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It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. Revelation 13:7–10


The beast of the sea was given authority from the great red dragon of chapter 12. This authority rested in its power over the religion and politics of the Western Roman Empire and was vested in Papalism. The religious power of the beast was blasphemy against the name of God, the tabernacle of God, and against those who dwell in heaven.

The great red dragon, the force behind Christ-less religion, foresaw that his first church was not sufficient to completely destroy the gospel and the church built by Jesus, so he began devising plans for a second church. But before he could put a new church in place he had one last chore for Papalism. Verse 7 tells us, “It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them.” One thing we learn from this move on the part of the beast of the sea is that there still were saints that held to the true gospel of Christ and continued as the church built by Jesus.

The rest of V 7 provides a dismal scene in the religious world at this time: “And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.” The Church of Rome was the only legal church at this time and Christians that followed the gospel and did not submit to Papal authority were considered heretics and enemies of the Church.


War to Overcome the Saints


It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. (Verse 7)


The church built by Jesus was physically overtaken by the Roman Church nevertheless there were many people whose names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life that actively resisted the authority of the Pope and endeavored to separate themselves from his power and the rule of the Roman Church. The church Jesus built was never intended to be invisible and when evil attempts to overshadow the true church it is the nature of Christ’s church to separate itself in order to stay visible. Philip Schaff speaks of the resistance against the beast of the sea. “The centralization of ecclesiastical authority in the papacy was met by a widespread counter-movement of religious individualism and dissent.”[1] Schaff tells the by this time,


A heretic, that is, one who dissented from the dogmatic belief of the Catholic Church, was regarded as worse than a Saracen and worse than a person of depraved morals.[2]


The Catholic Church tolerated those that lived immoral lives but cast out from itself those who believed what it considered to be error—the real gospel.

Pope Gregory IX said that “France was filled with a multitude of venomous reptiles and the poison of the heresies.”[3] Eventually “The opinion came to prevail, that what disease is to the body that heresy is to the Church, and the most merciful procedure was to cut off the heretic.”[4]

There is a sense in which the separatist movements that appeared represented the church as built by Jesus. While the Catholic Church was assimilating masses of barbarians and presenting a religion of ritual, these movements were more concerned with the gospel. However, they cannot be imagined to be like evangelical or holiness churches of modern times. There had been centuries of apostasy, battles with heresy, and the shroud of ritualism that characterized the visible church. The movements that separated from Rome had some of those doctrinal and religious issues that followed them. Nevertheless, in spite of some of these irregularities there tended to be greater numbers among them whose names were written in the Book of Life of the Lamb than there were in the Roman Church.


The Albigenses


The first notable group that separated from the Roman Church was known as the Albigenses. This movement arose in Southern France in the 11th century. They were part of a movement called the Cathari, which held to strict dualism that material is evil and spiritual is good. They believed that Jesus did not have a real human body because the human body is evil in itself. They were also ascetic and they were vegan in their eating practice.

They made much use of the Scripture in their preaching and proselyting. The Albigenses made the oldest French translation of the Bible. They believed, “There are two churches, they held—one of the wicked and one of the righteous. They themselves constituted the Church of the righteous, outside of which there is no salvation.”[5] In fact, they believed “The Roman Church is the woman of the Apocalypse, a harlot, and the pope anti-Christ.”[6] They also believed the cross was the mark of the beast.

They divided themselves into two classes. The Believers. In the terminology of modern Second Blessing theology, these were people that were only justified and needed to go on to sanctification. The Perfect. Second Blessing theology would call these people saved and sanctified. They went through a ceremony (like a second trip to the altar) where they confessed all their sins of thought, word, work, and vision and placed their faith and hope in God and the experience they were about to receive. The Perfect had a monopoly on salvation. They believed the ritual they went through not only absolved them of all previous sins but also the sins that they might commit in the future.

The Albigenses were exterminated in the 13th century during the Albigensian Crusade.


The Beguines and the Beghards


The Beguines formed themselves along the lower Rhine River. The Beguines were mostly women. They renounced worldly goods and were semi-conventual but without taking vows.

Another similar group was the Beghards which spread to Poland and Switzerland.

These groups were condemned by Clement V in 1312. These groups were accused of many horrible things and finally subjected to the Inquisition in the later part of the 14th century.


