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HE BEAST OF REVELATION
Western Civilisation, ancient and modern

the Beast of Revelation (28K image)

People often speculate about "the Beast" in Revelation chapter 13.

But why? Why make it complicated?
John said he saw a vision and saw a beast.
So therefore
he saw a beast, an animal. Simple.

Ah, but what did this beast represent?

Anyone who has read Daniel's dreams should recognize it as the Roman empire
- and her successors, the modern world order, built on the "classical" model.
(Which probably identifies the second beast.)
Anyone who has read Isaiah should recognise
Leviathan.
And anyone who has studied world history should recognise the
fulfillment of this prophecy.


What are the beast, the horns, the whore, etc.?

On this web site I will indicate how Revelation chapter 13 has already ben fulfilled. (and I have checked this against the words of living prophets). Perhaps these scriptures will be fulfilled once again in the future, but either way, they have already been fulfilled by the history of the last 2000 years:
  • The beast seems to be western civilization (and not especially the Catholic church). A turning point was Byzantium, under Justinian.
  • Horns represent powers. These horns seem to be the specific kingdoms that Rome broke into, in the fifth and sixth centuries.
  • The whore named Babylon seems to be whichever city controls the beast.
  • The mark seems to be whatever marks you out as a man of the world.
  • The number seems to be various clues that point to the Latin world.
  • The second beast seems to be the renaissance world and onwards.

Why the Beast cannot be just one person

Ever since Darbyism became popular, most evangelical Protestants have assumed that the Beast is an individual. This has led to all kinds of failed expectations and conflicting theories about 666. But the Bible is clear.
  1. John uses Daniel's imagery, which in Daniel referred to kingdoms, empires, and powers.
  2. The book of Daniel (chapters 2, 7 and 8) foresaw Rome, and described it in the same way that John describes his beast. John even confirms that it sits on the seven hills of Rome.
  3. The beast draws on the doctrine of Leviathan - the great sea monster that has existed since creation and will be destroyed at Christ's second coming.
  4. The beast also draws on the doctrine of Christ wounding the head of Satan (see "wounding the dragon", discussed elsewhere). This has nothing to do with an individual.
  5. The beast is present in John's time ("the eighth king" - discussed on the next page - see also Revelation 22:10), and also just before Jesus comes. So the beast is present for nearly 2000 years or more.
  6. If the beast is a last-days individual, then Revelation must miss out about 2000 years of history. The entire Bible only took 1400 years to write. How could it ignore 2000 years?
  7. The arguments used to support this theory do not hold water (see below). There is no reason to suspect that the beast is an individual. The idea is based only on tradition, and the desire to deny that the Great Apostasy happened as foretold. (All the uncomfortable apostasy prophecies are shoveled onto the Beast/Antichrist, and said to be "still in the future".
  8. Well informed evangalicals themselves do not accept that he Beast is an individual. For example, the Elwell Evangelical Dictionary, under the heading "Babylon", says "She is also portrayed as sitting upon a scarlet beast, who represents worldly powers arrayed against the Lamb of God"
  9. If you ignore all this and believe that the beast is an individual, the most likely candidate is not a last days figure, but the emperor Nero. This idea is refuted in "more about the Beast ".

A response to the common Protestant (e.g. Darbyist) view

Introduction
  • These quotations were kindly provided by a helpful critic.
  • Some misunderstandings arise through using different Bible translations, so I have checked these with the KJV, NIV, and a Greek study Bible.
  • Further misunderstanding arise over the use of the word "empire". John makes it clear that the Beast is linked to Rome (an empire). But other evidence suggests that the Beast is bigger than a single empire. It is, rather, a culture that rests on Roman history, learning, ideals, methods, etc.
  • References like this (13:1) refer to chapter and verse in Revelation.

"(13:1) does refer to Rome, but (13:3) moves from an empire to an individual: '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.'

  1. The heads are identified mainly as hills (see below). Even if a head was an individual, the chapter still refers to the beast as a whole (with seven heads), and not to one head or other.
  2. The point about wounding one of the heads suggests the well established theme of Christ wounding the head of Satan (see the general points discussed earlier).
  3. No other scriptures indicate a single personal antichrist, so why introduce one here?

"Daniel chapters 7 and 8 have already shown that there will be a last days antichrist"

They actually show the precise opposite. These points are discussed in detail elsewhere.

"Every great empire has a leader, which implies a personal leader for the Beast empire"

  1. Certainly there are various kings (seven kings eight kings and ten kings are all mentioned in chapters 13 and 17). But John usually refers to the beast as a whole, seldom to one king or another.
  2. Since the Beast outlives ancient Rome (or any other single empire), it must be bigger than any one empire or kingdom. It follows that any one emperor or king becomes less important.
  3. The general reasons why the beast cannot be an individual were discussed earlier.

"seven kings (not empires)"

If the kings are individual kings, or even kingdoms, that puts the Beast firmly in ancient times, as John says that five of them have already past (17:10-11). See also " kings and horns in prophecy" (part of the "beasts and horns" page).

They "will sign a treaty giving their power and strength to him"

The text (17:16-17) does not say they will sign a treaty, only that they will give him their power and strength. The prophecy could equally be fulfilled if they gave the beast their power without intending to. It is possible that they sign a treaty, but we should not jump to conclusions.

"the eighth king... also ruled briefly as the seventh"

The text (17:10-11) does not say the eighth was the seventh, only that he was "of" or "from" the seven (17:11). Incidentally, if the Beast was a "last days" individual, being one of the seven kings would make him about 2000 years old.

"people of the earth will be dumbfounded at his appearance after being dead.

The text (13:3) does not say a king will be dead, but a head. It is true that the kings are linked to the heads, but hills are linked even more closely (17:9-10). If you feel justified in specifying a particular king, you may as well also specify a particular hill.

