All the world wondered at the beast - western civilization, which conquered the world. (first as Rome, then as Europe). This was the ambition of all tyrants from the dawn of time. As Joseph Smith said, all the world wondered at the beast - even rulers from before Roman times.
|What Revelation says about the Beast|
|The Beast soon after John's time|
|Chapter 13||The origin and history of the Beast, and how the second Beast effectively takes over.|
|17:3, 8-11||The beast in relation to the whore.|
|The Beast just before the Second Coming (note the chronology of Revelation)|
|Chapter 9||The fifth angel sounds - locusts from
the bottomless pit.
1. This does not refer to the first appearance of the beast - the beast is not even mentioned. But the locusts come from the home of the beast.
2. The trumpets and vials appear to discuss the same thing. So this passage is equivalent to 16:10-11, which emphasizes the pain caused by the "locusts".
|Chapter 11 (follows on from 9)||The Beast ensures the death of the two witnesses in Jerusalem. Once again, comparing this with the parallel account in chapter 16, we see that the sixth angel sounding (9:13 to 21 - the seventh angel sounds in 11:15) signals the battle of Armageddon.|
|19:19-20||The final doom of the Beast, the second Beast (the "false prophet"), and their master the Dragon (Satan)|
For the significance of the fact that the first beast is only mentioned at the beginning and at the very end, see the discussion of the second beast.
The bottomless pit is the sea
There may be some confusion over "the bottomless pit". In Greek this is the Abyss, from the Hebrew term meaning the great deep where Satan dwells. Hence the beast from the bottomless pit and the beast from the sea are the same thing. (This has implications for the idea that Satan has power over the waters, and that there is no sea in the new earth, but I digress). This should be familiar to anyone who has read about Leviathan, the sea monster.
Rome in Revelation 13 is the same as in Daniel 7
In Daniel 7, it was made clear that a "Beast" meant a kingdom (or group of kingdoms). The last of Daniel's four kingdoms, covering the period when Revelation was written, was of course Rome and its successors. The fourth beast in Daniel came out of the sea (Daniel 7:3). It was dreadful and terrible and had ten horns (7:7). It spoke great things (7:20) and persecuted the saints (7:21). Finally the end came, the saints possessed the world (7:22) and the Beast was burned with fire (7:11).
In Revelation 13, what do we find? Surprise, surprise. The Beast comes out of the sea and has ten horns (Revelation 13:1). Everyone was scared of it (13:4). It spoke great things (13:5) and persecuted the saints (13:7). Finally the end came, the saints possessed the world (20:6) once the Beast had been burned with fire (14:9-10). There are other parallels, but I think anyone familiar with Daniel knew what to expect.
In case any doubt was left, Revelation adds an extra detail to the Beast - it has seven heads (13:1). The seven heads are said to represent seven mountains (17:9). Rome was well known to be founded on seven mountains or hills. The beast also has elements of all the previous kingdoms (Revelation 13:2), but Rome is dominant.
|Wounding the Dragon|
The Beast is described as having a deadly wound that was healed (13:3, 12). The wound was in a head, which two verses earlier we were told had the name of blasphemy. So some blasphemous evil is temporarily wounded. What does this mean? It should be familiar to a Bible reader.
Prophecies of wounding the dragon
When Adam fell (the beginning of the original "eighth day" - see below), the serpent Satan was promised that the seed of the woman Eve "will bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel"(Genesis 3:15). This is generally considered to be the first prophecy of the atonement anywhere in the Bible. Satan would have power to bruise the Messiah, but he would in turn bruise Satan's head. The word translated "bruise" can also be translated "crush".
In Isaiah 51:9, the prophet is speaking about the final redemption of Israel and the last days. He asks the "arm of the Lord": "Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?"
"Rahab" in this context is symbolic of Egypt (see Isaiah 30:7). Egypt in Isaiah's day was like Rome in John's day - representative of the wicked nations. (Compare Revelation 11:8 - Egypt was still an example of evil.) See also Isaiah 27:1, where it is promised that Leviathan, the beast out of the sea (compare Revelation 13:1) would be slain.
