In chapter 17 of the book of Revelation, John explains the mystery of the woman and the beast. That's the extent of the summary I can provide of this passage rich with symbolic imagery. Though the passage is difficult (for me) to understand, I did get its message of hope. There is much evil in this world. It is pervasive, and it is persistent. But its ultimate fate is clear: "As for the beast that was and is not,...it goes to destruction. (v.11)"
For the most part, we are sheltered from severe forms of evil. The war and suicide bombings are half a world away. Murders and burglaries are often committed in inner cities 30 or 40 miles east of our comfortable suburban dwellings. True, sometimes evil does hit home, but for the most part, it isn't our neighborhood or community or family whose name appears on the evening news or on"Dateline."
But the beast (evil; Satan) is here. It watches for opportunities to shift our focus away from God. Our culture, with its heavy emphasis on possessions, appearance, and wealth, makes it quite easy for the beast to worm itself into our minds and hearts. Skillfully, it finds ways to alter our judgment, helping us justify acts of unkindness towards others. Shrewdly, it turns us toward feelings of indifference and complacency, so that we do nothing toward the correction of injustices. Stealthily, it stirs up feelings of self-righteousness, sometimes even as we pray.
I also found the message of hope in verse 14: "They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is the Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful."
Dear Lord, in the ongoing war between good and evil that exists around our individual and collective worlds, may we answer Your call to remain faithful; may we recognize evil in all its forms; may we always stand behind You in battle with prayer. Amen