The dragon has no firm place to stand, the wet sand beneath his feet prophecies the sinking (temporary) nature of his power.
Revelation 13 continues the previous chapter’s vision, using metaphorical language to prophecy future events relating to the kingdoms of the earth and their rulers, as manipulated and powered by Satan (The Dragon/Serpent). Therefore we must be careful not to impose overly literal ideas upon the text which is clearly intended to be understood as symbolic language. We should also maintain a Hebraic foundation in interpreting the Greek text, remembering that it is the thought behind the text that strengthens its meaning. A Jewish writer, writing in English, intends a Hebrew meaning; likewise, Yochanan the Jew writing in Greek, intends a Hebrew meaning.
Verses 1-8 share their context with Revelation 11:7 and 17:24, placing them in correlation with the four beasts of Daniel 7. The first beast is a composite of the four beasts of Daniel, and like the dragon it shares the ten horns and seven heads of the last beast of Daniel 7:7: however, unlike the dragon this beast also resembles the remaining three beasts because it’s described as being like a lion, a bear and a leopard (Daniel 7:4-6). It comes up out of the sea (Daniel 7:3) speaking arrogant blasphemies (Daniel 7:8, 20, 25), and it has authority to act for 42 months (Daniel 7:25). All of this is illuminated by the prophet Daniel himself.
“This is what he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, different from all the other kingdoms. It will devour the whole earth, trample it down, and crush it. 24 The 10 horns are 10 kings who will rise from this kingdom. Another king, different from the previous ones, will rise after them and subdue three kings. 25 He will speak words against the Most High and make weary the holy ones (Righteous ethnic Israel) of the Most High. He will implement change of religious festivals and laws (specifically the festivals and laws of Hashem given to Israel), and the holy ones (Righteous ethnic Israel) will be handed over to him for a time, times, and half a time (3 ½ years). 26 But the court (heavenly) will convene, and his dominion will be taken away, to be completely destroyed forever. 27 The kingdom, dominion, and greatness of the kingdoms under all of heaven will be given to the people (Righteous ethnic Israel), the holy ones of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will serve and obey Him.’” –Daniel 7:23-27
Many scholars see (and I agree) the text of Daniel 7:23-27 to have been fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanes IV between 168 – 164 BCE. He changed, “religious festivals and laws” banning the use of the Hebrew language, desecrating the temple by offering a pig on the altar in place of the daily sacrifice and requiring Jews to forsake the G-d of Israel and worship false gods by keeping pagan festivals, or, be put to death (Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). All this took place over a three and a half year period, “Time, times and half a time”. Eventually the Maccabees recaptured and rededicated the Temple, an event that is now remembered in the Chanukah festival which Yeshua celebrated in Jerusalem (John 10:11). This is of course true, however, as previously stated, the cyclical nature of Jewish prophecy allows it to have multiple fulfilments.
Added to this is the fact that Yeshua reinstated the Daniel prophecy during His earthly ministry (Matthew 24:15) and confirms it’s current validity through His prophet Yochanan, thus renewing Daniels prophecy in the words of His unveiling (Revelation), meaning that a new fulfilment of the Daniel prophecy is imminent.
The four beasts of Daniel are four kingdoms reflected in the beast of Revelation 13:1-8, which for the modern reader can be understood as commonwealths, political collectives or fiscal union between nations. Most scholars agree that these four kingdoms were represented chronologically in the empires of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. If this view is correct, then the beast of Revelation 13:1-8 will be either a literal re-emergence of the Roman Empire, or a collective of nations that perpetuate the same brutality and immorality of the Roman Empire.
However, due to the metaphorical language used, there can be no certainty as to the exact interpretation. If we are to be humble servants of Messiah, we must consider the possibility that even within His unveiling He holds back the perfect clarity of the Olam Habah (World to come).
13:1 And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore.
The dragon stands on the sea shore between the land and the sea, whereas the Mighty Messenger of chapter 10:2, stood firmly with His right foot on the sea and His left foot on the land. The difference between the two figures is significant. The Mighty Messenger (Who I believe to be Yeshua) has authority over all creation, Sea and Land: He has firmly established this authority without compromise, His right foot planted firmly on the ocean (the sea, seen in Hebrew literature as a metaphor for sheol) representing the fact that He has overcome the power of death, and His left foot firmly planted on the earth (the womb of humanity), indicating His authority to resurrect the dead unto eternal life. On the other hand, the dragon is seen in a place of compromise, standing between the land and the sea on the sea shore: he is neither in full control of the sea or the land, showing that his authority is limited and compromised. The dragon has no firm place to stand, the wet sand beneath his feet prophecies the sinking (temporary) nature of his power.
Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten crowns, and on his heads were blasphemous names.