So clearly wounding the serpent (Satan - see Revelation 12:9 - 13:3) refers to Christ defeating Satan in some way. The Psalms give us additional insight.
The famous Psalm 110 - wounding through the priesthood
Psalm 68 gives some insight, but Psalm 110 is the important one. This prophecy is quoted several times in the New Testament, showing the importance of the Son of God. It also adds useful insights into "wounding" the beast (Rome and similar nations):
4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
5 The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.
6 He shall judge among the heathen, he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries.
Note that the wounding happens because Christ has the Melchizedek priesthood.
The apostle Paul: wounding through a triumphant church
In one respect, Jesus destroyed Satan through conquering death (Hebrews 2:14). Yet Romans 16:9-20 indicates that the bruising of the serpent's head is something different, because even after the resurrection the bruising had not happened everywhere. Speaking to the early saints in Rome, Paul spent sixteen chapters teaching them how to be good saints, then he promised that "the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly".
How is that to happen?
What Jesus taught
When Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, in the week before the crucifixion, he stated that "Now is the judgement of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out." (John 12:31). He was more specific in John 16:7-11: the prince of the world is to be judged when the Holy Spirit comes.
So Satan is defeated physically when Jesus overcomes death, and is judged when the Holy Spirit is active. There seems no point in looking for another, third wounding of Satan (before the Second Coming), so the simplest explanation is that the wounding of Satan refers to the activity of the Holy Spirit. This makes sense - Satan has no power when the saints follow God.
Elsewhere in this web site I have provided plenty of evidence that the church fell into apostasy after the apostles died. So this wound of Satan seems to have healed up.
So without even looking at the book of Revelation, we know that the serpent, Satan, was to have a wound to its head, and that this wound was to heal. It was wounded soon after the resurrection, and the wound healed as the church slipped into apostasy. In this light, now let us look at Revelation 13.
|Revelation 13, verse by verse|
In this light, let us now look at Revelation 13:
See Daniel 7. Rome and its descendants share many features with the previous empires.
The wound was the holy spirit. But once the Holy Spirit no longer guided the church (e.g. there was no new scripture) the wound was healed. As time went on this new apostate Christianity took over the Roman empire and eventually much of the world, which must have made people wonder.
Rome (especially once it developed into Europe) conquered most of the world. Nobody can stand in the way of materialistic "Christian" western culture. Everyone succumbs to its values.
Apostate Christianity had power over the church for 42 "months", or 1260 "days". The 1260 days are discussed elsewhere. Verses 7-10 and 18 are discussed in more detail on the page about 666)
The second Beast is discussed on the next page. After the depths of the Dark Ages, the religious reformation (Protestantism) must have seemed like it was sent from God. Jesus is "the lamb".
The Renaissance kingdoms were even more enthusiastic about ancient Rome and its Greek learning than the medieval kingdoms were! Medieval man saw Greek and Roman ideas as a step along the way to the triumph of the church. But renaissance man saw Greek and Roman ideas, with its exaltation of man and his brain, as superior to the church.
Technological advances, initially based on Greek (and hence Roman) scientific ideas.
Renaissance man is deceived into believing that human ideas alone can explain the world. The Greeks are set up as the image of what mankind should aim for - an Olympic body, and a mind like Plato or Pythagoras. As for Roman ideals - power, hedonism, wealth - these are now modern ideals. Although once almost dead, Rome is now very much alive.
Verses 14-18: The image of the Beast:
The modern image of ancient Greece and Rome is of human rationalism, beauty, health, adventure (Greece), or power and hedonism (Rome). But are these images accurate? In setting our hearts on these things, aren't we in danger of repeating the other aspects of their culture - inequality, brutality, and general decline?
How does the image speak?
