or may be achieved through trickery, as may other wonders (compare the Egyptian magicians with Moses (Exodus 7:11; 2 Timothy 3:8)). Clever priests of many religions have been able to achieve such things through the ages, and some men love putting on such performances. We need not doubt that some of Caligula’s sycophantic followers made such attempts.

The same applies to the speaking image (compare the oracle at Delphi which was also portrayed as speaking). The whole point is that ‘he’ (the second beast representing initially the priesthood at various Temples for Emperor worship, combined with local authorities) is a deceiver. But his authority is such that he has the power to condemn to death those who refuse to worship the Emperor’s image.

‘Telling those who dwell on earth that they should make an image to the wild beast.’ Caligula especially sought to promote the erection of images to his honour and divinity, even demanding that one be set up in the Temple in Jerusalem. Previously Jewish susceptibilities had been catered for by Emperors but Caligula thrust them aside. It was only his timely death that prevented it happening.

‘The wild beast who has the stroke of the sword and lived’. This refers to the two-edged sword of Christ which ‘smote’ him so that he nearly died, but he recovered and did not heed the warning. It is quite probable that Caligula’s ‘miraculous’ recovery was cited against Christians when they proclaimed the resurrection of Christ.

‘To give breath to’ the image of the beast. As suggested above this and its speech can be accomplished by manipulation. History is full of such pious frauds.

Verses 16-17

‘And he causes all, the small and the great, the rich and the poor, the free and the bond, that there be given them a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and that no man should be able to buy or to sell except the one who has the mark, even the name of the beast or the number of his name.’

The mark on the right hand or on the forehead can be compared to the phylacteries (small leather boxes holding a portion of the Law) worn by the Pharisees (applying literally Deuteronomy 6:8) signifying their submission to God and His Law. This mark of the beast too is a sign of submission, to Rome and the Emperor, and to Roman law .

It parodies the mark given to the people of God and the marking with His name (Revelation 7:3; Revelation 14:1; Revelation 3:12). By this those who receive it acknowledge the Emperor and Rome as having total rights over them. Slaves were commonly marked on their foreheads as a sign of ownership and religious devotees would often deliberately receive some kind of mark to demonstrate their loyalty to their god, so the idea was not uncommon.

There is no reason to assume that this mark is any more physical than the seal on believers, it rather represents submission to the beast and his claims. To bear the mark of the beast was, to the early church, to have sacrificed to Roma and the emperor. To them this bore a stigma that went beyond any other.

But later, under Roman rule, all men would require a certificate that they had sacrificed to the Emperor’s image, and it is quite possible that the idea, or some other device, was first used under these early Emperors. Those who had no certificate could (as indeed could those who refused to sacrifice to the emperor) be excluded from normal life by zealous officials or personal enemies, and even denounced by those of other religions (compare on Revelation 2:9), and it would affect their abilities to trade through the guilds which themselves had religious connotations. These certificates themselves were a ‘mark of the beast’ and had to carry the official ‘brand’. But such exclusion was quite possible simply for being recognised as a proscribed Christian, a situation applying officially at least from the time of Trajan.

But through the ages this has always been a way by which despots could control people, by utilising control of the means of trade and sources of sustenance. The beast continually reveals his beastliness. And when Christians find themselves suffering as a result of such activity they can take comfort in the thought that it is confirmation that they do not bear the ‘mark of the beast’. That any future anti-Christ would apply similar methods goes without saying. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Verses 17-18

‘Or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. He who has understanding let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of man (or ‘of a man’) and his number is six hundred and sixty six (in some manuscripts 616).’

Attempts to relate this number to emperors are unnecessary for the wild beast represents all Emperors and their Empires. Indeed by a certain level of manipulation and selection it can be made to mean almost anybody (including Caligula, Nero and Domitian).

But the number itself is significant. Six is one short of seven, the number of divine perfection, it thus represents shortfall from perfection. And six hundred and sixty six is six intensified.

There are also three sixes in a row indicating a trinity that comes short of God’s perfection, and remarkably it is the sum of all the numbers that make up the square of six. In other words it hugely stresses that which comes short of God.

Furthermore in Greek letters it represents chi (six hundred) and xi (sixty) and digamma, the latter in numerical use is very similar to the sigma ending (six). Chi and final sigma represent a shortening (first and last letter) of Christos and xi bears the shape of a serpent. It may thus pictorially represent anti-Christ, a devil indwelt messiah.

Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 13". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/revelation-13.html. 2013.
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