A. Summary of Past Lessons
- The Two Witnesses (Rev 11:1-14)
- The Seventh Trumpet Reveals the Third Terror (Rev 11:15-19)
- The Woman, Dragon, and Son (Rev 12:1-6)
- Michael vs. Dragon (Rev 12:7-12)
- The Dragon and His Pursuit (Rev 12:13-18)
B. Text of Rev 13:1-10
1Then I saw a beast rising up out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads. On its ten horns were ten crowns and on its heads was a blasphemous name. 2The beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like a bear, his mouth was like the mouth of a lion. Then the dragon gave the beast his power, seat, and great authority. 3One of its heads was slaughtered unto death, but the wound of death was healed. The whole earth was amazed after this happened to the beast. 4They worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they worshipped the beast saying: Who is like the beast and who has power to wage war against him? 5The beast was given proud words and blasphemies. Authority was given to him to work for forty-two months. 6He opened his mouth for blasphemies against God, to blasphemy God’s name and tent, namely those who dwell in heaven. 7The beast was given authority to make war against the saints and to overcome them. He was given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. 8Everyone who lives on the earth will worship the beast. These are the people whose names were not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, which is where the Lamb was slaughtered.
9If anyone has an ear: listen!
10If anyone is on his way to captivity, to captivity he will go.
If anyone is to be killed by the sword, in the sword he will be killed.
On this occasion there is patience and faith from the saints. (Rev 13:1-10) 1
Photo Credit: Bamberg Apocalypse
C. General Remarks about Rev 13:1-10
“Revelation 13:1-10 predicates a future world government that from God’s point of view will be a continuation of the ancient Roman Empire, expanded to cover not only the area of the ancient empire, but the entire world. This government will be empowered by Satan, and its primary objective will be forcing the whole world to worship Satan and his human representative, the world dictator.” (Walvoord, Revelation, 210-211)
“The evil trinity. This trio is made up of Satan, the first beast (the Antichrist), and the second beast (a false prophet), and is a counterfeit of God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Satan is the key figure here. He empowers the other two (who are apparently human beings) to deceive and coerce the world into a willing worship of Satan. This is a trinity dedicated to destruction, not redemption. They do not serve men, but instead demand that men serve them. They do not die for humanity, but rather take lives when people will not obey their unholy commands.” (Larry Richards and Lawrence O. Richards, The Teacher’s Commentary, 1083)
“Some estimate that, since the days of Adam, approximately one hundred billion human beings have been born. Over seven billion are alive today. However, the greatest human, apart from Jesus Himself, has yet to make his appearance upon our plant. The Bible predicts this satanic superman will splash onto the world scene and rule the world for the final 3 ½ years before the return of Christ. He plays a central role in the events of end times prophecy. More than one hundred passages of Scripture describe the origin, nationality, character, career, conquest, and doom of the final world ruler known as the Antichrist. Clearly God wants His people to know something about the coming price of darkness.” (Hitchcock, The End, 253)
II. THE BEAST OUT OF THE SEA (13:1-2)
A. The Head of the Beast of the Sea (v. 1)
Καὶ εἶδον ἐκ τῆς θαλάσσης θηρίον ἀναβαῖνον, ἔχον κέρατα δέκα καὶ κεφαλὰς ἑπτὰ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν κεράτων αὐτοῦ δέκα διαδήματα καὶ ἐπὶ τὰς κεφαλὰς αὐτοῦ ὀνόμα[τα] βλασφημίας.
Then I saw a beast rising up out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads. On its ten horns were ten crowns and on its heads was a blasphemous name. (Rev 13:1)
1. Symbolic or Literal Sea?
This “sea” can be confusing. Here are the various views.
Gentiles. One view says that this “sea” is a symbol for the great mass of humanity, meaning Gentiles (Walvoord, Revelation, 204). While this is supported from a similar use in Rev 17:15 and *Dan 7:2-3, it causes uncertainty for the meaning of “sands” of the sea which the dragon stands on in Rev 12:18. Furthermore, there is no corresponding meaning for the beast out of the earth.
