Would you please explain the identity of the two beasts, which are described in the 13th chapter of the book of Revelation?
In the thirteenth chapter of the book of Revelation, two “beasts” are described. As we will see, these are symbolic descriptions of powerful world empires.
1) The First Beast (Revelation 13:1-10):
Beginning with Revelation 13:1, John sees in a vision a fantastic beast rising out of the sea, which has seven heads and ten horns, and on his head ten crowns. This reminds us of Satan’s description in Revelation 12:3 as “a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns…” Revelation 12:9 identifies the dragon as Satan the devil. This shows that Satan is giving his power to the beast (compare Revelation 13:2, 4).
The beast with the seven heads and ten horns was like a leopard, with feet of a bear and a mouth of a lion (Revelation 13:2). In the book of Daniel, chapters 2, 5, 7 and 8, we are told that, beginning with the ancient Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, there would arise four world-ruling empires on this earth—the Babylonian Empire (Daniel 2:36), the Medo-Persian Empire under Cyrus, Xerxes and others (Daniel 5:28), the Greco-Macedonian Empire under Alexander the Great and his generals (Daniel 8:20-21), and finally, a fourth Empire (Daniel 2:33; 7:7). In Daniel 7:3-24, these four empires or kingdoms are compared with a lion, a bear, a leopard with four heads, and a terrible beast with ten horns (Daniel 7:7).
Comparing these four beasts in the book of Daniel with the one beast in Revelation 13, we can see that the beast in Revelation is a conglomeration of those four beasts in Daniel. It has seven heads, because it combines the head of the lion, the head of the bear, the four heads of the leopard, and the head of the fourth beast with ten horns. Virtually all Bible scholars confirm the historical fact that this fourth beast was the Roman Empire. It was to be divided (Daniel 2:41). This division happened in 286 A.D under Diocletian. By the fourth century, the Roman Empire had two capitals—one in Rome and one in Constantinople.
According to Daniel 7:24, ten kings were to arise out of the Roman Empire. This could either describe a simultaneous or co-existing one-time revival under the leadership of ten kings, or it could refer to ten successive revivals–one revival following the next over time. Comparing the passage in Daniel 7 with the beast in Revelation 13, and based on what actually occurred historically, we conclude that successive revivals are intended here–the beast or the Roman Empire would have ten successive resurrections or revivals. Revelation 17:8 confirms this, as the beast which is described there, and which is similar to the beast of Revelation 13, is described as one which “was, and is not, and will ascend…,” showing the successive nature of the revivals.
Revelation 13:3 explains that one of the seven heads of the beast would be mortally wounded and then be healed. This is a reference to the head of the fourth beast in the book of Daniel–the Roman Empire–which was all but destroyed, but which was subsequently healed or revived. None of the previous three empires or kingdoms in the book of Daniel were restored after they had been destroyed. They just ceased to exist. It was different, however, with the fourth beast–the Roman Empire. It would receive a deadly or mortal wound, but it would be healed.
The deadly wound refers to the fall of Rome in 476 A.D. But as we saw, that mortal wound would be healed. The ancient Roman Empire “died”–but it re-appeared again on the world scene in successive revivals.
The first three resurrections or revivals of the Roman Empire after its fall occurred under Geiseric of the Vandals; Odoacer of the Heruli; and Theodoric of the Ostrogoths. But they did not yet “heal” the deadly wound. Rather, historians refer to these three initial revivals as the “transition age” of the Roman Empire. They temporarily “revived” the Roman Empire to an extent, but they did not bring it back to its earlier power and influence. All three leaders of these first three resurrections were followers of Arianism–a religion which taught some truth, mixed with error. It held correctly that God is not a Trinity, but it denied incorrectly that Jesus Christ is God.
Arianism was later condemned by the Roman Church. Daniel 7:24 explains that a “little horn” would “subdue” three resurrections of the fourth beast–the Roman Empire. This is a reference to the Roman Church, which subdued Rome’s FIRST three resurrections under “barbarian” or “Arian” powers.
The actual “healing” of the deadly wound signifies the fourth resurrection of the ancient Roman Empire, which occurred in 554 A.D., when Justinian, who was heavily influenced by his Roman Catholic wife, defeated the Ostrogoths and marched into Rome. He united the Eastern and Western parts of the ancient Roman Empire and restored the entire Empire. Historians refer to this event as the “Imperial Restoration.”
The fifth resurrection occurred under Charlemagne in 800 A.D.; the sixth under Otto the Great in 962 A.D.; the seventh under Charles V of Hapsburg in 1530 A.D.; and the eighth under Napoleon (which lasted from 1804 A.D. until 1814 A.D., when Napoleon abdicated at the battle of Leipzig).
Following Napoleon, two more resurrections were to occur, as the fourth beast in Daniel 7 and the beast in Revelation 13 had TEN horns. The ninth resurrection happened under Mussolini and Hitler. We are observing right now the beginning of the tenth and final resurrection of the ancient Roman Empire in continental Europe (For more information of the ten successive revivals of the ancient Roman Empire, please read our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy.”)
