Revelation 13:4-6 and the Worship of the Beast

(4)  And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”

            The people were glad to see the revival of Julius’ station in Augustus. They were particularly satisfied with the end of the wars; and with Augustus, who proved to be a very able leader with tremendous self-control. The empire became very healthy during Augustus’ long reign. With the revival of the empire also came the revival of emperor worship which began with Julius Caesar. In 42 B.C. Augustus began building the “Temple of the Divine Julius Caesar,” which was dedicated in 29 B.C. Asia Minor was a significant player in emperor worship. Augustus authorized a building project in 29 B.C. at Ephesus (2:1-7); a temple for the worship of Julius Caesar and the Goddess Roma; there was also an altar there for the worship of Augustus. The city of Smyrna (see 2:8-11) got in on the ground floor of this new religion; erecting a temple for the worship of Emperor Augustus in 26 B.C. Followed by another temple for the worship of Tiberius Caesar about fifty years later. The city of Pergamum (see 2:12-17) was the mecca of emperor worship in the entire Roman Empire. Along with other pagan temples, the city contained three temples for the worship of the emperor; and, in the words of Jesus, the city was “where Satan dwells” (2:13). The city of Thyatira had their trade unions which confessed the emperor as Lord; one could not buy or sell unless they had done the same (see 13:17 and 2:18-29).

            “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” For some of the people, emperor worship was a way to pay flattery to the emperor and maintain good relations with the government; for others, the emperors were demigods and therefore sincerely worshiped them. In any case, this statement from the beast’s worshipers show that the Roman citizens were captivated by the growing greatness and strength of the empire.

(5)  And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. (6)  It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven.

            John described the mouth of the beast as a lion’s mouth (13:2); Daniel said, “it had huge iron teeth” (Daniel (7:7). It is a picture of the beast’s prideful strength and careless devouring. Here he is using his mouth to puff himself up and blaspheme the one who really has all the authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18).

            “For forty-two months.” This is one of the points where many of the “early daters” of the book walk away from consistency in their excitement. These want to take the forty-two months literally but want to make figurative any other number in the book that doesn’t fit literally. Here, they say, is the literal forty-two-month period that Nero persecuted the church. But they are only cramming the puzzle pieces together, hoping that no one will notice that Nero persecuted the church for several months more than forty-two. It’s things like this that make a mockery of those who hold to an earlier dating of the book. Consistency is everything! The numbers in Revelation are symbolic, and this “forty-two months” which is commonly found throughout the book always relates to dark and tough times, or times of persecution (see comments on 11:2). Nero certainly took part in the blasphemy of the true God and his followers, but there were others before him that did the same by their actions of idol worship.

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