(cf. Revelation 13:1-10)
If you’re familiar with the Book of Daniel, you will know how influential Daniel chapter 7 is to the descriptions found not only in chapter 12 that describes the evil one, but in chapter 13 is described two of his henchmen. They have been variously described as the satanic trinity, and I think there is some truth in that, as we see Satan trying to parrot God; the beast trying to parrot Jesus because he’s going to take the description of Jesus in verses 5 and 6; and the beast from the land something like the Holy Spirit that tries to promote Jesus. Now what we have here is a description in composite form the four beasts of Daniel chapter 7, that of course corresponds to the image of Daniel 2, but they’re combined into one to show it’s fearsomeness. We’re obviously in symbolic language and I hope you’re not expecting to see a leopard on bare feet with a lion’s mouth. I think it is a way of describing these series of anti-God world empires. In John’s Day it’s epitomized as Rome. In Daniel’s prophecy it’s epitomized as Antiochus IV Epiphanes. I think in the end-time it’s going to be epitomized by the one-world government against Christ, and so I do think there is some validity in seeing this first beast as a human society organized and functioning apart from God, and the second beast as false religion. Some commentators think that 666 may refer to Nimrod, who’s the founder of Babylon, and if that’s true, then we see why in chapter 17 we see Babylon as a great whore which typifies this anti-God world government.
We must realize, as in all these chapters, people who believe that this is to be fulfilled historically try to find examples in the Roman Empire, but project all this out into the future end-time events. This is apocalyptic literature, and as such is never meant to be taken in detail historically, although some aspects may fit into that, but that’s not the ultimate purpose which is to see this anti-God world system developing. In verse 1 it says, “And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore.” – this has the idea that the dragon stood on the seashore to kind of rally his twin henchmen coming out. One of the sea, and one of the land. “…Then I saw a (wild) beast…” – this wild beast is going to be a composite as in Daniel 7. I think this is the end-time anti-Christ mentioned in 1 John 2:18, called the man of lawlessness by Paul in 2nd Thess. 2:3, also depicted earlier in Revelation 11:7; simply they are called the beast. Now, “…coming up out of the sea,” – this has several backgrounds, Jewish apocalyptic literature and the rabbis have said that this refers to Leviathan and Behemoth, and there’s a lot of writing about this in the inter-testament period using those 2 ancient and large animal monsters. We’ve looked earlier how Rahab and Leviathan may have been the background of some of the other allusions, and that’s quite possible. But i think the beast that comes out of the sea in Daniel 7:3, and the beast that comes out of the land in Daniel 7:17 seems to be the background here. Notice it had “…ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems,” – the ten horns is a sign of power and obviously goes back to Daniel chapter 7, and the “seven heads” might be just the place for the ten diadems to fit on. It’s obviously a very satanic beast with great power. Notice, “…and on his heads were blasphemous names.” – this is Daniel 7:25, and many of these blasphemous things were mentioned in Daniel 7:8, 11, 20. It is not certain “titles” is plural or singular as there is some manuscript division here. If it is singular, then all heads have the same title, but the point is, there is a contempt for the things of God.
Now notice as John mentions, “…the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion.” – funny it’s going to have seven heads but one lion’s mouth, which is obviously apocalyptic language. This combines the first three of the four images of Daniel chapter 7 into a composite figure. So, you see John is changing the Old Testament imagery, and not simply drawing imagery from it. The beasts of Daniel 7 as they represent various anti-God world empires may well be what John has in mind for his beast and may stand for the final empire in which will be concentrated all the frightfulness of all its predecessors. Notice “the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.” this is the idea of how satanically-inspired this anti-Christ is going to be. He is the incarnation of Satan. You might want to see 2 Thessalonians 2:9 about the satanic power that this individual is going to have. And “I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed.” – this is a perfect passive participle. This is the idea that he is dead and comes back to life. It’s the same grammatical phrase as used of “the Lamb standing as though it had been slain” in Revelation 5:6. This is one of the first examples of how this evil person is going to parody or mimic the Messiah. Some of those who want to put this in historical first century Rome sees this as the ‘Nero coming back to life myth’. I think the background to much of this chapter is ‘Emperor worship’ where Caligula, Nero, and Domitian really got caught up with it. I think that probably is the background in John’s mind, but I think it’s going to be focused personally into a future end-time anti-Christ. Now notice where it says, “…And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast;” – the word ‘amazed’ is in the sense of admire and the beast is going to do wonders and wow men. There’s something of a parody here of the 2 witnesses here back in chapter 11:6 (see parallel verses Rev. 11:3 and 17:8)
Notice in verse 4 it says, “they worshiped the dragon…” – the dragon here is Satan (cf. Rev. 12:9), and also “…they worshiped the beast,” – this is not primarily political power. There is a spiritual element here. The dragon wants worship. If you go back to the temptation experience of Jesus, that’s what Satan wanted from Jesus. The devil is out to take God’s place; that seems to be the whole thing of the fall. If you can see Satan behind the king of Babylon, the king of Tyre in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28, i think you can notice it down here. And then it says, “…Who is like the beast,” – there are two possibilities: if you see Leviathan as the background to the dragon, this may be an allusion to Job 41:33-34. But if you see it as a parody of God again, and the phrase in Old Testament “who is like Yahweh”, then you go back to Exodus 15:11, and you can see the background to this. This concept of evil parodying good.