"all the world marveled at this and said "Where is there anyone as great as he" they exclaimed. "Who is able to fight against him?" At this point I must say that people would not have this kind of adoration for an empire, but for an individual person.

Not true. Ever heard if patriotism? In my country we sing "Land of Hope and Glory" about the British Empire growing ever greater (OK, it's a bit dated now :-). Since the cold war, Americans could also say with honesty "who is able to fight against" America. Plenty of countries are proud of their supposed invincibility. Hitler's thousand year Third Reich is maybe a good example. Rome was perhaps an even better example. When "the eternal city" was sacked in the fifth century, many people found it almost impossible to believe.

"As verse 8 declares "And all mankind... worshipped the evil Creature""

When has the whole world ever agreed over anything? This is very strong evidence that the Beast is not just a single empire but a philosophy. For example, we have seen capitalism recently claim to be so universal that it means "the end of history". All mankind will probably never follow one nation (and certainly not one man), but they are pretty close to following one economic system: the global market, based on classical (e.g. Roman) assumptions, methods, and theories.

"This same evil Creature (notice the wording is consistent) is thrown alive into the lake of Fire (19:20)"

And so are all its followers (19:20; 14:10-11) - practically "all the world". Sounds like a worldwide philosophy rather than an individual. The simplest explanation is that the beast was an actual beast in a vision, representing many people on earth. As for the fire and brimstone, this may not be literal - the next verse (19:21) are slain by a sword that comes from Jesus' mouth. Is this literal too?

"He was permitted to give breath to this statue and even make it speak!" ... have you ever seen a statue of any empire?"

I might also ask, have you ever seen a man with seven heads? But as for a statue of an empire, yes, I have seen several. Britannia for one. Or that French woman who symbolises the republic. Or those massive (and numerous) statues of Lenin. Or maybe even (at a stretch) the statue of Liberty. But this is of course irrelevant. The text does not say a statue. The text only says "an image". This does not have to mean a physical image. The same Greek word (eikon) is also used in the following passages:

Romans 8:29
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren."

1 Corinthians 15:49
"And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."

2 Corinthians 3:18
"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

Hebrews 10:1
"For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect."

The choice is: do we have the image of Christ, or the image of the Devil? If we look for a literal statue, we will miss these great truths.

"the False Prophet... (13:11) is some man (not empire)"

"False prophet" is a title for a beast who is introduced in 13:11:

"And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon."

The Greek term is "pseudoprophetes". Christ and the apostles said that there would be many such false prophets. The false prophet can therefore be seen as a representation of all the false prophets. In revelation, one woman represents all the people of the church (chapter 12), one beast represents all the beasts of Daniel (see the imagery of 13:1) and one beast represents all the false prophets.

There are Biblical precedents for having one individual symbolize many. In Isaiah 14, the Babylonian empire is referred to as "Lucifer". In Deuteronomy 18, Moses warns against "the prophet" who speaks falsely, meaning any and all false prophets. In 1 John, John refers to "antichrist", meaning many antichrists.

 

"To find more about the Evil Creature who will attempt to battle the Lord Jesus Christ, we can turn to 2 Thessalonians Chapter 2."

We should not jump to conclusions. There are many false Christs and false prophets, right from New Testament times. As for 2 Thessalonians 2, all the early church members knew that the evil power was only held back by the political power of the Roman empire. This indicates a date of somewhere between the fourth and seventh century for its rise - far too early for any "last days" theory. For details, see the page on "don't take my word for it".

"This man of sin [2 Thessalonians 2] will come as Satan's tool, full of satanic power, and will trick everyone with strange demonstrations, and will do great miracles."

This is just standard practice for every false prophet.

Matthew 24:24
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

It further indicates that "the false prophet" is a composite figure, representing a whole class of people.

"He did unbelievable miracles such as making fire flame down to earth from the skies while everyone was watching. (13:13)"

I don't know which translation you use, but it does tend to add to the scripture. Have you not read the warning in Revelation 22:18? The Greek text simply says that the the beast/prophet will cause fire to come from heaven.

There are many possible interpretations. I prefer to think it just means particularly amazing signs. One theory that I don't particularly hold to, but is interesting nonetheless, points out that the Greek for "heaven" was "Ouranos" (e.g. Uranus, Greek god of the sky). So they say "fire from heaven" could be translated "fire from Uranium". I don't think we can be that specific, but it does indicate that there are many possibilities.

"One of the reasons that [the false image is made] is because God hates idol worship, the second great commandment."

That is true, but idols are not restricted to wood and stone. Perhaps the greatest idol is money, and after that power. These two themes identify the Roman value system.

"How much more of a rebellion could it be to make an idol of himself and place it in God's temple."

I didn't think Protestants believed in temples <grin>

"In Mark, Chapter 13 where Jesus is talking about the end times..."

Is he? he certainly ends with the end, but he starts by talking about the destruction of the temple in AD 70 (Mark 13:1-4)

(and so on)

at this point, the conversation branches away from the Beast in Revelation 13 and 17, and starts talking about Daniel's prophecies, so here we shall draw it to a close. I hope this little dialogue has been helpful. many of these points are dealt with in more detail on the following pages:

more about the Beast | the second Beast | the mark | the number | Leviathan | Justinian

the Beast of Revelation

About the picture:
This montage represents the beast (seven heads, mouth like a lion) with a foundation in Rome (the coliseum). More prominent is the second beast (with horns like a lamb) who does great miracles (fire from heaven). He may appear to represent progress (looks like the lamb, does miracles) but in fact his work is modeled on Rome - classical assumptions, methods, theories (modern cities rise from the coliseum).
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