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Written by Ángel Manuel Rodríguez
Please, explain the phrase “I saw another beast, coming out of the earth” (Rev. 13:11, NIV). I’m not convinced that the “earth” refers here to nonpopulated land.
The interpretation of symbolic language must be done as carefully and as free from personal ideas and speculation as possible. Neither human imagination nor personal feelings are the safest guides in determining the meaning of such language. The images and language used in Revelation bear meaning that is encoded, and a key is necessary to unlock them. In some cases John is informed about the meaning of a particular symbol, and that helps us to understand the message (e.g., Rev. 1:20).
In most cases symbols are not explained, and it is our task to try to understand their meaning. Many exegetes have concluded that the language and imagery used in Revelation are rooted in the Old Testament. So in order to understand them better we have to take that fact into consideration. Studies made on the language of the book confirm that conclusion.
This means that the parameters used in interpreting Revelation are provided by the Scriptures themselves. This requires painstaking study, prayer, and time. The use of a concordance is indispensable, and in some cases the use of a good Bible dictionary may be productive. If, after doing the required Bible study, we are still not able to find a biblical meaning for the symbol, it’s better to leave a symbol unexplained than to inject the text with our own speculation.
Adventists have traditionally taken the symbol of “earth” in Revelation 13:11 to designate a sparsely settled region. Since the Bible uses it in that sense, this interpretation is a good one or at least a possible one (see Jer. 2:6; Prov. 21:19).
This interpretation is also based on the fact that in Revelation 13:1 there is a beast coming out of the sea. Since the sea is a symbol of peoples and nations (Rev. 17:1, 2), earth could be a symbol of an underpopulated area. But this approach could be abused and result in wild interpretation of symbols. would rather look not just to a particular word, but to the imagery being used. John sees a beast coming out of the earth/ground. The imagery is from the field of agriculture. The verb “to come out” (anabaino) is used in the New Testament to describe a plant “growing up” from the earth or ground (Mark 4:7, 8; Matt. 13:7). This symbolism is strange, even bizarre. Is John describing for us a beast that grows out of the ground like a plant? If that is the case, is there any other biblical passage where we find a similar idea? Remember, before we try to explain the meaning of the symbol, we must find a biblical parallel.
Believe it or not, there is a biblical parallel found in Genesis 1:24: “And God said, ‘Let the land [earth, ground] produce [come out, bring forth] living creatures’ ” (NIV). The Hebrew verb used here is also employed to describe a plant growing out of the ground (Job 38:27). The “living creatures” are identified in Genesis 1:25 as different kinds of animals or beasts, including “wild animals.” The Greek version of the Old Testament renders “wild animals” as “beasts of the earth,” the same Greek phrase that we find in Revelation 13:10.
Here in Genesis 1:24, 25 we find terminological parallels as well as the same imagery used by John: beasts coming out of the ground like plants.
What is John trying to tell us through this imagery? In order to answer the question, we have to go back to Genesis. Moses is delineating the way God brought into existence the animals. God spoke, and the beasts came out of the ground/earth—into an environment virtually uninhabited.
In Revelation John is also describing a political power that has its origins in a largely uninhabited place—like the beasts of Creation week. John sees this power corrupting itself, speaking like a dragon, and fighting against its Creator. This is a simple case of apostasy that has its roots in the Old Testament and corresponds exactly with the prophecy of Revelation 13:11.