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Bible: What Does Revelation 13 Teach Us About the Two "Beasts"?

Updated on September 15, 2016

The Red Dragon

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Revelation 13: The Beast Out of the Sea and the Beast Out of the Earth

The Dragon and the First Beast

While the dragon stands on a certain shore, John observes arising from the "sea" a seven-headed, ten-horned beast that is wearing an unspecified blasphemous name on its heads and crowns on its horns (v. 1).

[The NU has the third-person pronoun “he”; therefore, it understands that the dragon, not John, was standing on the shore, and presumably watching the revived Roman empire and its leader coming out of the sea.

The apostle referred earlier to Satan, the red dragon, having the same number of heads and horns.

However, in that context the dragon’s heads, not its horns, wore crowns (12:3).

According to 17:9, the seven heads represent seven “mountains” or kingdoms over which the woman (perhaps an apostate religious organization) rules.

The interpreting angel adds that these heads are historical kings (17:10).

However, he also reports that the ten horns are ten kings; therefore, both the heads and the horns represent kings.

The former point to past rulers, while the latter signify rulers contemporaneous with the prince of the revived Roman Empire.]

Characteristics of First Beast

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Satan Gives First Beast Global Governance

Satan gives this Roman beast (whose personality unites the characteristics of historical kings/kingdoms—the swiftness of the leopard refers to the rapidity with which Alexander the Great and his Greek empire conquered the known world; the stability of the bear points to the Medo-Persian empire; and the ferocity of the lion indicates the ruthless cruelty of the Roman empire--) his strength, sovereignty, and authority to rule over the nations (v. 2).

[John so identifies the ruler with his realm that he speaks of them as a unit.]

The Revived Roman Empire

The apostle reports that a miraculous healing of a deadly wound to one of the beast’s heads causes the entire world to acclaim him (v. 3).

[Since a “head” refers to a kingdom, not to a person’s literal head, this wounding may not point to a physical healing of Antichrist.

So understood, one may conclude that God permits Satan to “revive” the old Roman Empire (one of the seven ancient kingdoms) from its “wound”—the ravages of history—and bring it back into world prominence. However, see the note in 13:12.]

Persecution of Believers

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The World Worships the First Beast

The world’s united voice indicates that it recognizes this head (the Antichrist, even the king of the revived empire) as Satan’s surrogate, and therefore grant him the same worship supposedly due to the dragon; the citizens see the beast as incomparable and all-powerful (v. 4).

The Lord permits the beast to boast of his greatness and of God’s supposed ineptness (“blasphemies” denigrate God), as well as to wage war and continue as absolute world dictator for “forty-two months” (the last three and one-half years of the seventieth week of Daniel; the Great Tribulation) [v. 5].

The Book of Life

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"The Book of Life of the Lamb"

The First Beast Persecutes Believers

Granted this freedom to "bloviate," the Roman Antichrist proceeds to speak evil against God’s Person and the Church (“His tabernacle, even those who dwell in heaven”) [v. 6] (underscoring mine).

[Christ “tabernacled” among believers while on earth (cf. John 1:14); now they dwell with Him and He with them in Glory.]

God also allows the Antichrist to persecute believers to death and to exercise dictatorial control over “every tribe, tongue, and nation” (v. 7).

Every “earthdweller”—see technical term (for example, in 11:10)—worships him; in eternity past, God did not have their names inscribed in “the Book of Life of the Lamb” (v. 8).

The apostle calls upon everyone who can hear his words to listen to them and to heed their message (v. 9).

God will punish wrongdoers with captivity and death; knowledge of this outcome will enable believers to persevere during this time of persecution (v. 10).

The Number of the Beast

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666

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The Second Beast: The False Prophet

Next, John sees a second beast which outwardly appears meek and harmless like Christ (“a lamb”), but which speaks deceitfully like Satan (“a dragon”) [v. 11].

This beast has the freedom to wield the Antichrist’s authority while acting as the latter’s right-hand man, forcing “the earth and those who dwell in it” to worship him (v. 12).

[Here John writes that the Antichrist himself, not the empire, has been healed of a deadly wound, again showing the near identity of the two.]

The beast from the earth performs miracles by which he deceives “those who dwell on the earth,” and commands them to build an image to the beast (vv. 13-14).

[Again, John notes that someone wounded the first beast “by the sword” but that the beast survived this attack.]

This image—a statue?—the second beast brings to life (“give breath”), enabling it to command verbally the execution of non-worshipers (v. 15).

[The text reads that the speaking image orders executions, not the second beast.]

Economic Dictatorship

He also forces every individual, regardless of social or financial status, to take a mark “on their right hand or on their foreheads” (v. 16).

Possessing this “indicator” permits people to carry on economic activity; those who do not have “the mark, the name of the beast, or the number of his name” cannot engage in any legal financial transactions (v. 17).

John provides a message to those who have wisdom; they should calculate the beast’s number, the number of a man: 666 (v. 18).

[Speculation abounds as to what this cryptic number means; perhaps the Universal Product Code (UPC) is a precursor of it.]

© 2013 glynch1

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