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.

Octopus - Photo by Jonas Friese on Unsplash
By Jonas Friese on Unsplash
Chapter 12 of the book of Revelation pictured Satan as the "Dragon," the "Ancient Serpent" from the Garden of Eden who was poised to destroy the promised seed, the messianic “son” born from the “Woman clothed with the sun.” Unfortunately for the Devil, that effort failed - God countered by elevating the “son” to reign from the Throne at the center of the Cosmos.

Instead of destroying the Messiah, 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 failed also to annihilate her, the “Ancient Serpent” next turned his wrath against the "seed of the woman,” a group comprised of men and women who have the “testimony of Jesus.”

Chapter 13 opens with the "Dragon" standing on the seashore to summon his first earthly vassal to ascend from the "sea," namely, the “Beast” with seven heads and ten horns. The key Old Testament passage employed to paint this picture is from the dream of Daniel about four beasts rising sequentially from a tumultuous sea. Additionally, the interpretation of this dream is employed in the explanation of the “Beast from the sea” seen by John - (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).
In the book of Daniel, the four beasts represented four consecutive kingdoms, the first being Babylon. In contrast, John saw only one “beast” rising from the sea, not four - (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).
In Chapter 13, the "Dragon" implements his plan to destroy the “seed of the woman.” He does so 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). Like the "Beast from the sea," that final “army” will “ascend” from the four corners of the earth to attack the "saints" - (Revelation 20:7-9).

And I saw a Beast ascending out of the sea.” This clause uses language 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 to say, progressive action. It describes an ongoing process, not a single incident.

The ascent of the "beast" was introduced in the earlier vision of the Two Witnesses; however, it was seen "ascending from the Abyss," not from the sea. At the end of the prophetic  ministry of the "Two Witness," the “Beast that ascends from the Abyss will make war with them and kill them.” The same present tense participle is used in both passages, anabainon. Thus, the “sea” is functionally equivalent to the “Abyss” - (Revelation 11:7, 13:1).

The theme of evil “ascending” (anabainon) from the Abyss/Sea occurs several times in Revelation; for example, the "Beast that ascends from the sea," the "beast that ascends from the earth," and the final assault by Satan against the saints after he is released from the Abyss. Note the following passage:
  • (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 same reality as the "glassy sea” that John saw “before the throne, a sea of glass like a crystal,” not to the Aegean. At this point, he is still seeing things “in the spirit” occurring from the perspective of the Divine Throne. He is not describing a scene from 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 on 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 will be no more” - (Revelation 15:2, 21:1-2).

Violent Sea - Photo by Aleks Dahlberg on Unsplash
Photo by Aleks Dahlberg on Unsplash

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 for “beast” (thėr). Likewise, in Revelation, “lamb” translates a diminutive form of arnion.

Thus, the chief agent of the "Dragon" is a wild animal. In contrast, God’s designated ruler is a "little lamb." The point is not that thérion means a “little beast”; rather, the diminutive form of its name imitates that of the “lamb.”

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

The "Beast" has "seven heads and ten horns," with a crown on each horn. The number "seven" is derived from the individual heads of the four beasts in the dream of Daniel - The lion, the bear, the fourth beast, and the four “heads” of the leopard. Likewise, the "crowns" or “diadems” are based on the ten horns that represented “ten kings” in Daniel - (Daniel 7:24).

And upon its head names of blasphemy.” Some Greek manuscripts read - The “names of blasphemy.” Other manuscripts read - "The name of blasphemy," (singular). The manuscript evidence is fairly equally divided. If plural, the blasphemous "names" imprinted on each head are in view, presumably, their arrogant presumptions to 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 from the Sea" has ten diadems on its ten horns. This demonstrates the familial link between the "Dragon" and the "Beast" - The latter is the offspring or "seed" of the former. The "diadems" on the heads of the "Dragon" demonstrate its superior authority - He rules through his earthly minions, including the Beast from the sea - (Daniel 12:3).

The number "seven" represents completeness in the visions of Revelation - Here, the complete political authority of the "Beast" - (“There was given to it authority over every tribe, tongue and nation”). The seven “heads” demonstrate it is more than an individual human ruler. Its “ten horns” will be linked later to “ten kings” - (Revelation 13:7, 17:7-12).

