All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
This may be the most talked about chapter in the book of Revelation. We have the beast and the false prophet (Rev 16:13; 19:20; 20:10) and the image of the beast that talks; the great signs of the false prophet; the seven heads and ten horns; the mark of the beast (666); no buying or selling without the mark; and we have the book of life of the Lamb. A lot to get our attention.
Dispensational Premillennialism teaches that this chapter is about “the Antichrist,” who appears on the world stage during the so-called “seven year tribulation period” prior to the return of Christ and His so-called “1000 year earthly kingdom,” who forces everyone to have a physical mark in order to buy or sell anything during that brief period of tribulation. Sadly, the events of this chapter have been so sensationalized, I think that it’s made Christians look silly, and has harmed our testimony.
There’s something far more significant going on in this chapter and in this book than what Premillennialism teaches. Having studied this book now at great length – in light of the overall teaching of the New Testament – I’m bewildered that so many Bible teachers aren’t seeing the greater message here. Not that I claim to have a perfect understanding, but the general theme seems almost obvious to me now.
This chapter, and the whole book of Revelation is about life in this world between the first and second advents of Christ. It’s about the conflict between light and darkness, between the Kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Satan. It’s about the conflict between the truth and falsehood. It’s about the struggles Christians deal with in a world that is hostile to Christ and His followers. This is the classic story of good versus evil. This book gives us an overview of life in the world during the Christian era. If you’ve been following along in this commentary, you know that this is the picture we’ve seen. This chapter reveals this conflict between the two kingdoms perhaps better than anywhere else in this book.
The idea that the book of Revelation is about a mere seven year period, fails miserably to capture the greater message and full significance that this book actually conveys. If we’re to see the full scope of this revelation, we must see it through the overall message of the New Testament – which is what I’ve strived to do throughout this commentary. When we do that, we’re able to make better sense out of this book than when viewed through the narrow lens of Premillennialism.
Chapter 17: In order to understand chapter 13, we have to understand chapter 17 first. Therefore, in order to identify the first and second beast of this chapter, we’ll have to include a study on certain verses of that chapter.
Identifying Our Terms:
Sea Beast – Kingdom of darkness
Image of the Beast – Kingdom of the world
Land Beast (False Prophet) – Rulers of darkness
Mark of the beast – Symbolic mark of identification
Seven heads – World empires
Ten horns – Confederacy of kings that arise prior to Christ’s return.
Sea-Beast: Kingdom of Darkness
12:17 And the dragon waxed wroth with the woman, and went away to make war with the rest of her seed, that keep the commandments of God, and hold the testimony of Jesus:
13:1 And he stood upon the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns ten diadems, and upon his heads names of blasphemy.
NET – 13:1 Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, and on its horns were ten diadem crowns, and on its heads a blasphemous name.
These represent seven empires or kingdoms (Rev 17:9).
These represent a confederation of nations that will arise just before the return of Christ. Though they proceed from, these do not figure into the beast of chapter 13, so we will not deal with that until we get to chapter 17.
“ten diadems” (NET – “diadem crowns”)
NET Notes: sn Diadem crowns were a type of crown used as a symbol of the highest ruling authority in a given area, and thus often associated with kingship.
This sea-beast is represented by kings or kingdoms — better understood as kingdoms or world empires. During the present Church age, the beast is represented by the seventh empire, which is the kingdom of darkness (we will discuss this later).
For a full interpretation of this beast, we have to go to chapter 17:
17:7 And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou wonder? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and the ten horns.
17:8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and is about to come up out of the abyss, and to go into perdition. And they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, they whose name hath not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast, how that he was, and is not, and shall come.
17:9 Here is the mind that hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth:
17:10 and they are seven kings; the five are fallen, the one is, the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a little while.
17:11 And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is of the seven; and he goeth into perdition.
17:12 And the ten horns that thou sawest are ten kings, who have received no kingdom as yet; but they receive authority as kings, with the beast, for one hour.
17:13 These have one mind, and they give their power and authority unto the beast.
