Analysis of Revelation 13: The Beasts From the Sea and Earth
Review of the Beast From the Sea
As the dragon turned from pursuing the woman to pursuing her descendants, it stood on the sand of the sea, waiting.
John states that, from the sea, he saw a beast emerge. Below, the information we know about this beast is summarized.
The Beast Received Authority
- The beast received from the dragon the dragon's power, throne, and great authority
- The beast received a mouth to utter arrogant and blasphemous words
- The beast was allowed to exercise authority for 42 months
- The beast was allowed to make war on the saints and conquer them
- The beast received authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation
It Had an Enigmatic Appearance
- 10 horns,
- 7 heads,
- 10 diadems on its horns,
- Blasphemous names on its heads,
- It was like a leopard,
- A bear's feet,
- A lion's mouth, and
- It had a mortal wound on one of its heads, but the wound was healed.
Actions of the Beast From the Sea
- It blasphemed against God.
- It blasphemed God's name.
- It blasphemed God's dwelling place (those who are in Heaven).
- It made war against the saints and conquered them.
The Beast Influenced People
- They worshiped the dragon because of the beast.
- They worshiped the beast (those whose names were not written in the Lamb's book of life).
- They marveled, expressing that no one is like the beast and that no one can fight against it.
Call for Endurance (Revelation 13:9-10)
In verse 9, anyone having ears to hear is warned to hear. In other words, the following message is for everyone, it's just a matter of one choosing to pay attention.
What is this message? Here is what we read:
"If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints." (Revelation 13:10, ESV)
In other words, the saints (those who believe in Jesus Christ) will be allowed to be imprisoned and killed for their faith, and it is God's will for them to endure.
Review of the Beast from the Earth
John also writes that he saw a second beast rise from the earth. Below, the information about this beast is reviewed.
Properties of the Second Beast
- It had two horns like a lamb.
- It spoke like a dragon.
Actions of the Second Beast
- It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence.
- It makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast.
- It performs great signs: making fire come down from the sky in front of people.
- It tells the people to build an image of the first beast.
- It gives breath to the image so it can speak.
- It causes everyone (small and great, rich and poor, free and slave) to receive a mark on their right hands or foreheads so that they alone can buy and sell.
Additional Information about the First Beast Is Given
Additional information about the first beast, the beast that rose from the sea, is given to us as we read the information about the beast that roams the earth.
- The image of the first beast causes all who would not worship it to be slain.
- The mark received by people is the number of its name: 666.
Analysis of the Beast From the Sea
As we read Revelation 13, we should recall the four beasts in the seventh chapter of Daniel because Revelation gives us hints that the beast from the sea is related to them.
The Beast From the Sea and Daniel's Four Beasts
Daniel saw four beasts. The first beast was like a lion with eagles' wings (Daniel 7:4). Interestingly enough, John's beast from the sea has the mouth of a lion.
The second beast Daniel saw was like a bear (Daniel 7:5). Interestingly enough, John's beast from the sea had the feet of a bear.
The third beast Daniel saw was like a leopard with four heads (Daniel 7:6). Interestingly enough, John's beast from the sea was like a leopard.
The fourth beast Daniel saw was terrifying, dreadful, and strong; it also had 10 horns (Daniel 7:7). Interestingly enough, John's beast from the sea also has 10 horns.
Now, to be clear, the angel tells Daniel that these four beasts are four kings (Daniel 7:17); but it is possible that beasts represent not only their kings, but also their kingdoms. The reason for this interpretation is that Daniel's first vision (Daniel 2) refers to kingdoms. Thus, many scholars agree that the first beast represents Babylon; the second, Medo-Persia; the third, Greece; and the fourth, Rome. After all, the book of Daniel clearly identifies Babylon Daniel 2:37, and Persia and Greece in Daniel 10:20; and Rome can easily be identified from Daniel 9:26 since it was Rome who destroyed the city and the sanctuary).
Daniel's Fourth Beast
Now, Revelation makes another reference to Daniel 7 that seems to imply that there is a stronger relationship between the beast from the sea and Daniel's fourth beast.
John tells us that the beast from the sea was given authority to make war against the saints and conquer them, and Daniel 7:21 says something similar about the little horn of the fourth beast: that it made war against the saints and prevailed against them.
