If the two beasts – the two forces and institutions that Satan employs to carry out his campaign against “those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” – are organized violence (the sea beast) and organized deception (the land beast), John warns his readers not to fight fire with fire – not to respond to violence with violence and not to respond to deception with more deception. Rather, the Christian is to respond to this onslaught of organized violence with endurance and faith:
“Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.”
Revelation 13: 10
And to the bombardment of organized deceit with discernment:
18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man.[e] That number is 666.
Revelation 13: 18
Here is Eugene Peterson:
How do we protect ourselves from organized deceit? St. John is blunt; use your heads. Figure out what is going on. Most of the conspicuous religion that is in vogue at any one time in the country derives from the land beast. Expose these religious pretensions.
Reversed Thunder, Harper Collins, 1991, at page 126.
In the weeks ahead, let’s meditate on what, exactly, these strategies are. We’ll start with the idea of endurance. What, exactly, does John have in mind here? What does he mean by “endurance?” We’ll consider these questions:
What is the Christian called to endure?
How does the Christian endure?
How long must the Christian endure?
Why does the Christian endure?