Although classical Greece and Rome are dead, the new Greek/Roman ideal speaks through both high-brow and popular media. The ultimate examples of "classics" are Greek and Roman. The worship of mankind has its apex in the Olympic ideal. Popular entertainment reflect the Roman amphitheaters and brothels - pure hedonism for the masses.
|The Beast and the myth of a single "antichrist"|
The myth of the single antichrist
Many people interpret Revelation 13 as referring to a specific person known as "the antichrist". This is a foolish interpretation for several reasons. The "single Antichrist" myth is discussed on tha page on kings and horns. The "single last days beast" myth is described on the first Beast page. For the "false prophet" see the second beast. The development of the "single antichrist" myth is discussed elsewhere.
The misunderstanding arises from the phrase "the number of a man". But the word translated "man" always meant "men in general" - as discussed on the page about 666.
The whore of Babylon is discussed elsewhere, and serves to emphasize how the Beast is much bigger than any ordinary kingdom.
Why "the Beast" cannot be Nero.
Some interpreters claim that the Beast was Nero, and that people thought we would return from the dead. Like the attempts to apply Daniel's prophecies to Antiochus, this has more to do with subtly discrediting the Bible than with what the Bible actually says. The Nero theory must be false for the following reasons:
|The Beast has no power over the church as long as the angels are coming|
So in Revelation chapter 14, Babylon (the city of the Beast) is said to "fall" as soon as the gospel is preached, even though the final plagues have not yet completed its destruction.
So to the outsider, Babylon was still there. But to God, once the angels had come, Babylon (and hence the Beast) ceased to have power. This is important.
Babylon fell when the angels came, but not before then. Even though, ever since New Testament times there have always been some good Christians who tried to follow the Bible, the Beast had the upper hand - until the angels came. When there is new revelation, the Beast has no power over the church. But when there are no angels coming, the Beast can "overcome the saints" (13:7). With that in mind, let us return to chapter 17.
|The Beast that was, is not, and is to come (17:8-11)|
The Beast is referred to as it "was", "is", and "is to come". This is the only place where we are told something about the condition of the Beast at the time that John is writing - the first century AD. This fact is reinforced when verse 12 refers to the ten horns (kingdoms) being yet to come. So this little section should be interpreted on a small scale. The kings, for example, could be literal people.
The Beast, Rome, had power over the believers until Jesus established his church in the days of the emperor Tiberius. From that point, the believers were not in danger of being led astray - the church was led by prophets and apostles, and angels ministered from time to time. So the Beast "was, and is not". The Beast was pushed back into its pit. This continued for as long as the church was led through revelation - as long as the apostles ran the church.
The seven kings of Revelation 10-11
(Kings and horns are discussed in more detail elsewhere.)
After Tiberius came four long-reigning emperors, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vespasian and Titus. (When viewing the big picture, we can probably ignore the three temporary rulers who took over for a few months after the death of the madman Nero.) All the commentaries say that John probably wrote Revelation during the reign of the next emperor, the persecutor Domitian. Then there was the short reign of Nerva, and persecution intensified under Trajan. Nothing was heard of from the apostles from that time.
Whether or not John considered Tiberius to be one of the emperors who reigned while the church was led by apostles (since his reign began long before that time), or if he considered that the short reign of Titus was just an extension of that of his father Vespasian, is not clear. But either way, there had been five notable kings during the life of the church, plus the one who was reigning during the time that John was writing. There was another short one to come, then there began what the historians call the "sub-apostolic period".
A close look at Revelation 17:11 the beast is the "eighth":
In the King James Bible, this verse reads:
"And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition."
But if you look in other translations, this is translated in different ways. So clearly the words in the original Greek are not perfectly straightforward. I looked in my Greek study Bible, and found that most of the words in the English translations are not present in the Greek. In fact, the Greek words are just:
"wild beast - also - eighth - seven - go - into perdition (or destruction)"
Now, I am not a Greek scholar. Perhaps the missing words are implied by the grammatical structure? So I looked at the "Literal Translation" Bible. This is what is says (Strongs numbers come before each Greek word words without numbers are added for convenience):
And | 3588 | the | 2342 | beast | 3759 | which | 2258 | was, | and | 3756 | not | 2076 | is, | 3383 | even | he | 3590 | eighth | 2076 | is, | and | of | the | 2033 | seven | 2076 | it is, | and | 4314 | to | 684 | perdition | 5562 | goes.
