The beast power of Revelation 13 has intrigued Christians
for centuries. There have been many speculations as to its nature
and the time when it will appear. This concern is well placed,
for the Bible does not give stronger warnings about any power
than it does about this beast brought to view in Revelation 13:1-10.
This speculation is not necessary, however, because God does
not warn us against something and then speak in such vague and
uncertain terms that we are left at a loss to clearly understand
what He is speaking about; and this beast is no exception.
In Bible prophecy, political powers are frequently represented
by animals, or, as many translations read, "beasts."
This practice is not limited to Bible times, for we still use
animal symbols to represent countries. The term beast, therefore,
is not necessarily bad in and of itself. The appearance of this
beast, however, is different from any animal we know, so we are
unable to call it by the name of any beast, such as a lion or
a bear; and it has become known as the beast.
The characteristic that makes this beast of such interest
is its demand for worship in opposition to God. It is against
this false system of worship, and those who form a part of it,
that God's wrath, unmingled with mercy, is to be poured out.
(See Revelation 14:9, 10.)
In looking at the verses that pertain to this beast power,
we notice that there are many characteristics-clues, if you please-that
help to identify this power beyond question. As we examine each
of the points, it should become increasingly clear who this beast
power must be.
"And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and 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.
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 worshiped the dragon which gave power unto the
beast: and they worshiped 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. And he opened
his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and
His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given
unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and
power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names
are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the
foundation of the world." Revelation 13:1-8
Many people are looking for a diabolical power that will force
its way into the political scene, compeling Christians to abandon
their faith and setting up a nonreligious government of force.
We need to notice, however, that there is worship involved in
the establishment of this power. Notice particularly in verse
8 that all of the people on the earth will worship it, except
for those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Those only whose names are written in the book of life are saved.
Jesus spoke very plainly when He indicated that "strait
is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life,
and few there be that find it." Matthew 7:14
A little later in that same sermon Jesus made another profound
statement: "Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord,
shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the
will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in
that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and
in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful
works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart
from Me, ye that work iniquity." Matthew 7:21-23
From these verses we conclude that the overwhelming majority
of Christians will not be ready to meet Christ when He returns.
According to the prophecy, all of these will be found worshiping
this beast power. If this power professed to be anti-Christian,
as so many expect, very few, if any, of the Christian world would
be found worshiping it, all the while expecting to find acceptance
when Jesus comes.
The next point to notice is that the beast came up out of
the water. According to Revelation 17:15, waters represent peoples,
multitudes, nations, and tongues. This text, then, indicates
that when this power emerged, it came from a densely populated
It Receives Its Power From the Dragon
Another significant point, and one which helps us to establish
the time for the emergence of this power, is that it was to be
given its seat, its authority, and its power, by the dragon.
While in a sense this refers to Satan, it is more specifically
a reference to ancient pagan Rome. The seat of the old Roman
Empire was the city of Rome itself. As the date for the fall
of the Roman Empire in the west was A.D. 476, we conclude that
this power could not be firmly established with a seat and authority
until after this time.
Out of the ruins of pagan Rome arose the Church of Rome. Claiming
the titles and the authority of her predecessors, the emperors,
papal Rome sought to extend her power over the heads of state.
For centuries the heads of state received their crown and ruled
more or less subject to Church authority. While some might contend
that the papacy is primarily a religious power, we have to understand
that it is also a political power which sends and receives ambassadors
and functions as a political state.
The Body of a Leopard
This beast, it will be noted, has the body of a leopard. We
notice that in Daniel 7:6 the Greek nation is represented by
a leopard. (See tract on Daniel 7.) Few people realize how completely
Greek philosophy captured the world. It played a significant
role in the formation of thought in the early Christian church.
During the Middle Ages, when the Bible was outlawed, men looked
to Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates for light. As one may expect,
their philosophy greatly permeated religious thinking, helping
to shape many of the concepts that became a part of Christian
thought but for which there is no biblical support.