The beast coming up out of the sea represents the resurrection of a great empire, an empire of death and destruction as symbolised by the Hebraic metaphorical view of the sea (sheol).
Notice that the crowns of this beast are on its horns, whereas the crowns of the dragon (chapter 12) were on his heads. The authority of the dragon (heads) holds power over the strength (horns/kings) of the beast. This is why the beast is said to have blasphemous names on its heads (a Hebrew idiom meaning that he spoke blasphemies against G-d): these seven blasphemies reflect the fruit of the rulers pictured in the seven heads of the dragon.
This beast, which represents a resurrected kingdom (10 collected nations under one ruling nation) will have among its leaders, 7 prominent leaders who openly blaspheme against the G-d of Israel. It is important that we understand that their blasphemies will not be against the generic idea of a monotheist deity (e.g. Allah: an ancient Babylonian feminine moon deity now worshipped by Muslims) but specifically against the G-d of Israel.
2 And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.
The beast is likened to the four beasts of Daniel (Daniel 7:4-6), described as being like a lion, a bear and a leopard.
The lion is fierce and merciless in desiccating and devouring its prey, this also reflects the nature of the evil one. The bear likewise is difficult to subdue and its insurmountable strength defeats almost every other forest creature. The leopard is not only brutal in tearing apart and dragging off of its victims, it’s also known for its speed and agility in attacking its prey. These things have been and continue to be true of many kingdoms of the earth.
Satan (the dragon) will be the ruling spiritual authority behind this empire. Thus, “And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.”
3 I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast;
The imagery of the slain head of the beast is a parody of the Lamb that was slain (Rev. 5:6), a rebellious counterpoint to the glorious and eternal work of the Messiah. However, unlike the eternal life-giving victory of the resurrected Messiah, the beast’s temporal resurrection will end in eternal death.
Some believe that the head mentioned here is the head of the resurrected Roman Empire, Rome itself. If this is the right interpretation then the fatal wound would be considered to be the fact that Rome was torn apart and fatally wounded and is now resurrected as a world power. I’m not convinced of this interpretation.
What is certain, is that a specific power within the empire of the beast (Which is a collective of nations) will rise to rule the earth, it will be a surprise to the nations because they will have presumed that this particular city or country would never have held any kind of universal authority again due to its past defeat and present condition. As a result, the nations of the earth will be in awe of this country’s ability to resurrect itself economically and militarily and will seek to follow its formula for success.
The phrase, “whole earth” as in the previous chapters, refers to all those who aren’t followers of Yeshua.
4 they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?”
While in many ways this means that the people of the nations will worship Satan, in reality this worship manifests itself in much less obvious ways. The nations will honour the ancient empire which the beast has been resurrected from for the reasons mentioned. They will also look to and honour the specific nation which rules over the new universal empire. They will recognise that no nation has the strength to defeat this nation and its empire in war and will therefore submit themselves to its rule.
The phrase, “Who is like the beast” is in itself a rebellious blaspheme, a parody of the name given to HaShem’s angel Michael (Who is like G-d: Exodus 15:11), who defeated the dragon in the second heaven (Rev. 12). In other words the nations are saying, “There is no G-d but the beast, this new great nation and ruler are G-d alone”.
5 There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. 6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against G-d, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.
It’s important to remember that the authority is given to the beast by the dragon, who in turn has been allowed authority from G-d. Ultimately G-d is in control (Isaiah 45:6-7; Job 1:12; 2-6).
Within the metaphorical language we find literal terms, this is a clue to interpretation. Just as the metaphorical idiom, “Time, times and half a time” is used to describe a season, the literal number 42 months is used to describe a literal period which is applied to the metaphorical beast and its rule.
The complete nature of the beast as symbolised by its seven heads, is reflected in the fullness of its blasphemies and its uncompromised rebellion against the G-d of Israel: so much so that it utters blasphemies against G-d’s name on earth and against His dwelling place in the heavens. This is the futile temper tantrum of a defeated enemy, who, unable to go into the heavens any longer, must satisfy himself with making as much noise as possible within the confines of the earth and its atmosphere.
7 It was also given to him to make war with the set apart ones and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.
The set apart ones (holy ones) are ethnic Israel, as alluded to in Daniel 7:25. The reality is that although the beast will not be allowed to wipe out ethnic Israel, it will be given temporary authority to make war against her and overcome her for a specific preordained period of time.
Additionally the beast will be given (ultimately by G-d) temporary authority over all the nations of the world.
8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear.
All the non-believers who dwell on the earth at that time will worship the beast (Nation and ruler), however, those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life will not worship the beast (Nation and ruler).
The security of our faith in Messiah was recorded before the world was created and made sure in the blood of His sacrifice (Rev. 5:6-12).
