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Who Are the Beasts in Revelation 13?

Who Are the Beasts in Revelation 13?

Dear Roger,
I’m trying to understand just who the beasts of Revelation 13 are and how they might apply to us today. Can you help?
Sincerely, Mackenzie

Dear MacKenzie,

Let me give you a quick review of the movements and battles among the nations as they move toward Armageddon (See Revelation 11-12).

Sometime before the beginning of the seven-year tribulation which leads to the Second Coming of Christ, the King of the South (an African-Arab coalition described in Daniel 11) moves to invade Israel. The coalition is ultimately defeated by the King of the North (who comes from the area of modern-day Russia).

After a short time of peace, Gog and Magog (“Russia” and its leader) proceed with their own attempted invasion of Israel (see Ezekiel 38-39).

The Antichrist intercepts both coalitions and defeats them. As a result, Israel agrees to a seven-year peace treaty with the Antichrist to protect them from other invasions.

After three and half years, the Antichrist breaks the peace treaty. God brings down seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls of God’s wrath.

God brings the armies of the Antichrist, Russia, the Middle East, the Arab-African coalition, and China all together in the Valley of Megiddo for the Battle of Armageddon. The nations thought they were preparing to fight each other; but that never happens. They all end up fighting Christ.

Jesus returns and laughs at the destruction of his enemies (see Psalm 2).

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The Two Beasts and the Dragon (Revelation 13)

The “beast that comes up from the Abyss” (Revelation 11:7) is the Antichrist who institutes the economic, political, and religious structures which are designed to control the people of the world. Please note that the “beasts and dragon” in Revelation 13 are different from the “four beasts” who appear in Revelation 17 and following.

The Sea Gives Insight about Satan and the Beast (Revelation 13:1)

“The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea” (Revelation 13:1).

John sees a nightmarish vision of a dragon and a beast. The beast comes out of the sea and receives power from the dragon. The beast is the Antichrist. The dragon is Satan.

The sea is most likely a symbol of the evil encompassing the Gentile nations in general.

Ten Horns and Seven Heads Describe the Power Base of the Antichrist (Revelation 13:1-2)

“And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns upon its horns and a blasphemous name on each head. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority” (Revelation 13:1-2).

The prophet Daniel describes a coalition of ten nations that become unified in the geographic area of the old Roman Empire. As prophesied in the book of Daniel, chapter 8, a little horn, the Antichrist, grows up and defeats three of the nations, leaving seven. The Antichrist now has the foundation to capture Israel and bring great terror upon the earth.

There is much discussion about the identity of the heads and horns. Some believe that the book of Revelation is completely historical. They refer to the beast as the Roman Empire, concluding that the seven horns represent the seven Roman emperors: Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. Three more emperors followed and were crowned and assassinated over the next 18 months, bringing the total to 10 heads.

I see here a prophetical principle called a “double fulfillment.” This occurs when a prophecy is doubly fulfilled in the future.

About 500 B.C. Daniel prophesied that a coming Antichrist would set up an abomination of desolation in the temple and proceed to kill thousands of Jews. Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), the king of Syria, captured Jerusalem in 167 BC and desecrated the Temple by offering the sacrifice of a pig on an altar to Zeus (the Abomination of Desolation). Ultimately, he was defeated by the Maccabees. Jews celebrate this victory every year.

The second fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecies will occur in accordance with the book of Revelation.

Personally, I believe that the seven heads and ten horns will be a coalition of nations that rises to power in order to subdue the earth under the control of Satan and his Antichrist minion. Their crowns are a reflection of their attempt to be God. The heads are speaking blasphemies against the holy God.

One Head of the Beast Receives a Mortal Wound and Lives (Revelation 13:3)

“One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast” (Revelation 13:3).

The Greek words mean "slit the throat with a knife." This assassination will be as if the president of the United States (or another nation) has his throat slit and dies. But then, during the funeral, he sits up in the casket and comes back to life.

This resurrection is Satan’s counterfeit of Christ's resurrection.

