The Revelation 13 Beast from the Earth: Deception of False Religion
Looking around in the USA in 2007, nothing is more painful to observe than the hold which a tissue of lies has on the popular culture. People are deceived, and one wonder’s how much of the deception is willfully self-imposed by resolute ignorance of truth readily available, and how much is imposed from without by powers which are greater than the average person’s ability to discern truth and reality.
Revelation 13 portrays a process of calculated deception managed by the beast from the earth in the service of the empire (beast from the sea). As mentioned yesterday, elsewhere in Revelation, 16:13, 19:20 and 20:10, the beast from the earth is called the false prophet. Starting with the name itself, as false prophet, this beast from the earth has all the marks of religious authority demanding allegiance to the satanic rule of the beast from the sea, imperial power. Having “two horns like a lamb,” the beast from the earth is described as a counterfeit of the lamb that was slain; but in the same sentence John says it had a voice like dragon, so it’s true character is disclosed.
In their chapter on “Liturgy and Worship in Revelation” Howard-Brook and Gwyther disclose the religious/worship essence of the work of the false prophet/earth beast:
“For the few who are not taken in by the power of the Dragon exercised by the Beasts, a different fate awaits: the “icon of the Beast” itself “cause(s) those who would not worship” it to be killed (13:15). The beast does not deign to exercise the power of capital punishment itself. John sees that it has delegated this authority to its “icon” (Greek eikona). [The image/icon does this by speech--notice the power of words, of propaganda and Fox News, the medium and power of the prophet. The beast gives “spirit/breath” to the image, and it speaks. You have the essence of prophecy here, by the spirit and by speech]. This close association between the Beast and its icon is continued throughout Revelation (14:11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; 20:4). At one level, the icon is the collection of imperial cult objects: the schrines, statues, and coins that bear the image of the emperor and the slogans of imperial propaganda such as Lord and God.” At a deeper level, however, the “icon of the Beast” is the public face of empire: the flags and other patriotic paraphernalia that accompany civic rituals in all imperial settings. Consider how deeply felt are people’s emotional reactions to those who refuse to salute the flag, wehether the Nazi swastika or the U. S. Stars and Stripes. This is what John’s apocalyptic insight has revealed, not only about the Rome of his day, but also more broadly about the nature of how empire gains and keeps its subjects loyal to its demonic agenda. It is this power that both insists on being worshiped and eliminates those who refuse to submit to ts authority” (p. 216).
Deception lies at the heart of flag worship, and the deception is nowhere more evident than in the heated (or calm and deceptive) denials of those who fly the flag in their churches that there is anything idolatrous about it. The flag as image of the empire puts the empire, like the image created by the beast from the earth, the false prophet, one move away from the hardware and houses which embody its power. The flag is not the missiles, the guns and bombs, nor the courthouses and their judges. It is only an image of them.
Tomorrow, more on image and ideology. -- John Stoner 11/26/07