It is written:
Revelation 13:16-18-He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads. 17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666. (Revelation 13:16-18)
The thirteenth chapter of Revelation describes two great and powerful “beasts” which arise.
Revelation 13:1-2- Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. 2 Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.
Notice that the “dragon” gives its’ authority to the first beast.
Who is the dragon?
Revelation 12:9-So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
So Satan works through this first beast in the world.
Yet who is this beast?
What are the seven heads?
And what are the ten crowns on its’ head?
Since we have learned that the Book of Revelation continually alludes to the Old Testament, we must ask: is there anything in the Old Scriptures which help us to understand this?
Indeed, the Old Testament provides the answers.
Let’s begin by noticing that the beast here described in Revelation has the characteristics of a leopard, a bear, and a lion.
In the seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel, the Prophet beholds a vision of four “beasts.” The first is a LION with eagle’s’ wings; the second is a BEAR devouring tree ribs; the third is a LEOPARD with four heads and four wings; and the fourth is a horrible and terrible beast that is characterized especially by TEN horns.
Please notice the clear connections between what Daniel prophesies and what John describes in Revelation 11 as the first “beast.” All the images are present: leopard, bear, and lion.
Now, Daniel has the following vision of this beast:
Daniel 7:1-8-1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts.2 Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea.3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other.4 The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.5 “And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’6 “After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.7 “After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words.
Daniel was given three “keys”which explain what these “beasts” represent.
KEY ONE: BEAST= KING
Daniel 7:17-Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth.
KEY TWO: KING = KINGDOM
Daniel 7:23-“Thus he said: ‘The fourth BEAST shall be A fourth KINGDOM on earth, Which shall be different from all other kingdoms, And shall devour the whole earth, Trample it and break it in pieces.
KEY THREE: HORN = KING = KINGDOM
Daniel 7:24-The ten horns are ten kings Who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, And shall subdue three kings.
This prophecy of Daniel was actually a prophecy of four great world empires!!
Now, do we have any idea which kingdoms Daniel and John are describing?
Consider that the first kingdom is characterized as a lion with eagle’s wings. This was the description that the Prophets gave to the nation of Babylon. Observe:
“The lion and eagle are both symbols of Babylon (Jeremiah 49:19; 50:17, 44; 48:40; 49:22; Ezekiel 17:3, 12). The wings represent speed; the rapidity of the Babylonian conquest of the old Assyrian Empire.” (Emanuel B. Daugherty, A Commentary On The Book Of Daniel, 134; Bethlehem, W.V.)
The study of archaeology has yielded further evidences which documents that the first kingdom here referenced was the nation of Babylon:
“Second, statues of winged lions, which are believed to have been representative of the empire, have been found in the ruins of Babylon, and lions adorned the famous Ishtar Gate. Although the text does not specifically interpret the rest of the verse, the meaning of the symbolism would naturally be expected to be found in the descriptions of Nebuchadnezzar (who embodied the Babylonian Empire) presented elsewhere in the book.” (Stephen R. Miller, The New American Commentary Volume 18: Daniel-An Exegetical And Theological Exposition Of Holy Scripture, 197 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group)
The identification of this first “beast” with Babylon is not difficult to make.
The second kingdom to arise and which defeated Babylon was the Medo-Persian Alliance. They are here depicted as a “bear.” The Medes and the Persians joined forces together and were able to overcome Babylon and the two nations that had joined together with Babylon.
Ken Johnson has noted:
“The bear with one side higher than the other represented the combined empire of the Medes and Persians. This beast corresponds to the chest and arms of silver. Babylon, in fear of Cyrus, form ed a coalition with the kingdoms of Egypt and Lydia . T he se are represented by the three ribs in the bear’s mouth , which proved to be no match for the armies of Cyrus. Lydia fell to the Persians in 544 BC ; Babylon , in 537 BC ; and Egypt , in 523 BC .” (Ken Johnson, Ancient Book Of Daniel, 58 (Kindle Edition))
The third kingdom is that which is described as a leopard with four heads and four wings.
In the Bible, a leopard is often used to symbolize ferocity and speed:
Jeremiah 5:6-Therefore a lion from the forest shall slay them, A wolf of the deserts shall destroy them; A leopard will watch over their cities. Everyone who goes out from there shall be torn in pieces, Because their transgressions are many; Their backslidings have increased.
Hosea 13:7-“So I will be to them like a lion; Like a leopard by the road I will lurk;
Habakkuk 1:8-Their horses also are swifter than leopards, And more fierce than evening wolves. Their chargers charge ahead; Their cavalry comes from afar; They fly as the eagle that hastens to eat.
The third kingdom which arose and which was noted for its’ powerful military which spread quickly across the world was Greece, led by Alexander the Great.
Indeed, historians have often marveled at the speed with which the Greek leader, Alexander the Great, conquered the world.
Especially interesting here is the fact that the leopard has four “heads.” Throughout Scripture, the idea of the “head” of something suggests leadership (cf. Isaiah 7:8-9; Ephesians 1:22-23). Amazingly, when Alexander died, the kingdom of Greece was divided up four ways (between his four generals-Lysimachus, Seleucus, Ptolemy Soter, and Cassander).