“Seven mountains” (vs. 9)
These mountains refer to the world – the whole world – because we’re also told that this “woman” sits upon “many waters” (17:1), which are the “nations” of the world (17:15,18). While there is a difference of opinion of how many continents our planet has, it’s interesting that the most commonly accepted number is seven. However, it doesn’t matter what the actual number is, because “seven” in this description is clearly symbolic for the world — seven being the number of completeness.
Now we’re tasked with figuring out the beast and the seven kingdoms (kings):
As we put this together, we have to keep in mind that the beast is represented by “seven kingdoms” (empires, kings), and is, therefore, an it, not a he. At different times in history, the beast has been represented by one particular kingdom or empire, one at at time. With that in mind, we need to put the beast and the seven kingdoms side by side. Keep in mind that this is being spoken from the time period that John received the revelation:
Beast – was, is not, shall come
Seven kings – five fallen, one is, one not yet come
Beast “was” = “five fallen” kingdoms.
Beast “is not” = “one is”
Beast “shall come” = “one not yet come”
Five fallen kingdoms = Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece.
“One is” kingdom = Rome – sixth kingdom.
Not yet come = Kingdom of darkness – seventh kingdom.
As you may have noticed, there seems to be a discrepancy between the Beast that “is not” and the kingdom that “one is.” This can be explained by the fact that at this particular time in history (John’s day), Rome ruled the world. However, since it was during the Church age, it was in a transitional stage. The beast is described as “is not,” because it “is not” like the days of the “fallen five” kingdoms, and because it “is not” like it would become as the “seventh” kingdom after Rome fell. Thus, “is not” describes the unique situation of John’s day. The beast still functioned as the “one is” kingdom of Rome, but was “not” like it was during the previous five kingdoms, nor like during the time of the seventh to come after the fall of Rome. To be more clear, the beast “was not” in the sense that it was functioning during the Church age, but not as it would during most of the Church age as the “seventh kingdom.” The seventh is associated with the Church age, but here is the sixth kingdom functioning during this same time period — the beginning of that period. Therefore, the beast is said to be “is not,” as in functioning out of place – in transition from one form to another (see “Explanation” and “The Eighth King” below).
Kingdom of Darkness:
We now need to talk about the “not yet come” kingdom of the present Church age — the Christian or gospel era. As already identified, this is the kingdom of darkness, which is the “seventh kingdom.” What is this kingdom of darkness? This is the spiritual domain of Satan who rules this ungodly world. It’s the realm that we’re all in before we come to faith in Christ:
NASB – 13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son,” (Col 1:13)
NASB – 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me. (Acts 26:18)
ESV – 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 4:3-4)
ESV – 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 Jn 3:10)
With the above verses in mind, providing our firm foundation for interpretation, there are several other reasons why I believe the beast of this chapter is the kingdom of darkness. I outline those reasons below:
NET – 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.
Both Christians and non-Christians alike, are involved in spiritual warfare. However, Christians are members of the Kingdom of Christ (Col 1:13) and protected by the “armour of God” (Eph 6:13), while unbelievers are totally under the influence of the rulers of darkness and have no protection. Unbelievers are still members of this kingdom of darkness, ruled by the “god of this world” and his demonic army (2 Cor 4:4). As the “god of this world,” Satan is the true ruler of this world, who rules over the secular governments (anti or non-Christian) and false religions and philosophies and values of the world — indeed, the whole world system, which is in opposition to God and His truth.
The whole tenor of the book of Revelation is about the conflict between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Satan, from beginning to end.
In Revelation 11, we see that when Christ returns, He defeats the kingdom of the world as we enter into the eternal Kingdom of God (Rev 11:15). The kingdom of the world is totally under the dominion of Satan, which is the express image of the kingdom of darkness (Rev 13:14):
NASB – 15 Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever. (Rev 11:15)
The description given in this chapter is too specific and detailed to be referring to anything else. The way the two beasts in this chapter are described, the identity as the kingdom of darkness, fits perfectly, and makes perfect sense.
As I said in my introduction, I believe there’s something far more significant going on in this chapter (ch 13) and in this book than what Premillennialism teaches, or even what other proponents of Amillennialism teaches. It goes much deeper and darker than what many see it as. The premillennial view is very shortsighted and fails to see the big picture. This chapter (ch 13) and this book, goes far beyond a mere seven year period of history. Indeed, it extends throughout the full history of the Church — from the first coming of Christ to His second.
