08 April 2022

Rendering Homage

The “false prophet” uses every means necessary to coax or coerce men to render homage to the “beast from the sea.” 

Roman Column - Photo by Phil Goodwin on Unsplash
The “false prophet” uses “signs and wonders” and especially its control over commerce to cause the “inhabitants of the earth” to render homage to the “beast.” Whether he employs force or persuasion, the goal is the same. Anyone who refuses to submit to the new order is excluded from the economic life of society, and this is the key to his power - [
Photo by Phil Goodwin on Unsplash].

And Revelation employs an interesting and relevant Greek term in describing the beast’s agenda. Unfortunately, its force is often lost in English translations. The “false prophet” employs all the authority of the “beast from the sea” to coax and coerce the “inhabitants of the earth” to “worship” the “beast.”

However, the Greek verb ‘proskuneô’ does not mean “worship” in the sense of ritualistic adoration of a deity or deities in a church or temple. Its basic sense is “prostrating” oneself before someone of superior rank. It combines the Greek preposition ‘pros,’ meaning “towards,” with the word for “kiss”’ that is, “to kiss toward.” It is derived from the idea of bowing down to kiss the hem of someone’s robe. And from this comes the idea of “rendering homage” or “allegiance” to someone or something. The modern practice of swearing allegiance to persons, causes, and organizations best represents the idea pictured in Revelation.

And this is precisely what the false prophet’s agenda is – to cause individuals and peoples to give their allegiance to the “beast.” And if he is unable to persuade or flatter anyone into doing so, he carries a very big stick that he will not hesitate to use to coerce their submission.

In the book, the “inhabitants of the earth” are contrasted with the followers of the “Lamb.” Members of the former group have the “number of the beast” branded on their “right hand” to indicate ownership. They belong to the “beast.” The followers of the “Lamb” have his “written on their foreheads,” the “seal of God,” for they follow him “wherever he goes.”  Thus, the “mark of the beast” is the Devil’s counterfeit to God’s seal. Whichever mark anyone bears demonstrates where his or her allegiance lies - (Revelation 7:1-314:1-4).

Because the “inhabitants of the earth” take the beast’s mark, they are legally authorized to engage in commerce, to “buy and sell.” But the followers of the “Lamb” have been purchased by him by his blood, and because they bear his name they are excluded by the “beast” from full participation in economic life. Loyalty to the “beast” has its rewards, at least for a time, but remaining faithful to the “Lamb” comes with great personal loss.

Dollar Burning - Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash
Dollar Burning - Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Thus, humanity is divided into two groups: those who follow the “
Lamb” and those who give allegiance to the “beast.” There is no middle ground. One is either subjugated by the “beast from the sea,” or submits to and follows Jesus. And to whom anyone belongs determines whether his or her name is included in or excluded from the “Lamb’s book of life.” Disciples of Jesus may be denied material prosperity in this life, but they will reap something vastly superior when they enter the “city of New Jerusalem” - (Revelation 13:16-18).

And in Revelation, receiving the “mark” on the “forehead” or “right hand” mimics the ancient call to Israel to worship Yahweh alone. That is the goal of the “false prophet,” to subvert the allegiance that belongs to God alone, and to replace it with allegiance to the beastly order:
  • (Deuteronomy 6:5-8) – “You will love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I command you this day shall be in your heart. And you will teach them diligently to your children and talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise-up. And you will bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”
The “false prophet” also deceives men into fabricating an “image” to the beast before which they must prostrate themselves. But what distinguishes this image is not its shape, size, or form, but the total allegiance to it required by the “beast.” The honor and loyalty that belongs only to Yahweh and to his king, Jesus, is instead lavished on the beastly image. This the ultimate form of idolatry, state idolatry, and it occurs whenever the political order demands the level of allegiance that belongs to God.

One day, perhaps sooner than we think, a political entity will appear on the world scene that will use its economic might against nations, peoples, and individuals that do not submit to its demands, and that will be the first clue that the “beast” is at last “ascending from the sea” to wage war against the followers of the “Lamb.” And when this new order does appear, we must choose whether to submit to it or to Jesus regardless of the cost.