Bible prophecy reveals events of our time and world-shaking events soon to change your life. A major world-shaking event is foretold in the symbolic language of a mysterious world-dominating, wild beast.
Who or what is the wild “beast” of the Apocalypse, or book of Revelation, found in chapters 13 and 17? What does Bible prophecy reveal about world events now leading to Armageddon and the end of this age?
This series of articles deals with governments and wars that will bring this world to its final end.
The Bible is primarily a book about the chosen nation of Israel, and other nations that have come in direct contact with Israel. We know little concerning the nations, or whether there were nations on earth, prior to the great Flood. But soon after the Flood, Nimrod founded the city-states of Babylon, Nineveh and others. In due time such nations as Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, the Armenian states, Israel, Phoenicia and others developed in the Middle East. By the end of the 7th century B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar had founded the first world empire or union of nations.
The Bible does reveal the history and prophecy of the system of gentile world empires starting with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon on to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, as well as the history of yet future prophecy concerning Israel. This series of articles will cover the true significance of these two systems of nations—gentile and Israel-- and what it means to us today, as well as what is prophesied for the imminent future.
First, then, who or what is the mysterious wild beast of Revelation 13 and 17? If you have his mark, you must suffer the seven last plagues! Is he a mysterious superman world dictator yet to appear? Is he the antichrist or a government or a church? There are many theories concerning this mysterious beast. But, what is the truth?
The most important question of the hour is, what, or who, is the Beast, the image of the beast and the Mark of the beast spoken of in the Book of Revelation? Whatever this weird beast, whatever the baffling image, whatever the mysterious mark – it behooves you to find out!
For it is those of this very present generation who shall be worshiping this beast or his image, or shall have received his mark, who will suffer the unspeakable torture of the seven last plagues! Ignorance will not excuse you! “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” says the Eternal, in Hosea 4:6. And the illustration of Ezekiel’s watchman shows that those who are unaware because they are not warned will suffer just the same (Ez. 33:6, 3:18). God expects the spiritual leaders of His people to be His “watchman” (Ez. 33:7) and to warn the people.
The time is at hand! The plagues of God’s wrath will soon be poured out, unmixed and undiluted, full of strength upon a heedless, God-defying world, and a careless, lukewarm, indifferent Christianity!
John in the book of Revelation describes the last warning message: “…If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture…” (Rev. 14:9-10).
This amazing prophecy is most significant, because it is revealing in advance events immediately ahead of us at this present time.
The Apostle John was carried forward in vision into the terrible “day of the Lord,” and sees these plagues beginning to fall! “And the seven angles came out of the temple, having the seven last plagues and the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth: and there fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image” (Rev. 15:6, 16:2)!
Every sign tells us these things will happen, plunging the world into the most frantic, frenzied state of anguish ever known, almost certainly within the near future! Those who suffer the wrath of Almighty God are described as those who worship the beat or his image, or have his mark. It is futile to try to imagine, as so many are doing, what the mark of the beast may be.
These prophecies are real. They are imminent. Because these and other prophecies have never been understood until now, even churches, theologians, evangelists have been ignoring prophecies in general and these imminent prophecies in particular. Too many are trying to speculate on their imaginations. But God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8).
We can’t work this out in our minds. We are face to face with a stern reality, not an imaginary fairy tale! There is only one way to learn the truth. That is to study carefully, cautiously, prayerfully, with an open mind, yielded to and guided by the Holy Spirit, all the testimony of all the scriptures that bear on this question.
We cannot determine what the mark of the beast may be, until we have learned what, or who, the beast is! For, of course, the mark is the beast’s mark. Who, what then, is the beast?
The beast, the image of the beast and the mark of the beast are all described primarily in the 13th chapter of Revelation. Notice carefully this Bible description. The apostle John was being given this message for you and me of this day. In the vision he 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” (Rev: 13:1-2).
Now most of those who are teaching and preaching to others on these subjects overlook entirely this description. For this description will identify the beast.
If the beast is some mysterious superman, or antichrist, soon to appear as world dictator, he will be a peculiar-looking individual indeed, for he will have seven heads, and ten horns! Have you ever seen a man with seven heads, and 10 horns growing out of one of his heads? And did you ever see a man who was like a leopard, and can you imagine a superman coming who will have the feet of a bear, and the mouth of a lion? And will he appear by coming up out of some ocean?
Now, these, of course, are all symbols. The very word beast is a symbol. And our problem is to interpret the symbols, for they stand for real, literal things. But man cannot interpret biblical symbols. And when we know what the heads and the horns are, what the feet of the bear, the mouth of the lion and likeness to a leopard all mean, then we can know what, or who, the beast really is!