During the reign of the “five” kingdoms (empires), the beast was identified by each of those kingdoms. In other words, the beast was represented by those ruling kingdoms or empires during their respective times. When Rome was ruling in the days of the Apostle John, the beast was in transition (“is not”) because it existed during the beginning of the Church age. Once Rome fell, the kingdom of darkness itself became the “seventh” kingdom. Indeed, John was seeing this kingdom (Rome) as already fallen. Since there was no longer a single world empire after Rome fell, the kingdom of darkness itself became the ruling kingdom of the beast, which rules over all the world. To be clear, even during the times of the six world empires, the kingdom of darkness reigned over them. However, it wasn’t until Rome fell during the Church age that it became the ruling kingdom itself, becoming the seventh. It’s a matter of a change of focus from individual world empires, to the kingdom of darkness itself, ruling over the entire world.
As we learned in chapter 12, things dramatically changed. The victory of the cross was the defeat of Satan, and when that occurred, he began an all-out assault on the world with great wrath, knowing that his time is short (Rev 12:12). Thus the focus is no longer on a single secular empire, but on the empire of Satan, which is over the whole world. With Christ ruling over His kingdom (the Church), it’s His kingdom against the kingdom of Satan. This is what’s revealed in the throughout the book of Revelation, and we must not miss it.
“he must continue a little while” (17:10)
Again, this is referring to the seventh kingdom or empire (king), which is the kingdom of darkness, ruled by Satan as its king. The description of him “continuing” or ruling for a “little while,” fits what is said about Satan in Rev 12:12, and helps to confirm our interpretation of this seventh kingdom:
12:12 Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe for the earth and for the sea: because the devil is gone down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time. (Rev 12:12)
As I said in my commentary on that verse, “short time” refers to the entire Church age up to the return of Christ. “Short time” is relevant to eternity. Also, this is from Satan’s point of view. As a spirit, it’s highly likely that he’s not affected by time in the same way we are.
Summary: The seventh empire or kingdom (king) is the kingdom of darkness, ruled by Satan himself. After Rome fell, there were no more world empires. Thus the focus turned to the whole world itself, with the kingdom of darkness ruling over it, with Satan as its king.
The Eighth King:
11 And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is of the seven; and he goeth into perdition. (Rev 17:11)
As we’ve seen, once Rome fell, the beast took on an entirely different look during the Church age — the kingdom of darkness itself became the beast of chapter 13. However, shortly before the return of Christ, the beast again takes on a different look and becomes an “eighth king” (see commentary on Rev 11:7), whom I believe to be the “man of sin” of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12. I believe he will be the final world ruler.
This “man of sin,” this “eighth king,” is “of the seven” because he becomes the full embodiment of those kings. The beast becomes the final king because the “man of sin” will embody and epitomize evil or the kingdom of darkness. To be more precise, I believe Satan will completely indwell this man personally. He will rule the world only for a brief period of time before Jesus returns, and he will demand the worship of all people (2 Thes 2:4). That’s when he and the confederation of “ten kings” (Rev 17:16) will turn against all the religions of the world, which is the “great harlot” (Rev 17:1), which is also “Babylon the great,” the whole world system. In order for this man to become the sole object of worship, he must claim and deceive people to believe that he is God himself. All people of all religions – except Christianity – will believe his deception and give their allegiance to him. He is the true Antichrist of Revelation, not the beast of chapter 13.
***The ends commentary on Revelation 17***
Back to chapter 13:
2 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 throne, and great authority.
First, as I already mentioned, it’s important to understand that this beast is not a he, not a person, but an empire, or rather, a combination of empires or kingdoms. Premillennialists make the tragic mistake of identifying this beast as a he, as in “the Antichrist.”
