A Study of Revelation

Chapter 13

To properly interpret chapter 13, we must first determine the symbolic meaning of a “beast” by using the Bible as our guide. In Daniel 7, the term “beast” is used symbolically in a manner similar to the way it is used in this chapter.

Daniel sees a vision of four great beasts coming up out of the sea and according to Dan 7:16, he did not understand the meaning of the vision and asked to be told the interpretation. In Dan. 7:17, he was told that the four “beasts” were four kings which shall arise out of the earth. Therefore, the symbolic meaning of “beast” is “king” or more specifically “kingdom” as we will discuss later. In Dan. 7:18, Daniel was told that the saints of God would take the kingdom and possess it forever. We know the kingdom which the saints possessed was the church. From Dan. 7:23, 27, we learn that the saints possessed this kingdom during the time of the fourth beast. Daniel then asked if he might be told the meaning of the fourth beast because it was exceedingly dreadful (v. 19). Verse 23 defines this fourth beast as the fourth kingdom upon the earth. This was to be a world wide kingdom because it says he “shall devour the whole earth.”

The fourth worldwide kingdom to arise from the time of Daniel was the Roman Empire, and this is also when Christ established his kingdom which will last forever. Daniel lived during the time of the Babylonian Empire. Persia and Greece followed, with Rome being the fourth. Therefore, the “beast” is a symbolic term used to represent governmental forces which rule in this world.

The first beast in chapter 13 rises up out of the sea and has seven heads and ten horns. These seven heads represent the seven worldwide kingdoms which have existed throughout the history of the world, namely Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persian, Greece, Rome, and the Holy roman Empire which arose after the time of the writing of Revelation. The beast represents the forces of civil government which oppose God and his people, and the seven heads of this beast represent the seven governments which have at one time controlled the major portion of the world. We might also add that since the number “7” represents divine completeness this indicates that all of these world wide kingdoms have existed because God desired it. All we have to do to know that this is true is read the account of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 4. In that chapter it is stated that God will give the kingdom of men to “whomever He wishes,” (vs. 25, 32).

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

In Revelation 17:9 the seven heads are defined as seven mountains. In Jeremiah 51:24,25,29 a “mountain” is used symbolically to represent a strong nation or government which oppresses God’s people. Significantly enough, the “mountain” in that passage represents Babylon which is one of the seven governments that at one time controlled the world. Since we know the seven heads are seven mountains, and that Babylon is represented as a “mountain,” this interpretation is founded on biblical usage’s of these terms.

One other fact about this beast is that it has ten horns. In Rev. 17:12, these ten horns are defined as ten kings, or kingdoms, which will arise after the seventh head of this beast has fallen. Since “10” is the number which stands for human completeness, this shows that there will be many kingdoms in power in the world during that period of time. The beast, or the powers of civil government, will be made up of many different nations, and each will possess a portion of the worldwide power of civil government.

The final destiny of this beast is given in Rev. 19:20, It will be “thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.”

The second beast described in chapter 13 is the beast out of the earth which has two horns. Since it is a beast, we immediately recognize that it has power of civil government. In addition to that the beast had the power to force people to make an image to the beast and worship (v. 15). Therefore, the beast controlled not only the physical actions of man but his spiritual worship also. This is the meaning of the two horns. It was a twofold beast. It possessed civil powers and spiritual powers.

Because of these spiritual powers, this beast is also called a “false prophet” in Rev. 16:13; 19:20). This shows that the beast was a false religious power and caused many people to worship in ways other than those designed by God. The final destiny of this beast is the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20).

The beast out of the earth is the healing of the death wound described in verse 3. The beast out of the sea represents the Roman Empire which was wounded to death. The Roman Empire was resurrected in the form of the Holy Roman Empire which is represented by the beast out of the earth. This was the healing of the death wound. We know this is correct because verse 12 says that the beast out of the earth exercised all the power of the first beast, the beast out of the sea, whose deadly wound was healed. The religious power of this beast was that of the apostate church which eventually manifested itself in the form of Roman Catholicism.

Revelation 13
13:1* ¶ And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.

The sea in Revelation often represents the masses of people dwelling upon the earth (cf. Rev. 12:16). The seven-headed beast represents the civil governments which control the world. This vision therefore describes the governmental powers of the world which rise up to control the people of the world.

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

This seven-headed beast has ten horns and ten crowns representing the power and authority of these civil governments. On his heads were blasphemous names that represent the many governments of the world that are opposed to Christianity in any form. There are governments today that attempt to destroy all forms of religion.

2* And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.

Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992.
To order prints visit:
“Revelation Illustrated”

This beast is described as being like a leopard with feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion. These are figurative descriptions of the characteristics of these ungodly civil governments. These governments possess great powers of destruction. Many governments throughout the history of the world have controled their people by the use of physical force, violence, hardships, and persecutions. Many times these forces have been used to prevent God’s people from worshiping him or to demand that they worship according to the laws which they have established.

The power which these governmental forces posses is from the dragon, or the devil. This is one of the manifestations of the devil present on the earth today which attacks the church and seeks to destroy it.

