Who is the Beast of Revelation? Part 1. #LastDays #Eschatology #Endtimes #165
Hello friends, and happy Thursday to you! Some more great passages today, and some great potential topics. Psalms 103 is one of my favorite Psalms and forms the basis of one of my top 5 all time favorite worship songs, Bless the Lord by Alisha Powell, which you can listen to below:
Deuteronomy 16 brings up the festivals of the Jews, and causes us to ponder an important question: Should Christians still celebrate and observe the Old Testament festivals? One day, we will tackle this topic in depth, but I believe the biblical answer is that New Testament non Jewish Christians have the liberty to celebrate/observe or not. Isaiah 43 discusses God’s restoration of Israel, and has the beautiful gem in vs. 25, “I am the one,I sweep away your transgressions
for my own sake and remember your sins no more.” A discussion of any of those passages would be good, because the source material is so great, but I just can’t pass up the opportunity to discuss another one of the more enigmatic figures in the Bible. For those that are recent listeners, I should tell you that this podcast began its life as the Bible Mystery podcast, and it focused on great mysteries of the Bible, then it became the Bible Questions podcast, and now in its current form, the daily Bible Reading Podcast. I still love a good mystery though, and still like to discuss the Bible in a question and answer format, so that’s how we roll most days, and this is certainly a great mystery. Today we discuss the potential identities of the Beast. Tomorrow we discuss 666 and the Mark of the Beast. I do want to be careful, though. I love a good mystery, to be sure, and find Revelation fascinating, but the key focus must always be on Christ and Him crucified and raised from the dead. Let’s not waiver in that as we consider these mysterious portends of the future.
Revelation 13 is not going to introduce us to just one beast, but TWO. Who are they? Let’s read the chapter, and the come back and speculate, because that’s the best we’ll be able to do today.
The first thing is that we need to note that there are clearly two beasts – a beast from the sea and a beast from the land, as vs. 11 makes clear:
Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; it had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon
When I read that description of the beast of the sea, one way to take it is that this figure will be one who appears to be lamb-like (perhaps Christ like?) but his words are dragon-like (Satan-like). This reminds me of Paul’s warning in 2nd Corinthians 11:14, “For Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” This might give us a clue as to the personality of one of the beasts, but we need to back up first and consider the big picture.
Is John talking about a creature here, or a human being? I believe the answer is given to us in Daniel 7, which is a chapter that connects at multiple points with Revelation 13, just as Revelation 12 links up with Daniel 8 in places. Let’s read a little bit in Daniel 7:
In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream with visions in his mind as he was lying in his bed. He wrote down the dream, and here is the summary of his account. 2 Daniel said, “In my vision at night I was watching, and suddenly the four winds of heaven stirred up the great sea. 3 Four huge beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other.4 “The first was like a lion but had eagle’s wings. I continued watching until its wings were torn off. It was lifted up from the ground, set on its feet like a man, and given a human mind.5 “Suddenly, another beast appeared, a second one, that looked like a bear. It was raised up on one side, with three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up! Gorge yourself on flesh.’6 “After this, while I was watching, suddenly another beast appeared. It was like a leopard with four wings of a bird on its back. It had four heads, and it was given dominion.7 “After this, while I was watching in the night visions, suddenly a fourth beast appeared, frightening and dreadful, and incredibly strong, with large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and it trampled with its feet whatever was left. It was different from all the beasts before it, and it had ten horns….15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit was deeply distressed within me, and the visions in my mind terrified me. 16 I approached one of those who were standing by and asked him to clarify all this. So he let me know the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘These huge beasts, four in number, are four kings who will rise from the earth. 18 But the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess it forever, yes, forever and ever.’19 “Then I wanted to be clear about the fourth beast, the one different from all the others, extremely terrifying, with iron teeth and bronze claws, devouring, crushing, and trampling with its feet whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three fell—the horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spoke arrogantly, and that looked bigger than the others. 21 As I was watching, this horn waged war against the holy ones and was prevailing over them 22 until the Ancient of Days arrived and a judgment was given in favor of the holy ones of the Most High, for the time had come, and the holy ones took possession of the kingdom. 23 “This is what he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, different from all the other kingdoms. It will devour the whole earth, trample it down, and crush it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will rise from this kingdom. Another king, different from the previous ones, will rise after them and subdue three kings. 25 He will speak words against the Most High and oppress the holy ones of the Most High. He will intend to change religious festivals and laws, and the holy ones will be handed over to him for a time, times, and half a time.