The point we want to stress is that the Bible interprets its own symbols! If we want the truth, we must be guided solely by the Bible interpretation, not man’s interpretations and imaginations. And the Bible itself tells us what they represent!
In the 11th chapter of Daniel, we find exactly these same symbols described. Here again are the beasts, the seven heads, the 10 horns, and here also is the lion, the bear and the leopard. And here the Bible tells us what these symbols represent.
God had given Daniel understanding in dreams and visions (Dan. 1:17). And Daniel had a dream and a vision (Dan. 7:1) in which he saw four great beasts (v. 3). And notice, as in Revelation, the beasts came up out of the sea.
The first beast was like a “lion” (v. 4), the second was like a “bear” (v. 5) and the third like a “leopard” (v. 6) and the fourth was so dreadful and terrible it could not be compared to any wild beast known to inhabit the earth (v. 7).
Now there was only one head described on the lion, one for the bear, one for the fourth beast, but the third beast, the leopard, had four heads, thus making seven heads in all! And out of this great and dreadful fourth beast grew 10 horns!
Now notice verse 16, latter part. Here comes the interpretation of the things! The question is, will we accept this Bible interpretation of the seven heads, the 10 horns, the lion, the bear and the leopard? “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth,” is the interpretation of verse 17.
And the word king is synonymous with kingdom, and used only in the sense that the king represents the kingdom over which he rules, for in verse 23 we read, “The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth.” Notice also the word kingdom is used to explain the beasts in verses 18, 22, 24 and 27. Now what do the 10 “horns” represent?
Notice the 10 horns, or 10 succeeding kingdoms or governments, come out of a kingdom, not out of a man, or a superman. This alone makes plain that the beast is not some mysterious personal superman yet to come. Also that the beast is not a church as some claim, for no 10 kingdoms ever did, or will come of a church.
And since “king” in these prophecies only stands for the kingdom he represents, and since the words are used interchangeably, it follows that these 10 horns are 10 succeeding kingdom growing out of the fourth kingdom, which was to rule the earth!
These same four world-ruling gentile kingdoms are described in the second chapter of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar of the Chaldean Empire, who had taken the Jews captive, had a dream, the meaning of which God revealed to Daniel.
The dream is described in verses 31-35. The king saw a great image. Its head was of gold, its breasts and arms of sliver, its belly and thighs of brass, its legs of iron and its feet and toes were part iron and part clay. Finally, a stone, not in men’s hands, but supernaturally smote the image upon his feet and toes. It was broken in pieces and was blown away like chaff. Then the stone that smashed it became a great mountain and filled the earth.
“This,” Daniel says, beginning verse 36, “is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. Thou art this head of gold. After thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaks all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise” (vs. 36-40).
The interpretation of the stone smashing the image at its toes is found in the 44th verse: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”
The stone is Jesus Christ and His world-ruling Kingdom. The interpretation of the stone is given many places in the Bible. “Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner” (Acts 4:10-11).
And so we see that here are portrayed, symbolically, four universal world-ruling gentile kingdoms. They begin with the Chaldean Empire, which took the Jews captive to Babylon.
God had promised ancient Israel that if they would keep His commandments, be His obedient nation, they would grow into a multitude of nations – or an empire that would dominate the entire earth. But for disobedience they were to be taken captive by gentile nations (Lev. 26 and other prophecies).
Ancient Israel had been tried through the generations and centuries. They had disobeyed. Now they had been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, who had raised up the world’s first empire. But as God revealed through Daniel in chapter 2, it was God who had turned this world empire over to this succession of gentile empires. They continue through four great universal kingdoms, and out of the fourth grow 10 succeeding governments. These carry on to the time of the Second Coming of Christ and the setting up of the Kingdom of God to fill the whole earth and last forever.
Plainly, here in Daniel 2 are described the same four universal world-ruling gentile powers that are described by Daniel’s four beasts. And this dream-image identifies who they are. The first was Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, the Chaldean Empire called “Babylon” after the name of it capital city, 625-539 B.C.
The second kingdom, which followed, then, we know from history, was the Persian Empire, 558-330 B.C., often called Medo-Persians.
All ancient-history students know the third world kingdom was Greece, or Macedonia under Alexander the Great, who conquered the great Persian Empire 333-330 B.C. But Alexander lived only a t year after his swift conquest, and his four generals divided his vast empire into four regions: Macedonia and Greece, Thrace and Western Asia, Syria and territory east to the Indus River, and Egypt. So these were the four heads of the third beast of Daniel.
And the fourth kingdom, which was Rome, spread out and gradually absorbed one after another of these four divisions – “dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly,” was the Roman Empire (31 B.C. to A.D. 476).
