Understanding the Bible 50: How Evil Exercises Power – Interpreting the “Beasts” of Revelation

Interpreting the Bible well requires that we understand  the central conflict – the dilemma that God must resolve.  Last week we had our clearest glimpse of  the Enemy (symbolized in the dragon) – the one opposing the loving purposes of God.  But how does the the Enemy exercise its power?  After all, most people have little willingness to participate in evil directly?  

In this episode we turn to John description of “the beasts.”  Fearsome creatures, they nevertheless hold strong appeal. One bears the capacity of violence – the ability to make war (and thereby get “results”).  The other is the false prophet, the propagandist – a the power of deception that leads us to place our allegiances in false gods.  

While these “beasts” are again depicted in ways that clearly allude to Roman imperial power, John is clear that Rome is merely an instrument of evil (not evil itself).  One could overcome Rome and never once do harm to evil.  Indeed, war has little concern for who fights whom; war cares only that their is violence and destruction.  And thus John’s unwavering insistence that the followers of Jesus not vary from the Jesus Way of love.  Tempting as it may be to fight fire with fire, to fight war with war…it is only by love that evil is truly conquered.

In this episode we explore the symbols of the beasts of revelation, examine the nature of evil, its expressions throughout history and the means by which the people of God contribute to the ultimate victory of love and the salvation of the world.  

Oh…and we’ll try to make sense of that 666, mark of the beast stuff.  (As a friend of mine said recently:  there are about to be a lot of disappointed metal bands… 😉


This is a sermon that was originally presented at Canvas (a Presbyterian church in Irvine, CA), September 7, 2014. To learn more about Canvas, click here!

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