There are parts of the Bible that read something like a sci-fi horror movie. I remember at the age of 12, reading this description of the beast, rising out of the water in Revelation 13 and how scary it sounded at the time. It turns out this is just one of the monsters in the Bible and, given the time of year, it seems appropriate to reflect on those monsters and the power we give them in our lives. Take the Book of Job, where we hear about Leviathan, a giant sea creature, a fire-breathing serpent who appears in the Psalms as well. “Comets pour out of his mouth, fireworks arc and branch. Smoke erupts from his nostrils like steam from a boiling pot…flames of fire stream from his mouth….king of the ocean, king of the deep,” (Job 41, The Message).
Then there’s the prophet Daniel who had a seriously bad dream one night when he saw a terrible monster with wings and four heads…a grisly horror [with] huge iron teeth. It crunched and swallowed its victims,” (Daniel 7:2-7, The Message). As a childhood fan of Saturday afternoon Japanese “Kaiju” or “strange beast” movies, I was fascinated by these verses.
One of the scariest creatures is in Revelation 9, a kind of atomic superbug: “The locusts looked like horses ready for war. They had gold crowns, human faces, women’s hair, the teeth of lions, and iron breastplates. The sound of their wings was the sound of horse-drawn chariots charging into battle. Their tails were equipped with stings, like scorpion tails!” And John says that they would be bad news for anyone “who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads,” (Rev. 7: 3-11, The Message).
Finally, there is the dragon of Revelation 12 who is thrown out of heaven. John tells us plainly who the dragon is: “that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan; the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (Rev. 7: 7-9, NRSV). On earth, John says that this “dragon” employs the help of other “monsters” that are also described “rising out of the sea …and spoke like a dragon,” (Rev. 13: 1-11, NRSV).
The type of literature in these books is called “apocalyptic,” and typical of these books is the use of dramatic, even horrifying, imagery. But there’s a message in these monsters. Anyone who has seen a horror flick knows that the monsters are often a metaphor or symbol for something else -- the fears we have of the dark, fear of our own capacity for evil, or the fear of death. John is clear that the “monsters” of the Bible also represent Satan himself and the spiritual forces that are at work persecuting God’s people. These are the forces that try to undermine Jesus’ work, not to mention all that is good and worthy of praise. The message of these “monster” books is very simple. It is a message for all who place their trust in Christ in times of hardship and distress and even persecution: In the end, God wins. Review your Bible and you’ll find that God wins, every time. God alone tames Leviathan (Is. 27:1); God alone shields us from the Scorpion sting (Rev. 9:4), and God alone has defeated the Dragon (Rev. 12:9) through the power of his crucified and risen Son (Rev. 21:3-5). In the end, God wins. Therefore, fear not!
As I said, the description of the beast in Revelation 13 intimidated me as a boy, but as I continued reading, this became clear: the beast’s days are numbered. I began to imagine myself at the time, sitting in a theater with 3D glasses, watching Godzilla rise out of the water, and then it occurred to me not only how scary he was, but how silly. After all, I was pretty sure that Godzilla was just a guy stomping around on scale models of Tokyo in a rubber suit. Satan is like that. He is scary, but he is also very silly -- to think that any person, spirit, or power could actually take GOD’S place. I suppose the same could be said of the beast that occasionally rises up in me – the beast that Jesus came to heal and deliver and redeem. Let’s remember the words of John's first epistle, "Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). In the end, God wins. Fear not!