The fourth “beast” that followed the Grecians was that of Rome. Notice that Daniel watches this kingdom trampling the saints of God (Daniel 7:7), which is an apt description of the nation of Rome in its persecutions and attacks upon the church.
Therefore, the evidence shows that the first beast out which John witnesses is clearly the nation of Rome.
Other lines of evidence demonstrate this to be the case.
For example, notice that the first beat is characterized as having “seven heads.” Later in Revelation, while describing the same beast under a different symbol, we read this:
Revelation 17:4-5-The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. 5 And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”
That the beasts of Revelation 13 and 17 are the same is clear from the structure of the Book of Revelation, as well as from the fact that the beast of chapter 17 persecutes the Christians just as the beast of Revelation 13 does.
With that in mind, notice the connection between Babylon and Rome with the beast of Revelation 17 (and thereby also the beast of chapter 13):
“HERE the doom of Rome is prophesied. Throughout Revelation, Rome is described as Babylon, a description which was common between the Testaments. The writer of 2 Baruch begins his pronouncement against Rome: ‘I, Baruch, say this against you, Babylon’ (2 Baruch 11:1). When the Sibylline Oracles describe the imagined flight of Nero from Rome, they say: ‘Then shall ffrom Babylon a king shameless and fearless, whom all mortals and the noble men loathe’ (Sibylline Oracles 5:143). In the ancient days, to the prophets, Babylon had been the very incarnation of power and lust and luxury and sin; and, to the early Jewish Christians, Babylon seemed to have been reborn in the lust and luxury and immorality of Rome….Babylon is said to have made all the nations drink the wine of the wrath of her fornication. In this phrase, two Old Testament ideas have been fused into one. In Jeremiah 51:7, it is said of Babylon: ‘Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, making all the earth drunken; the nations drank of her wine, and so the nations went mad.’ The idea is that Babylon had been a corrupting force which had lured the nations into a kind of insane immorality. The background is the picture of a prostitute persuading a man into immorality by filling him full of wine, so that he could no longer resist her seductive charms. Rome has been like that, like some glittering prostitute seducing the world.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Revelation Of John, Volume Two, 125-126 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)
Notice that the beast is identified with “seven mountains” which are the same as the “seven heads.”
“Perhaps no point is more obvious in Revelation than this: Rome is here symbolized by the seven mountains. After all, Rome is the one city in history universally recognized for its seven hills: the Palatine, Aventine, Caelian, Esquiline, Viminal, Quirinal, and Capitoline hills. The Roman writers Suetonius and Plutarch refer to the first century festival in Rome called Septimontium, i.e., the feast of “the seven hilled city.” The Coin of Vespasian (emperor A.D. 69–79) pictures the goddess Roma as a woman sitting on seven hills. Ancient pagan writers often mention the famed seven hills of Rome, writers such as Ovid, Claudian, Statius, Pliny, Virgil, Horace, Propertius, Martial, and Cicero, as well as by Christian writers, such as Tertullian and Jerome. Indeed, “there is scarce a poet that speaks of Rome but observes it.””. (Kenneth Gentry, Jr.,, Navigating The Book Of Revelation: Special Studies On Important Issues, 499-507 (Kindle Edition); Fountain Inn, South Carolina; GoodBirth Ministries)
The Word of God here connects the dots for us that the first beast is the kingdom of Rome.
Yet what is even more astonishing about this passage is that Daniel foresees how this fourth kingdom will be characterized by ten “horns,” which are identified as “kings.” Remembering that in this context a “King” stands for a kingdom, this means that ten kingdoms would spring up from the fourth empire. Amazingly, the nation of Rome did split into ten separate kingdoms:
“When the imperial Roman Empire collapsed in A.D. 476 (the classic date for the fall of Rome), it fell because ten smaller nations—represented by the “ten horns” emerging from the fourth beast’s head—swept into Europe from the north to parcel up the empire. These ten nations were the Vandals, the Heruli, the Ostrogoths, the Visigoths, the Bergundians, the Suevi, the Lombards, the Anglo-Saxons, the Franks, and the Alamanni, which eventually became the modern nations of Europe.” (Steve Wohlberg, Decoding The Mark Of The Beast, 128-133 (Kindle Edition); Coldwater, MI; Remnant Publications)
Daniel and John identify the first beast of Revelation 13 as the nation fo Rome.
John shows us that the first beast receives a seemingly mortal wound, and when he was healed of it, the world marveled at him and worshiped the dragon (Satan) through him:
Revelation 13:3-4-And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. 4 So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”
We are also told that Rome would make war against the saints (i.e., the church) for a period of 42 months.
Revelation 13:5-10-And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. 6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 7 It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear. 10 He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
We read later in Revelation that the period of 42 months is a span of 1, 260 days.
Revelation 11:2-3-But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months. 3 And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”
Revelation 12:6, 14-Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days….But the woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.
Following this first beast, the second beast arises.
That will be the subject of our next study.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.