The Rising of the Beast
Chapter thirteen continues Revelation’s “Third Interlude,” and a very important chapter it is. In this chapter, we meet two “beasts” who derive their authority from the dragon (Satan) who now pursues the children of the woman (believers). But who are these beasts? What do they represent?
Today, we take the first beast. He rises out of the sea which in ancient times (and Jewish thought in particular) represented chaos and evil. The beast has seven heads with ten horns and a diadem on each horn. There is some correlation with Daniel’s vision (7:1-8) of four different beasts. This beast seems to combine Daniel’s four into one. We mustn’t press the beast as if to picture it; after all, how does one divide ten horns on seven heads, or one mouth for all seven (NICNT, 250n6)? The horns represent power and the diadems authority. So what we see is a beast of immense power and authority, undoubtedly a political entity. In John’s day, this would obviously be the Roman Empire and her emperors’ claims to divinity; however, in another time, this beast would take another form: Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia, for instance. All governments are subject to corruption, some more than others, but whenever a nation’s leaders demand unyielding loyalty to the nation itself and obedience to all laws no matter how immoral and persecute those who serve Christ, that nation has taken on the form of the “beast” of this chapter, and those who head such nations are “antichrists.” Many such nations have littered the world over history, but one will come at the end of time whose power and dominion even surpasses that of ancient Rome. That is what we see here.
One matter we should note in this passage is how the devil is ever aping our Lord Jesus Christ—he being so lacking in creativity, bland, insipid, and tasteless, himself. Both Christ and the beast have swords, have followers sealed on their foreheads, have horns, are slain and rise again, have authority over all the earth and receive worship (NIGTC, 691). Let us consider how each is slain and rise again. We understand how this applies to our Lord, but note that one of the heads of the beast received a mortal wound from which it recovered. Scholars have tried to correlate this with a certain Roman emperor, but none really answers the vision. I agree with those who see this as another aping of the devil; perhaps something will happen in which a worldly power seems done for but makes a dramatic comeback such that all the unsaved peoples follow it awestruck wondering, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” And please notice how those who do not know Christ follow the beast not for its goodness or morality, but for its great power.
This beast was Rome in John’s time and any kingdom claiming such authority and exercising such power over people’s lives in other times. Only our Lord may claim such authority over our lives, and any other thing or person that does so cannot but be antichrist. That Revelation and other passages of the New Testament (2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; 1 John 2:18) prophesy that such a government and person shall arise just before our Lord returns is undisputed. Matters will only get worse for believers before the end. Let us prepare for the time ahead through discipleship and service while growing in godliness and virtue clinging to Christ. It is the only way we shall endure to the end.