I sometimes watch a show called River Monsters. It is a somewhat hyped-up version of what is supposed to be investigations into human maiming or loss at the hand (or tooth) of something in the water. It is one of those shows that causes you to look down into the lake or ocean and ask, "What is really down there?"
In Chapter 13 of the Revelation we get a partial answer to that question. In Hebrew thought the sea is filled with nasty, evil and terrible things like the spirits of the dead. It is one reason the disciples were afraid when they saw Jesus walking on the water and thought He was a ghost. But in the Revelation things that rise up out of the sea are particularly nasty and evil. So it is for the beast from the Sea in Revelation 13.
In Fact, there is a beast from the Sea and a beast from the Earth, both evil, both carrying the traits of fallen Babylon and both angry and seeking to do harm to God, God's people and truly all people. So, what are the traits of these beasts?
The beast from the sea manifests power and speaks openly with blasphemy against God. Where the Elders in John's vision bow before God, worship God and cast their crowns before God the beast blasphemes, God, blasphemes God's name and blasphemes God's dwelling. The beast from the earth comes with more of a disguise. This beast does miracles and is compelling, charismatic and represents the subtle work of Satan that tells us our lifestyles, cultures, laws, governmental structures, etc. either have no place for God or should encompass a false god that is not God at all.
While Sunday we will define the traits of the beasts more thoroughly and ask the age-old question, "what is meant by 666?" we will also try to see the actions of these two entities in the world of John's time and the world today. For now just an observational point. The beasts and events of Revelation are both past, present (to Johns's time) and future (to our time and beyond). They portray a panorama of history that cannot be affixed to one specific thing. The first beast of most often thought of as John's bringing forward the evil represented by the empires of Persia/Babylon/Alexander the Great and the Seleucids from Daniel's vision. In John's time this evil is caught up, not in the four empires of Daniel but the one evil empire of Rome. One might make a point that this evil is now manifest in the religious extremism of the current day Islamic terrorists. I think we could place that mantle on a number of entities in history, but remember ... while evil tries to defeat us in all ways possible in this world, the message of John is, Jesus has overcome the world. Praise Him ... worship Him ... cast your crowns before Him and realize we worship a victorious God! Randy