The First Beast
13 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”
And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear:
If anyone is to be taken captive,
to captivity he goes;
if anyone is to be slain with the sword,
with the sword must he be slain.
Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.
The Second Beast
Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.
Revelation 13 Commentary
by Hank Workman
Back in the ’80s, an American Hip Hop Band emerged from the streets of New York. They pretty much took the music industry by storm. Their hit “You gotta fight… for your right… to party…” became this instant hit. The Beastie Boys were provocative, interesting, and at times, downright ridiculous.
We’re introduced to some other Beastie Boys who are not in any way, shape, or form something to think is cool or great; although the world does give them rock star status. No, for Believers what we are about to look at should bring deep shudders as we look at what takes place through their grip upon the world. And more importantly, this will cause us to think uncomfortably – what if in my lifetime? Would I succumb? Would I compromise?
The people of God have hit rock bottom. The forces of evil are at their pinnacle. The darkness has invaded every land and these are going in for the kill – literally. The Antichrist appears and takes full control – crushing all resistance. There is no hope. Anywhere. As Jesus said, “You will be hated because you are followers.” You will be betrayed. False prophets will abound. Sin will be everywhere.
Just like in the days of Noah, they were clueless as to what was happening as they were partying it up. Then the flood came. And this flood that sweeps over this world will be filled with darkness and evil and absolute terror. Lines will be drawn. The question truly becomes what side of the line will we be found?
Revelation 12 brought the introduction of the Dragon, Satan, as he attempted to thwart God’s plan of redemption. He failed. The Christ child was born. Consequently, in anger, he declared war against the children of God – the Followers of Jesus. Almost like a foreboding, Revelation 13 ends with the Dragon standing on the seashore watching what was about to come; summoning what was to happen.
And within this moment, as the first rises out of the sea and then the second comes out of the earth, he introduces 2 of his henchmen who have but one mission. They are here to deceive the world and more importantly destroy the fellowship of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.
An unholy trinity takes control of the earth. There are counterfeit miracles, a mock resurrection, the beast of the sea (the Antichrist) secures economic and political control of the world. The beast of the earth, the Antichrist’s prime minister of propaganda and high priest installs a false religious system requiring worship of the beast. A worldwide identification scheme, the infamous number 666, is implemented. Only those who bear the number can buy and sell. The fellowship of the Lamb is on the brink of extermination.
In ancient mythology, and within the Hebrew Bible, the sea often represented an unruly force echoing the chaos that existed prior to the creation of the earth. This beast that rises out of the waters, which shows chaos is about to come with his arrival as he sets foot on the land, is indeed the Antichrist.
He’s made up of features that look of a leopard, a bear and a lion, boasting 7 heads – which on some levels stresses the relationship to the 7 headed dragon in sync with one another. The power and authority of the beast comes from the dragon – meaning Satan is the backbone and supplier of strength to this Antichrist.
An interesting thing is to consider the number 7 in apocalyptic literature actually means ‘complete’. This somewhat shows the 7 headed beast as the appropriate symbol of the ultimate enemy of the believing church. It is a complete evil taking full charge against Followers.
Even though one of his heads has been mortally wounded, the world is drawn after him in amazement. Horrifically, he is given universal authority and through this, we see into the situation of his entire motivation: hatred. Absolutely despising God and His Followers.
What follows is a Beast from the Inner Earth – A False prophet – in so many ways, a Prime Minister for the Beast of the Sea arises. The beast of the earth is a great deceiver. His description is interesting as he has 2 horns like that of a lamb. This would somewhat represent his attempt to convey the impression of a gentle harmlessness. Yet, he spoke like a dragon – meaning either he roared or was like that of the serpent in Eden as his speech was deceitful and charming.
Combine both of these… a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s the consummate false prophet, the charismatic figure, the minister of propaganda for the beast of the sea and his intentions. He’s the machine.
But what does take place here – is a choice must be made. An economic boycott and threat of death will push people to make a decision as to whom they will worship; where their foundation rests. There is absolutely no escape for members of the Fellowship of the Lamb.
What this ultimately says is that in the last days there will be a great division in the human race. Some will remain true to the faith even in the face of death; others to survive will do what is asked, justify what is asked and in turn and succumb to the worship the Antichrist and what his demands are.
Halfhearted Believers never surrender their lives for a cause in which they do not really believe. This really will be the tangible line between a Fan and Follower.
This then takes us to the most intriguing and possibly most-read verses by people today; in fact, probably no other verses are more read in Revelation than these – the ones with the dreaded number 666. And here we find what so many have speculated of over the centuries – the registration system where a person is marked on their right hand or forehead.
