To side with the Lamb of God or the Beast of the Pit
Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast
rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns
ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was
like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the
mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great
authority. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and
his deadly wound was healed.
And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they
worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the
beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” And
he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given
authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in
blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who
dwell in heaven.
It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to
overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and
nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been
written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into
captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here
is the patience and the faith of the saints.
Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he
had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the
authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those
who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He
performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the
earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by
those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those
who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the
sword and lived.
He was granted power to give breath to the image of the
beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as
would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both
small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their
right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one
who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is
wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it
is the number of a man: His number is 666.
Don't worry, I'm not going all premillennial dispensationalism on you. I took classes and seminars on the textual development of the Greek New Testament. It's one of those little majors I spend little time harping on here at the blog. But it is an interest of mine.
Now I'm not looking for helicopters and The Beatles by reading between the lines of Revelation. But it was written and included in Sacred Scripture for a reason. Long reason and short, the church was by its writing routinely being targeted by the Roman Empire. Many believed a faith that hadn't delivered in the 'eternal life' promise wasn't worth dying for, and jumping ship wasn't unheard of.
Using the imagery of apocryphal literature, John weaves a wild phantasmagoric ride through a very symbolic end of times, but with the same consistent messaging: keep hope. It will get worse before it gets better. But stay close to God. Many won't. Many will curse God rather than repent, while others will abandon God. But don't let that be you. No matter how many join Baal, Moloch or Ashtoreth, including apostacy, stay with the new covenant.
As we watch our society and our world lurch down the next step of the ladder, it's worth brushing the dust off this last book of the Scriptures and pondering that message. It's not going to be easy, but it is as simple as that.