Beast from the Sea

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

Dark Beach - Photo by Ryan Loughlin on Unsplash
At the end of chapter 12 the “
Dragon” was poised to launch his “war” on the “seed of the woman,” as he stood on the seashore to summon his own “seed,” beginning with the “beast from the sea.” Having failed to destroy the “son” and the “woman clothed with the sun,” and enraged, he set out to annihilate the “seed of the woman,” the men and women who have the “testimony of Jesus.” - [Photo by Ryan Loughlin on Unsplash].

Chapter 13 opens with the “beast ascending from the sea,” a monstrous creature with “seven heads and ten horns.” The image draws heavily from the vision of Daniel about four “beasts ascending from the sea”:
  • (Daniel 7:2-8) – “Behold, the four winds of the heavens bursting forth upon the great sea; and four large beasts ascending from of the sea, diverse, one from another…After that, I was looking in the visions of the night, when lo! a fourth 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 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.”
  • (Revelation 13:1-2) – “And I saw out of the sea a beast ascending; 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 a leopard, and his feet as of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority.”
Now, the “Dragon” begins to implement his plan to destroy the “seed of the woman” by summoning his own “seed,” the beasts from the sea and the earth. This is how the “war” between the “seed of the Woman” and the “seed” of the “Ancient Serpent” plays out on the earth - (Genesis 3:15, Revelation 13:11-18).

And he stood on the sand of the sea” (estathė epi tėn ammon tės thalassė). This is a verbal link to the final conflict at the end of the “thousand years” when “Satan gathers the nations 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 in the present tense (anabainon) - That is to say, progressive action. It describes an ongoing process, not a single incident.

Previously, the ascent of the “beast” was introduced in the vision of the “two witnesses”; only there, it was “ascending from the Abyss.” When the “two witness" completed their testimony, the “beast ascended from the Abyss” to kill them. The same present tense participle is used in both passages - anabainon. Thus, the “sea” is the functional equivalent of the “Abyss” - (Revelation 11:7, 13:1).

The theme of evil “ascending” (anabainon) from the Abyss/Sea occurs several times in Revelation:
  • (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.”
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.” The “sea of glass” is the same dark reality as the “Abyss” and the “sea” from which the “beast” ascends. Thus, in the new heaven and new earth the “sea will be no more” - (Revelation 15:2, 21:1-2).

And I saw a beast.” The Greek noun rendered “beast” (thérion) refers to a “wild beast,” not to a domesticated animal. In ancient Greek, thérion was the diminutive form of “beast” (thėr). Likewise, in Revelation, “lamb” translates the diminutive form - arnion. The verbal parallel is deliberate - The “beast” imitates the “Lamb.” But the chief agent of the “Dragon” is a wild animal, not a domesticated lamb.

Octopus - Photo by Jonas Friese on Unsplash
Photo by Jonas Friese on Unsplash

Daniel saw four “
beasts” symbolizing four kingdoms, “diverse one from another.” In contrast, John saw a single beast with characteristics from all four of Daniel’s beasts - The features of a lion, bear, leopard, and the unnatural creature with “ten horns.” These features are listed in Revelation in reverse order from what Daniel saw ascending from the sea. This single beast is an amalgam of all four of the beasts from the book of Daniel. It is related to them, but also is something far worse. It is not identical to the four beasts of Daniel.

The “beast” had “seven heads and ten horns,” with a crown on each horn. The figure of “seven heads” is derived from the individual heads of the four beasts from Daniel - The lion, the bear, the fourth beast, and the four “heads” of the leopard.

The “Dragon” also had “seven heads and ten horns,” but it had “seven diadems” on its seven heads, while the “beast from the Sea” had 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” demonstrate the superior authority of the “Dragon” - He rules through his earthly minions - (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 that it is more than an individual human ruler. Later, its “ten horns” will be linked to “ten kings” - (Revelation 13:7, 17:7-12).

The “seven diadems” represent the claim by the “beast” to political sovereignty over the earth. But its claim is “blasphemous” - The “Lamb” is the true “ruler of the kings of the earth,” and he is the “king of kings” - (Revelation 1:4-5, 5:6-14, 17:14).

The arrogant claim of the “beast” is a counterfeit of the authority of the “Lamb.” Its political authority is derived from the “Dragon.” However, Satan was defeated previously by the messianic “son” who was destined “to shepherd the nations.” Satan may be loose on the earth, but 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).

The “beast” is a trans-historical entity, a political reality that has existed for thousands of years. It has appeared periodically in history in various forms. But the “beast” will have one final incarnation as part of Satan’s final assault on the “saints.”
  • (Revelation 13:3-5) – “And [I saw] one of its heads, showing that it had been slain unto death, and the stroke of its death was healed. And the whole earth marveled after the beast, and did homage to the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast; and they did homage to the beast, saying, Who is like the beast? and Who can make war with it? And there was given to it a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and it was given to it to act forty-two months.”
The slaying of one of the “heads” echoes a prophecy from the book of Genesis:
  • (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 the 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” that John saw standing before the Throne - “as having been slain” - (hōs esphagmenon - Revelation 5:6).
This 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” mimics the death and elevation of the “Lamb” to the Throne of God.
This understanding is confirmed when the “beast” received 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 Revelation it means “plague.” This suggests that God is the 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 of the “beast” parallels the defeat and expulsion of the “Dragon.” After his defeat, he retained the ability to deceive the “inhabitants of the earth,” but he was authorized to deceive them only for a “short season.” Unlike the resurrection of the “Lamb,” the life of the “Dragon” is extended for a limited period. The restoration of the slain “head” is based on another passage from the vision 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, the “seven heads” represent seven kingdoms. Thus, the death of the “head” does not portray 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 lived again; that is, the “inhabitants of the earth.” Those who give allegiance to the “beast” give homage to the Dragon, the power behind the throne. “Render homage” signifies an act of obeisance to someone of higher rank.

Who is like the Beast” - A parody of biblical declarations about God (“Who is like you, O Yahweh, among the gods?”). The “inhabitants of the earth” ascribe to the “beast” honors that belong to God alone.

Who can make war with the Beast?” The declaration is ironic. Previously, the “Dragon” was defeated by Michael and “his army.” The “inhabitants of the earth” do not understand that they serve a defeated master. Awed by the “beast,” they offer it their total allegiance – It has no need to wage “war” on other nation-states or the “inhabitants of the earth” whose names are not written “in the Lamb’s book of life” - For they gave their allegiance freely to the “Beast,” and thereby to the “Dragon” - (Revelation 13:8).

The “beast from the sea” was given authority to operate for “forty-two months,” the same period during which the “holy city was tread underfoot.” Likewise, 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).

In Revelation, the 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.

The “forty-two months” during which the “beast” hurls accusations against the “saints” is connected to the forty-two months when the “the holy city was given to the nations and trampled underfoot forty and two months.” The same reality is in view in both passages, although seen from different aspects.


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