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Re: [revelation-list] Rev 15:2

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  • David Brubaker
    ... I m a bit late to this discussion, but here are a few thoughts to toss in. First, in response to your actual question (How does one conquer the beast?), I
    Message 1 of 31 , May 29, 2013
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      Quoting Dustin Smith <kggospel@...>:

      > Just trying to get some opinions here:
      >
      > *"And I saw ....those who were conquering over the beast and his image and
      > the number of his name" *(Rev 15:2)
      >
      > How would John have expected his first century readers to respond
      > appropriately to this verse? How does one conquer the beast, his image, and
      > 666?
      >
      > --
      > Dustin Smith
      >

      I'm a bit late to this discussion, but here are a few thoughts to toss
      in. First, in response to your actual question (How does one conquer
      the beast?), I think the answer is likely to depend on how one
      interprets the beast.

      I'm curious if anyone thinks any of the following ideas make sense. In
      my rather unusual view of Revelation, that little scene in 15:1-4 is
      very interesting because it's a nexus of several meaningful sequences
      and progressions of related but changing events and conditions. These
      sequences and progressions develop themes of increasingly
      sophisticated spiritual understanding as the Revelation story moves
      forward.

      Here are the progressions that I see intersecting in this little scene:

      The sea of glass sequence:
      -------------------------------
      In chapter 4, the first scene of heaven, John sees God and His throne
      on the other side of the sea of glass, which is before the throne. In
      New Jerusalem, there is no sea of glass. The statement, "Also there
      was no more sea" (21:1) may be a cryptic way to point out the absence
      of the sea of glass. 15:2 is a transitional element of the story,
      midway between the two scenes of heaven, showing what happens to the
      sea of glass. The people who have victory over the beast are on the
      sea of glass, now mingled with fire.

      In my view, these people are crossing the sea of glass because they
      love God enough that they want to be closer to Him, with Him, rather
      than on the other side of the sea that separates them from Him. In New
      Jerusalem, God "will dwell with men" (21:3) and "They shall see His
      face" (22:4). In fact, therein is a surprising Biblical allusion that
      is split between the two scenes of heaven. In chapter 4, John sees God
      across the sea of glass, on the other side of the sea of
      separation--"Now we see through a glass darkly..." Then in New
      Jerusalem (22:4), "They see His face."--"But then face to face."

      So the sequence is this: (1.) In the first heaven, the sea of glass is
      a gulf of separation between God and people. (2.) Some people cross
      the gulf of separation to get closer to God, to be with God. (3.) New
      Jerusalem: Sea of separation is gone, God and people are close, people
      see God face to face. (Note: This sequence is one part of a much
      larger progression of God and people coming closer together.)

      Songs of praise sequence:
      ------------------------------
      A series of songs of praise to God gradually changes through the
      Revelation story to show increasing understanding and appreciation of
      God, adding various virtues and some ways that God benefits people.

      The series begins in 4:8 and praises God only for being holy and
      eternal. 4:11 adds glory, honor, power, and creation to the aspects of
      God being praised. 5:9-10 adds sacrifice and redemption. 5:12 adds
      riches, wisdom, strength, and blessing. (5:13 is a separate song from
      5:12, but doesn't add anything new.) 7:12 adds thanksgiving to a list
      of previously mentioned aspects, but doesn't say anything about what
      they're thanking God for. 11:17-18 clarifies thanksgiving by thanking
      God for His upcoming judgment. 15:3-4 (the song of the people on the
      sea of glass mingled with fire) adds great and marvelous works and
      just and true ways, and also says that His judgments have now been
      manifested, rather than being about to be manifested as in 11:7-8.
      16:5-6 adds that God is righteous. Finally, the series of praises in
      19:1-7 becomes a full-on joyous celebration of the Lamb's coming
      wedding.

      The wrath of God:
      ---------------------
      The three plague series (seals, trumpets, bowls) have an interesting
      series of statements about the wrath of God. In the seals (6:16-17),
      it tells us that His wrath has come and people try to hide from the
      wrath of the Lamb, but it doesn't say anything at all about why God
      and/or the Lamb are angry. Then in the trumpets (9:20-21) it tells us
      about the people not repenting from their various sins, and that seems
      to be the reason for God's wrath. Then in our scene (15:1) in the
      introduction to the bowls, it tells us that the wrath of God is
      completed and done in the bowls. In other words, the three series of
      plagues have three separate and distinctive viewpoints on the wrath of
      God. Hmmmm.

