In this chapter, we read of two world leaders, one is a political leader and the other is a religious leader.
The World Political Leader
And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander His name and His dwelling place and those who live in heaven. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the Book of Life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. He who has an ear, let him hear, If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.
The Identity of the Beast
This beast comes out of “the sea”. Daniel mentions four beasts coming out of “the sea” in Daniel 7. This is the Mediterranean Sea. Very likely, both John in Revelation 13:1 and Daniel in Daniel 7:3 refer to the Mediterranean Sea when talking about “the sea”. This “sea” may well be symbolic of the abyss, the place of demonic opposition to God. This beast has ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns. This is very similar language compared to the description of the dragon in Revelation 12:3 who has seven heads and ten horns and has seven crowns on his heads. The only difference is that the beast has crowns on his horns and the dragon has crowns on his heads. The fact that this beast has seven heads implies at least seven empires in history that have been dominated by satan himself.
The ten horns very likely refer to the ten kings of the end times as mentioned in:
The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who, for one hour, will receive authority as kings along with the beast.
The ten kings will rule for a short time but will eventually give up their power to one man, the world ruler. This beast blasphemes God and His Name. One of the major ways rulers of the past have blasphemed God is by demanding the worship of those under their rule. Examples can be found in Daniel 3 and Daniel 6.
As for the description of the beast, it resembles Daniel 7:3-6 although the order is reversed. Daniel is looking forward to what is to come while John is looking back into history to what has already happened. The lion represents the Babylonian Empire, the bear represents the Medo-Persian Empire and the leopard represents the Grecian Empire. John sees this beast as characteristic of all three empires. This beast boasts of great things like Babylon, the lion; it has the feet of the Medo-Persian Empire, the bear – strong, well-organised; it manifests the speed of the Grecian Empire, the leopard, in the way it conquers the world. The beast receives his power, his throne and his authority from the dragon. The beast refers clearly to a man who comes to power and influence in the world through the direct help of satan himself. Satan is the “god of this age” according to II Corinthians 4:4 and “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” according to Ephesians 2:2. One of the heads of the beast has a fatal wound but the wound has been healed. There are two views over the wound of the head of the beast that was healed.
1. It refers to a specific person, in particular to the coming world ruler. The evidence for this view is rooted in the fact that the beast is worshipped and referred to as an individual. However, the passage does not speak of people worshipping the “head” that was healed, but of people worshipping the “beast” with the seven heads and ten horns.
2. It refers to an empire. This may fit better the overall teaching of Revelation concerning the beast with the seven heads and ten horns.
According to: Revelation 17:10
They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while.
Five of the “heads” had fallen by the time of John, one head was in power when he wrote, and the seventh “head” had not yet come. The final world ruler will be the one who will come out of the seven “heads” according to Revelation 17:11.
The wounded “head” would apparently be the sixth “head” which was in power when John wrote and would no doubt refer to the Roman Empire. It would be healed or come back to life as the seventh “head”. Out of this empire will come the political world leader.
The Influence of the Beast
People will worship satan and they will worship this leader, who is empowered by satan, because of what he has been able to achieve. Though he will initially come as a peace maker, he will eventually show himself to be a powerful military leader.
He is given power but it is only for a season. He blasphemes God and “those who live in heaven”. This may mean believers of the past who are in heaven awaiting the resurrection. It could even mean that he blasphemes the church that has been raptured.
He will conquer the believers. These are Gentiles who have come to faith in Christ Jesus in the tribulation time and will be killed because of their faith. They are the ones referred to in Revelation 7:14. Also see Revelation 20:4. There are three groups of believers:
The Old Testament Believers
The New Testament Believers or the Church
The Great Tribulation Believers.
All non-believers, or as John calls them “inhabitants of the earth” whose names are not in the book of life, will worship this world leader. These people belong to the earth. On the other hand, believers are “pilgrims on their way to heaven.”
The Instruction to Us
The words “he who has an ear, let him hear” can be found as well in the Letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:29; Revelation 3:6, Revelation 3:13; Revelation 3:22. We can find similar words in Matthew 11:15; Matthew 13:9 and Matthew 13:43. This is a challenge to all of us for we are challenged not to ignore these words.
We are then shown that sin will get paid for; no one gets away with anything. Judgement day is coming. Believers are called to be faithful and patient and not to try and seek retaliation, either in the time we live in which is before the tribulation, or during the tribulation.
The World Religious Leader
Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honour of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no-one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.
The beast mentioned in this passage is the religious world leader.
The Description of this Religious Leader
He is another beast meaning another of the same kind. This religious leader has the same characteristics as the political world leader. He comes “out of the earth” which is in contrast to coming “out of heaven”. Jesus was the Bread of Life that had “come down from heaven” according to John 6:33.
The likeness of this beast to a lamb confirms his religious character. He has two horns while the Lamb of God has seven horns according to Revelation 5:6. The two horns on this beast, the religious leader, or false prophet, may indicate that he exercises authority in two realms, the political realm and the religious realm.
He speaks like a dragon. This reveals that he is empowered by satan and he will deceive people with his brand of false religion. See II Corinthians 11:13-15. Also see Daniel 11:36-37; John 5:43.
According to Revelation 13:2, satan gives the first beast, the political world leader, his authority. This time, the political world leader passes on his authority to the religious world leader, meaning that the religious world leader does nothing without the approval of the political world leader, and ultimately without the approval of satan himself.
The aim of the religious world leader is for people all over the world to support and promote a world government and its special leader. We should be wary of all attempts to promote a world government, either through economics, politics or religion. According to Bible prophecy it is satanic in nature. Without the rule of the Messiah, world government is doomed to failure. It is satan’s plan and will result in the persecution and death of many believers.
The only world government approved and blessed by God is the one the Messiah Himself will set up during the millennium, the thousand year reign of the Messiah over the whole earth. There will be no real peace and justice for all until the Prince of Peace and Righteousness sets up His Kingdom according to Isaiah 9:6-7.
The Deception of this Religious Leader
This beast performs miraculous signs. The performance of miracles does not mean that the person doing them is from God. We read in:
For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect – if that were possible.
His prediction fits exactly with what the false prophet will do. No doubt that deception is already taking place today. Satan will counterfeit all the miraculous acts that were performed by the apostles. We need to remember that the magicians at Pharaoh’s Court were able to perform miracles as well through their occult powers according to Exodus 7 and 8. One of the key miracles the false prophet will perform is that of bringing fire down from heaven to earth. This may be an attempt to duplicate the miracle of Elijah that we can read about in I Kings 18:16-38.
This will open the door for the people of the world to be willing to make an image of the beast, the political leader. Through his occult power, the false prophet is then able to make the image come alive by making it speak. He then forces all the people to worship this statue and those who refuse to do so are killed. This is a similar scene to Daniel 3:1-7. However, as far as God is concerned, those who worship such a man-made image deserve the judgement of God according to Exodus 20:3-5.
The Demand of the Religious Leader
All the people must receive a mark either in their right hand or on their forehand, which represents the name or the number of the beast, the world political leader. It will come in the place of currency, cheques, credit cards etc. This leader will impose economic control on behalf of the world government. Those who refuse to take this mark will die because they will not be able to function in this world. However, taking his name or number will show their allegiance to this world leader and will mean they cannot be saved.
In the Old Testament a “mark” is forbidden according to Leviticus 19:28; Leviticus 21:5.
The Mark of the Beast
The number 666 stands for Pseudo Christ or Anti-Christ.