I’ve struggled with something to write about for this section. For all of the symbolism, I think this section is easy enough to understand with some explanation: at least if the explanation that Wright gives is true and correct.
It was interesting to read the symbolism of the head with the fatal wound that was healed. I tried to imagine how a first century reader would have interrupted that imagery in light of the political events of the time. I’d been told before that Revelation was written in a sort of code so that only the Christians would understand it. I guess that’s still true in light of all of the Old Testament references one needs to know and numerical values that give meaning.
How do you picture the devil? Red suit, pitchfork, horns on his head, and a pointy tail? It may seem counterintuitive, but the spiritual realm and the physical realm interact. There seems to be a close relationship between Satan’s activity and the powers and operations of this world. Satan comes to us in the form of the natural. What appears as human meanness, malevolent behavior, and evil is actually demonically empowered. NT Wright does a great job of showing that the beast in this passage is actually the Roman Empire – wealthy, proud, powerful, demanding worship and total allegiance. After describing the beast, John tells us that: “The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority” (v. 2). In other words, Satan, the dragon, gave the beast, Rome, power and authority. Rome uses this power and …
So honestly, knowing that the monster is Rome takes most of the fun out of this passage. Seeing how everything in Revelation is so historically grounded makes it feel increasingly disconnected from my experience today. While commentaries bringing Revelation into today’s theater never convinced my skeptical mind, I find myself disengaging from this explanation which seems to take the meaning far away.
Or is there a modern Rome? Do we as Christians face forces in our culture that drive everyone to worship them instead of God? What about the god of Entertainment? What about the god of the Easy Life? Maybe the god of Whoever Dies With the Most Toys Wins? What god distracts you from serving the One True God?
“All the world seems to be worshipping the monster.” Wow are we talking early Rome or are we talking the kingdom in the book of Daniel as NT indicates in his commentary? Are we talking the future earthly Kingdom and emperor worship spoken of in this passage or are we talking modern day worshipping? Again LOTS of then and now and future stuff.
All I can really speak to is now, so what are we worshipping now? What kingdom do we feel we have to bow down to now? What monster is begging for your attention? I have much to say and could go on a rant but will refrain and let you answer for yourself.
Ah, yes. This is the passage that gets a lot of pseduo scholars salivating, isn’t it?
I can recall seeing the long horizontal charts with drawings of the monster and which countries or empires were represented by each. (Of course, the United States had to be in there somewhere, right? I mean, c’mon!) These verses can be a real jumping off point (and by that I mean–off the deep end) for those who miss John’s point. I love that he’s having to tell this wild and terrifying news, but his point is solemn and pragmatic. He’s reminding God’s people to be patient and to have faith. Sensible, sensible John. I’m sure he had no idea the stir his scenes were going to cause–to this very day–but his intent and his message remain unfaltering. Despite the seeming madness that’s ahead, God wants …
Things are starting to get interesting!
After being cast down from heaven (12.9), the dragon calls up reinforcements from the sea. In the old stories, the sea was the primordial source of chaos and destruction. It was the abode of Leviathan, Rahab, and a host of watery adversaries. The sea-monster that emerges at the dragon’s beckoning, then, is nothing less than a manifestation of pure terror. It is a “beast” aligned with the dragon against the church.
So, to recap, we have the dragon and the sea monster on one side versus the slain-lamb and the martyrs on the other.
Of course not. But that’s the point—to remind John’s readers (and ourselves) that despite all appearances, the monsters eventually lose.
First Century Christians would have understood this sea-monster to represent the Roman Empire. However, there is—once again—a surplus of meaning in this text. …