Without this mark, no one can buy or sell. Meaning, you won’t be able to work and get paid for it. You won’t be able to go to the grocery, pay your mortgage, put food on your table. You won’t be able to do any of those things without the mark. Your earthly survival literally depends on having this number. To buy and sell you will have to have it. And this number – represents the number of the beast. This mark is an economic boycott that is raised against all who refuse to fall in line. It is genuine harassment of Believers.
When we are stripped down of everything we have, everything we’ve known – usually our foundations upon which we’ve built are revealed. It reveals where our faith and trust lie. Are we indeed covered with the blood of the Lamb? Do we love our lives more, our career more, our reputation more, than we do of Christ Jesus? And how far are we willing to go when everything comes against us?
A verse gives key instruction:
“This means that God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently and remain faithful.” –Revelation 13:10b
We must remain faithful in our days. We must remain faithful in our lives. We must remain faithful and endure what has come against us. For in the end there is victory – although we may not see it momentarily. In the end, it is God’s Word that stands strong; God’s promises that endure, not the enemy’s.
Revelation 13 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
The First Beast
At the end of Revelation 12, we read of Satan’s rage. He sets out to destroy the people of God. Now, in Revelation 13, we are introduced to the two henchmen by which Satan seeks to destroy believers. They are both covered in symbolism. We read that the first beast comes out of the sea. In the ancient world, evil was typically associated with the sea.
The first beast received authority from Satan, insulted God’s name, went to war against God’s people, and received the praise of the world. It’s easy to read between the lines and see that John’s description of the first beast was quite possibly the Roman Empire in his time. They did all of the above and would have represented this same characteristic to the early church. However, in the end times, this first beast ultimately represents the person of the Antichrist and his power (the world).
We also see that the beast is of the same family as the dragon. There is a familial resemblance. The horns, heads, and crowns are very similar even numerically. We read about how this beast suffers a mortal wound but heals itself. We don’t know if this is literal or figurative but that’s not really that important. What’s important is that this act draws worship from the whole world!
It’s also interesting that the battle scars of this first beast are similar to the lamb we saw previously in Revelation “looking as if it had been slain.” The supreme battle between good and evil took place at the cross where Jesus was slaughtered but where He ultimately turned the tables and slaughtered the enemy of our souls through His resurrection. Yet, in the end times, both are alive and well. Each of them (the lamb and the dragon) claim victory to their respective followers and seal their followers accordingly.
What are the bullet point accomplishments of this first beast?
- It has a mortal wound that is healed and this will lead to the whole world worshiping it. In my opinion, this is the key to Revelation 13.
- It was given a mouth to utter blasphemy against God.
- It was allowed to make war on the people of God and conquer them.
- And finally, it was given authority over all people who worship it and do not have their names written in the Book of Life.
The Second Beast
Let’s start by noting the differences. The first beast arose from the sea. The second beast comes from the earth. This was familiar to John’s audience. John is pulling metaphorically from the traditions known to the ancients at that time.
According to 1 Enoch 60:7-10 Leviathan was the sea monster which was said to have lived “in the abysses of the ocean,” and Behemoth resided in a “waste wilderness named Duidain.” John is pulling from ancient mythology to illustrate that these beasts are humanity’s most frightening imaginations being brought to reality. They are not playful characters from a children’s story. These beasts are authentic representations of the dark supernatural kingdom that has declared war on God and His children.
In other words, Leviathan and Behemoth are given power and authority over the people of God. This would have been the most terrifying realization possible for the ancient believer. It is a sobering message meant to wake those who were slumbering in compromise.
Who is the second beast? He is a deceiver. He is also known as the False Prophet. He will appear to be gentle and harmless as evidenced by his lamb horns. Jesus spoke of how the false prophets would come in sheep’s clothing.
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.Matthew 7:15 NASB
His power will not draw people to him, but instead, be used to point people to the Antichrist. Individuals who love the supernatural and spiritual realms but do not read their Bible will be attracted to him. Those who prefer the miraculous signs and wonders to the absolute and objective Word of God will follow blindly. People will come to see the show and get carried away hook, line, and sinker. In John’s time, the second beast very likely could have represented the imperial priesthood who supported Rome in building their empire.
The False Trinity
Between the dragon (Satan), the first beast (Antichrist), and the second beast (the false prophet), they all come together to form the false trinity. Christ received authority from the Father and the Antichrist receives authority from Satan. The Holy Spirit testifies to Christ and the False Prophet glorifies the Antichrist. Satan and the powers of darkness mimic the Holy Trinity and seek to deceive as many as possible. It’s important to keep in mind that this power will not lack popularity. They will be loved and adored by the world on their path to total deception.
