Today's Bible Reading: Revelation 13
Selected Biblical Text
1The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. 4People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?"
5The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. 6It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7It was given power to wage war against God's holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast-all whose names have not been written in the Lamb's book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.... 10This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God's people.
11Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13And it performed great signs.... 18This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is humanity's number. That number is 666. (Rev. 13:1-8, 10, 11-13a, 18 NIV)
Reflecting and Thinking
This chapter reveals the fifth and sixth personages -- the sea beast and the earth beast. These are empowered by and are instruments of the dragon, Satan. As such, they represent evil forces, most likely political Rome and religious Rome. Their presence calls for "endurance and faithfulness" and "wisdom." Endurance and faithfulness are required when political forces demand emperor worship and enforce their demands with God-like powers. Wisdom is required when false religions entice and tempt toward syncretism.
Translation note: in today's selected text (verse 18), I have used the textual alternative suggesting a generic translation of the phrase, "of man." The number 666 most likely refers to mankind as less than perfect, less than 777. In another document, Christ is referred to as 888. Even if one understands the 666 number as a specific application to a certain individual, it seems to be a major point of the text that the application is to all human beings, thus the "number of a man" means "the number of any or every man."
What parallels to the two creatures do you see in the world today? What political or religious forces work against Christians? How could we apply this text in our daily lives? When are we called upon to endure in faithfulness? What things in our lives require wisdom?
Dear God, we rejoice that you are able to defeat all enemies, and we confidently affirm that truth even when it appears that evil is winning. Help us persevere and give us wisdom. Help us understand the principles communicated in this text even when we do not understand every detail. We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.