- Mediterranean Sea. Another view is that this is the sea of the Mediterranean Sea (Walvoord, Revelation, 204). Walvoord takes the view that this beast rises up out of the Mediterranean Sea but is also a Gentile, therefore the image is both.
- Rebellious Realm. Another view is that the sea is the “realm of rebellion” (Mulholland, Revelation (2011), 518.
- Actual Sea. Another view is that the beast ascends out of an actual sea. This is in line with the Bible’s revelation that the sea is the source of satanic sea monsters (Job 26:12-13; Pss 74:13-14; 87:4; 89:9-10; Isa 27:1; 51:9-10). In the New Testament Paul equates the sea with the abyss in Rom 10:7 (a citation of Deut 30:13).
I don’t know if we need to pick a specific view because all describe a future wicked world leader.
2. Ten Horns and Seven Heads
The description of ten horns and seven heads shows the close connection between this beast and the Dragon (Satan) of Rev 12:3 yet also shows that they are separate (Osborne, Revelation, 490). In my opinion, the beast has seven heads and ten horns just like the dragon (Rev 12:3). This shows that Satan (who is identified as the dragon) has transferred his authority to the beast of the sea. Here are a few options for interpreting the beast’s ten horns and seven heads.
- Literal Kings and Worldly Empires. I follow the view that the ten horns likely represent ten kings, supported by Dan 7:24-5 and the seven heads likely represent seven world empires (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 154).
- Seven Hills: Seven heads refer to the seven hills of Rome (Wiersbe, Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2, 604). Ten horns represent ten kingdoms and therefore a revived Roman Empire (Wiersbe, Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2, 604)
- Remnants. Seven heads and ten horns refer to the remnants of the confederacy which formed the Roman Empire in the beginning. Three of the ten nations were overthrown by the little horn of Dan 7:8.
- Symbolic. However, those that see these numbers as symbols and not literal means the numbers seven and ten represent totality, completeness, and wholeness (Mulholland, Revelation , 518).
3. Ten Crowns with Blasphemous Names
This blasphemy is further described in Rev 13:5-6. These people did things and said things that were dishonoring to God. Specifically, these are the divine titles that Roman rulers often used to describe themselves or have other people say or do toward the ruler.
4. Brief Word Study of “Crowns” in the New Testament
There are two Greek words for “crowns” used in the New Testament. The first is στέφανος which is used in Rev 4:4; 14:14 and often marked a victory. The Greek word used here is διάδημα which was a mark of kingly rank and authority (Rev 19:12). Here, the crowns symbolize governmental authority (Walvoord, Revelation, 204).
5. Blasphemous Name
This last phrase of this verse is difficult to translate. It could be translated, “on its heads was a blasphemous name,” or “on its head were the names of the blasphemous,” or “on each head were the names that blasphemed God” (NLT), or “on his heads were blasphemous names” (NASB).
In this phrase, it might be a single name on seven heads. Or, it could be seven names on seven heads. it is not clear. See Comfort, Commentary on Text of the NT, 410; Metzger, Textual Commentary on the NT, 673; Matthewson, Revelation, 169; NET translation notes.
B. The Power of the Beast of the Sea (v. 2)
καὶ τὸ θηρίον ὃ εἶδον ἦν ὅμοιον παρδάλει καὶ οἱ πόδες αὐτοῦ ὡς ἄρκου καὶ τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ ὡς στόμα λέοντος. καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ ὁ δράκων τὴν δύναμιν αὐτοῦ καὶ τὸν θρόνον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐξουσίαν μεγάλην.
The beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like a bear, his mouth was like the mouth of a lion. Then the dragon gave the beast his power, seat, and great authority. (Rev 13:2)
1. Like a Leopard
This is Greece (*Dan 7:6) (Walvoord, “Revelation” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, vol. 2, 960; Walvoord, Revelation, 205).
2. Feet Like a Bear
This is Medo-Persia (*Dan 7:5) (Walvoord, “Revelation” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, vol. 2, 960; Walvoord, Revelation, 205).
