Revelation 13 & 17
While we met four beasts in the prophecy of Daniel, we meet one beast with seven heads in Revelation 13 and 17. We are told that these seven heads, each of them, represents a kingdom, just as the beasts in the prophecy of Daniel.
… the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. (Rev. 17:9-11)
This passage seems to be a bit confusing, but we are helped by the fact that John lives in the Roman Empire, when he is writing the book of Revelation. So if five kings had fallen by John’s day, then five kingdoms precede it, and one will follow.
We know from the book of Daniel chapter 2, that the three kingdoms preceding Rome, are Greece, Medio-Persia and Babylon. Yet two more are required. If we limit our scope of inquiry to kingdoms of special relevance to Israel, then two additional candidates immediately come to mind: Egypt and Assyria. Since Israel (Jacob) “was born” before the Exodus from Egypt, the five fallen kings represent all fallen kingdoms of significance to Israel from her birth to John’s time, the time of Rome. The most likely candidates are therefore Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medio-Persia, and Greece. All these five kingdoms of the past persecuted and had influence on Israel. The persecutor of Israel during John’s lifetime was the Romans. The angel’s clarifying word to John about the seven heads (Rev. 17:9-11+) spans, in other words, essentially the entire history of Gentile world empires.
In Revelation 17 the beast appearing is a beast with seven heads representing a kingdom each. At the same time, this beast is also a specific kingdom (and person), the eighth king:
The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. (Rev. 17:11)
John says that the beast is not now, meaning that it does not exist as such in the sixth kingdom, the Roman. During this empire the beasts power has been defeated. This is not something John could see with his physical eye or feel on his body as he was imprisoned on Patmos because of his faith in Jesus Christ. However, in God´s revelation to him, he could see and understand that this was the reality. He could see that after Jesus died on the cross, the beast was not, as satan was bound. (Rev. 21). In faith, he could see the fulfilment of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream where the big stone crushed all former kingdoms and how this stone became a different eternal kingdom. A new set of rules was established, stating that wherever the cross of Jesus Christ was given room, there was no place for the beast to remain.
However, the beast, that now is not, is also an eighth king. Again, we are facing the same “logic” we met when dealing with chapter 12, that an “object” has more than one meaning depending on from which angel we are looking. Out from the context this eight king seems to be identified with satan himself as he is the one Revelation 21 emphasizes to be no more as he was bound on the Cross of Christ. At the same time, this king must be some kind of “evil” kingdom, as all other heads of the dragon are kingdoms. Furthermore, we have seen in other passages that there will come a specific king, Antichrist, where satan will be dwelling in a special way.
The fourth beast in Daniel 7 has ten horns, and so does the beast in Revelation 13 and 17. These horns are not necessarily the same, especially due to the fact that the ten horns in Daniel 7 seem to be ten kings succeeding each other, while the ten horns in Revelation 13 and 17 seem to be contemporary as the last beast. This we can see in the following comparison of Daniel 7:24 and Revelation 17:12:
As for the ten horns,
out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
and shall put down three kings.
And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast.
As we can see, Daniel refers to ten kings following each other in the fourth kingdom, which corresponds to the seventh and eighth kingdom in Revelation. This indicates that the fourth kingdom in Daniel may last for quite a long time, which is not the case for the eighth king and kingdom, where its time is short. Here the ten kings seem to rule simultaneously with the beast, and therefore the number ten may symbolize the entire world, as the Bible uses this number to describe what is “perfect” or complete.
Revelation 13 – The Two Beasts
In Revelation chapter 13 we are met by two beasts, one from the sea, and one from the earth. They seem to be closely connected, and in a certain period they will “work” together.
Which of these beasts is the “main beast”? If reading Revelation 13 quickly, the beast from the sea appears to be the one, and therefore many conclude that he is the person Antichrist. However, when reading other passages in the Scripture, also 2. Thessalonians 2:8-9, Antichrist is described as a person performing miracles, characteristics more closely connected with the beast from the earth. As I have written below, there might be opened up for the possibility that both of them somehow qualifies to the title, Antichrist.
The Beast from the Sea
The beast from the sea rises up “having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name” (Rev. 13:1).
The beast that appears for the Apostle looks a lot like the three first beasts in Daniel 7:
Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.” (Rev. 13:2)
In Daniel, the leopard, bear and lion, (according to my opinion)were referred to as Rome, Greece and Medio Persia. However, now their attributes seem to appear as parts of the dreadful last beast (also found in Daniel 7). Is the beast a person or a kingdom? In some translations, as above, the beast is referred to as him. However, other translations says that the dragon (satan) gave his power to the beast, as to it. Both tranlations are correct, altough the latter opens more up for the reality that the beast form the sea is both a person and a kingdom.
Biblically speaking, this is not a unique concept. This also occurs in the book of Daniel when Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that he is the head of gold, although the head of gold is stated as representing the kingdom of Babylon.
You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all — you are this head of gold. (Daniel 2:37-38)
Much confusion, and many translations of the Bible, arises from our limited ability to understand and describe one object from more than one angel and in several dimensions. Many times, we want to press the book of revelation and its truth into something concrete we can relate to and be comfortable with in our own reality. Nevertheless, taking what John writes seriously, does not give us too much rest on this account. Time after time he pulls us around in the reality he saw, describing satan as both dragon and serpent in chapter 12, and also here in chapter 13 we must be careful to “one-dimensionally” conclude that the beast from the sea is a person only.
