Beast from the Sea

SYNOPSIS:   The Dragon begins his war on the “seed of the Woman” by summoning his “seed,” the Beast from the sea – Revelation 13:1-5.

Photo by Stephanie Bergeron on Unsplash
Stephanie Bergeron on Unsplash
Chapter 12 portrayed Satan as the Dragon, the Old Serpent from the Garden of Eden. He was poised to destroy the promised seed, the “son” born from the “Woman clothed with the sun.” However, his effort failed. God countered when He elevated the “son” to reign from the Throne.

Instead, the plan of the Dragon produced his expulsion from the heavenly court. Enraged, and with little time remaining, he turned his violent plot against the “woman” who birthed the messianic “seed.” Having also failed to annihilate the “woman,” the chapter ended with the “Ancient Serpent” in pursuit of her “seed,” comprised of men and women who have the “testimony of Jesus.”

Chapter 13 opens with the Dragon now standing by the sea where he summons his first earthly agent, the “Beast.” The key Old Testament passage behind this image is the vision of Daniel about four beasts that ascended out of a tumultuous sea. In addition, the interpretation of Daniel’s dream of four “beasts” is employed in the explanation of the single “Beast” seen by John ascending from the sea (Daniel 7:1-8, 7:21-24, Revelation 13:7-10).

(Daniel 7:1-8) – “In the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon, Daniel, beheld a dream and visions of his head upon his bed — then, the dream he wrote, the sum of the matters he told. Daniel spake and said, I was looking in my vision [which came] with the night — when, lo! the four winds of the heavens bursting forth upon the great sea; and four large wild beasts coming up out of the sea — diverse, one from another: — The foremost, like a lion, having the wings of an eagle — I looked until the wings thereof were torn out, and it was lifted up from the earth, and upon its feet like a man was it caused to stand, and the heart of a man was given to it. And, lo! another wild beast, a second, resembling a bear, and on one side was it raised up with three ribs in its mouth, between its teeth — and, thus, were they saying to it, Rise! devour much flesh. After that, I was looking, and lo! another like a leopard, and it had four wings of a bird upon its back — and four heads had the wild beast, and dominion was given to it, After that, I was looking in the visions of the night, when lo! a fourth wild beast, terrible and well-hipped and exceeding strong, and it had large teeth of iron, it devoured and brake in pieces, and the residue — with its feet it trampled down — and it was diverse from all the wild beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I was considering the horns, when lo! another horn, a little one came up among them, and three of the former horns were uprooted from before it — and lo! eyes like the eyes of a man in this horn, and a mouth, speaking great things” – (The Emphasized Bible).
(Daniel 7:21, 25) – “I continued looking when this horn made war with the holy ones — and prevailed against them…and words against the Most High will he speak, and the holy ones of the Highest will he afflict — and will hope to change times and law, and they will be given into his hand, for a season and seasons and the dividing of a season” – (The Emphasized Bible).

The four beasts from Daniel Chapter 7 represent four consecutive kingdoms, the first being Babylon. Noteworthy, however, is that John saw only one “beast” rising from the sea in place of the four entities seen by Daniel (compare - Daniel 2:38).

(Revelation 13:1-2) – “And I saw out of the sea a wild-beast coming up; having ten horns and seven heads, and upon his horns ten diadems, and upon his head, names of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard; and his feet as of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave unto him his power, and his throne, and great authority” – (The Emphasized Bible).

The Dragon next implements his plan to destroy the “rest of the Woman’s seed.” He does this by raising up his own “seed,” the beasts from the sea and the earth. This is the “war” to be waged between the “seed” of the Woman and the “seed” of the Serpent. The Dragon summons his beasts while standing beside the sea (Genesis 3:15, Revelation 13:11-18).

“And he stood upon the sand of the sea” (estathė epi tėn ammon tės thalassė). There is a verbal link between this verse and the final conflict at the end of the thousand years when “Satan was loosed out of his prison, and he will come forth to deceive the nations…to gather them to the war, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea” (hė ammos tės thalassė). That final “army” will, likewise, “ascend” from the four corners of the earth to wage war against the saints (Revelation 20:7-9).

And I saw a Beast ASCENDING OUT OF THE SEA.” The clause used is from Daniel’s vision of “four great beasts ASCENDING FROM THE SEA.” “Ascending” translates a Greek participle that is in the present tense (anabainon), that is, progressive action. It describes an ongoing process, not a single incident.

The ascent of the beast was introduced in the vision of the Two Witnesses; however, previously, it ascended from the Abyss. At the end of their prophetic witness, “the Beast, the one ascending out of the Abyss will make war with them.” The same present tense participle is used in both passages, anabainon. Thus, the “Sea” is functionally identical to the “Abyss” (Revelation 11:7, 13:1).

