A Beast Coming Out of the Sea
In contrast to seeing a great sign in heaven in Revelation 12:1-3, John now stands on the shore and sees a Beast rise out of the sea (out of the Gentile or Western nations) with seven heads and ten horns. As we have seen, this is similar to the dragon in Revelation 12:3, but there it is seen as a sign in heaven, for in that case the vision goes back to the past history of the satanically inspired Roman Empire. Here, the crowns being on its ten horns indicate the revival of the old Roman Empire in the Tribulation Period when ten nations give their power to the Beast (Revelation 17:13). The name of blasphemy on its heads shows that the Beast assumes divine titles, for in demanding people's unconditional allegiance it is actually demanding worship (v. 15).
Verse 2 shows that this empire will incorporate into it some features of the world empires that have preceded it. Its likeness to a leopard compares with the Grecian Empire of Alexander the Great (Daniel 7:6) with its swiftness of conquest. Its feet as of a bear reminds us of the empire of the Medes and Persians (Daniel 7:5) with its grasping strength and tenacity. Its mouth as that of a lion indicates its devouring ferocity as seen in the Babylonian Empire (Daniel 7:4). This Beast in Revelation then is the fourth Beast or fourth empire of Daniel 7:1-28, dreadful, terrible and strong (verse 7). The dragon (Satan) gives him power, his throne (his elevated dignity) and his authority.
One of its seven heads was wounded to death (v. 3). Compare this with Revelation 17:9-11, where there is the declaration that the seven heads are the seven mountains on which the woman Babylon sits. Babylon means "confusion," a name used to describe a religious mixture of some truth with much falsehood-that which has caused confusion to countless numbers of her blinded followers. This is literally the city of seven mountains, Rome. Then it is added, "There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is and the other has not yet come." The first five may refer to the five different forms of government in the Roman Empire that had existed before John wrote, which are Kings, Consuls, Dictators, Decemvirs and Military Tribunes. Or they may refer to the great imperial powers of the world up to that time-Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece, as suggested in the Numerical Bible -Revelation-p. 436. In any case, the sixth head was imperial Rome (Rome under the imperial rule of the Caesars) existing when John wrote and which has long since fallen with the fall of the empire itself. The seventh head therefore will arise with the revival of the empire, and it will be this head ("the prince who is to come") who will confirm a covenant with the many in Israel, which will introduce Daniel's seventieth "week"* (Daniel 9:26-27).
*It is most important to understand this prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27 in connection with Revelation and the whole subject of prophecy. the first 69 weeks (weeks of years), equalling 483 years, have been completed with the cutting off of the Messiah at the cross of Calvary. But the 70th week is held in abeyance during all our present dispensation of grace, and will take place only after the Rapture. This 70th week is called the Tribulation Period, which occupies a very large place in prophecy.
This head will then be wounded to death, evidently when the general anarchy takes place at the time of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:17). Many governments will be overthrown before the middle of Daniel's "week" (the Tribulation Period) and this head will be among them, being wounded to death. In other words he will totally lose his authority. The wounded head being healed indicates a striking recovery of his power which causes all the world to wonder. He apparently will bring a semblance of restored order and peace out of the chaos of anarchy, and thus be acclaimed as a great world leader.
Just as the Roman Empire will revive from a virtual deadly wound received many centuries ago, so at about the middle of the Tribulation the seventh head will revive from a deadly wound only a short time after it is inflicted on him. This seems to be the reason we are told that "the beast that was and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven" (Revelation 17:11). When he first arises at the beginning of the seven years of the Tribulation, he is the seventh head; then when revived about the middle of that time-period he is called the eighth. All the world wonders at his power in bringing back the ten kingdoms under his control and establishing apparent peace out of chaos. However, his power is satanic, and therefore people worship both the dragon and the Beast (v. 4). It is not necessary to suppose that they realize they are actually worshiping Satan, but it is he who gives authority to the Beast, and people will give the Beast a place of greatest preeminence, for they will consider him the most formidable power on earth.
He is given a mouth capable of advertising himself (v. 5), while at the same time blaspheming. He glorifies himself while showing contempt for God and His Christ. He continues 42 months, the last half of Daniel's week. As well as blaspheming God and His name, he adds to this the blasphemy of God's tabernacle and "those who dwell in heaven" (v. 6). It seems the tabernacle refers to God's heavenly dwelling, so this involves the Beast's bold defiance of all heavenly authority. As to those who dwell in heaven, this may infer that the Beast will remember the testimony of saints who have been caught up to heaven in the Rapture, and he curses the memory of them. Perhaps for this same reason the heavenly saints will appear with the Lord out of heaven when He judges this insolent enemy and his armies (Revelation 19:11-21).
This man will not make war with Israel, but "with the saints"-those in the Tribulation Period who will be awakened to take a stand for the living God (v.7). We have seen this in Revelation 11:7. Authority given him over all kindreds, tongues and nations speaks particularly of the Western nations which willingly submit to him, for Russia and Assyria (the King of the North) will not be included in this coalition.