3. Mouth Like the Mouth of a Lion
This is Babylon (*Dan 7:4) (Walvoord, “Revelation” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, vol. 2, 960; Walvoord, Revelation, 205).
4. A Combination of Each Animal
Revelation 13:2 portrays this beast of the sea as having all of the characteristics and elements of the first three animals because the beast of the sea is more dreadful in its power and authority and blasphemy than the previous empires (Walvoord, Revelation, 205). In Osborne’s words, John’s “purpose is to present a beast that is incredibly hideous and completely horrifying, for it is the embodiment of all that is evil” (Osborne, Revelation, 492).
5. The Dragon’s Gift
Revelation 13:2 makes it clear that the source of the beast’s authority stems from the dragon, even though it is primarily God who “gives” in the book of Revelation (Rev 6:2, 4, 8, 11; 7:2; 8:2, 3; 9:1, 3, 5; 11:1, 2; 12:14; 13:5, 7, 14, 15; 16:8; 19:8; 20:4). In this verse Christians are reminded that “the ultimate powers prefer not to show themselves, but to act through others. They choose secondary or tertiary intermediaries; they give them some of their power; they back them up where necessary” (N.T. Wright, Revelation for Everyone, 115.
III. THE BEAST HEALED AND WORSHIPPED (13:3-4)
A. Worldwide Amazement of the Healing of the Beast (v. 3)
καὶ μίαν ἐκ τῶν κεφαλῶν αὐτοῦ ὡς ἐσφαγμένην εἰς θάνατον, καὶ ἡ πληγὴ τοῦ θανάτου αὐτοῦ ἐθεραπεύθη. Καὶ ἐθαυμάσθη ὅλη ἡ γῆ ὀπίσω τοῦ θηρίου
One of its heads was slaughtered unto death, but the wound of death was healed. The whole earth was amazed after this happened to the beast. (Rev 13:3)
1. Head Slaughtered and Wound Healed
Some scholars have tried to see this activity and tie it to Nero. That view is incorrect because the book of Revelation was written in AD 95 and Nero died in AD 68. Another view is that this wound and healing is connected to the convulsions of the Roman Empire in AD 69. Yet, that view is also incorrect because the book of Revelation was written in AD 95.
The correct view is that this will be an end-time Gentile ruler who is empowered by Satan to rule a Gentile kingdom (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 158-159). Most likely, this will be the revived Roman Empire (Walvoord, Revelation, 206).
This is an imitation of Christ which was described in “I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered” (Rev 5:6) and here, “One of its heads was slaughtered” (Rev 13:3). The same Greek word, ἐσφαγμένην, is used in both Rev 5:6 and Rev 13:3.
2. All the Earth Marveled at the Healing
This is Satan’s attempt to counterfeit Jesus’s death and resurrection. I find Thomas’ comments helpful here, “Whether the beast performs this marvelous feat through deception or through power permitted by God, it still brings him into limelight as never before” (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 159). Crowds were often “amazed” (the same Greek word) at Jesus’s miracles (Matt 8:27; 9:33; 15:31; Mark 5:20).
B. Worldwide Worship of the Power of the Beast (v. 4)
καὶ προσεκύνησαν τῷ δράκοντι, ὅτι ἔδωκεν τὴν ἐξουσίαν τῷ θηρίῳ, καὶ προσεκύνησαν τῷ θηρίῳ λέγοντες· τίς ὅμοιος τῷ θηρίῳ καὶ τίς δύναται πολεμῆσαι μετʼ αὐτοῦ;
They worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they worshipped the beast saying: Who is like the beast and who has power to wage war against him? (Rev 13:4)
Dan Wallace’s lengthy discussion about the Greek word, προσκυνεω, seems helpful here. This verb takes a dative direct object and is used to express the case of personal interest and therefore personal relation. For example, the dative case is used when true “deity” is the object of worship (Matt 14:33; 28:9; John 4:21; 1 Cor 14:25; Heb 1:6; Rev 4:10; 7:11; 11:16; 19:10). Here the dragon is in the dative case as a sign that these people really did think that they were worshipping the true God. See Wallace, Greek Grammar, 172 for more details.