      Any thoughts? Am I delusional?

      Dave
    • David Brubaker
      ... Dustin, sorry to take so long with this response. You got me thinking and I had to re-examine some things, plus life issues intervened. I think the
      Message 31 of 31 , Jun 28, 2013
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        Quoting Dustin Smith <kggospel@...>:

        > I'm still curious how the saints in the 90s would respond to the
        > Nero reference in 15:2.
        >

        Dustin, sorry to take so long with this response. You got me thinking
        and I had to re-examine some things, plus life issues intervened.

        I think the reference to the beast in 15:2 is not specifically Nero or
        even Rome. My reasons have to do primarily with more of the sequences,
        progressions, and relationships that I like to examine, this time
        about the various beasts (beast from the sea, beast from the land, and
        "the" beast). 15:2 is right in the middle of these progressions, so
        they may cast some light on the beast at that point in the narrative.

        Here are some of my observations and thoughts about the various
        beasts, their relationships with each other, their similarities and
        commonalities as well as the things that distinguish them from each
        other, and also about the sequence and progression of how Revelation
        gradually reveals all this information to us, how John of Patmos
        gradually elucidates the nature of the beast and concurrently updates
        and expands on Daniel 7 from different viewpoints in time and from
        successively longer historical perspectives. (There's a lot of my own
        explanation of what the sequences and relationships mean--you may have
        to ignore any of that that doesn't fit for you.)

        The beast from the sea (13:1-10):

        The lion, leopard, bear, 10 horns, and 42 months are obvious
        references to Daniel 7. However, John makes a significant change from
        Daniel. This *single* beast from the sea is like *all* of Daniel's
        separate beasts, lion, leopard, and bear. John combines all of
        Daniel's separate beasts representing separate oppressive empires into
        a single beast, a composite of all those oppressive empires that
        dominated Israel, Judea, and (if you see Daniel's fourth beast as
        Rome) early Christianity. This is John's first step in taking a longer
        historical perspective than Daniel: John is shifting from emphasis on
        specific evil empires of the moment to a more general perspective on
        the whole human institution of evil empires and oppressive nations and
        governments, but that won't be completely clear until later when he
        talks about "the" beast.

        The seven heads on this beast are somewhat similar to the four heads
        of Daniel's third beast, but Revelation changes and expands on the
        idea. The seven heads is an expansion on Daniel because later,
        beginning in 17:10, John tells us that one meaning of the seven heads
        is seven kings/kingdoms, each head being a different kingdom/empire.
        Daniel talked about only four kings; now Revelation is talking about
        seven. What are the extra ones in Revelation? John won't tell us until
        the later part at 17:10.

        However, knowing that the seven heads of the beast from the sea are
        Daniel's four plus some more, we can easily solve the apparent
        oxymoron of the fatal wound that heals. "I saw one of his heads as if
        it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed" (13:3).
        Notice that the fatal wound is to one of the heads, not to the beast
        itself. The Babylonian/Chaldean empire was conquered, is dead and
        gone; the Chaldean head of the beast suffered a mortal wound, but the
        beast itself survived, to live on as the succession of other evil
        empires. For later reference, we can note now that the very same logic
        solves the other apparent oxymoron about the beast in 17:8, "the beast
        that was, and is not, and yet is." The Chaldean empire/head existed in
        the past but in John's time, exists no more; it "was and is not." Yet
        the larger beast itself lives on, as Rome in John's time; it "is." The
        two apparent oxymorons, one about the sea beast and one about "the"
        beast, both turn out to be riddles posing as oxymorons, and both have
        the same solution. They show that the sea beast and "the" beast are,
        at least in some sense, the same; in chapter 17, John will clarify
        that point.