Therefore, when John sees one of the beasts’ heads wounded, it might be the kingdom of the beast from the sea he sees, and not the beast himself:
One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” (Rev. 13:3-4)
In case this is correct, we will see (or have seen) a kingdom that for a period of time will be “mortally wounded”, but arises to become the most powerful empire on earth.
However, there are also statements in these verses that give us reasons to believe that the beast wounded, is rather a person than a kingdom. Out from the context, it seems to be a kingdom, but later in the chapter we are faced by the fact that the image of the beast that was wounded, will speak. How can this not be a person? We will look into this below.
The Beast from the Sea’s Ministry
Revelation 13:5-10 is a passage describing the ministry of the beast from the sea:
And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 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. (Rev. 13:5-10)
The beast from the sea blasphemes, and he is given authority (by God) to continue for a specific period of 42 months. The word used for blaspheming in Greek (βλασφημία), is not only a word covering to mock God as we normally use his word, but is of a more general character. The literal meaning is to be slow and sluggish to call something good – that really is good – and to be slow to identify what is truly bad as evil. This characteristic of the beast is following him in two phases; first, his blasphemy and lies are of a more general character, later he will open his mouth against God and the Church (Gods tabernacle) and the Christians, those who dwell in heaven. Moreover, he will overcome them (Rev. 13:7) as they deny worshiping him.
The text also emphasizes that the world will follow the beast and worship the dragon (satan) saying, Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him? There will in other words be a strong connection of the satanic awakening among the people in the world and the marveling of the beast, both person and empire. The only group not influenced by this awakening are those whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. John, the Apostle, reminds us of the fact that the patience and the faith of the saints is closely connected with the relation to the Lamb that was slain, the blood of Jesus Christ. Only him we can endure in this fight, only in his strength and power we can overcome the attacks from the devil.
Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:11-12)
The Beast from the Earth
Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. (Rev. 13:11-12)
The beast from the earth is given the same authority as the beast from the sea, meaning that he will have the same influence in the kingdom of the first beast. This beast causes the earth to worship the first beast from the sea. By emphasizing that this beast is the one who’s deadly wound was healed, we may understand that he causes the earth to worship the empire of the beast, more than the beast from the sea as a person.
The beast from the earth have some extraordinary “gifts” the beast from the sea does not have, as we read in the continuation:
He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
The beast from the earth seems to be a more charismatic person than the first beast. He has two horns like a lamb, but speaks like a dragon. He will also give breath to the image of the beast (who was wounded by the sword and lived) so it can speak, and this image will cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
Again we are facing the tricky distinction between the beast as a kingdom and a person:
- Can a kingdom speak? No.
- Is the beast wounded, a kingdom? Probably.
- Will the image of the first beast need breath to speak when it is a living person? Probably not.
- How can an image of the first beast cause someone to be killed?
To me the reality described causes more confusion, than any other verse (Rev 13:15) I know of in the Book of Revelation – quoted again:
He (the beast from earth) was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.
To me it is almost impossible to guess what this means before it happens. Especially it is hard to understand what this image is. As we know it is not at technical issue to broadcast contents to screens slim as paper, and also control the reaction on the other side (as we also can read in George Orwell’s famous bestseller “1984”). But still, an image that causes to kill, could also be something else than a person, more like a system, robot or a computer systematically mirroring the first beast (kingdom/person or satan himself)
The beast from the earth will apparently be different from the kings before him, but like the beast from the sea, he will blaspheme against the Lord, The Most High. He will also continue the persecution against the Christians (the Saints), as they, also this time, will be given in his hand.
One final remark regarding this beast: “He was granted power…” This is important to remember – that also God in heaven gives this beast authority. It has no authority in himself, but is used by God, even though it sounds strange, to fulfil his plans.
The number 666
Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666. (Rev. 13:18)
This last verse of Revelation chapter 13, is one of the most debated verses in the entire Book of Revelation because of widespread disagreement over the identification and meaning of the number 666. Are we here talking about one specific, historical person? Most bible translations indicates this to be the answer, referring to the beast from the sea as the person to look for. However, when diving into the details of this verse we will find the main person, a man, in Greek (Anthropos), appears without an article in the original text. In this context it is interesting that the word man is often generic when it occurs as above stated, having several meanings as man, mankind, a group of people or the human race (as seen in Revelation 21:17, where the “measurement of a man” – the literal Greek phrase – means a “human measurement”). In addition, the continuation – “His number”, is not the only correct translation as it also can be translated “their number” (autos arithmos). Following this way of thinking, we may move a little bit away from the most common understanding of most Bible translations, from looking for a specific person, and to look for “the total” of Revelation 13, where we apparently have met 2 persons (beast from sea and earth) and also a kingdom. In my opinion, this is the direction to look in order to identify the “evil humanity” behind the number 666.
Many attempts have been made to calculate the number of the beast by adding the Hebrew or Greek value for letters (Gematria) of a person or a specific organization. I think it is important to be careful in this context, although this verse opens a door for those who want to calculate – Let him….