The Career of the Beast/Antichrist Has Worldwide Impact (Revelation 13:4-9)

The Career of the Beast/Antichrist Has Worldwide Impact (Revelation 13:4-9)

People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast … The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months (this is the last three and half years of the Great Tribulation). It opened its mouth to blaspheme God … and to slander his name and … All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life … Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Revelation 13:4-9).

How could anyone be duped into accepting the Antichrist? Remember how the Antichrist comes into power. Revelation 6:2 says, “The rider on a white horse comes in peace!” Peace is attractive.

See if you can tell me who said this:

"The secrets of our country are in turmoil; the universities are filled with students reveling and rioting. Communists are seeking to destroy our country, and the Republic is in danger—Yes, danger from within and from without. Without law and order, our Nation cannot survive!"

Adolf Hitler said that in 1932! Seven years before he invaded Poland!

In 1930. Germany was in desperate financial straits. Riots, unrest, and communism were splitting the nation down the middle. Then Hitler appeared on the scene; a voice of authority arose. Great promises of peace, prosperity, and hope for Germany! People proclaimed, "Heil Hitler."

It's said that 80% of the Evangelical Christians in Germany in the 1930s voted for Hitler because they really believed that he could bring peace, law, order, and prosperity to Germany.

In a time of great economic turmoil, the Antichrist will appear as a smooth-talking peacemaker! The world will embrace him as a savior and solver of its problems.

Next, he will gain control of the Western Power Bloc: Russia, the nations of the Middle East, the Arab-African coalition, and the ten-nation confederacy of central Europe. He will make a seven-year mutual security pact with Israel. Israel signs out of fear of "Rosh” (Russian) from the uttermost north.

After three and half years, he breaks the treaty and erects the “Abomination of Desolation” in the temple in Jerusalem. Thus begins a great wave of Anti-Semitism. He exterminates every Jew that he can get his hands on. Two-thirds of all remaining Israelis are put to death (Revelation 12).

Then, he brings war against the saints of God (Revelation 13:5, Daniel 7:25). He gains absolute control over Palestine after the invasion of Rosh from the North and her cohorts fail.

He proclaims himself to be God (Daniel 11:36-37; 2 Thessalonians 2:4-11; Revelation 13:5), destroying all of the world's false religious systems so that he may rule unhindered … and he demands to be worshipped.

There is hope! Ultimately, the Antichrist is completely crushed by the Lord Jesus Christ at the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19). He is the first to be thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20; 20:10; Daniel 7:11).

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Gearstd 

The Worship of the Lamb-Beast (Revelation 13:11-18)

Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed” (Revelation 13:11-12).

The role of the second beast is to enforce the worship of Antichrist and to confront Christians with the choice of either proclaiming, “Antichrist is Lord” or facing death.

We know that Jesus is the true Lamb (John 1:29), "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the earth.” And how like Satan it is to have a counterfeit! He looks like a lamb, but when he opens his mouth, he speaks like a Dragon.

The mild, lamb-like preacher who denies the deity of Christ speaks with the voice of hell. The meek, gentle preacher who denies the Virgin Birth is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The one who denies Christ as God in human flesh; the one who says that Jesus is not 100% God; the one who denies the blood atonement and sacrificial death of Christ on the cross; or the one who denies the Resurrection may look like a lamb, but he is speaking with the mouth of a dragon.

As Satan lays his plans for a strategic final attack to dominate the earth, he attacks on three major fronts: Political/Economic/Religious.

Religion Is Simple: Worship the First Beast or Else (Revelation 13:13-15)

“And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people … Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed” (Revelation 13:13-15).

This image is the Abomination of Desolation foretold by Daniel (Daniel 9:27; 11:36); Jesus (Matthew 24:15); and Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:4). Some kind of demonic control enters into this inanimate object, and it begins to act as if it's alive.