2) The Second Beast (Revelation 13:11-18)
Beginning with Revelation 13:11, John sees in vision a second beast coming up out of the earth. This second beast had two horns. It looked like a lamb (Jesus Christ is referred to as the Lamb of God throughout the New Testament, compare John 1:29), but it spoke like a dragon (Remember that Satan is identified as a dragon in Revelation 12:3, 9). This second beast is obviously a religious power which is influenced by Satan, while pretending to speak on behalf of Christ. We read in 2 Corinthians 11:15 that Satan’s “ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness.” Jesus warned that many would come in His name, admitting that He was the Christ or Savior, and deceive many through their wrong teachings (compare Matthew 24:4-5).
This deception will be magnified by the fact that the second beast will be able to perform “great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do…” (Revelation 13:13-14). We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11 about the end-time representative or leader of this second beast power, as follows: “The coming of the lawless one [the man of sin or son of perdition, who will claim to be God, verses 3 and 4] is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs and lying wonders and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them [that is, He will allow it] strong delusion, that they should believe the lie…”
We read in Revelation 13:14 that the second beast will make an “image” to the first beast, which we identified as the Roman Empire. Historically, the Roman Church gradually adopted the governmental system of the Roman Empire and created for itself an “image” of the same. (An additional meaning of the end-time “image” is discussed in Norbert Link’s sermon, dated September 13, 2007, titled, “Image Which Speaks.”)
3) The Mark of the First Beast (Revelation 13:16-17)
Revelation 13:16-17 explains that the image will cause people to accept “a mark” of the first beast “on their right hand” or “on their foreheads.” Without it, they cannot buy or sell (compare Revelation 14:9). This mark of the first beast is clearly associated in Scripture with the violation of God’s Sabbath commandment (compare Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:20; Isaiah 56:2; Isaiah 58:13; Amos 8: 5; Exodus 16:23, 26; Exodus 31:15). In the Bible, the “right hand” is associated with work (Psalm 90:17; 137:5). The “forehead” is the seat of thoughts (Ezekiel 3:8; 9:4; Revelation 7:3). We are told that the “little horn” would try to “change times and law” (Daniel 7: 25)—that is, God’s law regarding holy time. The Roman Church has changed the calendar in Europe which identifies Sunday as the last day of the week, rather than the 7th-Day Saturday-Sabbath. It commands that Christians are to rest on Sunday, and it did command in the past that they were to work on Saturday. We will experience something similar very soon. The “image” will influence the first beast–the final European revival of the ancient Roman Empire–to enjoin people to work on the Sabbath, while prohibiting to work on Sunday. As in the past, it will thereby “cause” the death of true Christians (compare Revelation 13:15).
It might be difficult to imagine that in this sophisticated time of reason and enlightenment, Sabbath-keeping Christians will actually be persecuted by European governments, at the instigation of a religious power, for keeping the Sabbath and refusing to work on that day. But we should not forget what happened less than 60 years ago in Europe to Jews and other “unpopular” religious groups. While at that time, the government persecuted many innocent victims, powerful religious organizations stood idly by. In the future, religion will even play an active part in the persecution. As Satan will be behind this terrible persecution yet to come, we can rest assured that it WILL happen. More importantly, God has clearly prophesied it in His Word (compare Revelation 6:9-11; 17:6; 18:24; 19:2; see also Matthew 24:9-13).
God warns us not to worship the beast and his image, and not to receive his mark on our forehead and on our hand (Revelation 14:9). If we do, we will “drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation” (Revelation 14:10). On the other hand, true Christians WILL be killed for their refusal to worship the beast and its image, and to receive the mark. But notice how Revelation 20:4, 6 describes their glorious future:
“… I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads and on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years… Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection… they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.”
4) The Number of the First Beast (Revelation 13:18)
Revelation 13:17 tells us that no one will be able to buy or sell if he does not have the mark or the name of the first beast, or the number of his name. Revelation 13:18 continues that the famous “number of the beast” is the “number of a man.” We are told to “calculate” the number, which is 666. King Lateinos was the founder of Rome. In the Greek, every letter has a numerical value. The numerical value for “Lateinos” is 666. Therefore, the first beast is again clearly identified as the Roman Empire, as the number 666 identifies the founder of the Roman Empire–Lateinos.
Although the designation “beast” in Revelation 13 describes the Roman Empire, it can also refer to the representative or ruler of the final revival or resurrection of that Empire (compare Revelation 16:13; 19:20). It is likely that the numerical value of the name of that human leader–referred to as a MAN (compare again Revelation 13:18)–will also be 666.
The prophecies in the book of Revelation WILL be fulfilled. We are seeing the beginning stages of the described prophetic events unfold before our very eyes. Notice the time setting, in Revelation 1:1: “THE Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants–things which must SHORTLY take place.” Notice, too, Christ’s sayings at the very end of the book: “And behold, I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:12). And again, in verse 20, Christ promises: “Surely I am coming quickly.”
Let us be awake and diligent to WATCH the development of events which will shortly come to pass.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link