Those who worship the beast are earth dwellers (v. 8), settling in the world as though they are going to keep it forever. Their names are not written from the foundation of the earth in the book of life, the property of the Lamb who was slain. The elect have their names written in this book because God has foreknown them. The Lamb, because of the value of His redemption, claims them as His own: nothing can change this. Others are urged to hear if they have an ear to do so (v. 9). Let people take to heart the serious folly of preferring to settle down in a corrupted and corrupting world rather than embracing the liberating grace of the Lord Jesus with its eternal blessings in heaven.
Mere earthdwellers, intent on their own selfish interests, will like cringing slaves follow the Beast in his program to cause suffering to the godly. God will see to it that they receive back the treatment they give others, whether captivity or death (v. 10). The saints thus may wait in calm patience, with fullest faith in God's eventual intervention, though in the meantime they suffer.
A Beast From the Earth
Verse 11 introduces another Beast which comes up out of the land rather than from the sea. The first Beast coming from the sea indicates that he is a Gentile, for the waters of the sea are typical of "peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues" (Revelation 17:15), while the earth pictures the land of Israel, so constantly referred to as "the land" throughout scripture. Therefore, this second Beast is Jewish. His two horns like a lamb is a simulation of God's Lamb, a counterfeit of the true Christ. As a leader in Israel he takes the place of Christ, but speaks as a dragon. There can be no doubt that this is Antichrist* (1 John 2:22), called "the false prophet" (Revelation 19:20), "the man of sin, the son of perdition," "the lawless one" (2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Thessalonians 2:8), "a foolish shepherd," "the worthless shepherd" (Zechariah 11:15; Zechariah 11:17), "the king" who does his own will (Daniel 11:36) and the "mighty man" (Psalms 52:1). As it requires many designations to describe the beauties and glories of the Lord Jesus, so it takes various designations to show the many aspects of the evil of this man who challenges the authority of the true Messiah. He will claim both civil and religious authority in Israel.
*Many writers have considered that the first or Roman Beast is the Antichrist, but the Antichrist will claim to be the Jewish Messiah. He will rise from the land (Israel) and will sit in the Jewish temple of God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4), while the first Beast is a political ruler and rises from the sea of the Gentiles (v. 1).
Since the Antichrist is fully identified with the first Beast (the head of the Roman Empire), he will have that power backing him up. On his part he will require the land (Israel) and all its inhabitants to worship the Roman Beast (v. 12). This Roman-Israeli confederacy demands the allegiance of Israel to the satanic authority of this bestial government. God calls this confederacy "a covenant with death" and an "agreement with Sheol" (Isaiah 28:14-18).
This second beast, the Antichrist, will do great wonders (v. 13). These are not miracles of grace as the Lord did on earth, but awesome things such as making fire come from heaven, etc. These are called "lying wonders" in2 Thessalonians 2:9. Thus, while man's inventive genius probably will have some place in these, yet behind them is both satanic power and satanic delusion.
This deception is successful in persuading the Jews in Israel to give their full allegiance to the Roman Beast, an allegiance demonstrated and strengthened by the erection in Jerusalem of an image in honor of the Roman Beast, for this revived Roman Empire has become Israel's protector (v. 14). The image is called "the abomination of desolation" in Matthew 24:15. It will "stand in the holy place," the Jewish temple, as a brazen challenge to the authority of God. Daniel 9:27 calls this image "the wing of abominations," an expression that involves the protection of idolatry. Because of this God sends "a desolator," the King of the North, against Israel.
The false prophet probably will claim to give life to the image, but the word in verse 15 is properly translated as "breath" in the NKJV. The image will speak and give orders for the execution of those who do not worship it. Man's cunning deception and the sinister power of Satan will combine in this activity of "power, signs and lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9). Anyone who has seen Disney's image of Abraham Lincoln stand and talk can perhaps understand how the best of robotic science combined with satanic power could in the future conceive a very convincing image.
The Mark of the Beast
We see in verse 16 that this Beast will require all Israel, whatever their status, to be coded with a mark in the right hand or on the forehead. Whether one is employed practically or intellectually, he must be marked. Experiments have already been reported in the United States which involve infusing a thin layer of liquid plastic under the skin as a backing for an invisible number only discerned by a laser scanner. In this way the number will be in the person rather than on a credit card he possesses and can lose or have stolen. When a thing like this is forced upon the population with the intention of having the people subject to the Beast's authority, or not to be allowed to buy or sell (v. 17), then believers will be called upon to fully refuse this identification with the Beast as though they were his property.
The 144,000 of Revelation 7:1-17 will have the seal of God in their foreheads: they are His property: they will not accept the mark of the beast. All who take this stand will be refused permission to buy or sell. Currency may be done away with as a medium of exchange so that the transfer of funds could be done only by electronic means. Civilization today is rapidly moving in this direction. Many will suffer for refusing the mark of the Beast and many will be put to death, for we read of these among the martyrs (Revelation 20:4).
We should be wise as to these matters even now before these things take place (v.18). One who has understanding is called upon to count the number of the Beast. What does it add up to? In Scripture, six is the number of a man-man independent of God-and as such, reduced to the level of a beast. The number six is indelibly stamped upon mankind, and though it is intensified (666) in the number of the Beast, yet it is short of seven which is the number of completeness in the Bible. Secular humanism-mankind filled with pride in his accomplishments-in its fullest development is seen in the number 666. However, in God's account such pride is merely beastly and doomed to solemn judgment.