This is starting to look interesting
"Even" he is the eighth?
The key word is "even", Strongs word number 3383. As I said, I am not a Greek scholar, so please correct me if I am wrong. But I do not see how this word could be translated as "even". According to Strongs concordance it is means "and not, neither ... nor, not so". In the King James Bible it is translated as follows: neither (20 times), nor (15 times), so much as (1 time), or (1 time). Replace the word "even" with one of those words, and see what you get.
Clearly the beast has something to do with being an "eighth", or why would John have introduced the word? But we do not have to stick strictly to it being Nero or any of the other emperors. It could be something quite different. So what did John mean by "eighth", and how does this relate to the "seven"?
The symbolism of the eighth, when speaking of a sequence of time periods
In the scriptures, seven is symbolic of completion, probably stemming from the seven days of creation. The eighth day is not just another fixed period it represents the start of everything else.
Many of the ordinances of the Law of Moses had the final event happening on the eighth day. See for example (and you will have to read the verses that come before them to get the context): Leviticus 14:10, 23; Leviticus 15:14, 29; 22:27; 23:36, 39; Ezekiel 43:27. This is how the Gray Home Bible Commentary puts it, commenting on Leviticus chapter 12;
"The eighth day"
"The "eighth day" will be often met as we proceed, and needs to be recognized in its symbolic and prophetic significance. The old creation was finished in six days with a following Sabbath, rendering six the number of the old creation as under imperfection and sin. But the eighth day, which is the first of a new week, appears everywhere in Scripture as symbolizing the new creation in which all things shall be restored in the redemption through the second Adam.
"The thought finds its fullest expression in the resurrection of Christ as the Firstborn from the dead, the Beginning and the Lord of the new creation, who rose from the dead on the first day, the day after the seventh, the eighth day.
"This gives the key to the use of the number eight in the Mosaic symbolism. With good reason, therefore, was circumcision ordered for the eighth day, as it symbolized the putting off of the old nature and the putting on of a new and purified nature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17, R. V., margin)"
The Beast as a satanic mirror of Christ
The beast is a satanic mirror of Christ. His kingdom is the evil alternative to the kingdom of God.
Trajan - the literal "eighth" king
In AD 98 Trajan became emperor. Politically he marked a great turning point. He was the first of the empire's "adopted emperors" - emperors chosen for what they could do rather than for their kinship to the previous emperor. (OK, strictly speaking Nerva was the first adopted emperor in AD 96, but he was opposed by the Praetorian Guard who mutinied in 97, hence the choice of Trajan. Nerva only reigned for "a short space" - see Revelation 17:10).
The Roman empire reached its greatest power under Trajan. But what is far more important is the condition he brought with him.
From the outside he seemed to be just another king - he came from the previous seven - albeit one who severely persecuted the Christians. But from the point of view of the church, his reign was a turning point of the worst possible kind. During his reign, the last of the apostles died or disappeared.
What happened to the apostles
John, the author of Revelation, was the last surviving apostle. Iranaeus says that John remained in Ephesus after his return from Patmos (where Revelation was written) "until the times of Trajan." After that nothing more is heard of him.
With the last apostle gone, the church was left without new revelation to lead it. The living church had been built on the foundation of living apostles and prophets (as in Ephesians 2:20, written when the apostles were still alive). But now there was no more new scripture. No more visits of angels to the prophets. The church was helpless before the persecution of the Roman empire and the influence of Greek culture.
Christ had wounded the dragon, but now it was back with a vengeance.
the bottom line
Everyone complains about the evils in the world, but you have a chance to escape this Beast!