The Two Beasts: A Political Beast and a Religious Beast
Revelation 13. The subject of ch.13 is the two chief instruments Satan will use to carry out his purpose to expunge the faithful from the earth and cause the apostasy of the Christianized world. We have already had the dragon introduced in ch.12, and now we get his co-conspirators, who are really his instruments.
- The Satanic Revival of the Roman Empire (13:1-3)
- The Character and Career of the Personal Beast (13:4-8)
- A Special Word for the Remnant to Hear (13:9-10)
- The Character of the Second Beast, or Antichrist (13:11)
- Antichrist’s Deception and Forced Worship of the Image (13:12-15)
- The Forced Implementation of the Mark of the Beast (13:16-18)
The Satanic Revival of the Roman Empire (13:1-3)
¶ And I stood upon the sand of the sea; and I saw a beast rising out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and upon its horns ten diadems, and upon its heads names of blasphemy. v.1 His Origin. John was “standing on the sand of the sea”, which was a new orientation. The student of prophecy needs to be reoriented to see the troubled state of the Gentile world. A beast is seen “rising out of the sea”, which pictures the origin of the revival of the Roman empire from the masses of mankind. A “beast” has no God-conscious intelligence. For the heads and horns, see notes on Rev. 17:9-11. The horns aren’t crowned in Dan. 7:7, or even in Rev. 17:7, because it is not yet the middle of the week. In the middle of the week the Beast takes on it’s diabolical form. The “names of blasphemy” show us that the Beast will be set in direct opposition to God and that which represents Him.
2 And the beast which I saw was like to a leopardess, and its feet as of a bear, and its mouth as a lion’s mouth; and the dragon gave to it his power, and his throne, and great authority; v.2 His Character. This monster will embody the leading characteristics of the empires that have run before it (Dan 7:4-6): swiftness of Greece (leopard), power of Persia (bear), boldness of Babylon (lion). The Beast will derive all His power from the Dragon, or Satan. The Dragon gives three things to the beast: “his power”, death, physical and moral (Heb. 2:14), “his throne”, the kingdoms of the world (Rev. 2:13, John 12:31, Matt. 4:8), “great authority”, the power of darkness (Eph. 2:2).
3 and one of his heads was as slain to death, and his wound of death had been healed: and the whole earth wondered after the beast. v.3 A Shift in Power. A tremendous shift in the government of the revived Roman empire is described. The “seventh head” would seem to be the government of the Roman empire in first three and a half years. This head is “slain” so the eighth, a diabolical form under a the personal Beast, can rise to power. The response is that “the earth wondered”, amazed that the entire Roman empire is so firmly controlled by this one man. The earth wonders after the beast in ch. 17, but there it is the historical revival; i.e. amazed that the Roman empire is back again after 1600 years. See entry for more details on the personal Beast.
The Character and Career of the Personal Beast (13:4-8)
4 And they did homage to the dragon, because he gave the authority to the beast; and they did homage to the beast, saying, Who is like to the beast? and who can make war with it? v.4 Worship of the Dragon and the Beast. In glorying in the power of Rome, people will actually be worshiping Satan; “they did homage to the dragon”. Man needs an object to worship, and Satan will give them one. Antichrist will enforce this worship (v.12). Ironically, there is an answer to the question: “who can make war with the beast? The King of kings and Lord of lords can and will make war with the beast.
5 And there was given to it a mouth, speaking great things and blasphemies; and there was given to it authority to pursue its career forty-two months. 6 And it opened its mouth for blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name and his tabernacle, and those who have their tabernacle in the heaven. vv.5-6 Blasphemous Speech. The first character of the beast is his foul and preposterous language (see also Daniel 7:8, “a mouth speaking great things”). Contrast the “great words” of the beast with the “gracious words” of our Lord Jesus (Luke 4:22). The beast continues from the middle of the week on to the end. Blasphemies are words of spiritual injury (Dan 7:25). He speaks: (1) “against God” Himself, (2) against “his name and his tabernacle”, or that which is identified with God and enjoys His protection on earth, i.e. the remnant, and (3) against “those who have their tabernacle in the heaven”, who are beyond the reach of this diabolical man.
