In chapter 13 we are introduced to two more revolting creatures to whom Satan uses to continue his war against believers. They are beasts and they emerge from the waters and the earth respectively. The first beast is a dreadful seven headed beast and the second a little less gruesome in appearance, but still powerful and having the ability to deceive humanity with his miracle working power. The dragon from chapter 12, and the two beasts of chapter 13 make up an unholy trinity of Satanic wickedness.
As the dragon from chapter 12 becomes furious with the escape of the offspring of the woman (the Church/believers) he stands on the sands of the shore he calls upon his dreadful legions to help destroy her offspring.
Revelation 13: 1 – 10
Vs 1 - 2: The creature who emerges from the waters has ten horns, seven heads, ten crowns on the horns, and blasphemous names on its head. This beast had similarities to the four beasts of Daniel 7:3 - 8 that emerge from the sea. Now, the ancient world would commonly associate the sea with evil, and the final enemy of God’s people to emerge from this evil is entirely appropriate.
Ten horns: These represent 10 kings who wear crowns. The crowns being placed on their horns instead of their heads so, this would suggest that his claims to authority rests on brutal force.
Seven heads: The seven heads shows that there is a relationship between the dragon of chapter 12 and the beast of ch. 13. In fact, it would suggest that the beast gets his power from the dragon (Satan). We know the number seven represents completeness; thus a seven headed beast would be symbolic of for the ultimate or complete enemy of the church.
So, who is the beast? Since he gets his power from Satan, blasphemes the name of God, makes war against the saints, and is worshiped by the pagan world, it would suggest that the beast is the Roman Empire who persecutes the church. Yet, it is also believed to be more than the Roman Empire… it is suggested that the beast could and does also represent the deification of secular authority or government.
Vs 2: The beast had the appearance of a leopard, feet like a bear, mouth like a lion, and this most likely symbolizes a final empire (since the beasts of Daniel represent four kingdoms) that will be more dreadful than any other. Yet, it is not an empire that is powered on its own, it is an empire that is powered by Satan.
Verse 3: One of the heads of the beast was wounded, we are not told how the wound was received, but that is not important… what is important is that it appeared to be mortal, and it was healed. Many writers who attribute the beast as the Roman Empire say that the beast represents Nero. Nero was so evil that when he did die, people refused to believe his death was final. Many expected him to rise again and appear in a resurrected form. Others believe that this goes to show the buoyance of the beast. The secular authority seems to be wounded but returns with increased strength.
Vs 4: The inhabitants worship the beast and the dragon. Deification of secular power is in fact worship of Satan. The people worship the beast because of the authority he wields and that authority is Satan himself. The motivation behind the worship is the mere power of his influence.
Vs 5 - 6: In verses 5 to 7 the statements “was given” or “was allowed” is mentioned four times. This shows that not only the beast subservient to the dragon (Satan) but to John’s readers, they would know that he speaks of God as the ultimate source of power. The reign of the beast is only because God allows it to happen. He operates within the limits that are set by God. He is allowed to have authority for forty-two months. This is the traditional period for religious persecution. It is during this forty-two month that the beast aggressively carries out the will of the dragon.
Vs 7 - 8: The beast exercises his authority by waging war on the saints and by demanding universal worship, it extends to every tribe, people, language, and nation. Everyone on the earth with worship the beast with the exception of those whose names are written in the book of Life. The saints will be persecuted and killed (overcome) by the beast, but the real victory belongs to them.
Vs 11, 12: The second creature comes out of the earth. This beasts job and purpose is to promote and glorify the Antichrist. He is a deceiver. His two horns like a lamb represents or gives the appearance of being harmless and gentle. He accomplishes his purpose by using his power to work miracles. In John’s time a reference to this beast would probably suggest a local priest of the imperial cult or the provincial council of Asia Minor who enforced emperor worship. In the final days of Antichrist, the false prophet stands for the role of false religion and forcing the people to yield to the worship of this secular power.
Vs 13: We are warned throughout the Bible about false prophets who will attempt to (and succeed) lead people astray and worship other gods through signs and wonders. This second beast deceives people into worshiping the Antichrist by imitating the miracles of true prophets of old.
Vs 14 – 15: This beast is only able to deceive unbelievers. Why? Because if one is truly a believer in Jesus and serves God with all his heart, He will not be tricked by the miracles of the one who deceives.
The second beast then instructs his followers to “make an image of the beast” or Antichrist. He was given the power to give life to this image so that it could speak. The grammar of the verse insinuates that the statue not only speaks but it also approved the death sentence upon everyone who would not worship it or it could mean that the second beast was the one who instituted the death penalty on the all who refused to worship.
Vs 16 - 17: In order to identify all who worship the first beast all are required to get a mark on their right hand or forehead. There are no exceptions. Religious tattooing was common in the ancient world, and followers of a particular god were often marked to show their steadfast loyalty. This is a mockery of the sealing of God’s elect in chapter 7. The elect are sealed to escape God’s judgment, and now the followers of Antichrist are sealed to escape his wrath against the church. This loyalty to Antichrist will certainly clearly determine the line between God’s people and Satan’s.
The mark not only shows loyalty to the Beast, but it also enables the recipient of the mark to buy and sell on a daily basis. Those without the mark cannot get the necessities for daily living.
Vs 18: The Apostle John now provides a way for the intelligent reader to determine or compute
the beast’s number. He does not give much indication other that the fact that is the number of man and that number is 666, and interestingly some texts translate it as 616. It is believed that the number is specific to one certain historical person. Throughout history there have been multiple guesses as to who this person is or will be. Some take the number to be more as a symbol than a code. 666 is the number that falls short of perfection in each of its digits. I agree with theologian Robert Mounce who writes,” it seems best to conclude that John intended only his intimate associates to be able to decipher the number. So successful were his precautions that even Irenaeus some one hundred years later was unable to identify the person intended. An additional 1,800 years of conjecture have not brought us any closer to a definitive answer.”
Thus, we see the stage is set for the final encounter. This is a place of tension because for the believer we are living in the already, but not yet. This simply means that Jesus was victorious on the cross, thus giving us victory, but the end has not come so evil will persist until that final battle between God and Satan.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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