“leopard, bear, lion”
This obviously has Daniel 7:4-7 in mind. The four beasts of Daniel 7 are applied to the beast of this chapter as one beast, instead of four. A common understanding is that the beast of chapter 13 is a composite of the evil and dreadful characteristics of those four beasts, which were these empires:
Lion – Babylon
Bear – Medo-Persia
Leopard – Greece
Fourth beast – Rome
John only saw the first three empires in Daniel’s vision. The reason is probably because John was living in the days of the fourth empire, which, of course, was the Roman Empire. Again, the beast of this chapter is a composite of the first three. Once the Roman Empire fell, the “seventh king” (empire, kingdom) became a composite of all four — which is what we have throughout the Christian era until the return of Christ.
Significant point: That John doesn’t see the fourth beast of Daniel (Rome), is in harmony with the “is not” of Rev 17:8,11 as we discussed above. He doesn’t mention it as if it does “not” exist. Again, this is because this beast at the time of the Roman Empire was in transition to become what is primary during the Church age, which is the “seventh king,” which is the kingdom of darkness. In other words, the Church age beast was awaiting the fall of the Roman Empire, and was, thus, being viewed by John as already fallen — “is not.”
“the dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority.”
This sea-beast (kingdom of darkness) receives it’s power and throne and great authority from Satan. This is his kingdom, through which he deceives the world. He does this through anti-Christian or non-Christian government, false religion, worldly philosophies, worldly values, worldly pleasures, etc. — in general, all the anti-Christian ways of the world (see “image” vs. 14). This is the kingdom of darkness against the kingdom of light.
3 And I saw one of his heads as though it had been smitten unto death; and his death-stroke was healed: and the whole earth wondered after the beast;
NET: 13:3 One of the beast’s heads appeared to have been killed, 10 but the lethal wound had been healed. And the whole world followed the beast in amazement;
10 tn Grk “killed to death,” an expression emphatic in its redundancy. The phrase behind this translation is ὡς ἐσφαγμένον (Jw” ejsfagmenon). The particle ὡς is used in Greek generally for comparison, and in Revelation it is used often to describe the appearance of what the author saw. In this instance, the appearance of the beast’s head did not match reality, because the next phrase shows that in fact it did not die. This text does not affirm that the beast died and was resurrected, but some draw this conclusion because of the only other use of the phrase, which refers to Jesus in 5:6.
This verse refers to the fall of the Roman Empire:
“In 476 C.E. Romulus, the last of the Roman emperors in the west, was overthrown by the Germanic leader Odoacer, who became the first Barbarian to rule in Rome. The order that the Roman Empire had brought to western Europe for 1000 years was no more.” (http://www.ushistory.org/civ/6f.asp)
The “head” (sixth) that appeared to have been killed was Rome. It appeared to have been killed because the Roman Empire fell. To understand what’s going on here, this beast, the beast of this chapter, has to be viewed as the Church-age beast. This beast has two heads (kingdoms) during this time — the sixth (Roman Empire) and the seventh (kingdom of darkness). In other words, during this time period, it’s a two-headed beast, yet one. Thus when Rome fell (“appeared to have been killed”), it continued to live in the form of the seventh head or empire. In other words, it transitioned from one form to another, since this is a Church age beast. It didn’t really die, it just transformed into a different type of kingdom.
To understand this better, during each of the first five empires, the beast was represented by only one of them at a time. During the Church age, the beast is represented by, not one, but by two empires, the sixth and seventh. The two functioned separately, yet as one. So when the sixth empire fell (Rome), it simply continued on in a different form, as the kingdom of darkness — the seventh head, which rules over all the nations of the world.
4 and they worshipped the dragon, because he gave his authority unto the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? and who is able to war with him?
To be clear, what’s primarily in view in this chapter is the seventh head (kingdom, empire), which is the kingdom of darkness. Everything in this chapter should be interpreted with that in mind.
Though it’s true of some, most do not worship Satan directly — that is, on purpose. Therefore, this should not be interpreted like that. Most of the people of the world worship the devil indirectly. They worship him by giving their heart and lives to those things that are associated with him and his kingdom: false religion, philosophies of the world, materialism, sinful pleasures, self-glorification, power and prestige, hatred toward Christians, etc. All of these things describe this beast — the kingdom of darkness. They worship the beast the same way they worship Satan, by giving themselves to the things of this kingdom, which is ruled by Satan. Everyone belongs to Satan and his kingdom before they come to faith in Christ (Acts 26:18; Col 1:13; 2 Cor 4:3-4; 1 Jn 3:8-10).