7 And there was given to it to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and there was given to it authority over every tribe, and people, and tongue, and nation; v.7 Persecution of the faithful. The beast will “overcome” the saints in a certain sense by martyring some of them. You can see this same thing in Daniel 7:21. The beast has authority over every tribe, etc. within his domain, which is the western world. It will be a unified government, but only in the west. Some have taken this verse to mean that there will be a one-world government, however, we must see that the context of the beast’s kingdom is the west. There are other enemies in prophecy that are clearly not part of the beast’s kingdom.
8 and all that dwell on the earth shall do it homage, every one whose name had not been written from the founding of the world in the book of life of the slain Lamb. v.8 Self-exaltation. The earth-dwellers without exception succumb to worship of the beast, who glorifies himself as Nebuchadnezzar did years ago (Dan. 3:7). Some of the expositors (Darby & Kelly) disagree on earth-dwellers being a moral class in this verse. Notice that those who are written in the book of life are the only ones who refuse to worship the beast. Sovereign election is the only reason why any saint, in any dispensation, can persevere in the face of apostasy. These ones are said to have their names written in the book of life “from the founding of the world”. When speaking of the church, it says we were “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4), which is the farthest back in the purposes of God, though last to be revealed in time.
A Special Word for the Remnant to Hear (13:9-10)
9 If any one has an ear, let him hear. 10 If any one leads into captivity, he goes into captivity. If any one shall kill with the sword, he must with the sword be killed. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints. vv.9-10 Next we have a call to the remnant to “listen up”. Contrast “let him hear” with “let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches” as in Rev. 2:7. The church is gone! Two principles that the remnant must take heed to:
- “If any one leads into captivity, he goes into captivity.” Evil will not go unpunished. Divine judgement will fall on the beast (see Psalm 137:8). The beast is arresting the remnant now, but Christ will arrest the beast at His coming.
- “If any one shall kill with the sword, he must with the sword be killed.” Don’t try to avenge yourself with the sword. Meekly endure the fiery trial, leave it in the Lord’s hands (Romans 12:19).
These principles, if laid hold of in the heart, will result in preservation during times of trial or persecution. These principles are good for Christians too. Zwingli killed with the sword, and he perished on the battlefield (see Matt. 26:52). By these two principles the remnant will make it through the great tribulation with God’s approval.
The Character of the Second Beast, or Antichrist (13:11)
¶ 11 And I saw another beast rising out of the earth; and it had two horns like to a lamb, and spake as a dragon; v.11 The second beast of Revelation 13 it the same person later referred to at the “false prophet”. Many dispensationalists confuse the roles of the first and second beast. By carefully studying the details of this chapter, as well as the details about the “little horn” of Daniel 7, and the “man of sin” of 2 Thessalonians 2, and Antichrist of John’s epistles, we conclude that Antichrist is this second beast, not the first beast. One reason for this is that he has a highly religious office, while the first beast is highly political. The second beast rises from the earth, which represents the stable nations. The most stable and wealthy of all the nations will be Israel, until the middle of the week. The second beast has “two horns like a lamb”, which insinuates a pretense of being the true Messiah. However, his words betray him (Matt. 12:34); “spake as a dragon”. He is really a mouthpiece for the Devil. The two horns are a pretension of power. Compare with Rev. 5:6 where the True Lamb has seven horns, or perfection of power. Antichrist is both king and prophet/priest. These two offices of antichrist are pictured in the Old Testament types of Absalom & Ahithophel, and Ahaz & Urijah. In opposition to him will be the Lord’s two witnesses of Rev. 11. After antichrist flees from the king of the north, he loses the kingly office as the false king of the Jews (compare Dan. 11:36; John 10:13; Zech. 11:17; Isa. 22: 19-21). We might say he loses one of his horns, so to speak. Thereafter simply called, the “false prophet”. See entry for more details on Antichrist.
Antichrist’s Deception and Forced Worship of the Image (13:12-15)
12 and it exercises all the authority of the first beast before it, and causes the earth and those that dwell in it to do homage to the first beast, whose wound of death was healed. v.12 The Antichrist has the Beast’s power at his disposal, carte blanche. The primary role of the Antichrist will be to direct the religious affairs in the empire (Dan. 11:38); or “causes the earth and those that dwell in it to do homage to the first beast”. Rationalists and ritualists alike will be swept up; “the earth and those that dwell in it”.