The Number – 666
Consider the fact that since the time John penned Revelation, nearly every generation has believed they are living in the end times. From the reformation, to Hitler, to modern times with Covid-19, every generation has had some kind of perceived end-times revelation. Nearly every generation has also concluded what they believe to be the mark or the Antichrist, from RFID chips, to social security, to Ronald Reagan and even the Pope. So, we must tread lightly and with humility on this subject. The temptation is to read Revelation 13 and quickly apply it to our immediate situation while disregarding the audience John was writing to, and that is a huge mistake.
Many modern conspiracy theorists try to distort the number 666 to fit their agenda but in my opinion, they all fall short when measured with Scripture. It’s important to recognize that the number is actually six-hundred sixty-six and not simply three sixes as many translate it. In the end, it’s safe to assume that John only intended his close associates to be able to decrypt the number. Some of the wisest theologians have taken their best shot and come up empty on the translation for this number. Hundreds of years later, the mystery remains.
If the number is to be translated in the end times, we can rest assured that all those who know Jesus will agree on the identity. It is inconsistent with the sweep of Scripture to assume that true believers would be scattered and confused regarding the identity of the Antichrist.
What do we know about John’s audience? What did all this mean to them?
Well, once you get this far into Revelation you forget that John is still writing to the 7 churches and beyond in Asia Minor. Some of these communities were facing tremendous persecution at the hands of the Roman government. Pagan and emperor worship was widespread and Christians were being forced to decide if they would compromise and bend the knee to worship another or continue to endure in their faith and face the consequences.
They had to decide, are they really a Christian or not? Will they stay faithful to Jesus or leave their first love? If they chose not to worship the Roman emperors, it is speculated they would not be able to receive their “mark” which was most likely a certificate allowing them to buy and sell in the marketplace. After the first beast is described, that section ends with these words, which would have spoken so deeply to the believers of John’s day.
If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.Revelation 13:10 ESV
I personally believe John, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is using these intense visual images to convey an urgent and somber message to each of the communities who were struggling to follow. Your faith will be tested. Your allegiance will be tested. The alarm is being sounded. It is a call to endurance, and it is a call to perseverance. The forces of darkness are summoning Leviathan and Behemoth from the deep and chaos and destruction are on their way.
What does reading this text do for you? I know for me, it creates a perspective change. The things I thought were important matter much less to me. The first world problems I’ve been so stressed out about pale in comparison to the end of time when what will be required of me will not come from a place of material possession.
My money won’t matter. My weapons won’t be able to defend me. My intellect won’t rescue me. My favorite political leader won’t save me. My heart will be tested. Your heart will be tested.
Am I easily discouraged and quickly filled with fear, and if so, why? If this stuff kicked off tomorrow, would you be ready to face what Jesus would ask of you? The only way is in Him. So what would Jesus say about your relationship with Him these days? These are the questions I believe John wanted his followers to be asking themselves and these are questions that have no easy answers, but they are questions we must ask given the immediate context of this letter.
And speaking of immediate context, I want to speak briefly on what garners the most attention from Revelation 13 – namely, the mark of the beast.
The Mark Of The Beast
I’ve mentioned a few times of how critical worship is to Revelation 13. It is so critical. Let’s look at what the text says before we even get to the mark of the beast which doesn’t appear until the end of Revelation 13. This is what John writes before that…
And they (the whole earth) worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”Revelation 13:4 ESV
So, before the mark, there is worship.
It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed.Revelation 13:12 ESV
Again, the purpose and intention of the second beast is to steal your worship away from Jesus. And finally, in verse 15…
And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain.Revelation 13:15 ESV
Again, all these verses are prior to us learning that there will be a mark of the beast given. Why is that important? Because the mark is reserved for those who compromise their faith in some conscious, meaningful way, and choose to worship the beast and the image of the beast. If that’s not enough evidence, let’s look at all the verses after the mark of the beast in revealed…
And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.Revelation 14:9-10 ESV
So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.Revelation 16:2 ESV
And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.Revelation 19:20 ESV
Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.Revelation 20:4 ESV
What’s the lesson here? Worship, worship and more worship. Given all the maniacal speculations that are out there, this point cannot be overstated.
The mark will be a natural consequence to who or what you worship in this life. Remember, back in Revelation 7, Jesus sealed His children on their foreheads. Now, in Revelation 13, Satan is sealing his. What determines the seal is communicated in Scripture by the verses above.
It is, very simply, the object of your worship. The message is obvious; don’t exchange your worship of Jesus for the ease of living. Don’t exchange your worship of Jesus for what’s comfortable or popular. Don’t exchange your worship of Jesus for anything.
