In Revelation chapter 12 John saw a “great sign in heaven”, a dragon with seven heads and ten horns, symbolizing “that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan” (Revelation 12:9). The dragon tried to kill the “male Child” (Jesus), but was cast out of heaven, and then persecuted “the woman” (the Christian Church).
In the next scene (chapter 13) John is standing on the sand of the sea. Both the sea and its sand represent multitudes of people, so the perspective of the vision has shifted from heavenly orientation (the dragon, the woman and the male child) to an earthly perspective.
John sees a fearsome beast rising out of the sea, a beast that looks a lot like the dragon, with seven heads and 10 horns. The main difference is that the crowns of the dragon are on its heads (indicating that its strength is in its thinking and planning) and the crowns of the beast from the sea are on its horns, indicating execution of plans. In other words, the beast is the earthly agent carrying out the plans of the dragon.
There are very close links between this beast and the four beasts who arise from the sea in Daniel 7. Daniel saw a lion, a bear, a leopard and a monster with 10 horns, which symbolized the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman and Papal empires that oppressed God’s chosen people.
The beast from the sea of Revelation 13 is a composite of these beasts: it was “like a leopard”, had the “mouth of a lion”, the “feet of a bear” and had “ten horns” (Revelation 13:1,2). This shows that the sea beast has some of the particular characteristics of these ancient empires that were the enemies of God’s people (see appendix 11 of The Book for details about these characteristics).
In Daniel 7 a “Little Horn” arises from the Roman monster; a study of this prophecy shows that the Little Horn is the papal Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages. A careful comparison of the Beast from the Sea of Revelation 13 with the “little horn” shows that they are the same entity. For example:
The little horn had “a mouth speaking… pompous words against the Most High” (Daniel 7:8,25). Likewise, the Sea Beast “was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies…and he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God” (Revelation 13:6). This description fits the medieval papacy, which had a long history of pompous, blasphemous claims, such as that of pope Leo VII who, in his pastoral letter “The Reunion of Christendom” of June 20, 1884, asserted that “we (the popes) hold on this earth the place of God Almighty”.
The little horn “was making war against the saints and prevailing against them” and “shall persecute the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:21,25). Likewise, the Sea Beast was allowed “to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue and nation” (Revelation 13:7). Again the papacy of the Middle Ages fits the specifications, having carried out the inquisition, the crusades, and the persecution and execution of reformers such as John Huss, as well as a series of vicious wars against “heretics” such as the Waldenses, the Huguenots and the reformed people of northern Europe.
The little horn would prevail “for a time, times and half a time” Daniel 7:25. The Sea Beast “was given authority to continue for forty-two months” Revelation 13:5. In chapter 12 of The Book it was shown that the 1260 days, the time, times and half a time, and the 42 months refer to the same period: the 1260 years of papal political supremacy. These close parallels between the little horn of Daniel 7 and the Sea Beast leave no question as to its identity: it is the political and military arm of the papacy.
The prophecy reveals that the Sea Beast would suffer a “deadly wound” to one of its heads (Revelation 13:3). The Protestant Reformation and particularly the French and Italian Revolutions dealt severe blows to the Papal Church, limiting her ability to exercise political and military power.
In 1798 the pope was arrested, and in 1870 the Papal Territories were seized and the pope became a “prisoner of the Vatican”.
But the prophecy goes on to show that the deadly wound would be healed. In chapter 17, at the very end of time, we see that the beast with 7 heads and ten horns is back, and there is no trace of a deadly wound. And now the beast has a harlot sitting on its back, who is “drunk with the blood of the saints”, and the ten horns have become “ten kings” who will “give their authority to the beast” (Revelation 17:1-6,17). This beast is end-time Babylon, the great enemy of God’s “remnant people”.
There is a lot more scriptural support and vital information about the beast with 7 heads in chapters 13 and 17 of The Book.