THRONE OF THE BEAST
“The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast,
and his kingdom became darkened;
and they gnawed their tongues because of pain,
11 and they blasphemed the God of heaven …
and they did not repent of their deeds.”
Just as a king’s throne is a symbol of his authority, God’s throne represents His authority and the throne of the beast is a symbol of the beast’s authority.
When the fifth bowl is poured out on the throne of the beast, its whole kingdom becomes darkened. There exists, therefore, a cause-effect relationship between the throne of the beast and its kingdom. Damage to its authority results in damage to its entire kingdom. It is therefore important to understand what the beast’s authority is. What gives it the power to rule? Is it military might, or economic power, or perhaps religious authority? A further possibility is that miracles, which are frequently mentioned in Revelation (13:13; 16:14), may give the beast the power to rule.
This question is important because it tells us about the nature of the final conflict. More precisely: Who will persecute God’s people (13:7, 15)? Is it the government, or perhaps the economic powers of the world, or is it another religion like Islam or is it perhaps the Church itself?
The Sea Beast (beast from the sea – Rev. 13:1) is identified in the study of Daniel 7 as the evil 11th horn. But it receives a fatal wound (13:3). The wound heals (13:3), but then another power—the beast from the earth (13:11)—takes over as the active force and convinces the people of the world to make an image to the Sea Beast. The question is, therefore: What is the nature of the Earth Beast and of the Image?
This article proposes that the throne of the beast is Christian religious authority, which means that the end-time conflict is persecution of God’s real people by the Church. This is based on the following:
(At the bottom is a summary of this longish article.)
The fifth plague angel pours his bowl out on the throne of the beast. It receives its throne (authority) from the Roman Empire, but it is not military might. Neither is it the power of money. This article provides evidence that the throne of the beast is Christian religious authority. This is based on the flow of thought in the plagues, the general nature of conflict in Revelation as a war of worship, the description of the persecuting powers as a woman, a lamb and a false prophet performing wonders and signs, intent on changing God’s law, and the fact that it always is false religion that persecutes true religion.
The fifth plague is very cryptic. It simply says that the plague is poured out on the throne of the Beast, and the Beast’s kingdom became darkened. The fifth plague, therefore, must be interpreted in terms of the preceding and subsequent plagues.
FIRST FOUR PLAGUES
The first four plagues attack man’s whole environment—earth, sea, waters, heaven (compare 14:7)—somehow without affecting the people that do not have the mark of the beast (16:2). This happens in the context of a world in which the people have been polarised into two visibly delineated groups:
The one group worships (obeys) the image of the beast because of the signs and wonders performed by the earth-beast. In their view, these signs and wonders prove that the False Prophet (the earth-beast – see 16:13) is God’s true prophet.
But a minority of Christians are not willing to obey the image of the beast. They are persecuted and killed because of their belief in the Creator (14:7).
Once all people in the world have been permanently categorized into these two groups, the plagues start to fall. (See Introduction to the Plagues).
But the plagues do not affect God’s real people (16:2). The people with the mark of the beast, therefore, should begin to suspect that they are wrong, and that the beast from the earth is a false prophet.
In the sixth plague, the waters of the Euphrates dry up. The Euphrates river flowed through the ancient city of Babylon was situated and sustained life in the city. Revelation represents end-time Babylon as sitting on many waters (17:1), but now the “many waters” became a symbol for the peoples of the world (17:15). “Sitting” has become a symbol of Babylon’s corrupting influence on the people (17:2). Drying up, therefore, implies that her influence over them wanes.
Interpreted in the context of the other plagues, the fifth plague is something that adds to the evidence of the first four plagues to finally convince the people that the Beast power is not speaking for God. The people, consequently, withdraw their support from Babylon in the sixth plague. The people previously thought that the earth-beast was God’s prophet, but now they realize that it is a “false prophet” (16:13). This means that the Beast’s throne is religious authority.
The Beast will make war with the saints and to overcome them (13:7).
In the Bible, foreign nations never selectively persecuted God’s true people; neither are they able to identify God’s true people. It always was the people who pretended to speak for God that persecute God’s real people.
For instance, Jesus was killed by the Jews, manipulating the power of the government. And it was the Jews who killed Stephan and also all the prophets of old, not foreign nations.
Applying this principle to the end time, God’s people will be persecuted by their own community—the Church—because of what they believe and do.
The seven letters in Revelation 1 to 3 serve as an introduction to the book of Revelation. The nature of the conflict in the seven letters in Revelation 1 to 3 should, therefore, be the same as the nature of the end-time conflict. An analysis of the letters, and specifically of the powers that oppose true God’s people, will inform us that God’s people are not persecuted or threatened by forces outside the Church, but always by forces within the Church:
Twice we read in the letters of people who “say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (2:9; 3:9).
The opposition of God’s people is evil men “who call themselves apostles, and they are not” (2:2), and “the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess”, but she teaches God’s bond-servants to commit acts of immorality (2:20).