It had absorbed all the others, occupied all their territory, was greater and stronger than all. It included all the royal splendor of ancient Babylon, thus having the head – the strongest part of the lion. It had all the massiveness and numerically powerful army of the Persian Empire – symbolized by the legs, the most powerful part of the bear. It was the greatest war-making machine the world had ever seen, and it also possessed the swiftness, the cunning, the cruelty of Alexander’s army, symbolized by the leopard.
And thus, this fourth beast was unlike any wild beast of the earth. It was stronger, greater, and more terrible, than any.
Daniel’s fourth beast, the Roman Empire, had absorbed and therefore it included the three beasts before it. Thus it included all seven heads. And John’s beast also has seven heads. It was Daniel’s fourth beast, only, which had 10 horns and John’s beast has 10 horns.
And so, if we are willing to be guided solely by the Bible description of this beast and to let the Bible interpret the symbols used to describe it, we come to the inevitable conclusion that the beast of Revelation 13 is the Roman Empire, of 31, B.C., to A.D. 476!
Of course, many man-imagined theories, widely taught and published, interpret this beast otherwise, some as a church, some as a mysterious individual superman yet to come. But these theories will not stand the test of applying the Bible interpretation to all the symbols that describe this beast.
Nebuchadnezzar’s image, with the two legs, describes the two divisions of the Roman Empire after A.D. 330 – West, with capital at Rome, and East, with its capital at Constantinople.
John also pictures this beast, not as a church or as an individual man, but as a powerful government having a great army. For they worshiped the beast by saying, “Who is able to make war with him” (Rev. 13:4)?
The 10 horns symbolize the same thing – the 10 stages of government continuing out of the Roman Empire after its fall in A.D. 476.The ten horns “out of this kingdom , the Roman Empire, are ten kings that shall arise and the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven (not in heaven), shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High” (Dan. 7:24, 27).
The 10 horns, then, are 10 kingdoms to arise out of the fourth kingdom, the Roman Empire. These kings, also called kingdoms, continue from A.D. 476 until the time when the stone – Christ and His Kingdom – smashes the image on its toes, and the kingdom is given to the saints.
Therefore, since in actual history there have never been 10 contemporaneous kingdoms that have continued out of the Roman Empire, side by side, down to the present time, and since there have been nine successive kingdoms ruling that territory, which we shall explain, from 476 to the present, therefore we know that the kingdoms represented by the horns are successive, not contemporaneous.
Now let us return to our description of the beat of Revelation 13. “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 worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped 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” (Rev. 13:3-5)?
The beast here symbolized is the one that included the royal splendor and kingly power symbolized by the mouth of the lion (Babylon), the ponderous strength symbolized by the feet of the bear (Medo-Persia): and the speed, cunning and cruelty of the leopard (Greece).
Since the interpretation of these symbols is found in Daniel 7, and since the 4th beast had 10 horns, the Bible interpretation of the beast of Revelation 13 is the 4th beast of Daniel 7 – the Roman Empire, of 31 B.C. to A.D. 476.
The beast described by John in Rev. 13 included seven heads, but the only head existing at the time John saw this nondescript beast (which included the most powerful characteristics of all the beasts symbolizing its predecessors) was that of the fourth beast of Daniel, containing the seventh head, and also the 10 horns. So the specific “one of its heads” that was wounded to death (Rev. 13:3) was the seventh head of the Roman Empire – the head out of which 10 horns grew.
The 10 horns, as Daniel interprets, represent 10 successive governments out of the Roman Empire, which were to continue until the setting up of the Kingdom of God at the Second Coming of Christ.
The deadly wound, then, was the one administered to the Roman Empire, when, in its last decaying stages, the barbarians overran it, ending its government in A.D. 476. For all practical purposes it appeared to be dead.
Notice, the dragon gave his power to the beast. Who is the dragon? Some have said “pagan Rome.” But will we be guided solely by the Bible interpretation of its own symbols? Then, if we will, the dragon is a symbol that means Satan the Devil.
Notice Rev. 12: “…The great dragon that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan was cast out into the earth . . . . . the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath and when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth…” (vs. 9, 12-13).
They worshiped the beast (Rev. 13:4). Therefore some conclude, from this one statement alone, that the beast must be the papacy, not knowing that the people worshiped the Roman Empire and its emperors! Notice how they worship the beast – saying, “Who is able to make war with him?” The Roman Empire was the greatest war-making power the world had ever known. This beast killed by the sword (v. 10).
History is full of accounts of the worship of the Roman emperors, for paganism was a state religion. The following is from Robinson’s Medieval and Modern Times, an older college textbook, page 7, “The worship of the emperor: in a word, the Roman government. It was not only wonderfully organized but everyone was required to join in the worship of the emperor because he stood for the majesty and glory of the dominion. All were obliged, as good citizens, to join in the official sacrifices to the head of the state, as a god.”