        One key point about this beast from the sea is that, since it includes
        all Daniel's beasts, it is not specifically about Rome. Nothing in the
        narrative about this beast points specifically to Rome; it is all
        about the composite of evil empires. On the other hand, the beast from
        the land is the one that is specifically about Rome. The land beast is
        also a significant transitional figure.

        The beast from the land (13:11-18):

        The land beast is Rome for all the reasons that people typically think
        so--616/666; fire alluding to the great fire in Rome; needing the
        mark, name, or number of the beast to buy or sell (the emperor's name
        and image on money). Notice also that this beast is the only one of
        the three that doesn't have seven heads--that's because Rome is one of
        the heads of the other beasts and so it obviously doesn't have the
        heads that correspond to the various other empires. Identifying the
        land beast as Rome also makes clear the meaning of the odd statement
        in 13:12, "he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his
        presence." Of course, he does; during the time when Rome is the
        current manifestation of the greater beast of evil, oppressive
        empires, Rome exercises all the authority that oppressive empires have.

        However, two things to notice about this beast: First, many of the
        things that it does are not unique to Rome but actually apply equally
        or nearly as well to the other empires of the greater beasts. For
        example, they had been doing signs and wonders in royal courts since
        pharaoh's court magicians. Nebuchadnezzar required people to worship
        the image that he constructed. Even still today, most of the world's
        money has images of ruling or former monarchs or presidents.

        Second, nearly everything that the land beast does is described as in
        relation to either "the first beast" (the sea beast) or "the beast."
        In 13:11-18, only verses 11 and 13 don't describe the land beast as
        being or acting in relation to one of the other beasts. There is also
        a transition in there as John switches from talking about the land
        beast in relation to "the first beast" to talking about him in
        relation to "the beast." The first reference here to "the beast" in
        verse 14 seems to be clearly about the sea beast, but as John
        continues using "the beast" instead of "the first beast," it becomes
        unclear whether he still means the first one or whether he has already
        made the transition to "the beast" which he will talk about more
        clearly later in chapter 17.

        Dustin, since 15:2 is after this discussion of the sea and land beasts
        and before chapter 17 where John more clearly elucidates "the" beast,
        this uncertain situation with the meaning of "the beast" is what we
        have in looking at 15:2. It does seem clear (well, to me anyway) that
        "the beast" of 15:2 is not solely the land beast (Rome); however, for
        your purpose, from the point of view of early Christians, it might as
        well be the land beast because that is the one that is the current
        manifestation of the greater beasts and is the one that they have to
        deal with in their time. Yeah, I know. That doesn't help your question
        much, but maybe it provides some additional context for you to ponder.
        It also shows that Revelation is addressing a broader audience than
        only the early Christians under persecution since victory over the
        beast is a more general concept than victory over Rome.

        In a sense the land beast is a connecting figure which connects the
        past-oriented beast from the sea (primarily Daniel's historical
        beasts) and the future-oriented "the" beast. (Shortly, I'll show how
        "the" beast is largely about the future, from John's point of view in
        time.) After 13:18, neither the sea beast nor the land beast are
        mentioned again. Also any of the things specific to the sea beast and
        Daniel's now-old prophecy (lion, leopard, bear, 42 months) are not
        mentioned again; that's because to the future viewpoint that John will
        take later, all those things about Daniel's four kingdoms are ancient
        history. While the things specific to Daniel are ancient history,
        John's new innovations (the image, mark, and number of the beast) and
        John's extended meanings (7 heads and 10 horns) about the beast will
        continue to have relevance.

        One final point, really a question, about the land beast and the
        number of the beast, 616/666. In 13:18, John tells us about two
        numbers, the number of the beast and the number of a man, and the two
        numbers are the same. Most attention goes to "the number of a man"
        aspect, but could John be suggesting here that there is another
        calculation (maybe by gematria, maybe something else) involving the
        more general identity of the beast that comes out to 616/666? If so,
        it would be more important than the number of Nero, since the beast is
        of greater importance than a single historical man.

        I don't have any good candidates for such an identity or calculation,
        but I suspect that finding one might shed light on a question that
        troubles me about the whole beast issue: Was John of Patmos an
        anarchist? After all, 13:7 says that the beast has authority over
        *every* tribe, tongue, and nation--does he mean that all nations and
        all governments are necessarily evil? Or perhaps he just perceived the
        truth of Lord Acton's "power corrupts"? Or something else.