Four times, therefore, we have indications that the powers that oppose God are from within the Church. This provides strong support for the proposal that the conflict at the end time will be within the Christian Church.
Some people might find the references to Jews confusing. An in-depth separate article is available that discusses ‘Israel in Prophecy‘. This is a critical study and the point where the paths of many interpreters separate.
The reference to people that call themselves Jews, but are not, would not make sense if taken literally. Why would only people that claim to be of Jewish descent be a danger to the Church? Why would they, and only they, be called a “synagogue of Satan” (2:9; 3:9)? This reference must, therefore, be understood symbolically. In those early days, most Christians were Jews, because for the first few years after the cross the gospel has been preached to Jews only (Acts 10:45; 11:18). See Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church. Further, the believers thought of themselves as part of Israel. In fact, they thought of themselves as the only true Jews. The Jews that rejected Christ were considered as unfaithful. In Romans, Paul explains that a true remnant remains, into which branches from the wild olive (non-Jews) have been grafted in, and natural branches (unbelieving Jews) have been cut off. In this context, a person claiming to be a Jew, but that is not a Jew, would be somebody that claims to be a believer, but is not true a true believer.
Compared to the earlier chapters, Revelation 17 uses a different set of symbols. Instead of the Dragon, Sea Beast and False Prophet of the previous chapters, we find the symbols of a harlot woman—Babylon—sitting on a scarlet beast (17:3). In this representation, the harlot persecutes God’s true people (18:24).
There are two women in Revelation. The first is the pure woman (12:1); later called the bride of the Lamb (19:7). The second is this harlot Babylon, who claims that she is “not a widow” (18:7). In other words, she claims to be the Lamb’s true wife (compare 21:9).
By describing the persecuting power as a woman, the Author of Revelation tells us that she is, in some respects, similar to, but in other respects very different from the woman who represents God’s people. Since both are woman, and since both Israel (in the Old Testament) and the Church (in the New Testament) are described as women, and as adulteress women when unfaithful, both women represent the Church. But the Bride is the true people of God. They are part of the Church but called out of Babylon (18:4). The harlot woman Babylon is the false Church that “has become a dwelling place of demons” (18:2), which implies that, previously, she was not evil.
This explains the statement that the 144000 never defiled them with women (14:4). These “women” are the daughters of Babylon, who is herself the “mother of harlots” (17:5). The fact that the 144000 never defiled themselves with women means they never agreed with what Babylon does.
As mentioned, it is Babylon—the false church—who persecutes God’s true people. The final conflict is, consequently, a war within the Church; the faithful minority against the authority of the Church.
SIGNS AND WONDERS
Moses performed “wonders and signs in the land of Egypt and in the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years” (Act 7:36 NASB). Jesus was “attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him” (Act 2:22; Heb. 2:4). The Lord confirmed the word of the apostles “by the signs that followed” (Mar 16:20 NASB). “Many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles” (Act 2:43; Act 5:12).
However, in the end-time conflict, signs and wonders will confirm the anti-God powers:
The Sea Beast “performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men” (Rev 13:13 NASB). “He deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast” (Rev 13:14; Rev 19:20).
In the sixth plague the Dragon, Beast and False Prophet will be assisted by “spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (Rev 16:14 NASB).
According to Matthew 24 and 2 Thessalonica 2, this is what false teachers in the false Church will do at the end-time:
“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Mat 24:24; Mar 13:22).
“The man of lawlessness … takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. … whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders” (2Th 2:3, 4, 9 NASB).
This again means that the anti-God powers are religious in nature; particularly Christian.
CHANGE GOD’S LAW
The fourth beast of Daniel 7 is the Roman Empire, and the 11th horn grew out of it. The Roman Empire’s right to rule was its military might. But the 11th horn is said to be “different” (Dan 7:24). It, therefore, does not necessarily follow that the throne of the beast (its authority) is military might.
The 11th horn wages war with the saints and overpower them (Dan 7:21). He “will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law” (7:25). This is the behavior of a false religion. That it will try to “make alterations in times and in law” means it is Christian false religion.
The Sea Beast of Revelation is the 11th horn. See The Seven-Headed Beasts of Revelation. This confirms that the Sea Beast is religious (Christian) in nature.
The article on the identity of the 11th horn will provide further support for the conclusion that the Beast’s authority is religious in nature, and specifically for the statement that the issue in the end time is a war within the Church.
The word “worship” is used five times in Revelation 13 and 14. Four times it is used for the people worshiping the beast (13:8, 12) and his image (13:15; 14:11), while the three angels warn the people to worship the Creator alone (14:7). This last conflict may, therefore, be described as a war of worship.
The Beast from the Earth at first looks like a lamb (13:11). The word “lamb” occurs 32 times in Revelation, and only in this one instance does it not refer to Jesus Christ. The Earth Beast, therefore, appears to be Christian, but eventually, it is called the “False Prophet” (16:13; 19:20). Both the words “lamb” and “prophet” imply that it is Christian in nature.