Therefore, this chapter – and throughout this book- depicts the spiritual warfare between the Kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Satan.
“who like the beast, and who is able to make war with him”
This describes the worldwide dominance of this beast. Who can fight against this kingdom of darkness? Certainly not those who belong to this kingdom. Christians belong to the Kingdom of light, and they are the only ones who stand in opposition to it. Thus they do not have this same sense of awe toward the beast that the rest of the world has. We have the truth. We serve the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Thus we know Who is able to “make war with him.”
5 and there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and there was given to him authority to continue forty and two months.
Everything this beast stands for is in opposition to Christ and the Christian faith, which is the only truth in the world. All the voices of false religion, anti-Christian philosophies, anti-Christian government, worldly values, sinful pleasures, etc., speak “blasphemies” against God.
“forty two months”
(See commentary on Rev 11:2; 12:14)
This is the equivalent of 1260 days and 3.5 years, and is symbolic for the entire Christian era, from the first coming of Christ to His second.
6 And he opened his mouth for blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, even them that dwell in the heaven.
NET – 6 So the beast opened his mouth to blaspheme against God – to blaspheme both his name and his dwelling place, that is, those who dwell in heaven.
The blasphemy of this beast, of course, is directed against God and His holy name. It’s also directed against “His dwelling place,” where Jesus sits enthroned, and His glorified saints dwell in His presence. This blasphemy is against Christ and His people and everything that relates to the Christian faith, which is the only truth in this world of sin.
It’s also important to note that the Church in Christ, is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. So again, this beast hates the Church that represents Christ and is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Thus we see that the blasphemy extends to all three members of the Trinity.
7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and there was given to him authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation.
“to make war with the saints”
Let’s be clear about this. This beast is the kingdom of darkness, ruled by Satan, and spiritually, this kingdom has no power over us. That’s not what this verse is referring to. What’s in view here is Christian persecution from the world, incited by Satan and his kingdom. Persecution against Christians has always been widespread and severe throughout Church history, and that is what we see in this verse. However, this worldwide authority doesn’t allow this beast to make war with all the saints. That won’t happen until we get close to the return of Christ, where there will be an all-out assault against the followers of Christ — known as the “War of Armageddon” (see commentary on Rev 11:7).
“authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation”
Realistically, what could possibly have authority over “every tribe and people and tongue and nation?” The kingdom of darkness is the only thing that touches every living soul in the world. No other interpretation has such worldwide influence as the kingdom of Satan, as the next verse confirms. It’s only until we come to faith in Christ that we escape this dark and evil kingdom.
8 And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, everyone whose name hath not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain.
NET – 13:8 and all those who live on the earth will worship the beast, everyone whose name has not been written since the foundation of the world 27 in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was killed.
Everyone whose name has not been written in the Lamb’s book of life since the foundation of the world, will worship the beast. That is, they will follow the ways of the beast, the ways of darkness, which obviously refers to all the unsaved of the world. There’s only one interpretation for the identity of this beast that can possibly fit this all-encompassing description, and that’s the kingdom of darkness. It almost seems obvious that the identity of this beast is that kingdom (empire). It’s the kingdom of darkness that is against Christ and His followers. This whole chapter describes an enemy that is against Christians, and Christians alone. There shouldn’t be any doubt that the beast of the Church age is the kingdom of darkness, which stands in opposition to the kingdom of light. The whole book of Revelation depicts this ongoing spiritual warfare between these two kingdoms.
Not “before” as the ESV renders this:
“everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”
Should be: “written since the foundation of the world 27”
27 tn The prepositional phrase “since the foundation of the world” is traditionally translated as a modifier of the immediately preceding phrase in the Greek text, “the Lamb who was killed” (so also G. B. Caird, Revelation [HNTC], 168), but it is more likely that the phrase “since the foundation of the world” modifies the verb “written” (as translated above). Confirmation of this can be found in Rev 17:8 where the phrase “written in the book of life since the foundation of the world” occurs with no ambiguity.
