John saw a beast rising out of the sea in chapter 13 that is the prototype for the final persecuting power in chapter 17. The beast from the sea was a terrifying composite of three ferocious animals, a leopard, a bear and a lion, and it had ten horns. These are the same animals which “came up from the sea” in the vision of Daniel 7. Daniel saw a lion with eagle’s wings, a bear raised up on one side with three ribs in its mouth and a four-headed leopard with four wings. He then saw a fourth “dreadful and terrible” beast with iron teeth and ten horns. Adding all of the heads and horns of Daniel’s four animals together yields the seven heads and ten horns of the beast that rises out of the sea in Revelation 13. This implies that this beast somehow embodies a combination of the characteristics of the animals of Daniel 7.

The vision of the four wild animals of Daniel 7 is itself parallel to the vision of Daniel 2, in which Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, saw an enormous image made of four different metals. In order to identify the beast from the sea of Revelation 13 it is necessary to understand Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the four-metal image, the parallels it has with the four animals of Daniel 7, and the relation that these four animals have with the beast from the sea.

Daniel was a member of the royal family of Judah and had been taken captive by the Babylonians where he was put in a school to learn to be a royal adviser (“the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians and the soothsayers” Daniel 2:27). One night Nebuchadnezzer, the king of Babylon, had a terrifying dream which he was unable to remember when he woke up. God enabled Daniel to see and to interpret the dream, which was of a giant image of a man with a golden head, silver chest, brass belly, iron legs, and feet of iron mixed with clay. Daniel explained that Nebuchadnezzer (as king of the Babylonian Empire) was the head of gold. “But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron…that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others” (Daniel 2:39,40).

The fourth iron kingdom would eventually be divided—“As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile…They will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another” (Daniel 2:42,43). In the grand finale, “A stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces…The God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed…It shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:34, 44).

This vision shows in outline form the history of the world empires that ruled over God’s people from the time of Daniel when Babylon ruled until the end of time when God will set up His eternal kingdom. The vision portrays a seamless succession of empires, not a disjointed jumping from one time frame and geographical location to another. As such the identity of the kingdoms should be obvious from the facts of history.


The metal image with its succession of empires is paralleled by the succession of wild animals that Daniel saw rising out of the sea in the vision of Daniel 7. A simple review of history in any encyclopedia reveals that the Babylonian Empire (the head of gold of chapter 2 or the lion of chapter 7) ruled the middle east from about 625-539 BC and its greatest king, Nebuchadnezzar, conquered Palestine and destroyed the Jewish temple. Stories of the Babylonian victory and rule over God's chosen people are found in the books of Jeremiah, Eekiel, Daniel, 2Kings and 2Chronicles.

Babylon was defeated by the Medo-Persian Empire (the breast of silver, the bear) with Cyrus the Great as its first king in 539 BC. Stories about how the Persian Empire ruled over God’s people are found in the books of Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah and Ezra. The Persian Empire was defeated at the battle of Arbela in 331 BC by the Greeks led by Alexander the Great. After his death the Greek Empire (the belly of brass, the leopard) was divided among his four generals (thus the leopard had four heads), with the divisions becoming rival Hellenistic kingdoms. Their rule was during the period between the Old and New Testaments, and is chronicled in the apocryphal books of Maccabees. The Hellenistic kingdoms were gradually defeated by the Romans (the legs of iron, the fourth terrible beast), which “devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled.”[1] The oppressive Roman rule, including its role in the crucifixion of Christ and the persecution of the apostolic church, is found in the New Testament.

In the late third century the Roman Empire was divided into two halves (thus the image had two legs), the eastern empire, with its capital at Constantinople, and the western empire with its capital at Rome. In the fifth and sixth centuries the Western Roman Empire was overrun by barbarian tribes, who eventually became the countries of Europe. In a political sense, they were a continuation of Rome, although divided, and in the image this is represented by the fact that the iron continues in the feet, divided into ten toes.