Therefore, we should take into consideration the information present in Daniel regarding the fourth beast and the little horn.
Daniel's Beast and the Little Horn
Daniel's Fourth Beast
- It was terrifying, dreadful, and exceedingly strong
- It had great teeth of iron (iron was identified already in Daniel 2:33)
- It devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled the residue (residue left by the previous empires).
- It will be different from all other kingdoms
- It will devour the whole earth, trample it, and break it in pieces
- The ten horns represent ten kings that will arise
Daniel's Little Horn
- Three horns were removed before it
- It had the eyes of man (compare to John's beast having the number of a man)
- It spoke great things (compare to the blasphemies John's beast spoke)
- The little horn is another king
- He will arise after the 10 kings and be different from them
- He will put down three kings
- He will speak words against the Most High
- He will think to change the times and the law
- The earth will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half time (three and half months, three years and 6 months, 42 months)
Important Details to Notice
As we read through Daniel, the reader should notice that although Daniel speaks of only four kingdoms, the fourth kingdom always has a division in it, a division that can be interpreted as a time lapse. In Daniel 2:33, the legs are different from the feet. When Daniel interprets the dream, he states that the fourth kingdom is a divided kingdom: the legs are firm like iron, but the feet and the ten toes are a mixed multitude: they marry each other, but they are not united (Daniel 2:41-43). Also, in Daniel's vision about the beasts, the fourth beast is distinguished from the little horn. The actions of the beast are different from the actions of the little horn.
Interpreting John's Beast from the Sea
Thus, John's beast that rises from the sea reminds us of Daniel's beasts: it looks like a leopard, it has the feet of a bear, it has a lion's mouth, and it has 10 horns. Nevertheless, rather than being like the fourth beast, John's beast that rises from the sea is more like Daniel's little horn.
Just as Daniel's little horn had the eyes of a man, the name of John's beast has the number of a man; just as Daniel's little horn spoke great things against God, John's beast blasphemes against God; and just as Daniel's little horn rules for a time, times, and a half-time, John's beast rules for 42 months.
Thus, John is telling us about Daniel's little horn. When John wrote the book of Revelation, the little horn would still rise in the future. Israel had already been brought to submission by Rome, in 70 AD the temple would be destroyed, but John is telling us that from his point of view (whether he wrote before the destruction of the temple, or after the destruction of the temple), the beast from the sea (Daniel's little horn) would still be a future event.
Now, the sea from which John's beast arises represents nations from a specific region. In Revelation 17:15, we are told the sea represents nations (moreover, in Revelation 18:17 we see that the sea also plays an important role). The sea is probably the same sea of which Daniel 7:2 speaks: the Great Sea, or the Mediterranean Sea (the sea that was accessible to Israel). This makes sense because Rome is in the Mediterranean Sea, and Daniel's little horn is associated with Daniel's fourth beast, which is Rome.
The Beast From the Sea Is Nero
Analysis of the Beast From the Earth
The beast that John saw rising from the earth was probably rising from the Middle East. Revelation makes reference to the seven churches in Romans Asia (Turkey), the Euphrates River (which runs form Turkey through Syria and Iraq), Jerusalem (Israel), and even Babylon (Iraq).
Because the beast has the horns like a lamb, people may think this beast is tame and peaceful; they may even think that this beast is the real Lamb of God (Jesus). Nevertheless, the beast speaks like a dragon; what it says reveals its character: it is satanic.
This beast rises from the earth to support the first beast by exercising the authority of the first beast, performing great miracles (have fire fall from the sky, give life to an image), convincing people to build an image to the first beast, and having people receive a mark on their foreheads or right hands so they can buy and sell.
The significance of the mark this beast causes people to receive may not only be commercial, but also religious: in the Law, or Torah, God commands Israel to bind his words and commandments unto their hands and as frontlets between their eyes (Exodus 13:16, Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18).
Thus, the role of this second beast is to convince people to worship the first beast. It does this by pretending to be a lamb (Jesus), by doing miracles, by speaking like a dragon (lies, blasphemies, a contradiction of the gospel), by exercising the authority of the first beast in its presence (it serves the first beast and it is in coalition with it), and by giving religious instructions. It is no wonder, therefore, that Revelation calls this beast the false prophet (Revelation 19:20).