Note: KJV and NKJV translate this phrase as “slain from the foundation of the world.”
9 If any man hath an ear, let him hear.
Both Christians and non-Christians alike, who may be hearing this or reading this, need to listen to what’s being said here. Unbelievers need to take warning and turn to Christ as Lord and Savior, or face the eternal consequences. And believers need to be prepared to suffer for Christ, knowing the glorious eternal rewards that we have to look forward to:
10 If any man is for captivity, into captivity he goeth: if any man shall kill with the sword, with the sword must he be killed. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
NET – 13:10 If anyone is meant for captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed by the sword, then by the sword he must be killed. This requires steadfast endurance and faith from the saints.
“if any man shall kill with the sword” (NASB, KJV, NKJV, NRSV)
“If anyone is to be killed by the sword” (ESV, LEB, NIV, CSB)
NET Notes provides a long discussion about these two renderings, and why “if anyone is to be killed by the sword” is favored over the other.
This verse is a continuation of thought from verse 9. Christians are to be fully prepared for what may come our way — whether it be “captivity” (imprisonment) or “the sword” (death) for our allegiance to Christ. We’re to endure and remain strong in our faith, knowing that the persecutions and trials of this life are only temporary, and that we have the glories of Heaven to look forward to. We must always live with eternity in view.
Land-Beast – Rulers of Darkness:
11 And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like unto a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.
I believe the identity of this land-beast are the sub-rulers of the kingdom of darkness — that is, demons that rule in that kingdom on behalf of Satan (Eph 6:12). The sea-beast is the kingdom of darkness – ruled by Satan – and this land-beast refers to the sub-rulers of that kingdom. Even more specifically, I believe what’s in view here with this beast is the actual demonic activity of the kingdom of darkness.
Thus both the sea-beast and the land-beast refer to the kingdom of darkness — Satan as the ruling authority of that kingdom (sea-beast), and his demonic army as the sub-rulers of that kingdom (land-beast) — which, in this passage, focuses on their activity within that kingdom.
We see that this beast is being compared to a “lamb,” probably with Christ is view. A lamb is gentle, like Jesus is gentle. While there is nothing gentle about those who rule the kingdom of darkness, they do present themselves as such (2 Cor 11:14). That’s all part of the deception. Satan is the great deceiver of this world, and so he and his demonic beings make themselves and their kingdom look attractive and appealing. That’s how they lure people in.
As for the “two horns,” like the horns of the first beast, they probably represent power and authority. Just as Christ – the Lamb of God – exercises power and authority over His kingdom, so does Satan and his demonic legions exercise power and authority over their kingdom. The obvious difference is, Jesus is all-powerful, and His kingdom is a kingdom of light. This beast is limited in power and rules a kingdom that is total darkness.
“he spake as a dragon”
He spoke as a dragon, because as Satan is, so are demons. They’re all the same type of beings, which are fallen angels. Furthermore, they speak on behalf of Satan, who is their General. They carry out his bidding.
12 And he exerciseth all the authority of the first beast in his sight. And he maketh the earth and them that dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose death-stroke was healed.
This beast exercises all the authority of the first beast because they are essentially one and the same. These rulers are the kingdom of darkness. The rulers of the kingdom of darkness point the people of the world to the kingdom of darkness. In other words, they lead the world in all the ways of darkness — all that stands against the light and truth of Christ.
“whose death-stroke was healed” (see verse 3)
13 And he doeth great signs, that he should even make fire to come down out of heaven upon the earth in the sight of men.
14 And he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by reason of the signs which it was given him to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast who hath the stroke of the sword and lived.
NET – 13:14 and, by the signs he was permitted to perform on behalf of the beast, he deceived those who live on the earth. He told those who live on the earth to make an image to the beast who had been wounded by the sword, but still lived.
I believe this refers to the demonic activity of the world — in general. However, within this general arena, is all the strange phenomena of the world. The “fire coming down out of heaven upon earth” is likely figurative language to describe this phenomena. For examples of strange phenomena, just google “strange phenomena.” When you read about some of these things, it’s easy to see the “great signs” of this beast in them. And by these things, they “deceive” the world.