But a new element is added—the iron is held together by clay. All the other kingdoms were represented by pure metals, so here the mixture of iron and clay represents a mixed, divided kingdom that is held together with something unusual. In several passages of scripture clay is used to represent God’s people,[2] and in Jeremiah 18:4-6 clay represents God’s people in religious apostasy. We can conclude that the feet and toes represent the continuation of the Roman Empire, but as a mixture of religious (clay) and political (iron) power, in other words, the "Holy Roman Empire".

This scenario correlates with the ten horns of the fourth fearsome beast of Daniel 7—“The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom” (Daniel 7:24). Note the seamless progression from the imperial Roman Empire to the ten-horns power. Also note that there is an unusual element among the ten horns—a “little” horn, “different from the first ones” which "shall rise after them" (v. 25).

In Daniel 7 the horns receive more attention than all of the other animals. Verse 24 shows that these ten kingdoms[3] were not originally part of the Roman Empire, but came up later and became a part of it. This agrees perfectly with the history of the breakup of the Western Roman Empire. The empire came to an official end in AD 476 when the Germanic chieftain Odacer forced Romulus Augustulus, the last Roman emperor, from the throne. This was followed by a chaotic stage in which the barbarian tribes from the north, which are represented by the ten horns, fought among themselves for control of the Roman territory.

Verse 24 continues, “And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones.” “I was considering the [ten] horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words…He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time” (Daniel 7:8,24,25).

Like the clay in the feet of the image, this little horn “shall be different.” The difference is that instead of simply having a political agenda, it also has a religious agenda. It speaks “against the Most High.” It “persecutes the saints” and in fact its reign for “a time, times and half a time” constitutes a severe crisis for the church (see Revelation 12:13-17). Worst of all, it tampers with God’s ordinances—“He shall intend to change times and law” (v. 25).

History reveals that the medieval Papacy was the political power that was “different” from the previous powers in Rome in that it was purportedly religious rather than political. However, the papacy ultimately achieved political power over the tribes that became the countries of Western Europe. The armies of Justinian, the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, defeated the Arian tribes that opposed Roman Catholicism (the three horns that were plucked out by the roots to make way for the little horn).[4] The pope allied himself with the “converted” Franks (another of the ten tribes, who eventually became the French nation) and eventually brought most of Europe under his control as the “Holy Roman Empire.” Although this was a gradual process with a number of setbacks, AD 538 holds special significance[5] as the year when the armies of Justinian expelled the last of the opposing barbarian tribes from the city of Rome. This year can be used as a starting point for the “time, times and half a time” of papal political authority, the 1,260 year reign of the "little horn" (see 12 One Thousand Two Hundred and Sixty Days) .

We should keep in mind that although the Book of Revelation focuses on the activity of the medieval papacy in a very negative way, this does not mean that the Roman Catholic Church was worse than other powers and people of that time. It was a brutal era; kings, empires, and other religions committed atrocities every bit as heinous as those of the papal system. But Revelation does not expose them because their actions were not done in the name of Jesus. In a number of passages God says that he acts “for My name’s sake, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the Gentiles” (Ezekiel 20:22), and this applies to His exposing of the corruption of the apostate church. Jesus, in describing the corruption which He predicted would come into the church, said “an enemy has done this” (Matthew 13:28). The “enemy” is not the Catholic Church, the pope or church leaders and certainly is not the Catholic people who often have a close personal relationship with Christ. The enemy is Satan, and God’s purpose in exposing the fall of the church during the Dark Ages is to prepare us for the future, when the majority of the Christian Church will become Babylon, the enemy of God’s people.

The table and diagram below summarize the visions of Daniel 2 and 7. Keep in mind that the beast from the sea of Revelation 13 is a composite of the beasts of Daniel 7. This will become important when we compare the characteristics of the Sea Beast with the characteristics of the ancient empires.

