The “beast from the sea” is the latest incarnation of an ancient creature that has stalked the “seed of the woman” since Adam’s fall.
In Revelation, the “Dragon, that Ancient Serpent” is poised to wage “war” against the “seed of the woman” as he stands on the seashore summoning his own “seed” to execute his “war” – the “beast from the sea” and the “beast from the earth” – against the men and women who have the “testimony of Jesus,” and the culmination of an ancient feud.
The image of the “Ancient Serpent” waging war on the “woman’s seed” echoes the story of Adam and Eve when they were seduced by the “serpent” in the Garden. The present conflict is as old as humanity itself:
- (Genesis 3:14-15) – “ And the woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I did eat. And Yahweh said to the serpent, Because you did this, cursed are your above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life: and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel. And to the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy pain and thy conception; in pain thou shalt bring forth children.”
- (Revelation 12:1-2) – “And a great sign was seen in heaven: a woman arrayed with the sun, and the moon under her feet… She was with child and cries out, travailing in birth and in pain to be delivered.”
- (Revelation 12:9, 17) – “The Great Dragon was cast down, the ancient serpent that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole habitable earth; he was cast down to the earth… And the Dragon was enraged with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed.”
- (Revelation 13:2-3) – “The dragon gave it his power, and his throne, and great authority. And one of his heads, as though it had been smitten unto death.”
John is NOT retelling the story of Eden; he is illustrating the ongoing conflict that manifests itself in the daily struggles of the “churches.” History “repeats itself” because the same malevolent creature has been conspiring against the people of God since Adam’s fall. But this “war” is being waged in the lives of believers by the “Ancient Serpent” who has warred against the “seed of the woman” since time immemorial. His tactics may change, but the end goal remains the same.
The “woman” represents either Israel or the faithful remnant of Yahweh within her that produced the “Son.” The application of the messianic prophecy from the second Psalm to her “Son” leaves no doubt about his identity – Jesus. The attempt to destroy him failed because God raised him from the dead and elevated him to His Throne.
Thus, Satan “bruised” his “heel” in death, but Christ’s victory over death “bruised” the head of the “serpent.” Having failed to destroy both the “son” and the “woman,” the “serpent” redirected his “war” against her “seed,” that is, the overcoming saints who “have the testimony of Jesus.”
The “beast from the sea” parallels Daniel’s vision of the “four beasts ascending” from the chaotic sea. In Revelation chapter 13, “ascending” translates the Greek participle in the present tense (anabainon), which stresses action in progress, that is, an ongoing process of ascent. John saw it in the very process of ascending out of the sea.
In his vision, Daniel saw four “beasts” ascend from the sea, symbolizing four consecutive kingdoms “diverse one from another.” In contrast, John saw a single beast with the same animal characteristics seen in all four of Daniel’s beasts – the lion, bear, leopard, and the unnatural monster with “ten horns.”
Strikingly, John listed these animal characteristics in reverse order from Daniel’s vision. The monster with ten horns, the leopard, the bear, and the lion, as if John was looking backward through time from his first-century perspective.
The single “beast” in Revelation is an amalgam of all “four beasts” from Daniel. It is related to the four earlier “beasts,” but is also something beyond them, and presumably, far worse. It is related to, but not identical to, the “four beasts” of Daniel.
The combination of these “four beasts” into a single creature suggests the “beast” is a trans-historical reality, a thing that has existed since the fall of humanity and appears periodically in history, though each time in a different guise. There are scriptural precedents for this understanding.
For example, in his interpretation of the “great image” from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel explained that four kingdoms would arise on the earth in succession, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar. The “great image” consisted of four distinct sections; nevertheless, it was ONE image. In the end, the kingdom of God destroyed all four kingdoms when the “stone cut from a mountain” struck that ONE “great image” on its feet, shattering the entire edifice – (Daniel 2:44).
In his dream, Daniel saw the “fourth beast” destroyed and “burned with fire.” But the lives of the “rest of the beasts” were “prolonged for a season and a time.” In the interpretation, the “kingdom,” singular, was given to the “saints of the Most-High.” In other words, the “lives” of the preceding “beasts” continued in the “life” of the “fourth beast,” the one with the “little horn speaking great things” – (Daniel 7:11-12, 7:27).
Likewise, in Revelation, when the “seventh trumpet” sounded a voice proclaimed that the “kingdom of the world,” singular, had become the “kingdom of our Lord and his Christ” – (Revelation 11:15).
This understanding becomes clear in the interpretation of the “the Great Whore” that rides the “beast”:
- (Revelation 17:8-11) “The beast that you saw was and is not, and is about to ascend from the abyss, and goes into destruction… The inhabitants of the earth saw the beast, how he was, and is not, and will come. Here is the mind that has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sits. 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 is going into destruction.”
The “seven heads” represent seven kingdoms. This means the “beast” is something more than a single human ruler. It “was, is not, and will come.” It has appeared in history more than once, and it will appear again. Of the “seven heads,” five “are fallen,” one “is,” and another is yet to come. That is, five kingdoms were already in John’s past, one existed in his time, and another one was yet to appear on the earth.
The “fifth beast” could only be the Roman Empire, and that is why many commentators believe the final “beast” will be a revived Rome in some form.
The “beast” is “of the seven” but is also “an eighth.” This indicates its final incarnation will be of the same nature as its predecessors, but it will be something beyond them. It will wage “war on the saints” in Satan’s final attempt to destroy the people of God.
This reading of the “beast” is not allegorical. The prediction of a coming final “beast” that will attempt to annihilate the church is quite definite. However, Revelation also wants us to understand that this is an ancient battle that continues daily in the trials and tribulations of the church. But the final battle will occur in the “short season” at the end of the age when the “Ancient Serpent” gathers the nations of the earth for one final last attempt to destroy the “seed of the woman.”
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