Revelation 13:1 - Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Bible Comments

Chapter 13 The Beasts From the Sea and the Earth.

‘And I saw a wild beast coming up out of the sea having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns ten diadems and on his heads names of blasphemy.'

The wild beast is a clone of the red monster who is described similarly (Revelation 12:3 compare also Daniel 7:7), and from whom he gains his authority (Revelation 13:4). Thus the heads and the horns refer more specifically to Satan than to this beast. He bears them to demonstrate that he is Satan's representative at this time. In this chapter we only have the application of the heads. But the wild beast is part of the overall activity of the monster.

The ten horns represent ‘ten kings' who receive authority from the coming scarlet beast as contemporaries ‘for one hour' (i.e. for short period when he has ‘his hour') - (Revelation 17:12), but they are in the future.

The seven heads have already been shown to be wearing seven diadems (Revelation 12:3). Thus the seven will be crowned before the ten. Now we learn that the ten horns will also have diadems, and that the seven heads wear names of blasphemy. The seven heads represent seven mountains and also seven kings in some kind of sequence (Revelation 17:9-10), the sixth of whom ‘is' and therefore represents the current Roman Emperor. That being so the seven mountains are (or include) the seven mountains on which Rome is built and the seven kings are selected Roman Emperors in some kind of sequence, selected in order to make up the number seven (as with genealogies this does not exclude the possibility of gaps in the sequence). The blasphemous names on its heads refer to their claims (often half-hearted but sometimes virulent) to be divine. In Revelation 12:3 the seven horns had seven diadems.

Seven ‘kings' are selected to represent the whole line of Emperors, for as the seven churches represented the whole church, so seven Emperors represent the whole line of Emperors. That is why the eighth is ‘of the seven' meaning that he also relates to the Emperors or is of the same essential make-up. Caligula, who sought to erect his image in the Temple and fervently declared himself to be divine, and sought vigorously to propagate that fact, and Nero who viciously persecuted Christians in Rome, who also fervently claimed divinity, are certainly in mind in the seven.

Thus the wild beast itself may originally represent Augustus, who first accepted the title of ‘divine Emperor' (although divinity had attached to previous Caesars), but as the head of the continuing Roman Empire which arose from the sea of peoples. The seven heads may represent the subsequent prominent Emperors Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian (or any other selection), but essentially they represent the Empirate, the whole line of Emperors.

As in Daniel wild beasts are both kings and kingdoms, and heads and horns arising represent kings resulting from or connected with the first king. It was under Tiberius that the male child was taken up to God's throne, a suitable starting point for the seven. However an equally acceptable starting point would be Caligula whose divine claims were open and determined, and he is the one shown to be prominent in the chapter. This would make Domitian the sixth and the seventh an unknown yet to come. The specific identity of the seven is relatively unimportant (except as defining when Revelation was written), what is important is their significance as representing the Empirate.

The initial growth of the wild beast, which rises already equipped with horns and heads, does not necessarily follow chronologically the events in chapter 12. His growth has already taken place ‘in the sea', i.e. among the nations (compare Revelation 17:15), being prepared for this time. We see him emerging from the sea.

So in this chapter the wild beast clearly signifies the Roman Empire and possibly Caesar Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome as such, the horns representing successors. (This is the wild beast from the sea in contrast with the wild beast from the abyss - Revelation 11:7; Revelation 17:8). When the monster stands on the sand of the sea it is in order to specifically utilise the services of this great beast, which he will empower and control, against the people of God. He stands there to call on it to destroy God's people. This will result in the even more intensive persecution which John foresees in the future.

Revelation 13:1

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 namea of blasphemy.