Understanding The Apocalypse

Revelation 13:1-10
Chapter 21

John continues his parenthetic vision in Revelation 13, by describing a beast that will "rise up out of the sea" and certainly, this beast is one of the most intriguing characters of the entire Revelation.

For centuries, commentators have sought the identity of this creature, who is clearly the personification of evil, in the world. Today, many conservative, evangelical, writers are in general agreement that the "beast out of the sea" is the world ruler who will come to power at the beginning of the Tribulation. He is understood to be the "prince that shall come," foretold in Daniel 9:26-27.

From Daniel we know a world leader will arise to make a seven-year peace agreement with Israel. During the first half of this agreement, Israel will dwell safely in the land and will restore the temple and temple worship.

Then suddenly, at the mid-point of the agreement this "prince that shall come" will commit the "abomination of desolation." He will defile the temple by claiming to be god and will attempt to extinguish the nation of Israel. Without the divine protection provided the believing remnant of Israel, the nation will be annihilated.

There is no questioning, the "prince that shall come" will rise to power at the beginning of the Tribulation and will do exactly as predicted, by the Holy Scriptures. But is this "prince that shall come" the "beast out of the sea" that John describes in Revelation 13?

Clearly, the "beast" in question is personified in the text by the use of personal pronouns. However, if we consider the descriptions given in Revelation 13:1-2, this beast is best understood as an empire or government and it is this empire the "prince that shall come" will use as the Satanic vehicle in his rise to power.

I. The First Description of The Beast

"And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy" (Revelation 13:1.

Beginning in Daniel 7:3, Daniel writes, "...four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another." He then follows in Daniel 7:4-8, with a description of these beasts that "...came up from the sea." In Daniel 7:17, the beasts in Daniel's vision are identified as kings or kingdoms of the earth, "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, who shall arise out of the earth."

We know from world history that Daniel's descriptions of the beasts in his vision are symbolic of the four great empires that have ruled the world. These empires are: Babylon, Medo-Persian, Grecian, and Roman. Each of these empires succeeded the former and was truly like a great beast in conquering the world, but none of the first three compared to the fourth, according to Daniel.

He says in Daniel 7:7,

"After this I saw in the night visions, and, behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly, and it had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet; and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns."
Surely this is a description of the "Iron Kingdom," the Roman Empire that trampled and devoured all the nations of the known world.

We are given additional information about this kingdom and its activities in Daniel 7.

1. "The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces" (Daniel 7:23).
This means the fourth beast or empire will rule the world by oppression and division of its people. Indeed, the axiom, "divide and conquer" was established and verified by the Roman Empire.

2. "And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise; and another shall rise after them and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings" (Daniel 7:24).
The ten horns represent ten kingdoms initially forming this empire, but one of the kingdoms will rise against three of the others and conquer them, leaving seven kingdoms in this beast or empire.

3. "And he shall speak great words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change the times and laws" (Daniel 7:25a).
It will be a godless empire that speaks against God, and persecutes the Saints by disregarding long-held traditions and changing laws to accomplish the satanic purposes.

4. "And they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time" (Daniel 7:25b).
The Saints or believing remnant of Israel will be persecuted by this beast for a specified period of time. If we understand the word "time" as used in this text, to mean a unit of time, then "a time" is one unit, "times" (plural) equals two units and "the dividing of time" (singular) is one-half unit. If a single unit of time in our formula is one year, then we can compute the length of the persecution Daniel described. It is 3 1/2 years, the exact length of the Great Tribulation of Israel.

Utilizing the information we have gleaned from Daniel there is no difficulty in understanding the description in Revelation 13:1. John saw, "A beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy."

The beast is a kingdom rising out of the sea of humanity, formed by the coalition of ten kingdoms and represented in our text by the ten horns and ten crowns.

However, Daniel tells us one of the kingdoms will rise against three of the others and conquer them, meaning the ten kingdoms will be ruled by seven rulers or the seven heads of the beast. The result of this will be the ruler who conquers the three other kingdoms will hold the balance of power in this confederation.

Revelation 13:1, also says the seven, crowned heads of this empire or beast will be a blasphemous group, ("upon his heads the name of blasphemy" ) meaning they are willing to speak against God and persecute His Saints.

Most likely, John's beast is the same as Daniel's fourth beast. It is not a person. It is a kingdom and it is like the Roman Empire.

II. The Second Description of The Beast

"And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion" (Revelation 13:2a).

If we compare this description of the beast to Daniel 7:4-6, we see another description of an empire, not a person or individual. In Daniel's vision, these animals are not used to describe people. They are used to describe the three kingdoms preceding the fourth beast or kingdom.

