The beast from the sea, part 1
May 25, 2016
We have shown how the last few verses of Revelation 12 introduce chapter 13. The water coming from the serpent’s mouth in Revelation 12:15 is directly connected to the “sea” that gives birth to the first beast. The earth helping the woman in Revelation 12:16 gives birth to the second beast that rises from the earth in Revelation 13:11.
Revelation 12 ends with the dragon/serpent being enraged that the earth would actually help the woman and protect her from the dragon’s persecution. Hence, the beast from the earth is helpful, even though it is not a “good” beast as such. In fact, as we will see, the earth beast ends up supporting the sea beast’s authority over the earth (13:12).
When Stephen Langdon divided the New Testament into chapters and verses seven centuries ago, he mistakenly put the last sentence of chapter 12 as part of Revelation 13. Cardinal Langdon, a prolific writer of Bible commentaries, was the Archbishop of Canterbury for the Roman church from 1207-1228 A.D. The present structure of chapters and verses in our Bibles we owe to Langdon. It was a helpful idea, but his divisions were not always correct.
The full thought in Revelation 12:17 reads in Panin’s Numeric English New Testament,
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. And he [i.e., the dragon] stood upon the sand of the sea.
It was not John who stood on the shore, but the dragon. The dragon’s purpose was to conjure up a beast from the sea after being defeated by Michael, the Archangel, and cast down to the earth. The text here gives us the sequence of events, but does not specify timing. When the “male child” was caught up to the throne in heaven (Revelation 12:5), the dragon had no further power to endanger that son’s life, so he found alternate targets among “the rest of her offspring.”
Here we see a specific reference to the fact that true believers are the younger brothers of Jesus Christ. These are spiritual brothers, children of a common spiritual mother, whom Paul pictures allegorically as Sarah, the New Covenant and the New Jerusalem. Galatians 4:26 says, “But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.”
Hence, we are shown that the dragon’s wrath is really directed at Jesus Christ, but because He was beyond reach after His ascension, the dragon then persecuted His spiritual brothers. No doubt when John received this revelation, he remembered Jesus’ words recorded earlier in John 15:20,
20 Remember the word that I said to you, “A slave is not greater than his master.” If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, the will keep yours also.
In view of this persecution on account of the testimony of Christ, John then describes this “war with the saints” (as Daniel 7:21 puts it).
Revelation 13 is what John saw as the fulfillment of Daniel's little horn (extension) of the iron beast. John, of course, knew everything that Daniel had written on this topic, but he also received further revelation of which John apparently knew nothing. Revelation 13:1 says,
1 … 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. 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.
Whereas Daniel saw four distinct beasts (Daniel 7:3), John saw just one hybrid beast composed of characteristics of all four that Daniel saw. Daniel’s beasts were portrayed as a lion, bear, leopard, and a nameless iron-toothed beast. John, on the other hand, sees a single beast with the mouth of a lion, feet of a bear, and also like a leopard.
It is apparent that Daniel saw a succession of empires, each in turn opposing God’s Kingdom. But John sees all of these beast empires as a single, continuous, dragon-inspired empire. Both are correct, of course, but from different viewpoints.
In Daniel’s breakdown of the four beasts, he sees also a fifth that is like an extension of the fourth beast in the progression of history. These four or five beasts are:
- Babylon (607-537 B.C.)
- Medo-Persia (537-330 B.C.)
- Greece (332-63 B.C.)
- Rome (63-476 B.C.)
- Rome extended (Papacy)
Daniel speaks of this fifth beast, calling it a “little horn.” (A “horn” is power or authority in its symbolism. The horn of an animal was seen as its primary weapon by which it dominated others by force.) Daniel 7:8 describes this “little horn” in this way:
8 ... this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth uttering great boasts.
In the angelic explanation that Daniel was given of this little horn, we read in Daniel 7:21, 22,
21 I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.
John sees the beast coming from the sea primarily as the manifestation of Daniel’s “little horn,” the fifth manifestation of power in the earth. This fifth beast is a “horn” (that is, a power). Daniel 7:7, 8 makes it clear that this “horn” comes from the fourth beast with iron teeth (Rome). That is our first major clue as to its interpretation. This “horn” assumes power as a successor to the Roman Empire. It is, in fact, Papal Rome.
