Beast from the Sea, Little Horn


The “little horn” from Daniel is found in Revelation in the description of the “beast from the sea” and its “war against the saints.”

In Revelation, the “little horn” is NOT explicitly named, but its characteristics are present in the description of the “beast from the sea.” The book does not simply retell the same story without changes; it modifies and repurposes it to tell ITS story. The “beast from the sea” is based on Daniel’s “little horn,” but also is something beyond it, and arguably, far worse.

Revelation uses language from Daniel, but often with modifications and reapplications to its situation. For example, the “fiery furnace” of Nebuchadnezzar provides the imagery for the “lake of fire.” The original “four beasts” from the sea now become the single “beast from the sea” seen by John – (Revelation 13:1-10).

Revelation does not simply restate the original vision from Daniel, but neither does it fabricate new things at whim. There is a precedent for combining the “four beasts” into a single creature. In his earlier dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw four kingdoms represented by ONEgreat image.” The four individual domains were all parts of a greater whole. Moreover, in Daniel’s interpretation of the dream, all four of its parts were destroyed at once – (Daniel 2:32-35).

The dominant feature of the “little horn” was its “mouth speaking great things.” Likewise, in Revelation, the “beast from the sea was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies” with which it “slandered those who tabernacle in heaven.” The two descriptions are close. However, rather than to one of its horns, in Revelation, the “mouth speaking great things” was given to the entire “beast from the sea” – (Revelation 13:4-6).

Nor does Revelation reuse every feature from Daniel’s “little horn.” It, for example, “two eyes like a man,” is a description not found in Revelation. In both books, the “mouth” directs its words against the “saints” as part of its “war” to destroy them – (Daniel 7:21-25, 8:10, 8:24, Revelation 13:5-7).

The “tabernacle” of God that was “slandered” by the “mouth” was identified as “those who tabernacle in the heaven,” that is, as the “saints.” The clause does not refer to nonhuman entities that live “in heaven.” This is one of several ways that Revelation contrasts those who follow the “beast” (“The inhabitants of the earth”) with those who “follow the Lamb” (“those who tabernacle in heaven”):

The single “beast from the sea” was “given” the authority to “slander those who tabernacle in heaven” and to persecute the “saints,” essentially, two ways of saying the same thing. The “beast” was granted authority by the “Dragon.” Similarly, in Daniel, the “little horn” had “mighty power, but not by his own power” to wage war against the “saints” – (Daniel 8:25, Revelation 13:4-7).

In Daniel, the “little horn” was authorized to persecute the saints “until a season, seasons, and part of a season.” Likewise, in Revelation, the “beast” was authorized to attack the “saints” for “forty-two months.”

In Daniel’s vision, the “fourth beast” was destroyed at the end of the designated period, “burned with fire,” and its “little horn” was “broken without hand” after it attempted to “stand up to the prince of princes.” In Revelation, a similar reality is presented in the vision of the “rider on a white horse” – (Daniel 7:11, 7:26, 8:25).

  • (Revelation 19:16-20) – “And he hath on his garment and on his thigh a name is written, KINGS OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS…And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies gathered together to make war against him that sat upon the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet…they two were cast alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone.”

But there are differences. For example, in Revelation, in addition to its “ten horns,” the “beast” had “seven heads,” one of which received the “death-stroke” that was “healed.” That “death-stroke” cannot refer to the final destruction of the “beast” in the “lake of fire” since it recovered from it. In Daniel, though all four were overthrown, they were not immediately annihilated – “And as for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time” – (Daniel 7:12, Revelation 13:3).

In both books, “horns” represent kings, including the “little horn.” In Daniel, the seven “heads” are distributed among all four “beasts from the sea” – the “four heads” of the leopard and the one “head” each of the remaining three “beasts.” In Revelation, the one “beast from the sea” has all “seven heads.” What do they represent?

The explanation is provided in the image of the “great harlot” that was “carried by the beast.” The “seven heads” represented seven “kingdoms”:

  • The beast was and is not, and is going to ascend from the Abyss and go to destruction. And they that dwell on the earth will wonder…when they behold the beast that was and is not and is coming…The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman is sitting; and they are seven kings; the five are fallen, the one is, the other is not yet come; and when he comes, he must continue a little while. And the beast that was and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is of the seven; and he goes to destruction” – (Revelation 17:8-11).

The description of the “beast that was and is not” refers to its “death-stroke” and restoration. In view is not an individual human being but a “kingdom.” For John, five of the kingdoms were in the past (“five are fallen”), the sixth existed (“one is”), and the seventh had not yet appeared (“the other is not yet come”). The identities of the five fallen domains are not important to the vision. The one existing in John’s day could only be Rome. The seventh that was yet to appear was the “beast from the sea” – (“The beast that was and is not”).

The seventh kingdom is also “an eighth and is of the seven.” Though ambiguous, this suggests the final kingdom will be of the same character as its predecessors, but also will be something beyond them – “diverse from the other beasts.”

The “great harlot” sits on all seven “heads,” past, present, and future. This points to a transhistorical reality. The final incarnation of the “beast” will be a culmination of an age-long conflict that concludes with the destruction of the “Dragon,” the “beast,” and the “False Prophet” in the “lake of fire.”

In Daniel, the “little horn” represented a known historical figure, Antiochus IV. In Revelation, characteristics, imagery, and terminology from all four of Daniel’s “beasts” are combined to paint the portrait of the final “beast,” the “seventh, who is also an eighth.” And paradoxically, its “war” against the “saints” will prove to be its undoing.

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