The first reference to G-d’s book of life in the Tanakh (OT) is found in the book of Exodus. It is part of a dialogue between Moses and G-d regarding the redemption of Israel:
“Now if You would only forgive their sin. But if not, please blot me out of the book You have written.” Hashem replied to Moses: “I will blot out whoever has sinned against Me from My book.” –Exodus 32:32-33
We see from this text that the book of life belongs to G-d Himself and that our eternal security is not reliant on us but on Him. Therefore we can be assured of our eternal security in Messiah and our place in the Olam Habah (World to come).
The prophet Daniel also refers to the book of life:
“At that time Michael the great prince who stands watch over your people will rise up. There will be a time of distress such as never has occurred since nations came into being until that time. But at that time all your people who are found written in the book will escape.” –Daniel 12:1
The, “Book of life” is the “other book” of Revelation 20:12. Its name in Hebrew is, “sefer chayim” and is spoken of in the Psalms:
“Add guilt to their guilt;
do not let them share in Your righteousness.
Let them be blotted out of the book of life
and not be recorded with the righteous.” –Psalm 69:27-29
The term, “Chayim” has plural intensity which indicates eternal life, thus, “Chayim” rather than, “Chai”. The book of life is referred to several times throughout Revelation and is often used as the counterpoint to the negative fate of those whose names are not written in it (Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12). It is also referenced in Rav Shaul’s letter to the Philippians:
“Along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers whose names are in the book of life.” –Philippians 4:3b
“If anyone has an ear let him hear”, is a quote from the gospels, a familiar refrain used by Yeshua as a counterpoint to the Tanakh’s prophecy that those who reject the Messiah would be “Ever listening but not hearing, ever seeing but not perceiving” (Isaiah 6:9).
The phrase “If anyone has an ear let him hear”, is recorded in the gospels and throughout the book of Revelation (Matthew 11:15; Mark 4:23; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29). This specifically refers to those who are a part of the community of faith, followers of Yeshua. It’s a type of secret code phrase for believers, a reassuring wink from the Messiah which says, “You guys know what I’m talking about”.
10 If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he will go; if anyone is destined for the sword, with the sword he must be killed. This is for the perseverance and the faith of the set apart ones.
This quote from the Tanakh (OT) reflects G-d’s instruction to Israel via the prophet Jeremiah prior to her temporary exile:
“If they ask you, ‘Where will we go?’ you must tell them: This is what the Lord says:
Those destined for death, to death;
those destined for the sword, to the sword.
Those destined for famine, to famine;
those destined for captivity, to captivity.” –Jeremiah 15:2
This simply means that for a set amount of time, those who follow Messiah will suffer according to the will of G-d, but will not be completely destroyed.
The unveiling of this truth to the community of believers is, “for the perseverance and the faith of the set apart ones.” We are not to be fearful but prepared. We take comfort in the fact that this is for a limited time and that the outcome for the believer is eternal life.
11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon.
The first beast represents both Empire and False Deity, whereas the second beast is a man (v18), born of the city and empire of the first beast. He is intrinsically related to the evil empire and receives his power from it via Satan.
This beast comes out of the earth as opposed to the sea. The earth is the womb of human life, therefore this beast is born of a woman just as the Messiah was. However, unlike Messiah, this beast is seeded by the beast of the sea (sheol), born of the abyss and is therefore the antithesis of the Messiah Yeshua. Hence he is known as the Anti-Messiah (1 John 2:18) and the false prophet (Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10).
This beast has two horns like a lamb. He is compared to a lamb because he is an individual who on his own may seem placid, however his voice has the dark power and presence of evil (dragon), fuelled by Satan himself. The lamb imagery also relates to the fact that, “For many will come in
my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:5). His horns of strength are that of his supernatural power and the deity (Satan) whom he serves. He is the man who separates himself from the Torah (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10) setting himself up in G-d’s sanctuary above every god and calling himself god.
“Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man who separates himself from the Torah is revealed, the son of destruction. 4 He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he sits in G-d’s sanctuary, publicizing that he himself is G-d.” –2 Thessalonians 2:3
Yeshua citing Daniel 9:27; 11:31, 12:11, prophesied concerning this beast when he said:
“So when you see the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place.” –Matthew 24:15
This abomination will occur in the rebuilt temple of Revelation 11.
12 He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed.
The second beast has all the authority of the empire he has risen from and he will give glory to the first beast (the fatally wounded city/nation and its false god).
13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men.
The signs he performs are specifically formulated to mirror those of the prophets of Israel, in particular Elijah, and the miracles of Yeshua.
In keeping with the sub-narrative of Israel’s escape from Egypt, we see that the Pharaoh employed magicians to replicate the miracles of G-d’s servant Moses (Exodus 7:11; 22; 8:7). The miracles of the second beast then, are likened to the demonically powered miracles of the magicians of Egypt and represent limited supernatural power. However there is one significant miracle, the miracle of bringing fire down from heaven (The earth’s atmosphere) which mimic’s Elijah’s miracle and represents judgement. Thus the beast even attempts to deceive the earth into believing that it is he who is bringing the final judgement.