Several Greek philosophers are famous for the impact that
they had on human thought. Plato believed in the immortality
of the soul. In his understanding, heroes and notable persons
went immediately to mansions and places of reward while the common
people went down to the infernal regions to receive punishment
for sinful pollutions, until they had been cleansed of those
pollutions. Here we see the elevation of the saints to heaven
at death and the doctrine of purgatory.
Plato also believed in the concept of separating the body
from the soul. He believed this was achieved by afflicting the
body, by deprivation, and by separation from society. Thus was
laid the groundwork for the later emergence of monasticism and
The Feet of a Bear
Another significant point to be remembered is that this beast
had the feet of a bear. The bear in Daniel 7:5 represents the
empire of the Medes and Persians. The Medes and Persians had
a method of government peculiarly their own. When the king of
the Medes and Persians spoke law, he was considered to be infallible.
Once given, it was not possible to change the law of the Medes
and Persians. (See Daniel 6:8, 12, 15.)
This finds its counterpart in the doctrine of the infallibility
of the pope when he speaks "ex cathedra," defining
points of law or doctrine.
On the head of the beast was the name blasphemy. To understand
the biblical concept of blasphemy, we turn to Mark 2. The rulers
of the people accused Jesus of blasphemy for presuming to forgive
sins, a prerogative belonging to God alone. (See verses 5-7.)
This authority the Catholic Church also claims to have.
Power to Reign for 1260 Years
This beast power was to continue for 42 months, or three and
a half years of prophetic time. Using the Jewish calender of
30 days to the month and the prophetic principle of allowing
a year of literal time for each prophetic day (see Numbers 14:34;
Ezekiel 4:6), we understand that this beast power would retain
its power for 1260 years. It is also shown that though its power
was removed and it received a wound that appeared to be a death
blow, the wound would be healed; and this same power would again
exercise authority over the rulers of the earth.
The Starting Date
By the decree of Justinian, the pope was given ecclesiastical
as well as temporal power; but this could not become a reality
until Justinian's armies defeated the Ostrogoths in Italy, who
were Arians by faith. This campaign was completed in A.D. 538.
Beginning with the date of 538, 1260 years extend to 1798.
At this time the French Revolution had ended; and the armies
of Napoleon were marching across Europe, destroying monarchy
and the Church. Berthier, the French general, went down to Rome,
took the then-reigning pope prisoner, and returned him to France
to live out his remaining days in exile. For a relatively short
period of time, the church was without a visible head.
Many believed that the church had come to an end and would
never again figure significantly in world affairs, and for many
years the picture remained unchanged.
Then, in 1929, Cardinal Gasparri and Benito Mussolini signed
the concordat which restored temporal powers to the papacy. Once
again the Vatican began to function as a political state. No
one can question that since that time the papacy has regained
much of the prestige lost two centuries ago. When Harry Truman,
in the 1950s, attempted to appoint General Mark Clark as an official
ambassador to the Vatican, there arose such a protest that it
was not possible for him to follow through. It remained for President
Reagan to accomplish this some thirty years later, and he met
with virtually no opposition.
This beast power, it is declared, would make war with the
saints of God. No one with any knowledge of history can deny
that this description also fits the Catholic Church. It is conservatively
estimated that the Church of Rome caused over fifty million people
to be put to death. What was their crime? They followed their
conscience, even when it differed with the established religion.
While it is true that religious tolerance is more widespread
today than ever, the prophecies point to the fact that this will
not always be the case and that once having re-established its
lost authority, the Church will revive the persecutions of the
past. (See Revelation 13:15-17.)
We understand that God did not give us these prophecies as
an indictment against individuals but rather against a system,
as warnings that His people might not become innocently involved
in apostasy. Later, in Revelation 18, we see this same power
referred to as Babylon. In speaking of this power at the end
of time, we find that just as God called Lot out of wicked Sodom
before its destruction, He sends a call to His people to come
out of this system of apostasy lest they become involved with
its general ruin. It is because of His great love for those people
who are a part of this system of apostasy, many who sincerely
love Him, that He warns them of pitfalls and danger; not because
of any animosity toward them, but that they might choose to avoid
those things that threaten to separate them from Himself.