Wow – we are in deep waters now, aren’t we!? Let’s look at the parallels between Daniel 7 and Revelation 13. First of all, we notice that Daniel’s four beasts all come up out of the sea, as does Revelations’ first beast. Each chapter also has a beast that has a leopard-like appearance, and both chapters have a beast with ten horns on their head, the fourth and most frightening beast of Daniel 7, and the beast out of the sea in Revelation 13. There are also mouths that are trash-talking in both chapters. Daniel 7 has a ‘little horn,’ on the fourth beast that spoke arrogantly. Revelation 13 features the beast of the sea given a mouth to utter blasphemies – not an exact match, to be sure, but definitely similar. One more similarity, and this one pretty much clinches it for me that both passages are discussing the exact same thing. In Revelation 13, the beast from the sea is permitted to wage war on the people of God, and will be very, very successful in that war:
7 And it was permitted to wage war against the saints and to conquer them. It was also given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. 8 All those who live on the earth will worship it, everyone whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered.
Likewise, in Daniel 7 one of the horns on the fourth beast, the ‘little horn,’ also wages war on God’s people and prevails against them for a time:
19 “Then I wanted to be clear about the fourth beast, the one different from all the others, extremely terrifying, with iron teeth and bronze claws, devouring, crushing, and trampling with its feet whatever was left. 20 I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three fell—the horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spoke arrogantly, and that looked bigger than the others. 21 As I was watching, this horn waged war against the holy ones and was prevailing over them
So, these two passages are obviously connected, and the beasts and the horns seem interrelated as well…so what can we know about the beast from the sea and the beast from the land? Unfortunately, Revelation 13 doesn’t give us a ton of information as to how to interpret this vision of John’s, but the reason for that is probably because Daniel 7, widely known to John and the Christians of the first century, has already explained much of what John saw, because Daniel asks the angel with him for an explanation of the fourth beast and its horns, and receives one:
23 “This is what he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, different from all the other kingdoms. It will devour the whole earth, trample it down, and crush it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will rise from this kingdom. Another king, different from the previous ones, will rise after them and subdue three kings. 25 He will speak words against the Most High and oppress the holy ones of the Most High. He will intend to change religious festivals and laws, and the holy ones will be handed over to him for a time, times, and half a time. 26 But the court will convene, and his dominion will be taken away, to be completely destroyed forever.
Given this information, I believe it would be reasonable to believe that the beast out of the sea in Revelation 13 is NOT a human at all, but a kingdom/country/group of countries (?) that will have 10 kings/presidents/rulers, and then another king – a ‘little’ but powerful horn – who will arise and take over three of those kings/presidents/rulers. That little fact would seem to indicate that these 10 rulers are not rulers in succession – (one president after another, for instance) but 10 rulers ruling at the same time. Otherwise, it would be difficult for one king/leader to rise up and take over for three other king/rulers. This could seem to indicate that the beast from the sea is a conglomeration of countries, possibly, with 10 presidents/kings/rulers. This is, of course, speculation. It’s not rampant and wild-eyed speculation – it could fit within in the Scriptural narrative – but it is speculation nonetheless. Why is it a beast from the sea? Another guess/possibility is that this refers to the kingdom being across the ocean from John – perhaps from a different continent like the Americas, or Asia, or Africa.
What about the beast from the land that has a lambish appearance, but the mouth of a dragon? Good question. Could this be a kingdom/union with two rulers? Or is the ‘two horns like a lamb’ more descriptive of the character of a particular person? It is difficult to know. Of the four beasts in Daniel 7, three refer to kings/rulers and one referred to a kingdom/union of kingdoms, so we could go either way here…which should very much put us in a place of humility and not dogmatism about Revelation. As I’ve mentioned before, I am quite skeptical of the people who seem to have figured out every facet and detail of this book. Such confidence might sell books and gain followers, but seems quite unwarranted, given the fact that even Daniel – one of the wisest and most righteous people in the Bible, WHO HAD AN ANGEL TO HELP HIM UNDERSTAND THESE VISIONS, still concluded with humility:
I, Daniel,was overcome and lay sick for days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was greatly disturbed by the vision and could not understand it.
In closing, I’d like for us to focus back on Jesus, and we can do that greatly in Daniel 7. I note here that the title that Jesus mainly uses for Himself, “Son of man,” comes from Daniel 7. Jesus wasn’t merely calling Himself the son of a human, He was using a phrase and title that all of Israel would be quite familiar with. Let’s read about this soon coming Son of Man in Daniel, and close with the encouragement that no matter how bad the pandemic gets, or the riots, or the attack of the beasts of Revelation and any other trial or tribulation…The SON OF MAN IS RETURNING FOR HIS PEOPLE and He will set everything aright!
9 “As I kept watching, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was white like snow, and the hair of his head like whitest wool. His throne was flaming fire; its wheels were blazing fire. 10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from his presence. Thousands upon thousands served him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was convened, and the books were opened.11 “I watched, then, because of the sound of the arrogant words the horn was speaking. As I continued watching, the beast was killed and its body destroyed and given over to the burning fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was removed, but an extension of life was granted to them for a certain period of time. 13 I continued watching in the night visions,and suddenly one like a son of man was coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him. 14 He was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.