True Believers Won’t Be Tricked
Let me be absolutely clear. I believe the Bible teaches if you know Jesus and you are sealed with His Holy Spirit that you cannot be tricked into somehow taking the mark of the beast.
We are told that those who have the mark of the beast will receive the fullness of God’s wrath. Earlier in Revelation, we read of how God’s plagues were poured out on all people except for those who had been sealed by Him. So, naturally, those who hate God will worship the beast, receive the mark, and receive God’s judgment. Those who love Jesus will worship God, be sealed by Him, and be protected from (or strengthened to endure) His judgment. This is why it is so important to have established a direction in our lives prior to the end times. The domino effect of our choices today will naturally lead us to our destiny in the afterlife.
The mark of the beast directly follows a choice and intent to be an enemy of God, refusing to repent of your sin, refusing to accept the forgiveness offered by the blood of Jesus, and refusing to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in becoming more like Jesus. If the mark of the beast leads to hell, then it has to be consistent with the Gospel truth we already know sends people to hell.
Someone who doesn’t know God who takes the mark is no worse off than they were to begin with. They were already an enemy of God being dead in their sin. In other words, what sends you to hell is worshiping something other than Jesus with all your heart, soul, and strength and the mark simply confirms in the end who your allegiance is to or where your allegiance has already been.
What did Jesus say about His children?
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”John 10:27-30 ESV
Who qualifies for these promises? Those who hear Jesus’ voice and truly follow Him with all their heart, soul, and strength. If you have repented of your sin and are actively following Jesus, you can have assurance that you belong to God and that no scheme of the enemy can snatch you from His hand. We must remember this as we read on.
Many Will Be Deceived
So, with that said, do I believe that the mark of the beast will deceive some who call themselves believers? Yes. Just as Jesus said, not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom, right? Only those who do the Father’s will. I believe the mark itself stands as a metaphor for our patterns of thinking and doing. What it comes down to at the end of time is whether or not your heart was consistent with your words.
The mark of the beast is described as being on the forehead and hand/wrist. This is possibly a metaphor for our patterns of thinking (forehead) and doing (hand/wrist). This idea is not something I made up. It’s found in one of the most well-known passages in the Bible.
You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.Deuteronomy 6:5-9 ESV
Look specifically at verse 8. Some of this is not speaking literally, right? By the time Jesus stepped on the scene, the Jews had begun a practice of actually wearing tiny boxes with verse-filled parchment on their foreheads. These were called phylacteries. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for missing the point because it wasn’t about the outward sign. It’s always been about the heart.
They tie onto people’s backs loads that are heavy and hard to carry, yet they aren’t willing even to lift a finger to help them carry those loads. 5 They do everything so that people will see them. Look at the straps with scripture verses on them which they wear on their foreheads and arms, and notice how large they are! Notice also how long are the tassels on their cloaks!Matthew 23:4-5 GNB
In the end times, the mark we bear will reflect the heart. We all know Satan is a mimicker. The mark of the beast will follow the inward heart condition just like Jesus has produced an inward heart change in His children. So, with that being said, the people who are in jeopardy of being deceived by the mark of the beast are those who only know about Jesus outwardly but do not truly know Him in their hearts.
In other words, we can’t just believe in Jesus and never follow through with giving Him our entire lives and expect that we will experience the richness of His promises. If we do not give Jesus our hearts, our minds, and our souls, we are in danger of being deceived.
You are an image-bearer and the mark you reflect either bears Christ or it bears the image of the beast. Jesus was never concerned with outward appearances. His concern has always been the heart and specifically the object of our affection and worship.
The interpretation of Revelation 13 translated well for the early churches. They were stripped of everything. They suffered under the authority of a supreme empire that hated their God. They were persecuted beyond belief. Refusal to fall in line was an immediate death sentence in many cases.
So, we can easily apply this to our current situation. What if this were to go down here in our country? What if, as Christians, we were marked for destruction by the beasts? What would our response be? Many people (even non-believers) claim they would never get the mark of the beast or follow suit with the Antichrist, yet, Scripture tells another story. The Bible tells us many will be deceived and these powers will seek to deceive even the elect, if possible.
“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 25 “Behold, I have told you in advance.Matthew 24:24-25 NASB
The question is not necessarily what you will do at that time, but what are you doing now? If you are not taking up your spiritual armor daily, how will you then have wisdom later? If you are not stepping out in faith and strengthening your relationship with Jesus, the owner of all knowledge, then how do you expect to have discernment later? Jesus tells us to stay sober and be ready.
Behold, He says, I have told you in advance.