This land-beast is referred to as the “false prophet” in Rev 16:13; 19:20; 20:10. The rulers of darkness, all combined, are seen as a single false prophet. The world is full of false prophets and false religions, but they all originate with the rulers of darkness. Therefore, the view that the “false prophet” is the Pope or false religion only (as is commonly believed), is a far too limited identification. This type of view doesn’t see the whole picture that’s presented in this chapter, or in this book.
“He told those who live on the earth to make an image to the beast who had been wounded by the sword, but still lived.”
When we consider the kingdom of darkness and its world-wide dominion, I believe the “image” of the beast (kingdom of darkness) has to be the kingdom of the world (Rev 11:15), since the kingdom of the world is a reflection of the kingdom of darkness. In other words, the kingdom of darkness casts its “image” upon the world. It makes perfect sense.
The “image” of the beast is also to be understood as the “great harlot” and “Babylon the Great” of chapters 17 and 18 — which includes false religion, but not limited to it. It’s the whole world system that is in view. The Apostle John, who wrote the book of Revelation, understood this world system well:
NET – 2:15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, 2:16 because all that is in the world (the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the arrogance produced by material possessions) is not from the Father, but is from the world. 2:17 And the world is passing away with all its desires, but the person who does the will of God remains forever. (1 Jn 2:15-17)
When we read the above passage from 1 John in the context of that whole chapter, it helps to confirm that our identity of the sea-beast and the land-beast is the correct interpretation — keeping in mind that John is the author of both 1 John and Revelation.
This land-beast doesn’t literally “tell” the people of the world to make an image. The wording in this verse is figurative. It’s the people of the world that make the world and it’s system what it is — as it’s being incited (“told”) by the powers of darkness.
15 And it was given unto him to give breath to it, even to the image of the breast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as should not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
The rulers of darkness gives breath to the “image of the beast” (kingdom of the world), in the sense that they’re the ones who gives life to all the evil ways of the world. They’re the originators of it all. They’re behind it all, in all its deceptions. They form it and fashion it as they will (within the limits God allows), all for the purpose of deceiving the world in order to keep people from coming to faith in Christ. Their goal is to keep as many in their kingdom as possible. The image “speaks” through the false religions and philosophies and values and ways of the world – in other words, the whole world system. Everything that it “speaks” is anti-Christian.
“that as many as should not worship the image of the beast should be killed.”
Those who do not “worship the image of the beast,” that is, those who do not follow the ways of the world, are marked people. Christians stand apart from all the rest. The world hates Christians, and they go after us with great fury. Even America, with our Christian roots, is becoming more and more anti-Christian. We’re being persecuted all over the world, and this book of Revelation indicates that it will get worse and worse, as we are clearly seeing in the world today. The people of the world “kill” us with their words of hate, contempt, and ridicule — and many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are literally being tortured and killed. This will all lead to an all-out assault against Christians worldwide prior to the return of Christ, which is the “War of Armageddon” (see commentary on Rev 11:7).
16 And he causeth all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the bond, that there be given them a mark on their right hand, or upon their forehead;
Generally speaking, as in all unbelievers — those who belong to the kingdom of darkness.
The rulers of darkness do not literally “cause” a mark to be placed on unbelievers.This is simply figurative language to depict the association between unbelievers and the kingdom of darkness.
“mark” (“mark of the beast” verses 16:2; 19:20; 20:4)
Contrary to popular belief, this is not a literal, physical mark that is placed on the body. This mark is merely symbolic. It symbolizes those who belong to the kingdom of darkness. It’s an invisible identification that only God can see. That this mark is a symbol of identification, is confirmed in the very first verse in the very next chapter:
NET – 14:1 Then I looked, and here was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him were one hundred and forty-four thousand, who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.
(also Rev 7:3-4)
Therefore, this “mark of the beast” is a symbolic identification of those who belong to the kingdom of darkness, just as believers are symbolically marked with the name of the Father and of the Lamb. As followers of Christ, we don’t walk around with a physical and visible mark on our foreheads. The same is true with the “mark of the beast” that identifies the unbelievers of the world. God sees each mark, and that’s all that matters.