13 And it works great signs, that it should cause even fire to come down from heaven to the earth before men. v.13 To encourage the people of the earth to worship the beast, Antichrist will give them signs. The Jews desire to see signs (1 Cor. 1:22), and so this will appeal to them. Antichrist will appear to even have heaven’s approval; “cause even fire to come down from heaven to the earth before men” (as in 1 Kings 18:38). Given permission, Satan has the power to do these signs (Job 1:16). Here Antichrist, under the power of Satan, does the same miracle as Elijah. However, Elijah’s miracle had the effect of turning the people’s hearts to the Lord, but Antichrist turns the people’s hearts in the opposite direction (1 Kings 18:37).
14 And it deceives those that dwell upon the earth by reason of the signs which it was given to it to work before the beast, saying to those that dwell upon the earth to make an image to the beast, which has the wound of the sword, and lived. v.14 As a symbol of the beast-idolatry, Antichrist will decieve the earth-dwellers to make an image, representing the first beast. This “image” is very likely what Daniel and Jesus spoken of as “the abomination that makes desolate” (Matt. 24:15, Dan. 12:11) foreshadowed by Nebuchadnezzar’s image in Dan. 3, and Antiochus Epiphanes’ wicked deed in the temple. The delusion (2 Thess. 2:11) is so strong that that the earth-dwellers themselves willingly make the image! The Gentile powers have had a history of forcing religion on their subjects, for so Dan. 3 and Dan. 6 give us the principle. The last form of Babylon will be no different. The image is “to the beast” not “of the beast”, that is, it is for his glory. This particularly awful form of idolatry, which will consume the majority of the civilized world, is perhaps the moment when the “mystery of iniquity” becomes full (2 Thess. 2:7).
15 And it was given to it to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should also speak, and should cause that as many as should not do homage to the image of the beast should be killed. v.15 The second beast has the power to give “breath”, not “life”, to the image. It is only the appearance of life. Antichrist (or even Satan) cannot give life. How will this work? Perhaps robotics or artificial intelligence combined with Satanic power? It appears to be Satanic possession of an inanimate object. This is something unprecedented, as far as I have read.
The Forced Implementation of the Mark of the Beast (13:16-18)
16 And it causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the bondmen, that they should give them a mark upon their right hand or upon their forehead; v.16 Antichrist will be the financial leader of the empire as well as religious leader. The mark is a personal token or pass required to buy groceries, get gasoline, or do any type of business – with no exceptions. But there is a deeper sense to it, see “name” in v.17. The Antichrist will put intense pressure on the remnant to give in and take the mark. Compare with other marks; Rev. 22:4 and Gal. 6:17. There are two places for the mark: (1) the “right hand” denotes action or service, as this mark will identify the agents of the Beast, and (2) the “forehead” denotes public identification, marking these individuals as his public supporters. Perhaps in a deeper application, once a person takes the mark, all actions (right hand) and thoughts (forehead) are under his control. This is a clear contrast to the the Old Testament command to place the words of God on oneself; “And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes” (Deut. 6:8).
17 and that no one should be able to buy or sell save he that had the mark, the name of the beast, or the number of its name. v.17 Attached to the mark of the beast, which gives access to the economy, are one of two things: (1) the “name of the beast” which is a sign of ownership or slavery, or “the number of its name” which is 666, a thrice-repetition of the number of humanity, falling short of seven; a complete departure from what is divine.
18 Here is wisdom. He that has understanding let him count the number of the beast: for it is a man’s number; and its number is six hundred and sixty-six. v.18 There will be those (the Maskilim, or instructed ones) that will see the application of this prophecy to a particular man. Perhaps this number will help them identify an individual. But, the number is also representative: three (a full manifestation) sixes (man in the flesh fallen short of God’s glory). The remnant will NOT be sucked in but the antics of the beast or his false prophet. Perhaps the number is a comfort to them, to realize that after all, the beast is just a man; “a man’s number”.