In Revelation chapter 13 we learn the identity and tactics of the earthly powers Satan uses:
“I [John] saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.
The beast I saw resembled a leopard but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion.
The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.
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. People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?”
The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months.
It opened its mouth to blaspheme God and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.
It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:1-8).
The beast from the sea
In describing the beast from the sea, John gives the most details of any of the prophetic symbols in the Bible, so we can be sure of its identity.
First of all, this beast is not some obscure entity appearing out of nowhere. Both the sand of the sea and the sea itself are symbols of the densely populated “tribes, tongues, and nations” that gave rise to this fearsome power. The beast itself looks a lot like Satan the dragon of chapter 12.
Like the dragon, it has seven heads and ten horns. The most notable difference is that the dragon has crowns on its head and the beast has crowns on its horns which represent the empires that oppressed God’s chosen representatives through the ages (video 3 ).
Thus, the fact that “the beast… was like a leopard” lets us know that the Greek-Hellenic empire with its philosophy and worldview is the foundation of Roman and European culture, even having a major influence on the theology of the Christian church.
“[The beast’s] feet were like the feet of a bear”, suggests that the beast handles its affairs like the ancient Persians. We learn in the books of Esther and Daniel 6 that the Persians used infallible, unchangeable laws and a highly organized administration to wage political warfare.
The “mouth like the mouth of a lion” symbolizes Babylon, and the “mouth” of Babylon was the Chaldean priesthood with their mysterious rituals and liturgies.
Finally, the ten horns were like those that appeared on the Roman monster, the most formidable force for coercion and oppression that the world has ever known.
The beast blasphemes
Although the beast shares the characteristics of these great earthly empires, its power is more than human:
- “The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority” (Revelation 13:2),
- “[The beast] was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months… to make war with the saints and to overcome them” (Revelation 13:5-7).
In video 43 I suggested that Bible prophecy seems to have an obsessive focus Church of the Middle Ages. That is so, because coercion and persecution, the antithesis of God’s character of love and freedom, was carried out in the name of Jesus. This is the most offensive form of blasphemy against God!
Revelation 13 pulls no punches in pinning this on the beast from the sea: “He was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemy… for forty-two months; He opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle and those who dwell in heaven” (Revelation 13:5,6).
It is gross blasphemy to carry out imprisonment, torture, brutal religious wars, and murder, and then to claim that these were done according to the will and direction of God. But that is what the medieval union of church and state did.
Ironically, Satan “the lawless one” also promotes the law of God, but in a radically different way. He portrays the law as a list of rules that must be kept in order to avoid punishment. He presents God as some kind of creepy celestial Santa Claus who “knows if you’ve been bad or good”, ready to reward, withhold, or punish based on your performance. He takes the simple, intuitive principles of the law that everyone can agree with, and multiplies them into innumerable arbitrary and unreasonable requirements. And most of all, he uses his perverted claims about the law to distort and malign God’s character, and to bring accusations against His followers.
The events described in Revelation 13 were horrendous. However, it was the Dark Ages that gave rise to the Protestant Reformation, the greatest flood of Divine light since the time of the apostles. But even the Reformation pales in comparison to what God has in mind for his lost children during the final events. The gospel will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, great multitudes of people will see God’s true character and choose life with Him, and the end of sin and Satan will come.
There is a good ending to this story.
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