IV. THE WORK OF THE BEAST (13:5-8)
A. The Length of the Beast’s Work (v. 5)
Καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ στόμα λαλοῦν μεγάλα καὶ βλασφημίας καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ ἐξουσία ποιῆσαι μῆνας τεσσεράκοντα [καὶ] δύο
The beast was given proud words and blasphemies. Authority was given to him to work for forty-two months. (Rev 13:5)
1. Who Gave the Beast Permission to Blasphemy?
Some say the dragon gives the beast power and authority to blasphemy God. But, the better interpretation is that God gives this beast permission to blasphemy God (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 159-160; Osborne, Revelation, 498) because God also provides similar authority throughout the book (Rev 6:2, 4, 8, 11; 7:2; 8:2, 3; 9:1, 3, 5; 11:1, 2; 12:14). According to Osborne, “Neither Satan nor the beast can do a single thing without permission from God” (Osborne, Revelation, 498).
2. Authority for Forty-Two Months
Again, we see the “forty-two months” time period in the book of Revelation. Walvoord says that this world ruler will likely come into power before the beginning of the seven-year tribulation period of Dan 9:27 (Walvoord, Revelation, 207). This “forty-two months” is the last half of the seven years of tribulation when the beast turns his anger toward the people of Israel and Christian believers (Walvoord, Revelation, 208).
B. Who the Beast Blasphemies (v. 6)
καὶ ἤνοιξεν τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ εἰς βλασφημίας πρὸς τὸν θεὸν βλασφημῆσαι τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν σκηνὴν αὐτοῦ, τοὺς ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ σκηνοῦντας.
He opened his mouth for blasphemies against God, to blasphemy God’s name and tent, namely those who dwell in heaven. (Rev 13:6)
1. Blasphemy against God’s Name
“As Satan’s mouthpiece, he utters the ultimate in unbelief and disrespect for God as he magnifies himself above all, claiming to be the sovereign” (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 162). These are slanderous words against God.
2. Blasphemy against God’s Tent in Heaven
Combining this brief phrase with Rev 12:7-9, 12 makes me conclude that Rev 13:6 refers to God and his angels in heaven. There was a rebellion in which Satan fell from grace and took other angels with him (Isa 14; Ezek 28). Now, God and his angels stand in their dwelling place in heaven in opposition to Satan and his minions.
C. Who the Beast Wages War Against (v. 7)
καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ ποιῆσαι πόλεμον μετὰ τῶν ἁγίων καὶ νικῆσαι αὐτούς, καὶ ἐδόθη αὐτῷ ἐξουσία ἐπὶ πᾶσαν φυλὴν καὶ λαὸν καὶ γλῶσσαν καὶ ἔθνος.
The beast was given authority to make war against the saints and to overcome them. He was given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. (Rev 13:7)
1. Authority to Make War and Win
Sadly, many Jews and Gentiles who believe in Christ will die as martyrs during this time. Some believers might not die despite what the beast tries to do.
2. Authority over all Peoples
This is a fulfillment of the fourth beast in Daniel, “This horn was waging war against God’s holy people and was defeating them” (*Dan 7:21, NLT). “This fourth beast is the fourth world power that will rule the earth. It will be different from all the others. It will devour the whole world, trampling and crushing everything in its path” (*Dan 7:23, NLT).
This interpretation is supported by The Epistle of Barnabas 4.4-5, “4And the prophet also speaketh on this wise; Ten reigns shall reign upon the earth, and after them shall arise a little king, who shall bring low three of the kings under one. 5In like manner Daniel speaketh concerning the same; And I saw the fourth beast to be wicked and strong and more intractable than all the beasts of the earth, and how there arose from him ten horns, and from these a little horn an excrescence, and how that it abased under one three of the great horns” (Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers [London: Macmillan and Co., 1891], 271).