The next major clue is the fact that this little horn persecutes the saints of the Most High until the time that the saints receive the kingdom. That is the time of the manifestation of the sons of God—an event that we have yet to see. And so we know that this little horn was given a rather lengthy time of boasting. Daniel 7:25 gives it “a time and times and half a time.” John says essentially the same thing, but tells us specifically what this means in Revelation 13:5,
5 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.
Here John interprets Daniel’s rather vague statement of timing. Even John’s statement must be understood from a prophetic standpoint. A “time” is twelve months in John’s revelation, and 3½ times is then 42 months. We must go further to the next level, seeing the common Scriptural principle where a day prophesies of a year (as in Numbers 14:34 and in Ezekiel 4:5, 6).
But before continuing, we must go back to Revelation 13:3, 4, which we skipped earlier.
3 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; 4 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?”
Here John gives us a quick look ahead to the end of the 42 months (1,260 years), when the beast from sea received its deadly wound in 1798 that was healed in 1804. After this quick look to the future, John then continues in verses 6 and 7 to tell us of the blasphemous words of the beast during his entire tenure, along with its war against the saints.
Arrogant blasphemy generally takes the form of a man claiming to be equal to or greater than God (or Jesus). This was done many times when the Roman Popes claimed to have the right and power to overrule the precepts of not only Jesus’ apostles, but of Jesus Christ Himself. See chapter 5 of The Seven Churches, where we quote Pope Boniface VIII’s blasphemy in Unam Sanctum in 1302 A.D.,
“Wherefore, no marvel if it be in my power to change times and times, to alter and abrogate laws, to dispense with all things, yea, with the precepts of Christ; for where Christ biddeth Peter put up his sword, and admonishes His disciples not to use any outward force in revenging themselves, do not I, Pope Nicolas, writing to the bishops of France, exhort them to draw out their material swords? And whereas Christ was present Himself at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, do not I, Pope Martin, in my distinction, inhibit the spiritual clergy to be present at marriage feasts, and also to marry? Moreover, where Christ biddeth us lend without hope of gain, do not I, Pope Martin, give dispensation to do the same? What should I speak of murder, making it to be no murder or homicide to slay them that be excommunicated?
“Likewise against the law of nature, item against the apostles, also against the canons of the apostles, I can and do dispense . . .”
So we see that Pope Boniface VIII made it quite clear that he and other Popes before him had the absolute right to alter or abrogate the laws of Christ and the apostles. He even gives precedents to prove his point, so that there can be no misunderstanding his meaning.
To rule on a throne in place of Christ in itself is not a sin. King David did it. He ruled Israel on the throne of God. However, he did so in obedience to God, never thinking of himself as being above God or His law. He ruled with the heart and mind of Jesus Christ (or at least made every attempt to do this). David did not attempt to overrule the divine law, but ruled according to the law. David recognized that it was not his right to make new laws, but only to rule by those laws.
David was thus a true “vicar of Christ.” Saul, on the other hand, usurped authority by claiming the throne as his own, rather than ruling as a steward.
The problem comes when men claim to be vicars, but then think that God has empowered them to overstep their bounds. To claim the right to overrule Christ is the way of a rebel leader, not a mere vicar. The Pope thus staged a revolt against Jesus Christ. This is what John meant when he said that this little horn had a mouth speaking arrogant blasphemies.
The claim to “apostolic succession from Peter” lost its validity the moment one of those successors staged the first revolt against the rule of Christ—and Peter! Note that Pope Boniface claimed to overrule the apostles, too. Peter was one of those apostles. How can one claim to be Peter’s successor and yet abrogate Peter? I am sure that Peter would not be impressed by Pope Boniface.
And so, Daniel foresees these things in Daniel 7:8, quoted earlier, saying “this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth uttering great boasts.” Those boasts, as John said later, were blasphemous.
This is part 95 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Revelation." To view all parts, click the link below.