The Beast of Revelation

The beast power of Revelation 13 has intrigued Christians for centuries. There have been many speculations as to its nature and the time when it will appear. This concern is well placed, for the Bible does not give stronger warnings about any power than it does about this beast brought to view in Revelation 13:1–10. This speculation is not necessary, however, because God does not warn us against something and then speak in such vague and uncertain terms that we are left at a loss to clearly understand what He is speaking about; and this beast is no exception.

In Bible prophecy, political powers are frequently represented by animals, or, as many translations read, “beasts.” This practice is not limited to Bible times, for we still use animal symbols to represent countries. The term beast, therefore, is not necessarily bad in and of itself. The appearance of this beast, however, is different from any animal we know, so we are unable to call it by the name of any beast, such as a lion or a bear; and it has become known as the beast.

The characteristic that makes this beast of such interest is its demand for worship in opposition to God. It is against this false system of worship, and those who form a part of it, that God’s wrath, unmingled with mercy, is to be poured out. (See Revelation 14:9–10)

In looking at the verses that pertain to this beast power, we notice that there are many characteristics—clues, if you please—that help to identify this power beyond question. As we examine each of the points, it should become increasingly clear who this beast power must be.

“And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshiped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshiped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Revelation 13:1–8

“The Beast”

Many people are looking for a diabolical power that will force its way into the political scene, compelling Christians to abandon their faith and setting up a nonreligious government of force. We need to notice, however, that there is worship involved in the establishment of this power. Notice particularly in verse 8 that all of the people on the earth will worship it, except for those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Those only whose names are written in the book of life are saved. Jesus spoke very plainly when He indicated that “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:14

A little later in that same sermon Jesus made another profound statement: “Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21–23

From these verses we conclude that the overwhelming majority of Christians will not be ready to meet Christ when He returns. According to the prophecy, all of these will be found worshiping this beast power. If this power professed to be anti-Christian, as so many expect, very few, if any, of the Christian world would be found worshiping it, all the while expecting to find acceptance when Jesus comes.

The next point to notice is that the beast came up out of the water. According to Revelation 17:15, waters represent peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. This text, then, indicates that when this power emerged, it came from a densely populated area.

It Receives Its Power From the Dragon

Another significant point, and one which helps us to establish the time for the emergence of this power, is that it was to be given its seat, its authority, and its power, by the dragon. While in a sense this refers to Satan, it is more specifically a reference to ancient pagan Rome. The seat of the old Roman Empire was the city of Rome itself. As the date for the fall of the Roman Empire in the west was A.D. 476, we conclude that this power could not be firmly established with a seat and authority until after this time.

Out of the ruins of pagan Rome arose the Church of Rome. Claiming the titles and the authority of her predecessors, the emperors, papal Rome sought to extend her power over the heads of state. For centuries the heads of state received their crown and ruled more or less subject to Church authority. While some might contend that the papacy is primarily a religious power, we have to understand that it is also a political power which sends and receives ambassadors and functions as a political state.

The Body of a Leopard

This beast, it will be noted, has the body of a leopard. We notice that in Daniel 7:6 the Greek nation is represented by a leopard. (See tract on Daniel 7.) Few people realize how completely Greek philosophy captured the world. It played a significant role in the formation of thought in the early Christian church.

During the Middle Ages, when the Bible was outlawed, men looked to Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates for light. As one may expect, their philosophy greatly permeated religious thinking, helping to shape many of the concepts that became a part of Christian thought but for which there is no biblical support.

Several Greek philosophers are famous for the impact that they had on human thought. Plato believed in the immortality of the soul. In his understanding, heroes and notable persons went immediately to mansions and places of reward while the common people went down to the infernal regions to receive punishment for sinful pollutions, until they had been cleansed of those pollutions. Here we see the elevation of the saints to heaven at death and the doctrine of purgatory.

Plato also believed in the concept of separating the body from the soul. He believed this was achieved by afflicting the body, by deprivation, and by separation from society. Thus was laid the groundwork for the later emergence of monasticism and penances.

The Feet of a Bear

Another significant point to be remembered is that this beast had the feet of a bear. The bear in Daniel 7:5 represents the empire of the Medes and Persians. The Medes and Persians had a method of government peculiarly their own. When the king of the Medes and Persians spoke law, he was considered to be infallible. Once given, it was not possible to change the law of This finds its counterpart in the doctrine of the infallibility of the pope when he speaks ex cathedra, defining points of law or doctrine.

On the head of the beast was the name blasphemy. To understand the biblical concept of blasphemy, we turn to Mark 2. The rulers of the people accused Jesus of blasphemy for presuming to forgive sins, a prerogative belonging to God alone. (See verses 5–7.) This authority the Catholic Church also claims to have.

Power to Reign for 1260 Years

This beast power was to continue for 42 months, or three and a half years of prophetic time. Using the Jewish calendar of 30 days to the month and the prophetic principle of allowing a year of literal time for each prophetic day (see Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6), we understand that this beast power would retain its power for 1260 years. It is also shown that though its power was removed and it received a wound that appeared to be a death blow, the wound would be healed; and this same power would again exercise authority over the rulers of the earth.

The Starting Date

By the decree of Justinian, the pope was given ecclesiastical as well as temporal power; but this could not become a reality until Justinian’s armies defeated the Ostrogoths in Italy, who were Arians by faith. This campaign was completed in A.D. 538.

Beginning with the date of 538, 1260 years extend to 1798. At this time the French Revolution had ended; and the armies of Napoleon were marching across Europe, destroying monarchy and the Church. Berthier, the French general, went down to Rome, took the then-reigning pope prisoner, and returned him to France to live out his remaining days in exile. For a relatively short period of time, the church was without a visible head.

Many believed that the church had come to an end and would never again figure significantly in world affairs, and for many years the picture remained unchanged.

Then, in 1929, Cardinal Gasparri and Benito Mussolini signed the concordat which restored temporal powers to the papacy. Once again the Vatican began to function as a political state. No one can question that since that time the papacy has regained much of the prestige lost two centuries ago. When Harry Truman, in the 1950s, attempted to appoint General Mark Clark as an official ambassador to the Vatican, there arose such a protest that it was not possible for him to follow through. It remained for President Reagan to accomplish this some thirty years later, and he met with virtually no opposition.

This beast power, it is declared, would make war with the saints of God. No one with any knowledge of history can deny that this description also fits the Catholic Church. It is conservatively estimated that the Church of Rome caused over fifty million people to be put to death. What was their crime? They followed their conscience, even when it differed with the established religion.

While it is true that religious tolerance is more widespread today than ever, the prophecies point to the fact that this will not always be the case and that once having re-established its lost authority, the Church will revive the persecutions of the past. (See Revelation 13:15–17)

We understand that God did not give us these prophecies as an indictment against individuals but rather against a system, as warnings that His people might not become innocently involved in apostasy. Later, in Revelation 18, we see this same power referred to as Babylon. In speaking of this power at the end of time, we find that just as God called Lot out of wicked Sodom before its destruction, He sends a call to His people to come out of this system of apostasy lest they become involved with its general ruin. It is because of His great love for those people who are a part of this system of apostasy, many who sincerely love Him, that He warns them of pitfalls and danger; not because of any animosity toward them, but that they might choose to avoid those things that threaten to separate them from Himself.

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