This is a worldwide authority that every secular leader dreams of. In recent times, Hitler was that secular ruler that wanted to control the world. He never did. But, this future beast will have authority over the entire world.
D. Who Worships the Beast (v. 8)
καὶ προσκυνήσουσιν αὐτὸν πάντες οἱ κατοικοῦντες ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, οὗ οὐ γέγραπται τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τῆς ζωῆς τοῦ ἀρνίου τοῦ ἐσφαγμένου ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου.
Everyone who lives on the earth will worship the beast. These are the people whose names were not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, which is where the Lamb was slaughtered. (Rev 13:8)
1. Those Who Live on the Earth
Same as “earth dwellers” in Rev 3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 12, 14; 17:8.
2. Those Not in the Book of Life
In my opinion, the Book of Life is a book that contains the names of all those who have been chosen by God for salvation (Eph 1:4-5, 11; 1 Peter 1:18-20). Walvoord explains, “the names of those who would be saved were written in the book of life from eternity past” (Walvoord, Revelation, 209). Osborne believes the Book of Life is the “divine register for true believers” (Osborne, Revelation, 502). Other examples of the Book of Life are seen in Rev 3:4-5; 13:8; 17:8; 21:15, 27.
Furthermore, the tense of the verb used here, γέγραπται – “written,” is a “perfect tense” which emphasizes that this is a permanent state of affairs (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 164).
V. POSSIBLE IDENTITIES OF THE BEAST
A. Roman Empire – Kingdom
This is, according to some “the revived Roman Empire, which was also represented by the fourth beast of Daniel, which also had 10 horns (Dan. 7:7–8; cf. Rev. 13:3; 17:3, 7). In Revelation 13 and 17 the beast is the world ruler, whereas in Daniel 7 the little horn on the beast was the world ruler. The fact that the beast comes out from the sea indicates that he is a Gentile, for the sea of humanity is involved as his source (cf. Rev. 17:15)” (Walvoord, “Revelation,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, vol. 2, 960.
Weaknesses. However, no historical situation can fully satisfy all the criteria about the beast. Furthermore, the dominion of this empire exceeds the limit of what the Roman Empire has even done or ever will because it is described as “worldwide.”
This view is held by Metzger, Breaking the Code, 75; Asimov, Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, vol. 2, 549.
B. Roman Emperor – King
Some say this beast is one specific person: “the beast from the sea is the Antichrist, who will stand against Christ and try to usurp his authority and power” (Osborne, Revelation, 491).
C. Both the Roman Emperor and Roman Empire
Thomas says that this is a “person as well as a kingdom” (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 164). Walvoord states, “The beast represents the revived Roman Empire and its ruler in the end times. Revelation here corresponds with the description given in Daniel 7:7-8 and Revelation 12:3; 17:3, 7. This passage makes plain that the beast, the future world ruler, will come out of the Mediterranean situation, with the sea representing the mass of humanity” (John Walvoord, End Times Prophecy, 51.
Some commentators take this to be a person as well as a kingdom based on Greek grammar. The masculine pronoun, αὐτόν, “him” is combined with the neuter noun, θηρίον, “beast.” Grammatical agreement would have called for a neuter pronoun (cause nouns govern pronouns), but John uses the masculine pronoun for “him.” For more see Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 164; Walvoord, Revelation, 203; Daniel Wong, “The Beast from the Sea in Revelation 13,” Bibliotheca Sacra 160 (July-September 2003), 337.
V. FATE OF THE WORLD (13:9-10)
A. Listen (v. 9)
Εἴ τις ἔχει οὖς ἀκουσάτω.
If anyone has an ear: listen! (Rev 13:9)
1. A Message for the Faithful
This, most likely, is a call to hear what follows (Thomas, Revelation 8-22, 166) because of the proverbial nation of that follows.
2. Support for Pre-Tribulational Rapture?
There are two common views about the rapture. One is that believers are raptured before the seven years of tribulation. Another is that believers are raptured at the end of the seven years of tribulation.