This should read as warning to those who have a nominal or secular faith based on second-hand knowledge of the Scriptures. Yeshua warns:
“For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many” –Matthew 24:5
14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which were given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who has the mortal wound of the sword and has come to life.
This infers that the false god that the beast names himself for may well be a false representation of the true G-d of Jews and Christians. This can be seen in the faith claims of many nominal believers today, who worship a god (Whom they consider to be the Judeo Christian deity) who approves of homosexuality and abortion. The beast may well be a perverted idea of G-d loosely based on selected Scripture, like many of the false gods created in the minds of human beings.
The important thing to remember is that a life devoted to Messiah will not be deceived, those of the earth are those who are not followers of Messiah.
The miracles of the second beast were done on behalf of the first beast as a parody of the two witnesses (11:4). All that he does is in opposition to the G-d of Israel.
The image that the second beast asks the people of the earth to set up may represent an idol constructed as an inanimate object. This would make the following verses a further miraculous event.
15 And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be murdered.
To add to the rebellion of the Satan, the second beast is given the power to breathe life into the image of the first beast and give it life and a voice, in a parody of G-d’s creation (Genesis 2:7). The instruction of the image of the first beast will be a final solution (holocaust) of those who don’t worship it. One can’t help but see a direct correlation to the false deity Allah and the Islamic myth concerning a twelfth Imam, the Muslim Messiah (Anti-Christ).
16 And he makes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the freemen and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17 and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name.
Revelation 20:4 tells us that being given the mark is a choice:
“They 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 a thousand years.”
The mark then must be willingly received in order to be effective, this begs the question, “If it’s a physical mark how will a Christian avoid receiving it by force? After all, the text says that all are made to receive the mark.” The answer is, it can’t be a physical mark and is therefore a mark symbolizing mental assent and the submission of the governing of the body (forehead) and the actions (Right hand, strength and action) associated to that same act of submission. This is a parody of the physical symbols of the tefilin and the submitting of the righteous to the G-d of Israel and His Messiah. It’s also a parody of the marking of the 144,000 Jews of Revelation 7:2-3. It’s strange to me that so many scholars interpret 7:2-3 to be a metaphorical mark, a spiritual marking of the righteous, and yet they don’t give a second thought to the same interpretation being applicable here.
Some say that the mark must be physical because it is required for the act of buying and selling, however this can be explained as simply as the refusal of beast worshippers to sell to or buy from believers.
The mark then, is the act of receiving the mental belief (Greek) and lordship (Hebrew)—forehead—of the beast and its false prophet (2nd beast), and applying this belief to every action (right hand).
18 This requires wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.
Both the Greek and Hebrew languages assign numerical values to the characters of their respective alphabets. Each letter of a word and in this case a man’s name, can be added, multiplied, divided, squared and manipulated using any mathematical equation in order to come to the sum of 666. As a result there have been countless attempts by enumerable scholars, soothsayers and fortune tellers (All claiming to be G-d fearing Christians), to determine and even solidify the name of the beast.
The key to this last verse of chapter 13 isn’t the number, or the ability to calculate it; to the contrary, the key is the phrase, “This requires wisdom”.
Every generation has seen the rise of an anti-Christ, however, the Anti-Messiah is yet to come. We are counselled to be wise, understanding that names can have numerical value but remembering that the timing of the revelation of the name of the Anti-Messiah is in G-d’s hands and is therefore subject to the greatest wisdom of all, “The fear of the L-rd”.
Further still, we must consider that the number 666, being that it is given as part of a metaphorical text, is to be calculated as a metaphor. If this is the correct understanding, then the number 666 represents the trifold affirmation of the failure of this individual to reach perfection (7), he is truly the antithesis of Yeshua. Messiah then could be seen as the number 888 (based on the numerical value of the Greek name Iesous), conveying the threefold affirmation that He is “Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh (Holy)”, beyond perfection (7 representing perfection and 8 representing a new beginning beyond perfection).
What is important is not that we’re able to unequivocally confirm the name of the beast and the kingdom from which he rises, but rather that we should be aware of the meaning of these symbols so that when we see them all coming together around us on the earth, we can act accordingly.
One thing is certain, none of these events are within our control. When we try to predict and theorize outside of the plain meaning of the text, we are in danger of idolatry. G-d is in absolute control of all these things and His Son is our peace.
© Alastair Brown 2015
 I’ve chosen the Greek Iesous (888) over the Hebrew Yeshua (386/380) and Yehoshua (385/391) because in keeping with the Greek text the number must correspond to the Greek formula based on the Greek number 666