“right hand, or upon their forehead”
Again, this is no more literal than the mark (name) on the “forehead” of believers (Rev 14:1). Mention of the “hand” might be a reference to what unbelievers do. Mention of the “forehead” might be a reference to the mind, what unbelievers think. What we think and what we do is all-encompassing. It’s through these that unbelievers reveal who they are. It’s also through these that believers reveal who they are.
17 and that no man should be able to buy or to sell, save he that hath the mark, even the name of the beast or the number of his name.
NET – 13:17 Thus no one was allowed to buy or sell things unless he bore the mark of the beast – that is, his name or his number.
“buy or to sell”
Not to be taken literally. I believe this is figurative language used to describe the exchange or the sharing of worldly beliefs, philosophies, values, priorities, ideas, etc. Another way of stating this would be:
“that no one would be able to participate (buy) in the ways of the world, and in turn, share (sell) them with others unless they had the mark of the beast.”
It makes perfect sense that only those who belong the the kingdom of darkness (the kingdom of the world), would be able to share the same belief system. Thus what’s being depicted here is a shared belief system among unbelievers. The teachings of Christianity is diametrically opposed to the ways of the world, and thus would not be included among those who participate in the “buying or selling” (sharing) of the ways of the world. This whole chapter (this whole book) describes the whole world and its system against the followers of Christ and His ways.
“mark of the beast”
Symbolic identification of those who belong to the kingdom of darkness (vs. 16).
“name of the beast”
The kingdom of darkness is not a world empire without a ruler. Thus mention of a name makes this personal, and refers to the ruling authority of this kingdom, which is Satan. He goes by many names: Great dragon, old serpent, Satan, devil, deceiver of the world, roaring lion (Rev 12:9; 1 Pet 5:8). Thus those who have the “name of the beast,” are identified with Satan as belonging to him and his kingdom, as his children (Acts 26:18; Col 1:13; 1 Jn 3:10).
18 Here is wisdom. He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man: and his number is Six hundred and sixty and six.
NET: 18 This calls for wisdom: Let the one who has insight calculate the beast’s number, for it is man’s number, and his number is 666.
“this calls for wisdom”
Wisdom tells me that people make too much of this number. People go into all kinds of theories about its meaning. But I believe it’s much simpler than what most people think.
“the number of a man”
“man’s number” (NET)
Number of mankind or humankind
While there’s no doubt that this number refers to Satan and his kingdom, it’s through man (humankind) that he carries out his evil schemes – whether it’s those who lead countries or those who lead false religions, it’s sinful man that represents the kingdom of darkness as the “image of the beast ” (kingdom of the world).
I believe this is mentioned in order to get us focused on the ways of man. In order for us to identify those who have the “mark of the beast,” all we have to do is listen to their words and observe their lives. Those who belong to the kingdom of darkness are normally easy to identify. Likewise, those who belong to the kingdom of light are also normally easy to identify. We’re talking about fruit here. The fruit of salvation, the fruit that identifies us with Christ and His kingdom, is a clear contrast to the rotten fruit of those who belong to Satan and his kingdom.
If our lives as Christians do not clearly reveal the “marks of Jesus” (Gal 6:17), then there’s something wrong. This chapter draws a clear line of distinction between believers and unbelievers. Our lives should clearly reveal which side of the line we’re on.
Considering all the seven’s in this book, I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that the number six here is assigned to this beast, since the number seven is assigned to Christ and His Church. Six is less than seven. It falls short of God’s glory. Thus I think it’s likely that the number six represents the inferior and evil character of Satan and his kingdom. I believe the mention of the number three times, is for one of two reasons:
One, stated three times could be merely an emphatic expression. Stating it three times, forcefully makes the point about its meaning.
Two, the triple mention of the number six represents something specific from the other: 6 = sea-beast (kingdom of darkness, Satan); 6 = land-beast (demonic beings, False Prophet); 6 = image (kingdom of the world). Yet, together they are one number — the number 666.
I believe it’s both.