True Satan from true Satan: Mirror Christology in Revelation 13

John of the Apocalypse presents the Dragon-Beast cycle (e.g. Revelation 12-13) as the diabolical inversion of the God-Christ cycle (e.g. Revelation 4-5). God and the Dragon each orchestrate sweeping collateral action through various anointed intermediaries, in particular Christ and the Beast from the sea, respectively, in order to exert their incompatible wills upon the world. In the end God, Christ, his angels, and his prophets triumph over the mirrored-machinations of the Dragon, the Beasts, their image, and their worshipers.

When these two opposing cycles are set in tandem as such, the relationship between the Dragon and his Beasts reflects the relationship between God and his Christ. A Satanic Christology emerges that can clarify John’s Godly Christology. We are therefore better able to discern the nature and function of Christ in the book of Revelation when we have come to terms with this demonic counter-narrative.

Therefore Satan highly exalted him

An initial insight that can be drawn from this reading is that John’s Christology has a theo-political function. This is to say that the Dragon—and thus God—authorizes his agents so as to obtain obedience and religious service from the peoples of the earth. As such, the “whole earth” begins worshipping the Dragon “because [the Dragon] had given his authority to the Beast,” his anointed (Revelation 13:3-4). While the Dragon may be distant from the inhabited world, the Beast from the Sea, the Dragon’s immanent representative, wields his master’s authority such that the people can say “Who is like the Beast, and who can fight against it?” (13:4). Their recognition of the Beast’s power draws them into the liturgy of the Beast’s lord, the Dragon, and away from the worship of the true God. Not only this, the Beast attempts to eradicate the cult of God and Christ from the land so as to secure all glory for the Dragon (13:7). This emphasis on the theocratic subjugation of “every tribe and people and language and nation” to an aloof but ultimate deity as the essential messianic function is maintained throughout the chapter (cf. 13:7-8, 16-17). Thus Christ’s God-given role in the Apocalypse is clear: Destroy competing cults (14:11), acquire universal acclaim, and direct the nations to the worship of the one God.

Who sits on Satan’s throne?

How then does Christ accomplish this feat within the world? On what basis does Jesus fulfill the messianic function? Christians typically answer such questions with reference to Christ’s divine nature. Christ is God and therefore is able to do what only God can do.

Interestingly, John replicates the divinizing language he applies to Christ when speaking of the Beasts and the Dragon. The Beast from the sea, for instance, is given the Dragon’s very own power and very own throne with which to rule the earth (13:2). Likewise, this Beast bears a “fatal wound” that “had been healed [by the Dragon]” (13:3); an imitation of Christ’s resurrection. The Beast’s miraculous recovery amazes the people, proving to them that he is worthy of obedience. Furthermore, inasmuch as the highly-exalted Beast possesses the Dragon’s authority, the people worship him alongside the Dragon (13:4). The Beast is, so it seems, included within the divine identity of Satan.

The Beast from the heart of the earth acts in ways only Satan can act as well. He speaks like a dragon (3:11), exercises the authority of the first Beast (3:12), and performs great deceptive signs-wonders (3:13). It is this Beast who, like Christ, is “allowed [by the Dragon] to give spirit” that enlivens the image of the Beast so that he too can do Satan’s bidding on the earth (13:15, cf. 5:6).

If we assume for a moment the logic of common Christian Christology—that Christ behaves as God because he is God, not because he has been authorized by the transcendent God for a particular immanent purpose—the Beasts of the Apocalypse must be consubstantial with the Dragon whom they serve. Only this unholy trinity can sit upon Satan’s throne.

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