IDENTIFYING THE BEASTS OF REVELATION
By James Duffee
To most Christians, the book of Revelation is a tangled mess of images and symbolism that cannot be understood. This is most often due to the fact that they try to interpret this prophetic book without looking to other parts of Scripture. A common mistake is thinking of each book of the Bible as a separate work, rather than seeing the entire Bible as a unified whole. The images of Revelation build directly upon those found in the Old Testament book of Daniel. The book of Daniel, however, cannot be properly understood without having a knowledge of other books; Ezekiel in particular.
Christians quite often limit their own understanding by not realizing that God, the author of the Bible, does not view time the way humans do. The principle point to remember when interpreting prophecy is that God intended for His people in the "latter days" to have the entire Bible as their instruction book, not just the New Testament, and not just the Old. For this reason, God revealed the meanings of different prophetic symbols in various parts of Scripture. Only a student of the entire Bible can hope to understand God's prophecies concerning the end times.
In the book of Revelation, we are shown two great beasts. The first is said to have seven heads and ten horns. In the book of Daniel, the angel Gabriel explained that a beast represents a kingdom or empire. John's visions in Revelation are a continuation of Daniel's visions. Therefore, studying the beasts of Daniel will help us to understand the beasts of Revelation:
Daniel 7:3) And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another. 4) The first [was] like a lion, and had eagle's wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made to stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.
5) And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and [it had] three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh. 6) After this I beheld, and lo another, like a leopard, which had upon the back of it four wings of a fowl; the beast had also 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, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it [was] diverse from all the beasts that [were] before it; and it had ten horns. 8) I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn [were] eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
This vision given to Daniel depicts four great empires of the world. Daniel was troubled by what he saw, so he asked an angel to explain it to him:
Daniel 7:15) I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of [my] body, and the visions of my head troubled me. 16) I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things. 17) These great beasts, which are four, [are] four kings, [which] shall arise out of the earth.
Daniel is told that these four beasts represent four kings/kingdoms that would rise up. The first beast, the lion, represents Nebuchudnezzar and the empire of Babylon. Nebuchudnezzar was given the "heart of a man", referring to the fact that he had compassion for the people of Israel. The bear represents the Medo-Persian empire, rising up on one side portrays the fact that the Persians gradually gained dominance over the Medes. The three ribs in the mouth of the bear are the three kingdoms that were swallowed up by this empire - Babylon, Egypt and Lydia. The leopard is Greece, its four heads depicting the four divisions of the Greek Empire after the death of Alexander. The fourth beast represents the next great empire, Rome. In chapter 8, Daniel is given another vision depicting these empires, which goes into more detail, but begins with the Medo-Persian Empire:
Daniel 8:3) Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had [two] horns: and the [two] horns [were] high; but one [was] higher than the other, and the higher came up last.
4) I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither [was there any] that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.
This ram is another symbol of the Medo-Persian empire. The larger horn, which represents Persia, came up last and gained dominance over the other horn (Media). The ram pushed toward the west, north and south, conquering all those in the region.
Daniel 8:5) And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat [had] a notable horn between his eyes. 6) And he came to the ram that had [two] horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power. 7) And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand. 8) Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.
The male goat here represents the Greek Empire, the notable horn being Alexander the Great. The Greek Empire came from the west and defeated both divisions of the Medo-Persian Empire. This empire grew very strong, but at its peak the notable horn was cut off - Alexander died. Then four of Alexander's generals divided the empire amongst themselves, becoming the four notable horns.
Daniel 8:9) And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant [land]. 10) And it waxed great, [even] to the host of heaven; and it cast down [some] of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. 11) Yea, he magnified [himself] even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily [sacrifice] was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. 12) And an host was given [him] against the daily [sacrifice] by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.
In Daniel 8:15-26, the angel Gabriel explains this vision to Daniel, going so far as to name the Medo-Persian Empire, though Daniel lived in the time of the Babylonian Empire. Following this trail through history, we can see that the fourth beast of the first vision, and the little horn of the second vision symbolize the Roman Empire. In the verses above, Daniel saw that this empire would magnify himself "even to the Prince of hosts", who is Christ. This empire would also take away the daily sacrifice, referring to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem under the Roman Empire. Daniel's visions vividly portrayed world events up to about 500 AD. John's visions in Revelation overlap Daniel a bit, beginning with the continuation of the Roman Empire and its successor the Roman Catholic Church:
Revelation 13:1) 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. 2) And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as [the feet] of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. 3) And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. 4) And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who [is] like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? 5) 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. 6) And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. 7) And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. 8) 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.
The "seas" in this passage represent multitudes of people (Revelation 17:15). An empire which was an extension of the Roman Empire and rose up out of many different people is portrayed here - the Roman Catholic Church. The time period allotted for this beast is forty two months, or one thousand two hundred sixty days. This is the source of the erroneous belief that there will be three and a half years of tribulation. In prophecy though, one day equals one physical year (Ezekiel 4:6). So this beast would reign for one thousand two hundred and sixty physical years. The only empire that fits this description, throughout all of history, is the Catholic church. This beast is has many things in common with the "fourth beast" found in Daniel 7:
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 brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it [was] diverse from all the beasts that [were] before it; and it had ten horns. 8) I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn [were] eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.