Now in verse 5, “There was given to him a mouth…” – this whole concept of “was given” is very significant here in verse 5 through 7. It’s said several times, and it appears again in verses 14 & 15. Was permission given by the devil to the beast? Yes, that is the immediate context, but behind the immediate context is the idea that God the Father allowed the devil to have this power, and to give it to the beast. So, there’s something here of God in control of history, and even of evil. Now this “…arrogant words and blasphemies,…” – exactly what this is, I’m not sure. But it’s obviously Daniel 7:8 where he claims to be God. and that’s the idea of blasphemy having religious connotations. “…and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.” – that goes back to Daniel 7:25. This 42 months is mentioned as a time and times and a half time, obviously a half of seven, it seems to me to be a symbolic number for the period of persecution in Daniel. It speaks with a period of Antiochus Epiphanes. I think in the words of Jesus in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, it spoke of the period where the army of Rome under Titus would destroy Jerusalem. Obviously, in this period it was something of the reign of Domitian in John’s Day. I think in the future, it’s going to be the period of an aggressive tribulation and persecution that precedes the Second Coming. Many people, in here see Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 about the Abomination of Desolation which seemed to apply it to Titus in Matthew 24 now applied to the anti-Christ.
Now notice where it says, “And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle…” – this person is against God and all that God stands for, and all of God’s people. In verse 7 permission was given him, and there’s that idea that God is in control again even if the evil one is the one giving the Beast this permission to make war on God’s people (cf. Daniel 7:21 & 25). Really, there is more going on in the spiritual realm than we understand, but we know the nature of God, we know the heart of God, we know the love of God. Though we don’t understand, we can trust Him amid it all. They can’t take away our salvation, but the saints though protected with a seal are going to have to die and be hurt. God help us! “…and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.” – this makes me think that this is much wider that just 1st century Rome. Rome wasn’t the known whole world of that day, and this thing is going to be a world-wide kind of thing – this is going to be the end-times.
In verse 8, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” – notice that only those who are unbelievers will be tricked into worshiping the beast. The ‘inhabitants of the earth’ is that phrase used so often in the book of Revelation which referred to the unredeemed. Notice where it says, “whose name has not been written….in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. RSV says that our names were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the foundation of the world. this little phrase, ‘…before the foundation of the world…” is very interesting. It’s used several different times in the Bible to show us some things that happened even before creation: Matt. 25:34; John 17:24; 1 Pet. 1:19-20. You might want to look up Matt. 13:35; Luke 11:50; Heb. 4:3; Heb. 9:26; and Rev. 17:8 and realize that there’s a great blessing in knowing what God has already done for us, and this little catchphrase, for those who know their Bibles would pick up on that and realize all that God has done for all of us. Now the deal about a ‘slaughtered Lamb’, we find that so often back in Rev. 7:14 and 12:11; it’s the sacrificial death that is so significant. That phrase about Jesus’ death, and His cross, and His blood, and His sacrifice is used over, and over, and over; that concept in the book of Revelation is the key theme of how the saints have overcome. Now the ‘Book of Life’ goes back to Daniel 12:1-2; Rev. 20:12-15, and when a man’s name is written in the Book of Life, he will not be forgotten. His place is secure.
Verse 10 has textual difficulties; NIV believes both couplets refer to the persecuted while AV refers both to the persecutors. I would like to think that both couplets refer to the persecuted saints. The first couplet teaches an acceptance of the realities of life. If in God’s providence a Christian is taken captive, then to captivity he goes (cf. Jer. 15:2). The second couplet has the idea of a requital and seems to be an allusion to the words of Jesus in Matt. 16:52, “…for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword”. The clause closes with, in this way is shown “the perseverance and the faith of the saints”. The persecuted saints will know for a fact that the last word is not with the persecutors, but the last word is with the sovereign God who works out His good and perfect will. The saints trust the sovereign God who is in control of history, and in control of evil.