"The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings; I beheld till its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man; and a man's heart was given to it. And, behold, another beast, a second, like a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between its teeth; and they said thus unto it, 'Arise, devour much flesh.' After this I beheld, and, lo, another, like a leopard, which had upon its back four wings of a foul; the beast had also four heads, and dominion was given to it."
The Lion is Babylon, which was ferocious in conquests. The Babylonians were cruel, vicious soldiers who rarely took prisoners, much preferring to torture them to death for the pleasure of watching them suffer.

The bear is Medo-Persia. Like the bear, Persia protected those nations she conquered and allowed them great liberties, but was capable of great ferociousness if disturbed.

The leopard is Greece, which speaks of the swiftness with which Alexander the Great conquered the world and established the Macedonian Empire.

All of the characteristics of these former empires will be incorporated in this great beast out of the sea that is the empire of Satan.

III. The Being and Power Behind the Beast

Although, this "beast out of the sea" is a kingdom, not a person, we see in Revelation 13:2, there is a being behind this kingdom that will rise out of the masses of humanity. "And the dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority."

We know from Revelation 12, that Satan will be cast to the earth and will angrily persecute Israel. Satan is the force behind this kingdom that will arise. He will use this kingdom and the "prince that will come," spoken of by Daniel, to lull Israel into a false sense of national security through the making of a peace agreement.

This prince or ruler, powered by Satan, will be the one from among the ten kingdoms to rise and conquer three of the other kings. This will give him the balance of power in the empire and he will use his influence and authority to make his compact with Israel. He will be the false messiah who will offer safety and peace to Israel and will obviously fool the majority, since they will accept his peace agreement. Little will they know, until it is too late, that they made a deal with the devil and his Antichrist.

We find another proof that Daniel's fourth beast, or empire, is "the beast out of the sea" in Revelation 13:3a, "And I saw one of his heads as though it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed."

Remember, the heads of the beast, represent the rulers of the kingdoms that comprise the empire. The text does not say the entire beast or empire is wounded to death, only that one of the heads is wounded.

We know from history that the nations forming the Roman empire were not exterminated or annihilated. It was only the government of Rome that was overthrown or wounded to death. After the fall of the Roman throne, the various kingdoms under the dominion of Rome regained their own governments and many still exist today.

When the text says the deadly wound of the beast will be healed, it means the throne of the empire will be restored. That is, there will be one ruler over all the kingdoms. This is the throne "the prince who will come," will sit upon. This is the anti-throne, in the anti-kingdom, that Satan will provide for his anti-Christ. By doing these things, Satan will duplicate the kingdom, throne and reign of our Lord Jesus Christ and will fool many into worshipping him, instead of the Lord.

This is exactly what Revelation 13:3b-4 says will happen.

"And all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshiped the dragon who gave power unto the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?"
Satan, who desired, but could not take the throne of God in Heaven was cast out and confined to the earth. Still, he will not accept his defeat and submit himself to God. Therefore, he will set up the anti-type of the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and seek for himself, through his stooge, the worship due only the Father in Heaven and His only begotten Son. The Antichrist will sit on the throne of a kingdom so powerful the entire world will bow down to him and his kingdom in worship of both him and Satan.

In Revelation 13:5-6, we see Satan is allowed to empower his anti-Christ to speak great things and blasphemies for forty-two months or for the entire duration of the Great Tribulation.

This means the Antichrist will claim to be God, beginning with the "abomination of desolation" occurring at the mid-point of the Tribulation and continuing until the return of our Lord in Glory.

"And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven."
In Revelation 13:7, we find the authority of the Antichrist extends around the globe and he will use his authority to persecute Israel during this period known as the Great Tribulation.
"And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindred, and tongues, and nations."
In Revelation 13:8, we read the Antichrist is successful in deceiving the people of the world.
"And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world."
There is no middle ground here. There is no fence to straddle. Without exception, all whose names are not in the Book of Life will worship Satan, his anti-kingdom and anti-Christ.

It is no different today. Jesus said in Matthew 12:30, "He that is not with me is against me." Anyone who is not a child of God by faith in Christ Jesus, is a child of Satan because of unbelief.

It is to those who do not believe God that Revelation 13:9, is written, "If any man have an ear, let him hear." They are to listen to the warning in Revelation 13:10, "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity; he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword."

Those who worship the beast and persecute Israel by taking her people captive and killing them with the sword will themselves be taken captive. Because they are under the influence or captivity of Satan, they will be killed in the Great Tribulation judgments or in the battle of Armageddon, when Christ returns in Glory, to fight for Israel in the day of battle.

"Here is the patience and the faith of the saints:" To faithfully wait for the coming Lord to deliver them from their oppressors.

From "Understanding The Apocalypse"
A book of sermons by Pastor Jim McColloch, Th.M., Th.D.
© Copyright 1994, 1999, 2006