The theme of evil “ascending” (anabainon) from the Abyss/Sea is repeated in the book of Revelation; the Beast from the sea, the beast from the earth, and the final assault of Satan against the saints after he ascends from the Abyss:

(Revelation 11:7) – “And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that is ascending out of the Abyss will make war with them, overcome them, and kill them.”
(Revelation 13:11) – “And I saw another beast ascending out of the earth.”
(Revelation 17:8) – “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is going to ascend out of the abyss, and to go into perdition.”
(Revelation 20:7-9) – “When the thousand years are finished, Satan will be loosed out of his prison, and will come forth to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them to the war: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they ascended over the breadth of the earth and encompassed the camp of the saints.”

Ascending out of the sea.” The “sea” refers to the glassy “sea” that John saw “before the throne, a sea of glass like a crystal,” not to the Aegean Sea. At this point, John is still seeing things “in the spirit” while he is before the Throne. He is not describing a scene on a beach on the isle of Patmos (Revelation 4:6).

Previously the Dragon was expelled from heaven and cast to the earth, which meant “woe to the earth and to the sea.” That declaration is now followed by the ascents of the beasts from the “sea” and the “earth.” The Dragon is working his malevolent plans in both the “sea” and the “earth” (Revelation 12:12, 13:1, 13:11-15).

Later, John will see “a sea of glass mingled with fire; and them that come off victorious from the Beast…standing by the sea.” Therefore, the sea “like crystal” is associated with the Beast, which is why in the new heaven and new earth “the sea is no more” (Revelation 15:2, 21:1-2).

And I saw a Beast.” The Greek noun for “beast” (thérion) refers to a “wild beast,” not a domesticated animal. In classic Greek, thérion was the diminutive form of “beast” (thėr). Likewise, in Revelation, “lamb” translates the diminutive form of arnion. The Dragon’s chief agent is a wild animal, but God’s designated ruler is the Lamb. The point is not that this term means a “little beast” but its diminutive form imitates that of the “Lamb.” In Greek, “beast” is always in the neuter gender and so are the pronouns and participles used with it, as here in Chapter 13. The “beast” is an “it.”

Daniel saw four “beasts” that symbolized four consecutive kingdoms, “diverse one from another.” John sees a single beast with the characteristics from all four of Daniel’s beasts; features of a lion, bear, and leopard, and with ten horns. He lists the four creatures in reverse order from what Daniel wrote.  This single beast is an amalgam of all four of the beasts Daniel saw ascending from the sea. It is related to them but is something even worse; this single “Beast” is related to but not identical with the four beasts of Daniel.

The Beast has seven heads and ten horns, with a crown on each horn. The number seven derives from the individual heads of the four beasts from the dream of Daniel; the lion, the bear, the fourth beast, and the four “heads” of the leopard. The crowns or “diadems” are, likewise, from Daniel’s vision where the ten horns represented “ten kings” (Daniel 7:24).

And upon its head names of blasphemy.” Some Greek manuscripts read, the “names of blasphemy,” others, “the name (singular) of blasphemy.” The manuscript evidence is divided. If plural, blasphemous names imprinted on each head are in view, presumably, presumptions of divinity. Because there are seven heads, the plural form is most likely the original reading.

The Dragon also had “seven heads and ten horns,” only, it had seven diadems on its seven heads, while the Beast has ten diadems on its ten horns. This demonstrates the familial link between the Dragon and the Beast; the latter is the offspring of the former. The diadems on the heads of the Dragon demonstrate his superior authority; he rules through his earthly minions, including the Beast from the sea (Daniel 12:3).

The number seven represents completeness; here, the complete political authority of the Beast (“there was given to it authority over every tribe, tongue and nation”). The seven “heads” demonstrate the Beast is more than an individual human ruler. Its “ten horns” are later linked to “ten kings” (Revelation 13:7, 17:7-12).
The “seven diadems” represent the Beast’s claim to political sovereignty over the earth in opposition to the Lamb. But its claim is “blasphemous”; the Lamb is the true “ruler of the kings of the earth” and the “king of kings” (Revelation 1:4-5; 5:6-14; 17:14).
The claim of the Beast is the counterfeit of the Lamb’s declared authority; the latter’s political authority is derived from the Dragon (“the Dragon gave it his power, his throne and great authority”). But the Dragon was defeated previously by the Lamb, the “son” who is destined “to shepherd the nations.” Though Satan is now loose on the earth, his opportunity to wreak havoc is only for “a short while” (Revelation 12:7-12).

