Relevant Biblical Passages: Revelation 13:1-10
Beasts on the Prowl. Following in the Reformation tradition, Adventists have identified the Beast of Revelation 13-14 as Roman Catholism, the counterpart of the little horn power in Daniel 7. Without intending to exonerate Rome for past or present evils, it is still a helpful procedure to read chapter 13 for the purpose of determining the principles involved before making applications. And the application to Rome is indeed an application, not an explicit identification made in the text itself. In attempting a more universal application, the following points should be explored:
- The power behind the beast
- The essence of beastly behavior
- Toward God
- Toward humanity
- The reaction of people to the beast
- The nature of the “evil” for which the beast in condemned
- The role of religion in the conflict
After these questions are addressed, the question of God’s “foreknowledge” of human behavior may become crucial. In the Old Testament, for example, Isaiah 19:18-25, two of Israel’s greatest enemies, Assyria and Egypt, were promised places in Yahweh’s kingdom. The passage concludes with the following blessing from Yahweh: “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage” (Isa 19:25). In the light of what we know about “prophecy” in the Bible, the following assertion seems appropriate: It is dangerous to label any person or organization on the basis of “prophecy” and judge them on that account. The principle of conditionality means that no one is beyond God’s reach.
Applications: After the characteristics of the “beast” are established, the following “idealist” applications can be considered:
- Beastly behavior in nations and organizations.
- Beastly behavior in the church (any church)
- Beastly behavior in Christians (and other people)
For further Study. In the 1890s, Ellen White became concerned that Adventism was “following in the track of Romanism” (TM 362). For perspectives on how she saw the danger that Adventists could be “beastly,” see Alden Thompson, “Babylon, Gospel Order, and the Voice” of God at the following web site: http://dlearn.wwc.edu/classes/relh457/relh457materials.html. Ellen White’s address to the 1901 General Conference (available at the same web site) is also relevant. This commentator is inclined to think that the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Church is the most dangerous of all her doctrines.