Preterist commentaries view Revelation as a general description of the war between good and evil. They do not agree that the characters and events in Revelation were ever or will ever become real characters or events. Some such commentaries often interpret the evil powers of Revelation as the power of money. It is true that, particularly in Revelation 18, economic power is prominent:
Babylon is clothed in wealth (17:4), and in Revelation, clothes depict the nature of the entity.
Her merchants became rich from her (18:15). They “were the great men of the earth” (18:23).
However, the Beast is not economic power in general, but a specific entity with a specific date of origin, arising out of specific other entities, for the following reasons:
BEASTS OF DANIEL 7
The beast from the sea comes into existence after the four kingdoms of Daniel 7 and received something from each of them: It comes out of the sea (13:1):
It looks like “a leopard,
his feet were like that of a bear,
a mouth like the mouth of a lion,
and the Dragon gave him
his power and his throne and great authority” (13:2).
These are the four animals of Daniel 7, representing:
Ancient Babylon (lion);
Greece (leopard) and
Rome (non-descript beast in Daniel 7—Dragon in Revelation).
It would not be valid to say that the power of money came into existence after these kingdoms or that economic power received something from each of them.
PERSECUTES GOD’S PEOPLE
The Beast persecutes the saints and overpowers them (13:7). Economic power never persecutes the true people of God SELECTIVELY. It is not able to distinguish between God’s true people and others.
The Beast’s authority is primarily religious in nature because its primary purpose is to oppose God, not to accumulate wealth. Wealth is used as a tool by the Beast but is not its ultimate purpose.
SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE
The fifth plague angel pours his bowl out on the “throne of the beast,” and the beast’s kingdom “became darkened.” What is the “throne of the beast,” and why would his kingdom be darkened if his throne is attacked?
The beast is the 11th horn of Daniel 7 (Rev 13:2 – see The Seven-Headed Beast). This horn is a continuation of the fourth beast of Daniel 7. The fourth beast is the Roman Empire (See Daniel’s evil horn). Since the beast is a continuation of the Roman Empire, it receives its throne (its power to rule or its authority) from the Roman Empire. It is not a literal throne. Just as a king’s throne is a symbol of his authority, God’s throne, in the book of Revelation, represents His authority and the throne of the beast is a symbol of the beast’s authority.
So, what the beast’s authority? What gives it the power to rule? Is it military might, or the power of money, or perhaps religious authority?
This question is important to understand the end-time conflict, for the authority of the beast determines by what type of power God’s people will be persecuted.
This article proposes that the throne of the beast is religious authority, and specifically Christian religious authority. This is based on the following:
The first four plagues attack man’s total environment but do not affect God’s real people. The people with the mark of the beast begin to suspect that the beast a false prophet.
In the sixth plague, the waters of the Euphrates dry up. The Euphrates symbolizes the people that are controlled by spiritual Babylon. Drying up implies that her control over them wanes.
In this context, the fifth plague adds to the evidence that the Beast is a false prophet so that the people withdraw their support from Babylon in the sixth plague. This means that the throne of the beast is religious authority.
God’s true people are never selectively persecuted by foreigners; always by people that pretend to speak for God.
In the seven letters in Revelation 1 to 3 the powers that oppose God’s true people always are within the Church.
There are two women in Revelation; the bride of the Lamb and the harlot Babylon, who claims that she is “not a widow.” In other words, she claims to be the Lamb’s true wife. By describing the persecuting power as a woman, the Author of Revelation tells us that she is the false church.
SIGNS AND WONDERS
Moses, Jesus, and the apostles were “attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs,” but in the end-time signs and wonders will confirm the anti-God powers. The Sea Beast will perform “great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth.” According to Matthew 24 and 2 Thessalonica 2, this is what the false Church will do at the end-time.
CHANGE GOD’S LAW
The Sea Beast of Revelation is the 11th horn of Daniel 7. It “will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints … and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law” (7:25). This is the behavior of false religion and confirms that the Sea Beast is religious (Christian) in nature.
The word “worship” is used five times in Revelation 13 and 14. This last conflict may, therefore, be described as a war of worship. The Beast from the earth is also described with Christian words such as “lamb” and “prophet.” These words imply a Christian religious nature.
Preterist commentaries often interpret the evil powers of Revelation as the power of money. However, the Beast is not economic power in general, but a specific entity with a specific date of origin, arising out of specific other entities:
The beast from the sea comes into existence after the four kingdoms of Daniel 7. This cannot be said about the power of money.
The Beast persecutes the saints and overpowers them. Economic power never persecutes the true people of God SELECTIVELY.
The primary purpose of the beast is to oppose God, not to accumulate wealth.
Introduction to the Plagues of Revelation
The First Four Plagues are non-specific.
First Four Plagues (Previous article)
The throne of the beast is religious authority. (Current article)
The message of Revelation 18 causes the darkness of the fifth plague. (Next article)
Fifth plague – main article