Combining Daniel's vision with that of John allows us to see a full description of this beast. Here we see a more detailed account of this beast. It is an empire that rose up out of the Greek Empire, it was different from any other empire, it was the empire that ruled during the time of Christ's death, and eventually would be divided into ten kingdoms. Three of these kingdoms would be destroyed by a final (eleventh) kingdom, which would rule for one thousand two hundred sixty years. The horn which rose up out of the other ten is the Roman Catholic Church, which destroyed three of the kings/kingdoms that comprised the Roman Empire at the time (the Veruli, Vandals and Ostrogoths).
The Roman Catholic Church established itself as an empire in the early sixth century AD, having gained control of the governments of the "civilized world". For over twelve hundred years, the Catholic church used the power and authority of government to enforce its doctrine. The Roman Catholic church ruled over the entire known world at the time, often using military force to obtain "converts". Their power was ended, though, during the French Revolution of the eighteenth century, when the Pope was captured and died in prison. This is the "wound unto death", but we are told that the beast would revive, to the astonishment of the world. This rebirth of the beast occurred when a new Pope was appointed, but the power of the beast had been ended. In the eighteenth century, America was born, and people fled there in pursuit of freedom to worship as they chose.
Revelation 13:11) And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. 12) And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. 13) And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, 14) And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by [the means of] those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. 15) And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. 16) And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: 17) And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
Every other beast (empire) in prophecy is said to have conquered the beast before it, or, as in the case of the Roman Empire, to have arisen out of many people or kingdoms. This new beast, however, comes up out of the earth. It does not conquer a previous kingdom, and is not the merging of several kingdoms into one. The only empire that fits this description is the United States. This beast has two horns like a lamb, symbolizing that the two "rulers" (President and Vice President) supposedly stand for peace and gentleness, but the beast speaks like a dragon. This beast persuades the people of the earth to set up an image of the first beast - a new empire that controls all of the known world.
The beast with lamb-like horns is able to perform miracles, such as causing fire to come down from heaven. This can be seen in the current military activities, with cruise missiles descending from the heavens and raining fire upon the earth. The beast uses this power to convince the people of the earth to create a new empire. In other words, America will use its military might to force people to accept a One World Government. This use of force may well cause a global war, but eventually the proponents of the new beast empire will win.
The military forces of the United States will stand ready to kill anyone who does not give allegiance to (worship) this new empire. Many Americans will resist this new form of government out of patriotic reasons. Christians must also resist this new government because it is ungodly and evil. Like the first beast, it will use political power and military might to enforce false religious beliefs. In order to achieve this goal of a One World Government, the beast with horns like a lamb must work to eliminate personal freedoms, first in this country, then abroad. The freedoms of gun ownership, speech, assembly, and religion must be all but eliminated. Any freedom that would allow citizens to resist the new empire, either in word or in action, will be abolished.
This beast with lamb-like horns will also cause everyone to receive a mark, or sign, of the image of the first beast. Movies and novels abound with tales of bar codes and other things tattooed on a person's hand or forehead, or organic microchips being implanted in the skin. People have come to believe that they must be watching for this to happen, then they will know to refuse this mark. It is time for Christians to wake up and realize that Satan is not that stupid. When the mark is IN a person's forehead, it is what they believe, what they accept in their mind, and who they give their allegiance to. When the mark is IN a person's hand, it is who they serve with that hand. America will command that whoever does not possess the mark or sign of the new empire cannot buy or sell. A person will have to accept in their mind the authority of the new empire and the ungodly things it commands, and in their hand hold the symbol of the new empire's authority.
That symbol will be the new form of currency, whether it is a "Uni-card", bar code, microchip, or simply new bills or coins with the name of the new empire on them. America will help to abolish the currency systems of all nations, and replace them with a single form of currency that will be issued by the new government. This is the "mark of the beast" that must be avoided, regardless of what form it takes. When this new form of currency is issued, those who refuse this mark must be prepared to live without the ability to purchase supplies such as food, clothing and fuel.
Revelation 13:18) Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number [is] Six hundred threescore [and] six.
The number 666 has puzzled many people for quite some time. Various formulas have been used in an attempt to decipher this code, resulting in hundreds of theories as to the identity of the Antichrist - the man that will lead the beast. Usually the formula consists of numbering the letters of a word or name in a particular language and adding them to arrive at a total. Unfortunately, this is using man's wisdom to understand God's Word, which cannot be done. God has already told us how to decipher this message, if we listen to Him and rely on His wisdom.
In Scripture we can find that God has assigned meanings to certain numbers. For example, the number forty indicates punishment or affliction, as in forty days and forty nights of flooding, and the Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years. The number twelve represents fullness, as in the twelve apostles or the twelve tribes of Israel. The number seven represents completeness and holiness. In Revelation 7:4, we are told of one hundred and forty four thousand saints - twelve thousand from each of the twelve tribes. As in other prophetic images, this is a symbol, not a literal number. It indicates the fullness of the tribes of Israel.
The number six means incompleteness and unholiness. Therefore, 666, rather than being a way of counting the letters of a person's name, is a symbol which indicates extreme unholiness and ungodliness. In Scripture, the number seven is used to represent God or Godliness, and the number six is used to represent man in his state of unholiness. This man identified as 666 is a man who is intelligent, charming, humorous, attractive, and well respected. But underneath that facade, his character is abominable to God, he is completely unrighteous. This man will deceive the ungodly, who will love him and follow him to destruction. But Christians will see him for who and what he is, and will know that he intends to set up the image of the beast.
Next in this series: "The Seals of Revelation"