People who say that the church is raptured before the seven years of tribulation provide several reasons for their position. First, they say that Rev 3:10 indicates that God will protect Christians from the seven years of tribulation. More specifically, Rev 3:10 seems to indicate that those who are alive when the seven years of tribulation starts will be raptured up to heaven. Second, people who believe in a pretribulation rapture state that the church is not present in the book of Revelation after chapter three. Meaning, the church was raptured somewhere between Rev 3:22 and 5:14 because in 6:1 the seven years of Tribulation begins.
Support for the absence of the church during the seven years of tribulation is seen here in Rev 13:9. For example, in each of the messages to the seven churches Jesus told the believers to “listen to Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches” (Rev 2:7, 11, 17; 29; 3:6; 13; 22, NLT, emphasis mine). However, here in Rev 13:9 the believers on earth are told to “listen” but there is no address to a church. Some commentators say that there is no mention of a church here because the church has been raptured to heaven!
The people addressed in Rev 13:9 appear to be a different group of believers. They are not the “church” but instead a faithful and believing remnant on earth.
(Walvoord, Revelation, 210).
(Simultaneously, people such as Mulholland, Revelation , pp. 522-523) simply state that the phrase in 13:9 matches the seven phrases in Rev 2-3 and do not mention the fact that “churches” is absent in 13:9.)
B. Patience of the Saints (v. 10)
εἴ τις εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν, εἰς αἰχμαλωσίαν ὑπάγει·
εἴ τις ἐν μαχαίρῃ ἀποκτανθῆναι αὐτὸν ἐν μαχαίρῃ ἀποκτανθῆναι.
Ὧδέ ἐστιν ἡ ὑπομονὴ καὶ ἡ πίστις τῶν ἁγίων.
If anyone is on his way to captivity, to captivity he will go.
If anyone is to be killed by the sword, in the sword he will be killed.
On this occasion there is patience and faith from the saints. (Rev 13:10)
1. To Captivity and Death by Sword
This is a promise that those who blaspheme God will be punished. These types of promises are mentioned else ware in Scripture (Gen 9:6; Matt 5:38; 26:52; Rom 12:19; Gal 6:7).
2. Patience of the Saints in Persecution
Some commentators state that this describing the ultimate demise of the beast and those who follow him (Mulholland, Revelation , 523). However, this also appears to be a promise for the faithful believers that they can persevere through the trials and tribulations which they are experiencing (Thomas, Revelation 8-22). Osborne writes that believers “are passively to accept their imprisonment and martyrdom and place their trust entirely in God” (Osborne, Revelation, 508).
VI. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
A. Persecution Continues
In golf there is a saying that you often have to get worse before things get better. Meaning, when you change your swing or an area of your short game, you start shooting higher scores for the sake of making it better. As sad as it is to say, persecution continues in our lives and throughout the seven years of tribulation. The same is true of our world. It is going to get worse before it gets better.
B. Glimpses of Satan’s World Leader
I believe that our world has seen glimpses of Satan’s future world leader. Specifically, I believe that in our world there have been national leaders that have been given power by Satan and allowed to prosper by God in a way that has provided believers a glimpse of what this future world leader will do. For example, Hitler and Stalin are two recent leaders that I believe are brief glimpses of what this future beast of the sea might look like. While those men were not the man described in Rev 13:1-10, I believe they foreshadow a level of dominion and power that the future world leader will have over the world and God’s people.
C. Antichrist or Terrible World Leader
One of the more difficult elements of Rev 13:1-10 for me to interpret is whether or not this is the so-called, “Antichrist” that John wrote about in his epistles: 1 John 2:22; 4:3; 2 John 7. John is the only New Testament writer that uses the word, Antichrist — ἀντίχριστος. Paul appears to mention this man (but not using the words) in 2 Thess 2:1-12. Furthermore, John does not use the word, Antichrist, to specifically name this beast in Rev 13:1-10 or for the beast of the earth in Rev 13:11-18. I do believe one of them is the Antichrist, but certainty for one or the other is difficult to discern.