I want to offer some thoughts on Revelation ch13 vv1-4.
There are two "Beasts" appearing in this chapter, and this is part of the description of one of them.
I'm going to be asking the question; how, and why, is this Beast dominating the world?
We're told that this Beast comes up out of the sea
So the first thing I need to do is to go down the much-travelled road back down to Daniel ch7, which is the place where Daniel sees four great beasts
coming up out of the sea. These are always understood to represent four kingdoms, and we can identify most of them with reasonable certainty.
The "winged lion" is one of the characteristic sculptures of Babylon, and probably represents that empire.
The empire of the Medes and the Persians was politically lop-sided (most of the original power and territory had come from the Medes), and would be
well represented by the "lop-sided bear".
Alexander's empire came into existence with legendary speed, and then fell apart into four distinct kingdoms. That makes it a natural match for the
third beast, the winged and four-headed leopard.
The point is (without getting into the vexed question of the fourth kingdom) that these are all political powers. The Beast in Revelation, besides
having the same origin, borrows physical features from all of them. So it is reasonable to conclude that the Beast is also a political power.
We're told that the Beast has ten horns
The horn is an Old Testament symbol of power, and there's a royal diadem here for each of them. Ch17 v12 identifies them as ten kings "who are to
receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the Beast".
The symbolic meaning of number is always important in Revelation.
"10" has been described as the number of completeness of perfection. In my mind, the number "10" is pointing us towards "the full extent of the
world". The implication is that the "ten" kings are ruling the world between them, and that the Beast is dominating the world with their
About that "one hour"; I've drawn attention, elsewhere, to the relationship between this "hour" and the "half-an-hour" specified in ch8 v1,
which is the first portion of the "hour". This means that we can locate the "hour" to the period following the great catastrophe of the "Four
Horsemen" in ch6. This is an important point of chronology, and I'll be coming back to it in a moment.
The argument is in these two links;
Silence in Heaven
The Four Horsemen
We're told that the Beast has seven heads
We can find two ways of interpreting this in ch17. The four-headed leopard of Daniel's vision authorises us to make use of a third, that the original
political power is being subdivided. We can understand them as seven political powers.
The symbolic meaning of number is always important in Revelation.
"7" is the number which points us towards God.
If the Beast has seven heads, then God is involved. How so?
Well, in the first place, as Paul points out; "There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God...[the ruler]
is the servant of God, to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer".(Romans ch13 vv1-4) So the political powers themselves, under normal cicumstances (that
is, dealing with criminals), must be seen as acting in the service of God.
This doesn't necessarily cease to be the case even when they're acting directly against God's people. The prophets believed that the Babylonians
were unconsciously acting as God's agents in the capture of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews.
In any case, they must fall under his limitation. Their power and authority, although ostensibly given them by the dragon, is only possible to the
extent that God is willing to allow it.
We're told that the seven heads carry a blasphemous name
So the dominating political power thinks it's God? Yes, that rather goes with the territory. There is a reason why absolute monarchies are called
"absolute". there is a reason why totalitarian states are called "totalitarian". Political power tends towards making its claim to obedience more
and more unconditional, until the point is reached where it encroaches on the claim that belongs to God.
of the heads thinks it's God, that might suggest that they're dominating the world one at a time- in other words. that they're
coming in succession rather than simultaneously. That thought is supported by the observation that the "haughty and blasphemous words" of v5 are
only coming from one mouth.
We're told that one of the heads suffers a mortal wound
The wound is then healed. That's easy enough to understand if the "heads" are being taken to represent political powers. We've experienced the
"mortal wound" of a political power in our own lifetimes, with the collapse of the Soviet empire, and the dismantling of the Soviet Union itself.
Yet now an acute observer might be able to detect signs that the old Russian power was already beng resuscitated. That's an apparently mortal wound
which has been healed, and a possible model for what's happening in this chapter.
We're told that the earth follows the Beast with wonder
The head is healed, and the wonder is attached to the Beast. As though the "wounded head" and the Beast were the same thing. The same is implied in
v11- "...the first Beast, whose mortal wound was healed". That would make sense on the assumption that the seven heads were coming in succession, as
I suggested before, and that the "wounded head" was the seventh and last in the series. Then each head, in turn, would be the current manifestation
of the Beast for its own time, and the "wounded head" would be the current and final manifestation of the Beast by the time that we reached
We're told that men worshipped the Beast
My theory is that the World-state of ch13 is the natural product of the world-catastrophe of ch6.
In the chronology which I've already established (see links), the "hour" when the Beast is reigning follows on from the catastrophic events of the
I suggested that the Beast would be able to rise to power on the strength of leading and organising the world into recovery from the same.
I'm now going to suggest a way of correlating that argument with the present passage;
"The mortal wound"- The "seventh head" power collapses, or even disintegrates, under the impact of the "plague, war, famine, and death" of ch6.
So does the rest of the world.
"The wound is healed"- But the "seventh head" itself makes a vigorous recovery, so that social order comes back to life with remarkable speed.
"The earth follows it with wonder"- The world reacts with astonishment, but also with enthusiasm, because the recovery of the "head" is pulling
the rest of the world along with it, bringing the rest of the world back to life.
"The ten kings...are of one mind, and give over their power and authority to the Beast" (ch17 v13)-The rulers of the world in general fall under its
"And all authority was given it over every tribe and people and tongue and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it"-ch13 v7-8. That would
be the natural consequence of everything that I've just described.
We would have to wait for these events to take place before the "seventh head" could be clearly identified. It might be one of the leading powers in
the world even beforehand, but not necessarily the
But is a great catastrophe of plague,war,famine and death, were to impact upon a quarter of the world's population (ch6 v11), and if there was any
one power which was dramatically prominent in the aftermath...
Then THAT would be the one to watch.