The Beast is observed “ascending” out of the sea. Its seven heads may represent seven kingdoms. It is an amalgamation of all four of Daniel’s beasts. Its animal components are listed in reverse order from what Daniel saw. All this suggests that the Beast is a trans-historical entity, a political reality that has existed for thousands of years and has appeared periodically, although in different forms. But the Beast has one final form remaining that is yet to be seen on the earth (compare - Genesis 11:1-9).

(Revelation 13:3-5) – “And [I saw] one of his heads, showing that it had been slain unto death, and the stroke of his death was healed. And the whole earth marveled after the wild-beast, and did homage unto the dragon, because he gave his authority unto the wild-beast; and they did homage unto the wild-beast, saying — Who is like unto the wild-beast? and Who can make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and it was given unto him to act, forty and two months” – (The Emphasized Bible).

The slaying of one of the Beast’s heads echoes the prophecy from Genesis 3:15 (Not the entire Beast is slain, only one of its seven heads):

I will put enmity between the serpent and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he will BRUISE YOUR HEAD, and you will bruise his heel.”

The verb for “slain” is sphazō; to “slay; slaughter.” It is a Greek word for the slaying of sacrificial animals. Here it is combined with the adverb hōs (hōsesphagmenėn). This same combination was applied to the Lamb, the one seen standing “as having been slain” (hōs esphagmenon [Revelation 5:6]).

Thus, there is a conceptual link between the deaths of the Lamb and this head of the Beast. Its death and “resurrection” mimic that of the Lamb. This understanding is confirmed in Verse 14 where the Beast had the “stroke of the sword and lived [ezésen].” The same form of the verb was applied to Jesus as the one “who became dead and lived [ezésen]” (Revelation 2:8).

The head was slain by a “plague of death” (plégé). How this was administered is not specified. Plégé may mean “strike” but in the book of Revelation, it means “plague.” This suggests that God or the Lamb is the real cause of this death. The next vision describes the blow as the “stroke of a sword” (Revelation 13:14).

The death and restoration of the head parallel the defeat and expulsion of the Dragon, after which he retained his ability to deceive the earth. The Dragon was allowed a “short season” in which to vent his rage. Unlike the resurrection of the Lamb, the life of the Dragon is extended only for a limited period; this does not reverse his ultimate defeat, which was accomplished by the death of the Lamb (Revelation 12:9-12).

The Beast’s restoration to life is based on Daniel 7:11-12:

The beast was slain, and its body destroyed, and it was given to be burned with fire. And as for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.”

Only one of the Beast’s seven heads was slain. Elsewhere, the seven heads represent seven kingdoms. This means that this is not the death of an individual man but the fall of a regime or kingdom (Revelation 17:10).

The “whole earth” marveled after the Beast because it continued to live. This refers to all of humanity that is in rebellion against God, that is, to “the inhabitants of the earth” (Revelation 3:106:108:1311:1013:8-1417:217:8).

Men who worship the Beast render homage to the Dragon, the power behind the throne. “Render homage” signifies an act of obeisance to someone of higher rank; the giving of allegiance to the Dragon, not “worship” in a religious sense.

The proclamation, “who is like the Beast,” parodies declarations about God (e.g., Exodus 15:11 [“Who is like you, O Yahweh, among the gods?”]). The “inhabitants of the earth” ascribe to the Beast honors that belong to God alone; however, the question has already been answered. The Beast has the heads, horns, and the authority of the Dragon; he is just like the Great Red Dragon, the ancient serpent.

Who can make war with the Beast?” The declaration is ironic. In the previous chapter, the Dragon was defeated in the “war” against Michael. The “inhabitants of the earth” do not understand that they serve a defeated master. Awed by the Beast, they offer it total allegiance. The Beast has no need to wage war on other nations; those whose names are not written “in the Lamb’s book of life” give their allegiance freely to it (Revelation 13:8).

The Beast is “given” a mouth spewing great slander. Elsewhere, the same verb refers to authority “given” by God or the Lamb to an agent assigned to carry out the Divine will. The mouth speaks “great things and blasphemies,” an allusion to the little horn from the vision of Daniel.

The Beast is given authority to operate “forty-two months,” the same period during which the “holy city is tread underfoot.” In Daniel, the fourth beast “trampled the remnant with its feet” for the designated period, “time, times and part of a time” (Daniel 7:19-258:10, Revelation 11:2-3, 12:6, 12:14, 13:5).

This same period is variously defined as “forty-two months,” “twelve hundred and sixty days,” and a “time, times and half a time.”  The different forms are numerical equivalents and refer to the same period. The “forty-two months” during which the Beast hurls accusations is especially related to the forty-two months when the outer court of the sanctuary was “given to the nations; and the holy city will they trample under foot forty and two months.” The same reality is in view, though from different aspects.

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