Roman Empire Beast
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51. Roman Empire Beast
Revelation 13.1-7

"And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the beast's heads seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, 'Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?' The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. It opened his mouth to blaspheme God and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. It was given the power to make war against God's holy people and to conquer them. It was given the authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation." (Revelation 13.1-7)✞

Caesar Worship

TabernacleHere we have a picture of John of Patmos looking out to the sea and seeing a beast emerging from the water unto the shore. The power of this Roman Empire beast represents the Caesars who control vast resources around the Mediterranean Sea, govern 70 million people, and institute Caesar worship as one of the ways of keeping firm control in their hands. It is a divinely sanctioned authority. Caesar worship is, however, a blasphemy against God, the heavens, and the angels according to the Early Church. By erecting these images of Roman gods in the Holy of Holies in the Temple, the Romans incur the ultimate and extreme anger of the Jews. The Greek word used for God's "dwelling place" is "Skene," which means a "tent" or a "tabernacle" or even "a place to dwell." "Skene" always reminds Jews of the Hebrew word "Shechinah," or "the dwelling of the glory of God." The rabbis had a saying that if two sat at a table and conversed about the Law of God, the Shechinah rested upon them. It may be that John of Patmos is saying that the conduct of the Roman Empire, particularly the institution of Caesar worship, is an insult to the glory or the Shechinah of God.

Caligula's Madness

Roman StandardThe term the Roman Empire beast may indicate that John of Patmos is thinking of all the ways, not just those in his own time, in which the Roman Empire has insulted God and his dwelling place in Jerusalem. Some of the early Roman Emperors are embarrassed by Caesar worship, but not Emperor Caligula (12-41 AD), who has epilepsy and, unfortunately, more than a little mad. Caligula is nicknamed "the little soldier's boot" by his father's soldiers when he accompanies their campaigns in Northern Europe. For the first six months of his reign, Caligula is a noble and moderate ruler. After that, he becomes an insane tyrant. He takes his divinity seriously, insisting that all his subjects in the Roman Empire worship him, including Jews and Christians.

Revelation Caesar Worship

Caligula BustEvery person in the Roman Empire had to offer incense as an act of worship once a year to Caligula's image. Jews are generally exempt from Caesar worship. However, it becomes the practice of certain emperors to introduce Caesar worship to gain power over the people and exalt themselves. The Romans are well aware of the Jews' monotheistic beliefs and later the Christians for their absolute allegiance to the worship of one God, which excludes all others. In all the Empire, the Jews are exempt from military service because of their strict adherence to food laws and their absolute observance of the Sabbath. But Emperor Caligula (12-41 AD) insists that Caesar worship be mandatory every year even for Jews and Christians, which are at that time probably considered to be a sect of Judaism. Every year on January 3rd, the "Sacramentum" annual oath is sworn to the emperor by the army. The Romans in each military unit in the Empire consecrate a new altar to Jupiter Optimus Maximus described as "the best and greatest god." Simultaneously, Caligula further angers the Jewish people by setting up an image of himself within the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jews would suffer extermination rather than submit to such desecration of the Holy Place. John of Patmos describes this as "worshipping the beast." While forming an army to enforce his demands, officers of the Praetorian Guard, senators, and courtiers assassinate Caligula in 41 AD. If ever there is a grave insult to the Temple of God, the worship of Caligula is it. This incident may be in John's mind when he speaks of the torments the beast launches against the dwelling place of God.

Revelation Beast's Authority

Caspian SeaThe beast's authority allows it to make war on the earth for forty-two months equivalent to three and a half years being the numerical indicator of its incompleteness. He blasphemes God by the word of his mouth and slanders his name. The sea is one of the places where many people in the Roman era believe demons live. If a sailor falls overboard and drowns, people think the demons below the water surface caused his death! The Jews do not generally venture out of sight of land, and their boats stay close to the shore. Other demons are thought by the Jews to dwell in the desert for similar reasons. During Solomon's reign, the Phoenicians imported wood and beautiful goods from across the Mediterranean and carried out exports from a prosperous Israel. Jonah goes aboard a vessel for Nineveh crewed by non-Jews. The Revelation beast's authority has a mouth showing that Satan, a higher power, controls it. The question is, "Would you bow the knee and worship another God, or choose persecution instead?"

"Roman Empire Beast"
by Ron Meacock © 2020

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