At the end of chapter 12, the “Dragon” was poised to launch his “war” on the “seed of the woman,” as he stood on the seashore to summon his own “seed,” beginning with the “beast from the sea.” Having failed to destroy the “son” and the “woman clothed with the sun,” enraged, he set out to annihilate the “seed of the woman,” the men and women who have the “testimony of Jesus.”
Chapter 13 opens with John seeing the “beast ascending from the sea,” a monstrous creature with “seven heads and ten horns.” The image draws heavily from the vision of Daniel about four “beasts ascending from the sea” (Daniel 7:2-8):
- (Revelation 13:1-2) – “And I saw out of the sea a beast ascending; having ten horns and seven heads, and upon his horns ten diadems, and upon his head, names of slander. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet as of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority.”
Thus, the “Dragon” began to implement his plan to destroy the “seed of the woman” by summoning his own “seed,” the beasts from the sea and the earth. This is how the “war” between the “seed of the Woman” and the “seed” of the “Ancient Serpent” played out on the earth – (Genesis 3:15, Revelation 13:11-18).
“And he stood on the sand of the sea” (estathė epi tėn ammon tės thalassė). This clause forms a verbal link to the final conflict at the end of the “thousand years” when “Satan gathered the nations to the war, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea” (hė ammos tės thalassė) – (Revelation 20:7-9).
“And I saw a beast ascending out of the sea.” This clause uses language from Daniel’s vision of “four great beasts ascending from the sea.” “Ascending” translates a Greek participle in the present tense (anabainon) – That is to say, progressive action. It describes an ongoing process, NOT a single incident.
Previously, the ascent of the “beast” was introduced in the vision of the “two witnesses”; only there, it “ascended from the Abyss.” When the “two witness” completed their testimony, the “beast ascended” to kill them. The same participle is used in both passages – anabainon. Thus, the “sea” is the functional equivalent of the “Abyss” – (Revelation 11:7, 13:1).
The theme of evil “ascending” from the Abyss/Sea occurs several times in Revelation:
- (Revelation 11:7) – “And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that is ascending out of the Abyss will make war with them, overcome them, and kill them.”
- (Revelation 13:11) – “And I saw another beast ascending out of the earth.”
- (Revelation 17:8) – “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is going to ascend out of the abyss, and to go into perdition.”
Later, John saw “a sea of glass mingled with fire; and them that come off victorious from the beast… standing by the sea.” Therefore, the sea “like crystal” is associated with the “beast.” The “sea of glass” is the same dark reality as the “Abyss” and the “sea.” That is why in the new heaven and earth the “sea will be no more” – (Revelation 15:2, 21:1-2).
“And I saw a beast.” The Greek noun rendered “beast” (thérion) refers to a “wild beast,” not to a domesticated animal. In ancient Greek, thérion was the diminutive form of “beast” (thėr). Likewise, in Revelation, “lamb” translates the diminutive form – arnion. The verbal parallel is deliberate; the “beast” imitates the “Lamb.” But the chief agent of the “Dragon” is a wild animal, not a domesticated lamb, despite appearances.
Daniel saw four “beasts” that symbolized four kingdoms, “diverse one from another.” In contrast, John saw a single beast with characteristics from all four of Daniel’s beasts – The features of a lion, bear, leopard, and the unnatural creature with “ten horns.” In Revelation, these features are listed in reverse order from Daniel. The single beast of Revelation is an amalgam of all four of the beasts from Daniel. It is related to them, but is something far worse.
The “beast” had “seven heads and ten horns,” with a crown on each horn. The figure of “seven heads” is derived from the individual heads of the four beasts from Daniel – The lion, the bear, the fourth beast, and the four “heads” of the leopard.
The “Dragon” also had “seven heads and ten horns,” but it had “seven diadems” on its heads, but the “beast from the Sea” had ten diadems on its horns. This demonstrates the familial link between the “Dragon” and the “beast” – The latter is the offspring or “seed” of the former. The “diadems” demonstrate the superior authority of the “Dragon” – He rules through his earthly minions – (Daniel 12:3).
The number “seven” represents completeness – Here, the complete political authority of the “Beast” – (“There was given to it authority over every tribe, tongue and nation”). The seven “heads” demonstrate it is more than an individual human ruler. Later, its “ten horns” are linked to “ten kings” – (Revelation 13:7, 17:7-12).
