I’m in Revelation 13 in my Adult Sunday School class. Revelation 13:7 says that the beast, the empire/proxy of the dragon was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. Isn’t that a strange verse? Why would God not only allow the dragon to create his evil outpost of resistance on earth after being thrown out of heaven (chapter 12) but also allow his proxy to defeat the saints?
Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We wanted to know good and evil and the tree started the process of giving us what we said we wanted. Our difficulty, however, is that we often get good and evil mixed up. Most of the evil that is done is in a quest for good. People don’t seek evil, they only tolerate it or think it excusable because they are questing for good.
People sometimes wonder why the fall won’t happen all over again? How do we know that in the age to come we won’t somehow simply decide to replay the scene at the tree? I think Revelation 13 helps us here.
Most of us have a knife drawer in our kitchens. We walk past that drawer every day and never think a thing of it. That drawer is filled with knives that are sharp and with those knives we could easily disembowel ourselves yet we don’t fear the drawer. We don’t go to bed thanking God that he got us through another day where we narrowly avoided disemboweling ourselves. Now of course there may be some for whom this is true, and that is a hard and sad thing for them, but for most of us it is a non-issue. It is a non-issue because to harm ourselves with those knives would be unthinkable. Why would we do such a thing?
God allows the beast the freedom to conquer the saints, just like he gave Pharaoh the freedom to enslave Jacob’s children. Pharoah and the beast are God given clarifiers for the church. They give us what we asked for at the tree, to know good and evil. The problem is that we are slow learners and all too often it isn’t until evil is fully blown that we finally begin to recognize it. We also begin to recognize that we are often way outmatched by it. We are small and weak and too often powerless to stop it. The beast wars and the beast conquers.
We do know the end of the story, it comes repeatedly in the book of Revelation. The truth is that the dragon, the power behind the beast has already been beaten and his time is short. He puts on a good show but his exile is a foregone conclusion. God allows him to conquer the saints for the good of the saints. The saints through their suffering grow in substance and strength. They learn the “good and evil” lesson well so that in Creation 2.0 our insanity of Creation 1.0 won’t be repeated even though we’ll be perfectly free. Sin will look like the silly threat of a knife drawer.
My lessons of good and evil are not yet through and I’m not really looking forward to lessons I have yet to face, but the story gives me hope of a victory won on my behalf that has already been accomplished. It plants a seed in my imagination that is still too thin and dim. The more the beast rages the clearer it becomes, but ever so slowly.