Image of Daniel 2 Beasts of Daniel 7 Empire Represented
Head of Gold Lion Babylonian Empire
Breast of Silver Bear Medo-Persian Empire
Belly of Brass Leopard Greek Hellenistic Empire
Legs of Iron Terrible Beast Pagan Roman Empire
Feet of Iron and Clay Ten Horns and Little Horn Papal Roman Empire

Daniel 2 Chart


It is significant that the sea beast takes aspects of the wild animals of Daniel 7 to form a composite beast—the seven heads and ten horns each represent important aspects of the medieval Papacy. Although the Book of Revelation does not specify what the heads represent, a study of the empires represented by the heads gives some characteristics that fit remarkably well with the characteristics of the papacy of the Dark Ages. Keep in mind that this extensive study of the characteristics of the medieval Papacy is not so that we can understand history, but rather so that we will be able to recognize the "Babylon" power of the last days.

The beast from the sea was “like a leopard,” in other words, in general it most closely resembled the empire represented by the leopard. In Daniel 7 the leopard was the symbol of the Greek Hellenistic Empire. It is not surprising that the sea beast, which symbolizes the European Roman Catholic “Empire,” would be most like the Greek Empire, since Greek culture, values and philosophy form the foundation of European culture.

The first and most obvious feature of the leopard of Daniel 7 is that it is the only animal that has four heads. This aspect is also emphasized in Daniel’s other visions. In chapter 8 Greece is symbolized by a goat with one huge horn, representing Alexander the Great. But “when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven” (Daniel 8:8). This represents the breakup of the Greek Empire into warring kingdoms after the death of Alexander. Likewise, in chapter 11, “a mighty king…of the realm of Grecia [Alexander]…shall rule with great dominion” but when “his kingdom shall be broken, [it] shall be divided toward the four winds of heaven” (Daniel 11:2-4). Out of this division arose the King of the North and the King of the South, the warring Hellenistic kingdoms in Syria and Egypt that fought each other for more than 200 years (Daniel 11: 5-15).

Thus a primary characteristic of the Greek Empire (and the Greek people in general from antiquity until modern times)[6] is to divide into factions which war with one another, all the while maintaining a common culture and identity. And indeed this is a primary characteristic of the sea beast, the medieval Catholic Church. From the time it became the official church of the Roman Empire there was fighting among the various Patriarchates, often brutally and to the death. The church eventually split into the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Churches, bitterly accusing and opposing and even fighting against each other, but all the while considering themselves to be estranged parts of the same body with nearly identical doctrines and teachings. Moreover, the image of Daniel 2 with its iron toes held together by clay accurately pictures the European Catholic Empire that “will not adhere to one another” (Daniel 2:43)—the individual European nations have constantly warred against one another even while bound together by the common Catholic faith.

Each of the four heads of the leopard represents a characteristic of the Greek Hellenistic Empire that is also a characteristic of the papal church of the Middle Ages. One prominent characteristic of the Hellenistic Empire was a highly developed system of pagan mythology, with the gods and goddesses of Olympus, who were in many ways like humans, entering into the daily lives and affairs of men. Greek mythology told the intricate details of their origins and lives, and Greek art, particularly sculpture, was focused on depictions of these gods and goddesses.

In like manner, the Roman Church early adopted the worship of the saints. Prayers and liturgies were offered to them, seeking their intervention in problems and affairs of men. Like the Greek gods, the various saints had “specialty areas” (such as Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers). Volumes of literature were devoted to their lives and deeds, legends developed around their miracle-working powers, and churches were lavishly decorated with art and sculpture depicting them.

A second characteristic of the Greek Empire was Greek philosophy, which was developed by such brilliant men as Plato and Aristotle into a system that became the foundation of western civilization. Although Bible writers utilized some Greek terminology, most notably the Logos (the “Word” of John 1), the Greek concept of the corruptible body inhabited by a pure immortal soul were in sharp contrast to the Hebrew concept of God uniting matter and spirit to create the soul, and the Christian concept of the resurrection of the body. However, beginning even before Christ with the allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament by Philo of Alexandria, there was an attempt to harmonize Hebrew/Christian thought with Greek philosophy. This effort was continued by Justyn Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and the “Cappadocian fathers,”[7] who succeeded in synthesizing the Hebrew/early Christian concepts of God, Christ and man with the Greek philosophies of Plato and the Stoics. This synthesis of Greek, Hebrew and Christian philosophy laid the foundation for the theology of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, most notably the immortal soul.