3* I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast;

We will not deal with all of the wild speculation attached to this verse. The meaning of this symbolism lies in the fact that the Roman Empire was destroyed and resurrected again in the form of the Holy Roman Empire. The Roman Empire was destroyed in A.D. 476 and came back into existence in the form of the Holy Roman Empire with the coronation of Charlemagne by Pope Leo III on Christmas Day, A.D. 800.

This completed the alliance between the Roman government and the Papacy. For several hundred years to follow, these two powers worked together as they forced people to worship according to the edicts of the Pope. Those who would not submit were sought out, imprisoned, tortured,and even put to death. This sent the world into a period of time known as the Dark Ages when the Bible was chained to pulpits and only “priests” were allowed to read it. (Consult any encyclopedia on the “Holy Roman Empire,” “Papal Inquisition,” “Spanish Inquisition,” “Dark Ages,” “or “Middle Ages.”)

When the death wound of the Roman Empire was healed and it regained its powers in the form of the Holy Roman Empire, the world wondered after the beast. This would be true because the vast majority of the world was directly under its control. Also, for a government as strong as the Roman Empire to fall and then rise again to regain its powers would be a feat the entire would would view with amazement.

4* they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?”

The dragon is the devil. The devil gives power to this beast. Because of this we recognize that the beast, or those governmental forces which oppose and persecute God’s people, receives its powers from the devil. These forces are active in the world today warring against God’s people.

Note that the people of the world are worshiping two things. They worship the beast and the devil which gave the power to this beast. To worship this beast would be the same as worshiping the devil which provided its powers. As Christians we should be extremely careful to keep our priorities in order. We are members of God’s kingdom first. We are subjects of our king in heaven–Christ Jesus our Lord. We must live in this world and be subject to the earthly powers that govern it, but we must also remember that many of the laws which governments bind upon their people originate with the devil.

The Holy Roman Empire thrived because it existed in conjunction with the apostate church which devised laws for man to follow in his worship to God. This was totally against God’s will and a perfect example of a government which received its power from the devil.

5* There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.

Out of the mouth of this beast came arrogant words and blasphemies. This indicates that the governments in power upon this earth have the ability to speak or do great things in the sight of men. Many times men are so overwhelmed by the powers possessed by worldly governments that they are fooled into thinking that these are the most powerful forces in existence. This leads many men to forget about God and put their trust in the earthly forces of men. This governmental force also speaks blasphemies. Many governments which exist in the world today seek to destroy all forms of religion because they see it as a threat to their own power.

This beast was given power to exist for 42 months. This represents the entire Christian age as was indicated in 11:2. The number “42” is used instead of “1,260”, or time, times and half a time, because it indicates a period of time when God’s people will suffer great hardships or persecutions.

6* And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.

This is a figurative expression indicating that these civil governments blaspheme God, his church, and all Christians. The Tabernacle is figurative of the dwelling place of God on earth today, the church of Christ. “Those who dwell in heaven,” is a direct reference to Christians used to describe the Christians dwelling place in God’s kingdom, the church. Consider these verses:

Eph. 1:3
3* ¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ
Eph. 2:6
6* and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

Christians are described as having spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ. To be “in Christ” means to be in the Church. “Those who dwell in heaven,” is a direct reference to Christians. This same symbolism is used in 12:12 to describe Christians as dwelling in God’s Kingdom, the church. Christians symbolically dwell in heavenly places while here on earth. This is the place where God’s people dwell and have their sins forgiven because of the blood of Christ.

Therefore the idea here is that the beast, or ungodly governments speak strong sayings against God, his church and his people. They do everything within their power to destroy religion or worship of any kind so that they may have complete control of their populace, body and soul.

7* It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.

Compare this verse with 12:17. The devil wages war against the church of Christ throughout history. Many of God’s people throughout history have been tortured, persecuted and killed by the powers of wicked worldly governments. There is no place on this earth where the authority of the beast is totally absent.

8* All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.

The point of this verse is to show that Christians will not worship the beast. Only non-Christians will worship. The phrase “from the foundation of the world” modifies “the Lamb who has been slain.”

9* If anyone has an ear, let him hear.
10* If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.

Special attention is being called to these verses. These verses have been badly abused. We must remember context, context, context. The war being discussed in this chapter is between the beast and Christians. Therefore, the question is, what kind of captivity is this verse talking about? Here it refers to being captive to the devil by worshiping the beast. The beast (the civil powers of man) are used by the devil to overcome people spiritually and make them captives unto himself. Those who lead people into captivity of the devil will someday go into captivity themselves. This is the captivity of hell with the devil and his angels. These verses call special attention to the fact that those people who lead others into the captivity of the devil by teaching his sinful ways will eventually themselves be captive in the devil’s hell. This same concept is applied to the sword. Those who kill or persecute Christians on this earth with the physical sword are doomed to an eternity in hell by the spiritual sword, the gospel. That’s why the “perseverance of the faith of the saints” is mentioned. When Christians live by the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, they cannot be held captive by the devil and his forces.

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