The Waldensians


The Waldensians originated in southern France and spread into Piedmont, Austria and Germany.

The group takes its name from Peter Waldo who was a wealthy merchant from Lyons. Around 1170 he was seeking to know God and was counseled by a priest who told him there were many ways to heaven but if he wanted to be perfect he must obey Christ’s teachings, sell everything he had and follow Jesus. He employed a scholar to translate the gospels and other parts of the Scriptures into his language.

Schaff says of the Waldensians, they leaned “upon the Scriptures, sought to revive the simple precepts of the Apostolic age. They were the strictly biblical sect of the Middle Ages. . . .[7] In Austria, they kept their light burning as in a dark place for centuries, had a close historic connection with the Hussites and Bohemian Brethren, and prepared, in some measure, the way for the Anabaptists in the time of the Reformation.”[8] The synod of Verona in 1184 condemned the Waldensians. “Their offence was preaching without the consent of the bishops.”[9]

The Waldensians were not like modern Protestants as they never had a defined doctrine of justification by faith; they followed the practices of the Apostles and the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount.

The Waldensians were caught up in the Church’s crusade against the Albigenses and suffered mercilessly.


The Inquisition


Schaff writes, “The Inquisition was a thoroughly papal institution, wrought out in all its details by the popes of the thirteenth century.”[10] From a Wikipedia article:


The Inquisition was a group of institutions within the government system of the Catholic Church whose aim was to combat public heresy committed by baptized Christians. It started in 12th-century France to combat religious dissent, in particular the Cathars and the Waldensians.


The Church sat in judgment on those it condemned as heretics knowing full well that the sentence of death would follow their excommunication. The state was in full sympathy with the Church and willingly carried out torture and execution on the condemned.

The justification of the Inquisition was based in what the Church said was the example of God himself carrying out the first inquisition, in the garden of Eden, to defeat the subtlety of Satan who otherwise might have communicated with Adam and Eve. Therefore heretics had to be executed so that they would not communicate their heresies to others in the Church.

The most heinous of the Inquisitions was probably the Spanish Inquisition that began on November 1, 1478 and between 3000 to 5000 people were executed.

Two notable martyrs suffered at the hand of the beast of the sea.

John Huss. A Bohemian reformer was considered the first church reformer. He was strongly influenced by John Wycliffe and translated his works into his own language. Huss also wrote against the errors of the Church of Rome. Condemned as a heretic, he was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.

John Wycliffe. Wycliffe preceded Huss. He was an advocate of translating the Bible into the vernacular. Wycliffe translated the Vulgate version of the Bible into Middle English in 1382. Wycliffe died in 1384. He was declared a heretic on May 4, 1415, 31 years after he died. His body was exhumed and his remains burned and thrown into the River Swift in 1428.


Judgment on the Beast of the Sea


Verse 8 shows the fear of the beast that was on the people of the Roman Church. The fear was the result of their not having their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. To them it was be a Catholic or die; they accepted the belief that there is no salvation outside the Church of Rome.

Nevertheless, there were people that had ears to hear the word of God to whatever degree it was discernable to them. All may not have had sound doctrine as we would define sound doctrine but there were multitudes of people that followed Jesus to the best of their knowledge and paid for it with their lives.

Verse 10 is the judgment God placed on the beast of the sea. It took people into the captivity of a false representation of Christianity. It brought fear on people by claiming itself to be the one and only church built by Christ.

The beast literally killed genuine saints of God with the sword of the Inquisition. Worse than this was the setting aside of God’s word—God’s sword—in favor of ritual. In turn, the influence of the beast of the sea was soon to be killed by the sword of God’s word during the Protestant Reformation.

John closes the vision of the beast of the sea by giving God’s people of the time the assurance that God had not forsaken them. It would take generations to defeat this monstrous beast, but he would be defeated by the word of God to which they were holding. Be patient.

Adam Clarke closes his discussion on the beast of the sea with a quotation:


God calls upon his saints to keep in view, under all their persecutions, his retributive justice; there is no violence that has been exercised upon them but what shall be retaliated upon the cruel and persecuting government and governors of the Latin empire.

[1] Schaff;  History of the Christian Church;  Vol V, pg. 461.

[2] Pg. 465.

[3] Pg. 466.

[4] Pg. 467.

[5] Pg. 475.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Pg. 493.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Pg. 496.

[10] Pg. 517.