The “seven diadems” represent the claim by the "Beast" to political sovereignty over the earth, and 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 arrogant claim of the "Beast" is a counterfeit to the declared authority of the "Lamb." The political authority of the "Beast" is derived from the "Dragon" - (“The Dragon gave it his power, his throne and great authority”). However, the "Dragon" was defeated previously by the messianic “son” who was destined “to shepherd the nations.” Although Satan is still loose on the earth, his opportunity to wreak havoc is only for “a short time.” Moreover, his ability to act is subject to the authority of the "Lamb" - (Revelation 12:7-12).

John observed the "Beast ascending” from the sea. Its "seven heads" may represent seven kingdoms. It is an amalgamation of all four of the beastly regimes from the vision of Daniel - Its animal components are listed in reverse order from what he saw rising from the sea.

All of this suggests that the "Beast" is a trans-historical entity, a political reality that has existed for thousands of years and has appeared periodically in history, although in different forms. But the "Beast" has one final incarnation yet remaining to be manifested on the earth in a final assault on the "saints" - (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 heads of the "Beast" echoes a prophecy from the book of Genesis - (Note well - Not  the entire Beast is slain, but only one of its seven heads):
  • (Genesis 3:15) - “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 rendered “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). The same clause was applied to the Lamb previously, the worthy figure John saw standing before the Throne, “as having been slain” - (hōs esphagmenon - Revelation 5:6).
There is a conceptual link between the deaths of the "Lamb" and the "head of the Beast." The death of the latter with its apparent “resurrection” mimic the death and elevation of the "Lamb" the Throne of God.
This understanding is confirmed in Verse 14 where the "Beast" had a “stroke of the sword and lived [ezésen].” The same form of the verb was applied to Jesus earlier as the one “who became dead and lived [ezésen]” - (Revelation 2:8).

This "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 is the real cause of this "death," whatever it is. The next vision refers to the blow as the “stroke of a sword” - (Revelation 13:14).

The death and restoration of the Beast's "head" parallel the defeat and expulsion of the "Dragon." After the latter's defeat, he still retained the ability to deceive the "inhabitants of the earth." The "Dragon" was authorized to deceive men for a “short season.” 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 already by the death of the Lamb - (Revelation 12:9-12).

The restoration of the Beast's slain "head" is based on another passage from the dream of Daniel:
  • (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 "seven heads" was slain. Elsewhere, these same "seven heads" represent seven kingdoms. This means this image does not portray the death of an individual man but, instead, the fall of a regime or kingdom - (Revelation 17:10).

The “whole earth marveled after the Beast" because it lived again. This refers to all men who remain in rebellion against God, that is to say, the “inhabitants of the earth” - (Revelation 3:10, 6:10, 8:13, 11:10, 13:8-14, 17:2, 17:8).

The men who give allegiance to the "Beast" are, in fact, rendering homage to the Dragon, the power behind the throne, so to speak. “Render homage” signifies an act of obeisance to someone of higher rank, the giving of allegiance to the "Dragon," not to “worship” in a religious sense.

The proclamation - “Who is like the Beast” - Parodies biblical 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 the prodigy and image of the "Great Red Dragon," the "ancient serpent."

Who can make war with the Beast?” The declaration is quite 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 or the "inhabitants of the earth" - Those whose names are not written “in the Lamb’s book of life” - For they give their allegiance freely to the "Beast" - (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 beings assigned to carry out the Divine will. This blasphemous "mouth" speaks “great things and blasphemies,” an allusion to the little horn from the vision of Daniel.

The "Beast from the Sea" is given authority to operate “forty-two months,” the same period of time during which the “holy city was tread underfoot.” Similarly, in the book of Daniel, the fourth beast “trampled the remnant with its feet” for the designated period, the “time, times and part of a time” - (Daniel 7:19-25, 8:10, Revelation 11:2-3, 12:6, 12:14, 13:5).

This same period is delimited  variously as “forty-two months,” the “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.

Thus, the “forty-two months” during which the "Beast" hurls accusations is connected to the forty-two months when the "outer court of the sanctuary was given to the nations; and the holy city they trampled under foot forty and two months.” The same reality is in view in both passages, although from different aspects.