But when the seventh head of this great beast received its deadly wound in A.D. 476, was that the end? No, the prophecy says “his deadly wound was healed and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months” (vs. 3, 5).
The 10 horns represent 10 successive kingdoms to follow out of this kingdom. So, through the 10 horns growing out of his head (the Roman Empire) the beast (the 10 horns) continues until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
The Bible says one of his heads was wounded to death. The beast included the seven heads and the 10 horns. John sees the beast living in the days of its seventh head, the Roman Empire. And when that head of the beast had its deadly wound, his – the beast’s – deadly wound was healed. The horns now reign, one by one in succession.
The Roman Empire in northern Africa was overrun by the Vandals, who sacked Rome in 455. Then in 476 Odoacer set up his government at Rome, called the Heruli. But it did not heal the deadly wound, for this was only a government in Rome. It was not a Roman government, but one of foreign barbarians. Then there was the kingdom of the Ostrogoths, 493-554, another foreign people who ruled in the territory. But they were driven out of Italy and disappeared.
These three kingdoms, sweeping into the roman territory, filled the period known in history as the “transition age” (see Myer’s Ancient History, p. 571).That is, a transition between the wound and the healing.
Now Daniel saw a “little horn” coming up among these 10, before whom these first three were “plucked up by the roots” (Dan. 7:8). That leaves 7 horns to come. And of the little horn, Daniel 7 says his “look was more stout than his fellow” (v. 20).(The papacy dominated completely all the horns to follow). It was the fourth kingdom (symbolized by the 4th horn), succeeding the fall of the Empire in 476, which really healed the deadly wound, and restored the empire.
In A.D. 554, Justinian, emperor of the East, from Constantinople, set up his government through an Imperial Legate at Ravenna, Italy, and brought about what is known in history as the “Imperial Restoration” of the Empire.
Now, notice verse 5 of Revelation 13. Power was given to this beast, once healed, to “continue forty and two months.” In the prophecies pertaining to the times of Israel’s punishment, each day represents a year in the fulfillment (Ez. 4:4-6 Numbers 14:34). Thus, the healed beast is to continue 1,260 years. (Forty two months times 30 days in each month equals 1260 years).
Following the healing, in 554, came the Frankish kingdom (French), the Holy Roman Empire (German, then the Austrian Habsburgs) and Napoleon’s kingdom (French). But when Napoleon was crushed in 1814, the healed beast continued no longer. “So closed,” say West’s Modern History, p. 337, “a government that dated from Augustus Caesar (from 31 B.C.).” It went into abyss!
And from 554 to 1814, the duration of the “healed beast,” was exactly 1,260 years. At that time, eight of the horns have appeared and gone, the beast itself went into the nonexistent condition symbolized in Rev. 17:8 as the “bottomless pit.”
But by the year 1870, Garibaldi had united the many little divisions in the peninsula of Italy into one nation, and the kingdom thus established began the 9th horn, which culminated in the Fascist rule of Mussolini.
We shall deal later more specifically with the 17th chapter of Revelation in this connection. But let us note in passing that the woman mentioned in this chapter never rode on any part of this beast of Revelation 13 except its last seven horns! She is the “little horn “of Daniel 7, whose “look was more stout than his fellows,” and who caused the first three to be plucked up by the roots.
And since, in the 17th chapter of Revelation, the woman rode on all seven of the heads of the beast there pictured, and since she rode none of the heads but only the last seven of the horns of the beast of Revelation 13, it follows that the seven horns of the “healed beast” of the 13th chapter form the seven heads of the beast of the 17th chapter!
Notice, at the time John saw the beast, five are fallen, one is and one is yet to come (Rev. 17:10). The five that are fallen are the five during the 1,260 years in which power was given, by religious authority, for the healed beast to continue.
The one that “is,” is the kingdom that extended from Garibaldi to the downfall of Mussolini. It was not in any sense the power-wielding old Roman Empire, so during the stages of his 9th horn (Rev. 13) or 6th head (Rev. 17) John speaks of it as the beast that was, and is not, and shall arise once more out of the bottomless pit.
The 7th head with its 10 horns, in the 17th chapter of Revelation, will be, as the 17th chapter explains, the revival of the beast, the Roman Empire, “out of the bottomless pit” by a “United States of Europe,” or federation of 10 European nations centered within the bound of the old Roman Empire (Rev. 17:12-18) Approximately twenty-five nations make up the European Union today. From these nations ten nations or groups of nations will “…give their power and strength unto the beast…” (Rev. 17:12-13).
We will continue this series on Who or What is the Prophetic Beast? Be watching, the truth will amaze you!