The Dragon began his war on the “seed of the woman” by summoning his “seed,” the beast from the sea – Revelation 13:1-5.
The “Dragon” was poised to launch his “war” on the “seed of the woman.” Standing on the seashore, he began to summon his own “seed,” beginning with the “beast from the sea.” Having failed to destroy either the “son” or the “woman,” he determined to annihilate her “seed,” those who have the “testimony of Jesus.”
Chapter 13 opens with the “beast ascending from the sea,” a monstrous creature with “seven heads and ten horns”:
- (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.”
Here, the “Dragon” begins to implement his plan to destroy the “seed of the woman” by summoning the “beast from the sea,” which 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).
“Beast ascending out of the sea.” The language is from Daniel’s vision of the “four great beasts ascending from the sea.” “Ascending” translates the Greek participle in the present tense (anabainon) – progressive action. It describes an ongoing process, not a single incident – (Daniel 7:2-8).
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 witnesses” completed their testimony, the “beast ascended from the Abyss” and killed them. The same participle is used in both passages – anabainon. Thus, the “sea” is the functional equivalent of the “Abyss,” and the theme of evil “ascending” from the Abyss/Sea is repeated several times in Revelation – (Revelation 11:7, 13:11, 17:8, 20:7-9).
“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 of the Greek noun or 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.
Daniel saw four “beasts” that symbolized 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.” In Revelation, these features are listed in reverse order. This single beast was an amalgam of all four of the beasts from Daniel. It is related to them, but also, it 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” has “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 beast’s claim is a counterfeit of the Lamb’s authority. Its political authority is derived from the “Dragon.” However, previously, Satan was defeated by the messianic “son,” the one destined “to shepherd the nations.” The “Dragon” 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, and in various forms. But it will have one final incarnation as part of Satan’s final “war” on the “saints.”
- (Revelation 13:3-5) – “And I saw one of its heads, showing that it had been slain to 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 slanders; and it was given to it to act forty-two months.”
The slaying of one of the “heads” evokes the prophecy from Genesis – “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” – (Genesis 3:15).
The verb rendered “slain” is sphazō – to “slay; slaughter,” and is the Greek word used 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 “as having been slain” – (hōs esphagmenon – Revelation 5:6).
Thus, there is a conceptual link between the deaths of the “Lamb” and that of 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 was confirmed when the “beast” received the “stroke of the sword and lived [ezésen].” The same form of the verb was applied previously to Jesus, the one “who became dead and lived [ezésen]” – (Revelation 2:8).
The beast’s “head” was slain by a “plague of death” (plégé). How this was administered is not explained. The use of plégé suggests that God caused its “death.” Later, this death is called the “stroke of a sword” – (Revelation 13:14).
The head’s death 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 do so for only 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 Daniel:
“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” – (Daniel 7:11-12).
Only one of the “seven heads” was slain. Elsewhere, they represent seven kingdoms. Thus, the death of the “head” does not portray the death of an individual man, but the fall of a kingdom – (Revelation 17:10).
The “whole earth marveled after the beast” because it lived again; that is, the “inhabitants of the earth.” Those who gave allegiance to the “beast” rendered homage to the Dragon, the power behind the throne.
“Who is like the Beast” – A parody of biblical declarations about God (e.g., “Who is like you, O Yahweh, among the gods?”). The “inhabitants of the earth” ascribe to the “beast” the honors that belong to God alone.
“Who can make war with the beast?” 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 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.”
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 Daniel, the fourth beast “trampled the remnant with its feet” for the designated period – “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 time when the “Dragon” wages a furious campaign through his earthly agents against the “saints” – “those who have the testimony of Jesus.”