Then it was given to him a mouth to speak loudly, and blasphemies, and it was given to him authority to make war forty-two months.
And he opened his mouth in blasphemies before God, to blaspheme God’s name and God’s tabernacle, the ones residing in heaven.
And then it was given to him to make war with the holy ones and to conquer them, and it was given to him authority over every nation and people and tongue and ethnicity.
Then all the inhabitants upon the earth will be prostrate in homage to him—[but] not even one of the ones having had their names written in the book of life of the lamb, of the one having been slaughtered before the foundation of the cosmos.
If anyone has an ear, hear and listen.
If anyone is for captivity, into captivity that one is led: if anyone is to be killed with a sword, with a sword that one will be killed. In this place is the patient endurance and the faith of the holy ones.Revelation 13:5-10
Triumph in Captivity and Death
The verse just before this passage explains that it is the dragon which gives this beast both its loud mouth and the wherewithal to wreak havoc among the holy ones of God (John’s appellation for believers).
Though God permits this for a time, God is not the author of this evil.
In fact, the beast’s first act is to speak evil of God, of God’s name (reputation and character) and of all those already with God (presumably the martyrs and those who have died). This is the true tabernacle in heaven, the Body of Christ. Believers still living on the earth will also be the target of the beast’s loud blasphemies, but far more, the beast’s violent onslaught. Some will be taken captive in some way—perhaps a reference to enslavement, or prison. Others will be put to death.
It is not so much because these believers refuse to throw themselves prostrate before the beast. It is because they are the Lord’s. Those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life—the Lamb Who was slaughtered before even the creation of the universe in order just to have this Book of Life—will self-identify by their standing up when everyone else is groveling in the dirt before the dragon’s wild and dangerous animal.
This is how it is going to be, John wrote. Jesus plainly said “you will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
There is a word picture here of standing as triumph.
Faithful endurance in captivity, faithful endurance even when facing martyrdom, faithful endurance that will not bow to the fearsomeness and rank evil of the dragon and its beast is evidence of the indomitable Spirit of God within each believer.
Apposite to standing in salvation is the picture of those who lie prostrate before one they think is a powerful victor. Their submission to the dragon gives these craven worshippers another day of life and liberty … or so they must believe. But by their very act of procumbent tribute to what is in actuality Satan, they prove their names are not written in life, but rather will ultimately end in death.
The minds of John’s readers may have leapt to the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s example when facing similar circumstances at the beginning of His ministry.
Suffering, Persecution, and Tests
As soon as Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness for a time of fasting, prayer, and testing. To fast for forty days takes the body to the brink of death, and it was in this weakened extremity that Jesus endured the persecution of Satan.
John’s first-century audience may not have been specifically fasting in this way, but they were enduring unrelenting suffering and the daily danger of death under Nero’s oppression and persecution.
A Question of Identity
Just as Satan cast doubt on Jesus’s identity, so now John’s audience may have wondered if they truly were God’s Own.
Satan intimated to Jesus that if He were genuinely God’s beloved Son, then why had the Father not provided for the Son in the wilderness? Why did the Father permit the Son to be brought to the brink of starvation? If the world and all the elements were truly under the Son’s command, then why did He not at least provide for Himself? After all, since God had appeared to have abandoned the Son, why would He not simply do what He needed to survive? It would not help Jesus’s ministry to die of hunger, what a waste!
In the same way, John’s readers may have wondered if God had abandoned them to Nero. Yet just as their Savior had endured and was later served by angels, so too now, they could know that by enduring they proved they were God’s Own. God would indeed save them.
Then all the inhabitants upon the earth will be prostrate in homage to him—[but] not even one of the ones having had their names written in the book of life of the lamb, of the one having been slaughtered before the foundation of the cosmos.Revelation 13:8
A Question of Scriptural Interpretation
Just as Satan urged Jesus to fulfill scripture in the way people were expecting, so also John’s audience may have expected God to provide and protect in the way they had interpreted God’s promises in scripture to mean.
This one is a little more subtle.
Most people think Satan took Jesus to the top of the temple’s main tower, overlooking the temple court, with a one-hundred-and-eighty foot drop. Every morning, a priest would climb this tallest parapet and sound the trumpet to greet the dawn. Satan proposed Jesus jump down and land in the courtyard below, presumably to fulfil a famous (in that day) Messianic prophecy:
“the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple.:Malachi 3:1 (NRSV)
People took this prophecy literally!
People expected Messiah to suddenly appear, perhaps falling from the sky, to land suddenly and spectacularly in the middle of the temple courts.
If Jesus would just do this, all the Jewish religious authorities would see the Messiah coming in a miraculous way, lifted up by the angels, and they would all believe in Jesus.
But to do such a thing, Jesus replied, would be to presume upon God’s goodness and love by “making” God the Father protect God the Son.
Whenever you and I put ourselves into circumstances that effectively “force” God to support us, or work a miracle in order to bail us out, we too presume upon God’s kindness, and misuse God’s stated promises in scripture.
For John’s audience, that meant accepting that God’s provision might not mean physical protection or even rescue. God’s promises of life and shalom might only be fulfilled in completion in glory. Certainly they might have spiritual and even emotional shalom in this life. But not necessarily physical.
If anyone is for captivity, into captivity that one is led: if anyone is to be killed with a sword, with a sword that one will be killed.Revelation 13:10
A Question of Cost
Just as Satan offered the whole world and all the people in it to Jesus if only He would bow down to Satan for even just a moment, so John’s audience may have wondered if they could simply – even just outwardly – bend their knees to Nero, they could have both salvation and freedom from persecution.
Satan’s proposition seemingly meant avoiding the heavy cost of the cross while still achieving God’s stated aim. Jesus was at the worst part of His suffering in fasting, both physically and emotionally. Yet, as awful as it was, Jesus knew that if He were to stay the course, He would have to suffer far, far worse in degradation, beatings, abandonment, and crucifixion before the kingdoms of earth would be won.
Satan implied Jesus could end His awful suffering right then, and even skip the cross with just one prostration in homage to the dragon (who is Satan). Just one little shortcut, one little compromise, and look how much could be gained, the ancient serpent murmured, a win‑win for everyone.
But Jesus knew that who or what you worship is who you will also serve.
In this place is the patient endurance and the faith of the holy ones.Revelation 13;10