Finally, we meet the beast. I’m very excited, so that means you should be worried. I can hardly contain myself. Nevertheless, the infallable word of God first:
And he (most likely, I) stood on the sand of the seashore (it was written infallable, we’ve done very well keeping it that way, for the most part).
And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea,
having ten horns and
and on his horns were ten diadems,
and on his heads were blasphemous names.
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.
And 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;
and 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?”
And there was given to him a mouth
speaking arrogant words and blasphemies;
and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.
And he opened his mouth
in blasphemies against God,
to blaspheme His name
and His tabernacle,
that is, those who dwell in heaven.
And it was given to him to make war with the saints
and to overcome them;
and authority over every tribe
was given to him.
And 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.
If anyone has an ear,
let him hear.
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.”
One more time, for old time’s sake, “this is the Antichrist!” Except that it isn’t. Please, accept that isn’t. It’s the beast. Clearly his name is portrayed–beast. Revelation 12:9; And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world…” Who is this? The text states, serpent, Satan and the devil. We logically assume then, that it is Satan. In the same way, should we not assume that the beast is the beast and not the Antichrist? Bear with me a little foolishness, as Paul would say.
2 Kings 1:8; And they answered him, “He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”
Malachi 4:5; “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD.”
Matthew 3:4 “Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair, and a leather belt about his waist…”
Matthew 11:12-15; “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Therefore, John the Baptist is Elijah. No, John was a representation of Elijah, an image of Elijah, a type of Elijah. John the Baptist is not literally Elijah; they are, in fact, two different people. Did John fulfill the Malachi prophecy? Yes, Jesus made that clear. However, it does give us additional insight into apocalyptic literature, where the type and anti-type are linked, synonymous and yet mutually exclusive. Problem: the Antichrist and the beast have no link–there is no type and there is no anti-type. The only thing that the Antichrist and the beast have in common, aside from being against Christ, is that they are mutually exclusive. They are not the same–not by a longshot. You may think they are, but that is only because you’ve heard, “this is the Antichrist,” a thousand times. You’ve read a thousand words in a thousand books and listened intently to a thousand sermons that all assured you that, “this is the Antichrist.” How can a major screw-up like me, possibly hope to convince you that they, and you, are wrong? Let me ask another question: what is the most difficult thing for a man to admit? Answer: when he’s wrong. How can I convince you? Let’s try the Word of God. Please place your tray tables in their upright and locked position and fastened your seatbelts, we’re ready for take off. The first century church wouldn’t have understood that imagery. But considering the author’s aspirations to his audience, we can assume that they understood the following:
Revelation 12:17-13:1, “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the seashore. And 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.”
First things first, there should be no chapter breaks in Revelation, here is absolutely no exception. They, like in the rest of the Bible, were added for ease of reference. I’m glad that they are there, so that we can easily pick up where we left off. However, as we waltz, we must forget them. Chapter 13 is a continuation of chapter 12. Also, I believe the proper translation of verse one, should be “I,” and not, “he,” based on the context. Though it matters little; whether “I” or “he,” it doesn’t change the imagery contained in the text concerning the dragon and the beast. The imagery is of one standing on the earth. The image is bolstered by the reference to the sand, which quite frequently represents Israel. “I will make you as the sands of the sea.” Nevertheless, the preeminent picture is that of the land–the earth–the stark contrast to the sea. Remember, to show great authority, the strong angel placed one foot on the sea and one on the earth.
Ponder for a minute, John’s description of the beast. “And 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. 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.”
“Coming out of the sea;” with the brain bestowed to you by the Lord, even amongst all the pollution piled on by the worldly media, and worse yet, the churches, the imagery is clear. In fact, we can use the collection of cobwebs cluttering our consciousness and the strange sayings seizing space in our minds to understand the imagery contained in, “coming out of the sea.” If you met a pirate (it’s possible), and she stated, “me first mate and me ship be sent down to Davey Jones’ locker,” most would understand her use of the idiom, Davey Jones’ locker. She may also say, “they met the ghost of Jonah.” The sea is also referred to as, the “Briny Deep,” and the slightly simpler, “the deep.” Remember the idiom for a difficult circumstance, “between the devil and the deep blue sea?” The Lochness monster, the giant squid in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and other frightening, fictional fables, form figurations, fraught with the uncertainty of the sea. Without even exercising our long-term memories, a description found in Revelation, regarding the location of freightening figures, subconsciously has come to mind. As luck would have it, it is also an idiom used to refer to the sea. There exists no requirement in writing it, it’s in your mind or at least, at the tip of your tongue. Rather than write it, let’s look at two Biblical accounts of seemingly similar situations. “They have as king over them, the angel of the abyss; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek he has the name Apollyon.” Also, “The fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the abyss.” Let’s consult our Old Testament Tutor. Lamentations 3:52-55, “My enemies without cause Hunted me down like a bird; They have silenced me in the pit And have placed a stone on me. Waters flowed over my head; I said, “I am cut off!” I called on Thy name, O LORD, Out of the lowest pit.”
Psalm 88:4-7, and 11+17, “I am reckoned among those who go down to the pit; I have become like a man without strength, Forsaken among the dead, Like the slain who lie in the grave, Whom Thou dost remember no more, And they are cut off from Thy hand. Thou hast put me in the lowest pit, In dark places, in the depths. Thy wrath has rested upon me, And Thou hast afflicted me with all Thy waves. Will Thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave, Thy faithfulness in Abaddon? They have surrounded me like water all day long.”