The “seven diadems” represent the claim by the “beast” to political sovereignty over the earth. But its claim is “blasphemous.” The “Lamb” is the true “ruler of the kings of the earth,” and he is the “king of kings” – (Revelation 1:4-5, 5:6-14, 17:14).
The arrogant claim of the “beast” counterfeits the authority of the “Lamb.” Its political authority is derived from the “Dragon.” However, previously, Satan was defeated by the messianic “son.” He may be loose on the earth, but his opportunity to wreak havoc is limited, only for “a short time.” Moreover, his ability to act is subject to the authority of the “Lamb” – (Revelation 12:7-12).
The “beast” is a trans-historical entity, a political reality that has existed for thousands of years. It has appeared periodically in history in various forms. But the “beast” will have one final incarnation as part of Satan’s final assault on the “saints.”
- (Revelation 13:3-5) – “And I saw one of its heads, showing that it had been slain unto death, and the stroke of its death was healed. And the whole earth marveled after the beast, and did homage to the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast; and they did homage to the beast, saying: Who is like the beast, and who can make war with it? And there was given it a mouth speaking great things and slanders; and it was given it to act forty-two months.”
The slaying of one of the “heads” echoes the messianic prophecy from the Book of Genesis:
- (Genesis 3:15) – “I will put enmity between the serpent and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.”
The verb rendered “slain” is sphazō; to “slay; slaughter.” It was commonly used for the slaying of sacrificial animals. The same clause was applied to the “Lamb” that John saw standing before the Throne, “as having been slain” – (hōs esphagmenon – Revelation 5:6).
There is a clear conceptual link between the deaths of the “Lamb” and the “head of the beast.” The death of the latter with its apparent “resurrection” mimics the death of he “Lamb” and his elevation to the Throne of God. This understanding was confirmed when the “beast” received the “stroke of the sword and lived [ezésen].” The same form of the verb was applied to Jesus as the one “who became dead and lived [ezésen]” – (Revelation 2:8).
The head was slain by a “plague of death” (plégé). How this was administered is not specified. Plégé may mean “strike,” but in Revelation it means “plague.” This suggests that God was the cause of his “death.” The next vision refers to the blow as the “stroke of a sword” – (Revelation 13:14).
The death of the “beast” paralleled the defeat and expulsion of the “Dragon.” After his defeat, he retained the ability to deceive the “inhabitants of the earth,” but he was authorized to deceive them only for a “short season.” Unlike the resurrection of the “Lamb,” the life of the “Dragon” is extended for a limited period. The restoration of the slain “head” is based on another passage from the vision of Daniel:
- (Daniel 7:11-12) – “The beast was slain, and its body destroyed, and it was given to be burned with fire. And as for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.”
Only one of the “seven heads” was slain. Elsewhere, the “seven heads” represent seven kingdoms. Thus, the death of the “head” does not portray the death of an individual man, but the fall of a kingdom – (Revelation 17:10).
The “whole earth marveled after the beast” because it lived again; that is, the “inhabitants of the earth.” Those who give allegiance to the “beast” give homage to the Dragon, the power behind the throne. “Render homage” signifies an act of obeisance to someone of higher rank.
“Who is like the Beast.” This parodies the biblical declaration about God – (“Who is like you, O Yahweh, among the gods?”). The “inhabitants of the earth” ascribed to the “beast” honors that belonged to God alone.
“Who can make war with the Beast?” The declaration is ironic. Previously, the “Dragon” was defeated by Michael and “his army.” The “inhabitants of the earth” do not understand that they serve a defeated master. Awed by the “beast,” they offer it total allegiance – (Revelation 13:8).
The “beast from the sea” was given authority to operate for “forty-two months,” the same period during which the “holy city was tread underfoot.” Likewise, in the book of Daniel, the fourth beast “trampled the remnant with its feet” for the designated period, the “time, times, and part of a time” – (Daniel 7:19-25, 8:10, Revelation 11:2-3, 12:6, 12:14, 13:5).
The “forty-two months” during which the “beast” makes accusations against the “saints” is connected to the forty-two months when the “the holy city was given to the nations and trampled underfoot forty and two months.” The same reality is in view in both passages, although from different aspects.