December 20, 2007

Revelation 13.1-10

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems upon its horns and a blashemous name upon its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear's; and its mouth was like a lion's mouth.

And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth followed the beast with wonder.

Men worshipped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying "Who is like the beast? And who can fight against it?"

And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blashemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months; it opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in Heaven. Also, it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation. And all who dwell on earth will worship it, every one whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.

If anyone has an ear, let him hear:

If anyone is to be taken captive,
to captivity he goes;
if anyone slays with the sword;
with the sword must he be slain.

Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints!

2 Comments:

At 9:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow thaet is deep

 
At 1:46 PM, Blogger forrest said...

All right. This sort of symbolism came in with the Book of Daniel, whose vision (Chapter 7) shows four beasts--representing the world empires of Daniel's historical past--that were followed by "one like a son of Adam," ie a human being, one of "us,"--representing the reign of "the saints of the Most High." A humane, Jewish world empire, as Daniel would likely have imagined it.

Instead, they got a fifth beast, the empire of Rome. Whose rulers, from Augustus on, claimed to be divine, world-saviors--and incidently, rulers of Israel (itself a blasphemous claim in the mind of anyone who accepts the ancient Jewish belief that God Himself is the only legitimate ruler of that land.)

This wasn't some purely theological dispute. Either the land belonged to God, for the use of all His people, particularly for the needs of the poorest--or it was a commodity that human beings could buy and sell for their personal enrichment, at the expense of the peasants whom that land was intended to support, who were being forced off their land into destitution and contempt. This was the effect of Roman commercial practices in Italy itself, but in Israel it was also a violation of the Torah. Which was evidently a concern for Jesus, and to Christians of this book's time as well.

These are different days, we say. Someone like William Stringfellow would see the principality here modeled on Rome as a symbol of all pushy grabby empires, our own included. He tried to apply these passages to "construing America Biblically rather than the reverse."

The "mortal wound" on one head was a reference to Nero, whose death was followed by the appearance of an imposter (at least according to the official version.) Hmmm, we could date this part to around that time, then! Although I'm sure the author of this bit would disagree, I myself always saw it as a sort of ironic reference to the established Church's image of Jesus himself, being worshipped merely for his power over Death, rather than for his embodiment of the love and wisdom of God.

 

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