Consider Genesis 1:2, consider Noah, Jonah and Psalm 107: 23-29: “Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters; They have seen the works of the LORD, And His wonders in the deep. For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, Which lifted up the waves of the sea. They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; Their soul melted away in their misery. They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, And were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, And He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed.”
Of course, the pit; or, abyss, is not literally the sea. They are mutually exclusive, yet can be synonymous, as these texts indicate. They can indeed, be used synonomously, simultaneously, or interchangeably, revealing representations of God’s truth, particularly in prophetic and apocalyptic passages. What John is conveying to the first century church, is not happiness and dolphins, but rather, monster and darkness. The context confirms this. The intention is for the reader to see the sea as a deep, dark, domain.
Consider New Testament passages, such as, 2 Corinthians 11:25, “Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.” Paul was explaining his hardships, not his happiness with being able to take an extended swim. A great fear of the time was being shipwrecked in the deep. Paul even used the term as metaphor when writing to Timothy. “This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.” We remember Jesus calming the storm on the sea and walking on water, but do we truly understand how terrifying these events were to the disciples, whose biggest fear was shipwreck? While the sea provided greatly for food, travel, shipping, trade, commerce and the like, it was still a mostly unknown and a freightening place, and still is to this day. How many love, “shark week?”
I have spent entirely too much time devoted to the symbolism of the sea. Nevertheless, as we waltz, we will use the same CAGED method to see what the first century church saw. My preemptive apologies for persistently pounding this point: Revelation was not written to you. “John, to the seven churches that are in Asia…” Context and audience are huge–they are Mega. Another bit of foolishness before we move on; why would John write to them about something that would happen two thousand years after their deaths? Why is Revelation written as an epistle? Why didn’t John say, “the Antichrist is coming, eventually, and he’ll have attack helicopters; (sorry, again, I am so last century;) he’ll have drones and will make war like you cannot even imagine. But no worries, I won’t be there and you won’t, and the church won’t be there either?” Because none of that is true. I know I am in getting in trouble with this statement, but consider the author’s aspirations to his audience. Jesus unveiled to John, images that would have made sense to the immediate audience with little to no, head-scratching. They knew their Old Testament, their culture and the time in which they lived. The symbolism was meant for them, we must painfully place ourselves in their shoes. What were they thinking, living in the Roman empire, under terrible tribulation and persecution, when the read the following?
“And 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 first century church in Asia, lived in times of great persecution from the Romans and, sadly, but truly, from the Jewish communities. But only one of these two groups fits into the imagery recorded by John. The beast came from the sea. Around the time of Julius Caesar, Rome had amassed a great many lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Problem: how to continue conquests quickly and how to quash quasi revolts (because after all, who could wage war with the beast?). A Navy was needed. The quickest way to Asia from Rome was over the deep, dark, mysterious sea.
John records the beast as having ten horns and seven heads, wearing ten diadems. He also states that blasphemous names are written on the heads. Before we take our Vitamin A, to see what John’s audience saw, let’s take a little Vitamin E- (negative Expository exegesis of examples). That is, we’ll look briefly at some common verses that modern scholars suggest are reflective of this beast with seven heads and ten horns. 1John 2:18 + 2:22, “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.” “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.” No seven heads or ten horns there. 1 John 4:3, “and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now (first century) it is already in the world.” And from the only other book of the entire Bible in which the Antichrist is named, which John wrote; 2 John 1:7. “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh This is the deceiver and the antichrist.” -emphasis and sarcasm are all mine. I’m in a foolish mood, and I suspect I am batting .000 on the persuasion scale, therefore why not go for the gusto; what will you believe, the thousand thoughts on Antichrist or your own eyes?
Let’s look at other New Testament writings falsely ascribed to the Antichrist. “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.” -2 Thessalonians. Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians is the only text in the Epistles of any considerable length. Yet Peter had something to say about false prophets and deniers, didn’t he? Indeed: ” But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” Now, who are the false prophets but the date-setters, blood-mooners and star-gazers who make millions, or the ones begging and beseeching for Biblical hermeneutics? We can also search the synoptics, such as Matthew 24, sincerely seeking the same. However, Matthew 24 was without a doubt, fulfilled in 70 AD. The most important part of Matthew 24 is the following: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.” This is the reason I write rigorously, the purpose of my prose. We have one Job to do–discipleship–everything else follows this.
We read Daniel seven and it gives the text from Revelation, explanation exclamation. Listened to the words: “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms, and it will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. ‘As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. ‘And he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.” In his book, “The book of Revelation,” Robert Mounce writes, “There is little doubt that for John the beast was the Roman Empire as persecutor of the church.” And I agree.
A quick review of the Antichrist: “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.”
And a quick review of the beast…So far: “And 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. 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. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed.”
Rome caused incredible persecution to the early church, destroyed Jerusalem, killed thousands of Jews and christians, killed Jesus Christ, was a city of seven hills, had ten Senate districts, invented swift warfare, had a huge Navy, ruled the inhabited Earth and as for blasphemous names, Augustus referred to himself as “King of the Army, Son of God the Divine.” There are many more facts and atrocities we’ll cover as the context allows. The beast described by John is the Roman empire, “there is little doubt.” Unfortunately, as we read the context, another beast appears.
Remember the CAGED method, Context is King, Author’s aspirations to audience is absolutely forefront, Genre is a Four Star General, Expository exegesis of examples enlightens, and dividing rightly reaches rock solid conclusion.