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

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

What is the Lord's dwelling?

TabernacleHere we have a picture of John of Patmos looking out to sea and seeing a beast emerging from the water unto the shore. This Roman Empire beast's power represented the Emperors. They controlled vast Mediterranean Sea resources, governed 70 million people, and instituted caesar worship as one way of keeping firm control over the people. However, according to the Early Church, caesar worship was a blasphemy against God, the heavens, and the angels. By erecting these Roman deity's images in the Temple's Holy of Holies, the Romans incurred the ultimate and extreme Jewish anger. If ever there is a grave insult to God's Temple, the worship of Caligula was it. The Jews would suffer extermination rather than submit to such Holy Place desecration. The Greek word for God's "dwelling place" is "Skene," meaning a "tent" or "tabernacle" or even "a place to dwell." "Skene" always reminded Jews of the Hebrew "Shechinah," or "the dwelling of the glory of God." A rabbi saying stated that "if two sat at a table and conversed about God's Law, the Shechinah rested upon them." It may be that John of Patmos was saying that the Roman Empire's conduct, particularly caesar worship, was an insult to God's glory or Shechinah.✞

What was Caligula's madness?

Roman StandardThe description of 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 had insulted God and his Jerusalem dwelling place. Some early Roman Emperors were embarrassed by Caesar worship, but not Emperor Caligula (12-41 AD), who had epilepsy and was also, unfortunately, more than a little mad. Caligula was nicknamed "the little soldier's boot" by his father's soldiers when he accompanied their Northern European campaigns. For the first six months, Caligula was a noble and moderate ruler. After that, he became an insane tyrant. He took his divinity seriously, insisting all his subjects worship him, including Jews and Christians.

What is Revelation caesar worship?

Caligula BustEvery Roman Empire dweller had to burn incense yearly to Caligula's image. Jews were generally exempt from caesar's worship. However, certain emperors' decided to introduce it to gain power over the people and exalt themselves. The Romans were well aware of Jewish and later the Christians' monotheistic beliefs and their absolute allegiance to one God, excluding all others. Across the Empire, Jews were exempt from military service because of their strict adherence to food laws and the Sabbath's absolute observance. Emperor Caligula (12-41 AD) insisted on mandatory caesar worship every year, even for Jews and the Christians, who were probably considered a Jewish sect. On January 3rd, the "Sacramentum" annual oath was sworn by the army to the emperor every year. In every Empire military unit, the Romans consecrated a new altar to Jupiter Optimus Maximus, described as "the best and greatest god." John of Patmos described this as "worshipping the beast." While forming an army to enforce his demands, Praetorian Guard officers, senators, and courtiers assassinated Caligula in 41 AD. This incident may have been in John's mind when he spoke of the torments the beast launched against God's dwelling place.

What is the Revelation beast's authority?

Caspian SeaThe beast's authority allowed it to make war on the earth for forty-two months which was equivalent to three and a half years, the symbol of incompleteness. The beast blasphemes God by his words and slanders his name. The sea is one of the places where many people in the Roman era believed the demons lived. When a sailor fell overboard and drowned, people thought the devils below the water caused his drowning! The Jews did not, therefore, generally sail out of sight of land, their boats staying close to the shore. The Jews thought other demons dwelt in the desert for similar reasons. During Solomon's reign, Phoenician sailors imported beautiful goods from across the Mediterranean and carried out exports from a prosperous Israel. Jonah went aboard a foreign Nineveh vessel crewed by non-Jews. The Revelation beast had a mouth showing that Satan, a higher power, controlled it. The question is, "Would you worship another God or choose persecution instead?"

"Roman Empire Beast"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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