Four Beasts vs John's Single Beast

SYNOPSIS - The single “beast from the sea” in Revelation is related to but distinct from the four beasts of Daniel – Revelation 13:1-10

Sea Cliffs - Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash
Is the “Beast from the sea” in the book of Revelation identical to the fourth beast from Daniel? Is Revelation simply expounding on that earlier vision of four “beasts ascending” from a chaotic sea? Or perhaps the vision in chapter 13 of Revelation presents us with something different and beyond what Daniel originally saw. Did the vision received by him have historical fulfillments? - (Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash).

That the vision of the four beasts from the sea in the book of Daniel lies behind the image of a “beast ascending from the sea” in Revelation is indisputable. However, the latter employs the language and imagery of the former to build its own and more complete picture. What was “sealed” in Daniel is not sealed in the book of Revelation. John envisioned something beyond what Daniel first saw, his single “Beast” is an amalgamation of all four of the beasts that ascended from a chaotic sea in Daniel - (Daniel 12:1-4, Revelation 22:9-10).

Both the fourth “Beast” of Daniel and the single “Beast” in Revelation ascend from the sea. Both have ten horns and wage war against the “saints.” The tens horns in both visions represent “ten kings.” However, the differences between the two outweigh the similarities - (Daniel 7:21-24, Revelation 13:7, 17:12).

Daniel saw four individual beasts ascending from the sea, whereas, John saw only one. In Daniel, the first beast was compared to a lion, the second to a bear, the third to a leopard, but the fourth had no analog in the animal kingdom - It was a monstrosity with ten horns and “seven heads.”

In Revelation, the traits of all four of the “beasts” from Daniel are combined into one entity, the "Beast from the sea," then listed in reverse order from the order in the vision of Daniel - The beast with ten horns, the leopard, the bear, and lastly, the lion.  The single “Beast” in Revelation is a composite of all four of Daniel’s beasts - It is related to them but also is something more. Its composite nature also means it is NOT identical to Daniel’s fourth “beast” – It includes the features of all four of the earlier “beasts.”

The “ten horns” of Daniel’s fourth beast represented ten kings that would reign over the fourth kingdom. In contrast, the “ten horns” of the “Beast from the sea” have “received no kingdom yet, but they will receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour” - (Revelation 17:12).

The fourth beast in Daniel had “ten horns,” but another “little horn” ascended among the ten after three of them were removed. This “little horn” was “speaking great things.” In contrast, the one Beast in Revelation has “seven heads” in addition to its “ten horns,” one of which was “struck dead, and his death-stroke was healed.

In Daniel, the “little horn” was speaking great things, whereas, in the vision of John, the “Beast” itself was “given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies” - (Daniel 7:8, Revelation 13:3-5).

The four beasts in Daniel represented four successive kingdoms. The first, the winged lion, undoubtedly symbolized Babylon. The second, the bear with one side raised higher than the other, most likely was the Medo-Persian Empire that overthrew Babylon – In Daniel, the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians” is always a single unit that includes both nations - (Daniel 2:38, 8:2011:1-2).

The third beast with four wings and four heads represented the conquests of Alexander the Great, especially his defeat of the Persian Empire. After his death, his kingdom was divided into four lesser domains. The four heads of the leopard pointed to this fourfold division.

The identity of the fourth beast is not made clear until the vision of the Ram and the Goat and in its interpretation. The “little horn” speaking “great things” that rose from the “fourth beast” appeared in that subsequent vision as a ruler over one of the four successor kingdoms of the “Goat,” or Greece - (Daniel 8:1-27).

In Daniel chapter 8, the “little horn” was a king “of fierce countenance” who waged war against the “saints,” desecrated the Temple, set up the “transgression that desolates,” and caused the cessation of the daily burnt offering. Likewise, the “little horn” in the vision of the “four beasts” waged “war against the saints” and disrupted the feast days of the annual calendar - (Daniel 7:15-26, 8:21-26, 9:26-27, 11:30-36).
The four successive kingdoms in Daniel all had historical fulfillments prior to the composition of the book of Revelation - The rise and fall of the fourth beast occurred in John’s past; therefore, the single “Beast from the sea” in his vision is not identical to the fourth beast, although they are certainly related.
The book of Revelation does not use the fourfold framework of four successive empires that features prominently in Daniel. Instead, it employs a sevenfold succession of kingdoms. The seven heads of the “Beast” represent “seven mountains” on which the Great Harlot sits. In turn, they symbolize “seven kings” or kingdoms. In John’s day, five of the seven had “fallen” already, “one is,” and “another is yet to come” - (Compare - Daniel 7:177:23, Revelation 17:8-10).

The kingdom that “is” at the time of John could only be the Roman empire, the “beast” that already was persecuting the churches of Asia, at least some of them.  However, there was to be a future and final incarnation of the “Beast from the sea.” When it appears, it “must continue a little while” and then “go into destruction.”

In Revelation, the “Beast” becomes a trans-historical reality.  It was already “alive” and working to destroy the Church in the first century. Many of the presented aspects of this “Beast” are recognizable in the character and activities of Rome, just as first-century realities are seen in the messages to the seven churches of Asia.

One day, the final or seventh “Beast” will arrive and “make war with the Lamb.” Since the “Lamb” has been exalted to reign from the divine throne, and since the Devil has been expelled from the heavenly courtroom, his earthly agents cannot attack the “Lamb” directly. Instead, they assault his “saints” - (Revelation 5:5-12, 11:712:1713:7-1020:7-10).

Thus, the book of Revelation borrows imagery from Daniel to build a portrait of another World-Power that will threaten the very existence of the Church.  It is not identical to any of the four beasts from Daniel’s dream-vision, but it certainly is of the same nature and character. Put another way, the “little horn” is a prototype of the final incarnation of the “Beast” and its attempt at the end of the age to annihilate the “saints” – (Revelation 20:7-10).

Throughout history, the rise and fall of imperial powers follow a consistent pattern - Satan has been pushing the same agenda since the incident at the Tower of Babel. However, his final attempt will be far worse for all who “follow the Lamb wherever he goes” than any of his previous efforts - (Genesis 11:1-9).


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