Roman Empire Beast
Next Previous Index Tellout Home

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 heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been 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." It may be that John of Patmos is saying that the whole conduct of the Roman Empire, and 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 insults 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 is an epileptic and unfortunately more than a little mad. Caligula is nicknamed by his father's soldiers as "the little soldier's boot" when he accompanies them during campaigns in Northern Europe. For the first six months of his reign, Caligula is by all accounts a noble and moderate ruler. After that, he becomes an insane tyrant. He takes his divinity very seriously, insisting that he be universally worshipped by all his subjects in the Roman Empire including Jews and Christians.

Revelation Caesar Worship

Caligula BustEvery person in the Roman Empire is required to offer incense once a year to Caligula's as an act of worship to his image. The Jews are normally exempt from Caesar worship, which becomes the practice of certain emperors to gain power over the people by deifying 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. This is closely aligned to the fact that of all the peoples in the empire, the Jews alone 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 annual oath called the "Sacramentum" is sworn to the emperor by the army. A new altar to Jupiter Optimus Maximus is consecrated to "the best and greatest god" by each military unit in the Empire. At the same time, 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." Caligula is forming an army to enforce his demands when he is assassinated 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 which the beast launches against the dwelling place of God.

Revelation Beast's Authority

Caspian SeaThe beast's authority is exercised to make war on the earth for forty-two months. He blasphemes God by the word of his mouth and slanders his name. The sea is one of the places where demons are thought to live by many people in the Roman era. So that if a sailor falls overboard and drowns it is thought to have been the demons below the water surface that caused his death! For this reason, the Jews do not like to venture out of sight of land, and even their boats hug the coastline. Other demons are thought by the Jews to dwell in the desert for similar reasons. During Solomon's reign, it is the Phoenicians who bring in imports of wood and fine goods across the Mediterranean Sea and carry out exports from a prosperous Israel. Jonah goes aboard a vessel for Nineveh manned by non-Jews. The fact that the Revelation beast's authority is given a mouth shows that it is controlled by Satan, a higher power. The question is, "Would you bow the knee and worship another God, or choose persecution instead?"

"Roman Empire Beast"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

^Top Page Next Previous