        "The" beast (chapter 17):

        The final elucidation of the beast occurs in chapter 17, intertwined
        with the discussion about Babylon. There are two major aspects of this
        discussion of the beast: 1. John combines his own separate beasts (sea
        beast, land beast, and even partially the dragon) into a composite,
        "the" beast, just as he earlier combined all Daniel's separate beasts
        into one composite, the sea beast. 2. John updates and expands on
        Daniel again (as well as on his own earlier expansion of Daniel) and
        projects into the future (and incidentally gives us a big surprise).

        First, here is how John shows us that "the" beast includes each of the
        other beasts in one composite beast.

        Land beast: In 17:9, he tells us that the beast's seven heads are
        seven mountains, referring to Rome, the land beast, because Rome is
        the city built on seven hills.

        Dragon: The dragon of chapter 12, the sea beast, and "the" beast all
        have seven heads and ten horns. The dragon is the only one of the
        earlier beasts that is red, and the beast that the woman Babylon sits
        on is scarlet, so it seems to be the dragon. However, the dragon is a
        bit different from the others because, while the sea beast and land
        beast are never mentioned again after chapter 13, the dragon continues
        to have a separate existence and does appear again later. It is only
        partially absorbed into "the" beast.

        Sea beast: 17:10 starts a long discussion of the seven heads as seven
        kings/kingdoms, which could mean the sea beast and/or the dragon. One
        additional detail shows that the sea beast meaning is definitely
        included. That detail is the apparent oxymorons (fatal wound that
        heals, was and is not and yet is), one about the sea beast and one
        about "the" beast which both have the same solution. The two beasts
        with the two oxymorons that are actually the same are really the same
        beast.

        So it seems clear to me that "the" beast is a composite of all John's
        earlier beasts, except that the dragon is only partially absorbed into
        the composite beast.

        Second main point about "the" beast of chapter 17, that John updates
        and expands on his own earlier update and expansion on Daniel and
        projects into the future: The long discussion of the seven heads and
        ten horns in 17:10-18 shows us that John is now speaking of a future
        time, after the Roman Empire will have fallen, as all empires do
        eventually. Here's how he shows that.

        To this point in the story, we have seen either four or five evil,
        oppressive empires, depending on how you view Daniel--Daniel's four
        (sea beast) plus Rome (land beast) is five, or else Daniel's four
        including Rome is four. In 17:10 John says that "five have fallen," so
        he is talking about a future time and the future perspective from that
        time after Rome and possibly even another succeeding evil empire have
        fallen. Then he gives us the bad news: "one is." Oh, no! Even after
        Rome, there's going to be another evil, oppressive empire. And more
        bad news: "the other has not yet come." After Rome falls, there will
        be another evil empire in a now-growing list, and after that one,
        another and maybe yet another. Then in 17:11, there is yet another
        evil empire, an eighth. But wait! There's more! Then there are ten
        more. John of Patmos knew in the first or early second century that
        the world wasn't going to end soon and that the long historical march
        of evil empire after oppressive nation was not going to end any time
        soon. That seems obvious enough to us now from our historical
        perspective, but it would probably have been an unsettling idea to any
        early Christians who saw this meaning in Revelation.

        One final point about the beast: While chapter 17 gives us John's
        final elucidation of the beast, the beast isn't even the main subject
        of chapter 17. Babylon is. Then as the Revelation story proceeds in
        chapter 18, Babylon is the only subject and the beast isn't even
        mentioned there any more. John makes another transition, moving his
        attention from the beast to Babylon. Since Babylon sits on the beast
        (seeming to dominate and control him as a rider controls a horse) and
        Babylon reigns over the kings of the earth (i.e., reigns over the
        beast!), perhaps we should put more of our attention on overcoming
        Babylon than on overcoming the beast because if we overcome Babylon,
        we overcome the beast.

        And one final general point about Revelation: I think that all these
        intertwined progressions in meaning and gradual elucidations of issues
        show that Revelation is more organized, sensible, rational, and much
        more sophisticated as a literary work than people give it credit for.
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