The Number of the Beast
The Meaning of 666
Ever since the book of Revelation was written, people have wondered what the number 666 means. These are some of the ideas that have been proposed:
- It is a reference to the 666 children of Adonikam whom returned from Babylon to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:13)
- It is a reference to Solomon's yearly gold income (2 Chronicles 9:13)
- It only means that the beast is a human since the man was created on the sixth day of creation (Genesis 1:27-31)
- When the name of the first beast (the antichrist) is written in Greek (Koine), it totals 666, so it is a way to verify his identity.
As one can imagine, some of these propositions have more merit than others.
It appears to this author that the first proposition to have any significance is that the number 666 identifies the beast as representing an actual human. After all, when we are told that it is the number of a man, we are reminded that we were told about Daniel's little horn that it had eyes of a man. Just as the eyes of a man identify the little horn as being human, the number of a man also helps us to realize that the beast from the sea is a human being.
The second proposition that has a lot of significance is that the number can be used to verify the name of the beast. After all, we are told to count the number of the its name because it is the number of a man. In other words, the number 666 corresponds to the name of a man.
The problem with this second proposition is that there may be several names in Koine Greek that amount to 666: so how will one tell which is the right name? Also, in light of everything that the beast will do, why would one need to verify its name against the number 666? Would it not be obvious by someone's actions that he is the beast? This perspective makes the number 666 appear useless.
However, what if John did not intend for us to identify one name from many names that amount to 666? What if what John intended was for us to verify with the number 666 a name already known to his original audience? Would not that make more sense? I think so.
Thus, apart from telling us that the beast is a human being, it is very likely that the number 666 is telling us that the beast was Nero.
Scholars agree that, when Nero's title and name are written in Hebrew, his title and name add up to the value 666. Also, we are told that when Nero's title and name are written in Latin, his name amounts to 616, which a variation of 666 that is found in some manuscripts. This, along with many other similarities between the beast and Nero, have led many scholars to believe that 666 represents Nero.
One of those other similarities is that one of the heads of the beast from the sea was wounded with a mortal wound, but then it was healed, and this miracle appears to have caused the world to worship the beast. The reason this characteristic of the beast points toward Nero is that, after Nero's death, there was a popular rumor that Nero would come back to life. Perhaps Revelation is pointing us in this direction.
The reader may then wonder whether the number 666 and the deadly wound pointing toward Nero contradict the writer's premise, that these events are still future events. Will Nero really rise from the dead in the future to rule over the world once again? Not necessarily.
This curious situation is not without precedent in the Bible. For example, in Ezekiel 34:23-23, and in Ezekiel 37:24-25, the prophet predicts that David will reign over Israel again. Thus, some scholars believe that David will indeed reign again over Israel, but other scholars believe that David's name here is used to refer to the Messiah, to Jesus.
Another example of this is that the Lord promises to send Elijah to Israel once again (Malachi 4:5). Does this mean that Elijah will come down from heaven to prophesy again? Is Elijah one of the two witnesses? This author does not think so. The name Elijah most like represents someone who ministered in the spirit and power of Elijah: John the Baptist.
Thus, it is absolutely possible that 666 only identifies Nero as a type of the beast; as a someone who, in John's present, was foreshadowing the character of a ruler yet to show up in the future. This is possible, because as previously discussed in another article, some symbols in Revelation may have more than one level of interpretation.
Thus, the number 666 not only tells us that the beast of which John writes is an actual human, but it also tells us that this human will be a ruler like Nero.
The Antichrist, the False Prophet, and Islam
In Revelation 13, John tells us he saw two beasts: one rising from the sea, and another rising from the earth.
Through careful comparison with the Old Testament, we can conclude that the beast from the sea is the little horn on Daniel's fourth beast. It is also the prince to come of which Daniel wrote (Daniel 9:26). This prince was foreshadowed by Nero.
The beast that rose from the earth, on the other hand, is the false prophet of which Revelation speaks in a later chapter. He pretends to be Jesus, and his purpose is to support the first beast and cause people to worship the first beast.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Marcelo Carcach