Since Satan can't command worship from heaven, he does it in the Jewish temple in the Holy City (Daniel 8:9-16).

number 666 in flames

The Worship Is Enforced by Economic Sanctions: The Infamous Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:16-18)

It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.” (Revelation 13:16-17).

All beast worshipers are compelled to receive a mark.

How could this happen? Consider the technology and governmental control that already exists in the U.S. and much of the world today:

  • Invent a system to house all the computerized economic data
  • Remove all currency and substitute controlled credit
  • Have central control on everyone's financial status and credit rating
  • Do all major economic work at institutional level
  • Give government complete control of finance … We are moving in that direction! The Federal government controls the economy, inflation, and recession by limiting or increasing the money supply.

So why then bother to have credit cards? Why don’t we get one number for economic and social needs and tattoo it on the forehead or insert a chip into the back of the right hand?

A man from communist Bulgaria said that the most terrible instrument ever devised by man is the ration card. You can't buy or sell anything except according to that little ration card. "If they please, they can starve you to death … dispossess you of everything you have, for you can't trade nor buy nor sell without that little card."

The Beast will control a centralized economy. Watch closely for the mark; “This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666” (Revelation 13:18).

Now, if we just find a man who signs his name with three sixes, we'll know who the Antichrist is. Of course, it’s not that easy. There are at least several possible explanations of 666.

1. A symbol of humankind. “Six” is the number of humanity in the Bible. 666 may be taken to mean an individual who is trying to imitate the Trinity of God (three sixes in one person).

2. Gematria—the ancient practice of adding the sum total of the numerical equivalent of letters of a person’s name.

In Greek and Hebrew, the letters of the alphabet had definite numerical equivalents: the letters were in fact used as numbers, ABC=1+2+3=6.

Gematria was a popular game among the Greeks. A piece of graffiti found in the ruins of Pompeii reads, "I love the girl whose number is 545."

John thought that number was self-evident, but while it's easy to turn a name into a number, it's much harder to turn a number back into a name. Incidentally, both Caesar Nero and Bartholomew = 666. Hitler = 656; Roger Barrier = 596, and so on.

3. A symbol of imperfection. The number "7" is the number of perfection in Scripture. Jesus’ name adds up to 888 (one more than perfection). 666 is consistently one less than perfection, and it could stand for the personification of evil.

What Does Revelation 13 Mean for Me?

Let me share just a few applications that we can all consider as we ponder Revelation 13 and the events of the End Times.

1. Be certain that you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. You don’t want to miss the Rapture when Jesus takes his people out of the earth and home to glory. You don’t want to be anywhere nearby when the angels pour out the bowls of God’s wrath.

2. Beware, Christians alive during those days will be persecuted, and the persecution will intensify. I recently had to vote against a bill that would allow the government to control how many Christians can meet together at any time. That is just the beginning.

3. Don’t sell your soul for the world’s goods. Today’s culture tempts us continually to sell out at any price.

4. The cost of following in the days ahead is really going to be high … but may I also add that cost of not following Jesus is going to be higher yet.

I hope you find my answer helpful.

Love, Roger

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/rep0rter 

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier went to be with the Lord on Friday, February 16th, 2024. He was a faithful servant of Christ with a lifetime worth of ministry and mentorship. Dr. Barrier held degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. He used his immense expertise daily to guide and mentor others in their spiritual walks. He had a global impact with his book Listening to the Voice of God, which is available in both Thai and Portuguese. His newest book, written with his daughter Brianna Barrier Wetherbee, is Look Like Jesus: A Guide to Spiritual Growth. He and his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier, founded Preach It, Teach It, a pastoral teaching site that provides countless resources, including articles, sermons, podcasts, sermon starters, Bible studies, and devotionals. His family will honor Dr. Barrier’s legacy by continuing the ministry of Ask Roger and for years to come as they share more than two thousand still-unpublished sermons and Ask Roger articles. 

This Ask Roger article features insights from Roger's daughter, Brie Barrier Wetherbee, a sought-after Bible teacher and conference speaker, author, analyst, and Christian theologian.