Breaking Open the Word: Revelation Ch. 13-14

Wenceslaus Hollar [Public domain]

Sunday, December 9th, 2018 – Revelation Chapters 13 and 14

               Today’s chapters give a vivid description of the Dragon’s servants, the two beasts, as well as a consoling glimpse into Heaven. As we began our discussion, several Sisters noted how both of the beasts seem to be the devil’s attempts to mimic Christ and thus attract human worship. For instance, the first beast is adored because it was “mortally wounded, but this mortal wound was healed” (13:3) – an infernal parody of the Passion and Resurrection. The second beast “had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon” (13:11) – it externally resembles the Lamb of God, but its voice gives away its true nature. The beasts even copy the Lamb’s technique of “sealing” their followers.

 While these beasts have a historical meaning (the Roman Empire and those who promoted it), they can be just as relevant today. Some, for instance, have seen the first beast as representing any corrupt political power, while the second beast is the “propaganda arm” promoting that system. It is our job, as Christians, to avoid being “marked” by any power that pits itself against Christ by claiming to have the secret of perfect happiness. One Sister suggested that even the location of the beast’s “marks” could be significant; they could represent the need to consecrate both our thoughts (forehead) and our deeds (hand).

               Right after describing the punishment of the beast’s followers, John makes a curious statement: “Here is what sustains the holy ones who keep God’s commandments and their faith in Jesus." (14:13) This verse seems at first glance to suggest that vengeance is a primary motive for remaining faithful; however, there is a deeper meaning to this passage than first appears.

We all know that justice is often not done on earth. Some people commit horrible sins and yet prosper, while others strive to live a holy life and meet nothing but suffering. Nevertheless, it is our firm hope that God will ultimately remedy all the injustices in the world, vindicating goodness and punishing evil. This, then, is the motive for perseverance in the faith: knowledge that all wrongs will one day be righted! Yes, this involves punishment for some, but only insofar as they have brought it on themselves by refusing to accept God’s grace. And, as one Sister brought out, we must never take for granted what an awesome gift salvation is. As we see in Revelation what Christ came to save us from, we should be filled with gratitude for His Redemption of the human race. Now is the time of mercy – it is our duty to help as many people as possible to take advantage of it!

Finally, we spent some time pondering the companions of the Lamb at the start of chapter 14. They are described as male and as virgins – but this is not a suggestion that women or those who are married cannot enter Heaven! Rather, this reality is on a spiritual plane. Just as Israelite soldiers (all men) kept their camp holy during campaigns by remaining chaste, so the Church Militant must preserve the purity of her members by refusing to commit the sin of spiritual adultery – giving our hearts to anyone or anything other than God. There is also another level of meaning for consecrated religious. By the vow of chastity, we are meant to represent here on earth what the entire Church will be in Heaven: devoted to God with a single heart!

Thank you for continuing to keep up with our Scripture series on the Book of Revelation! Next time we will turn to Chapters 15-16 on the seven last plagues and the seven bowls of wrath.