A third characteristic of the Greek Empire was Hellenism, the pervasive Greek culture that was dominant from the Mediterranean all the way to India. Unlike previous world empires, which simply conquered in order to exploit but left local culture basically intact, the Greek language, architecture, philosophy and culture were incorporated into and came to dominate that of the defeated nations. Even when the divided Greek Empire was defeated by the Romans, its advanced culture still prevailed, shaping and transforming the relatively crude culture of the early Romans.

Likewise, the Roman Catholic Church developed a Catholic culture that was pervasive wherever it was the dominant religion. Catholic festivals such as Christmas, Easter and days to celebrate the saints replaced local festivals, and the church even determined the weekly patterns of eating, fasting, and rest. The laws of the church became the law of the land. The church and its activities were at the center of social life, and the priests and monks were among the most influential people in society.

Unlike the earlier Babylonian and Persian Empires, the Greek Empire did not disappear when it was defeated. Because the Hellenistic kingdoms were divided, the Romans slowly took over their territory, but through the dominant and advanced Hellenistic culture the Roman Empire was heavily influenced. This was especially true in the Eastern Empire after the capital was moved to Constantinople, and with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire the Greek Empire was essentially reborn and continued for another 1000 years as the Christian Byzantine Empire, established by Constantine the Great. A fourth characteristic of the sea beast was the Greek/Byzantine model of Christianity.

The primary feature of Byzantine Christianity was the union of church and state. Beginning with Constantine in the early fourth century, the emperor was integrally involved in the affairs of the Church.[8] Laws were passed giving special privileges to the “official” church, and exponents of opposing views were suppressed or even killed. “Justinian (527-565), more fully than any of the Eastern Emperors, succeeded in making himself master of the church…The Church was now practically a department of the state.”[9] The Papacy followed this same policy during the centuries of its supremacy, but took it a step farther: rather than the church being a department of the state, the state became the agent of the Church.

To summarize, “the beast which [John] saw was like a leopard”—the four headed leopard of Daniel 7, the heads of which stand for the four main characteristics of the Greek Empire: a strong influence from paganism, an underlying doctrinal foundation in Greek philosophy, a pervasive, universal Catholic culture, and the union of church and state.


Another prominent feature of the composite sea beast was that “his feet were like the feet of a bear.” The feet, or paws of a bear are the means by which he applies his great strength to seize prey or to maul foes.[10] In political terms this corresponds to administrative or executive power, so the executive power of the sea beast is like that of the bear, which in Daniel 7 represented the Persian Empire. The strength of the Persian Empire (as depicted in the book of Esther, which gives the most insight into the Persian system) was its high degree of administrative organization[11] and the detailed and permanent nature of its laws.[12]

The administrative structure of the Catholic Church began to develop as early as the second century.[13] Before this, in the early church, each member was expected to contribute to the worship of the church, with local elders and deacons who had been appointed to provide leadership and direction.[14] Jesus Himself commanded that there would not be dictatorial authority by church leaders—“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:25, 26). But by the second century local leadership had been developed into a system of hierarchical rulership with a regional bishop. This system evolved through the centuries into the complex system of canon law with the pope at the head of a highly organized and rigidly controlled hierarchy, which is able to effectively wield both religious and political power on a worldwide basis.

One of the most notable features of the Persian system was that their laws were considered infallible, and in fact one of its prime teachings is that the church, being the body of Christ, can never err.[15] Beyond this, “Roman Catholics believe that the Pope is infallible in matters of faith and morals. This means they believe that the pope cannot possibly commit an error when he speaks ex cathedra, or by virtue of his office.”[16]

In summary, the fifth “head” (characteristic) of the sea beast is its administrative power and unchangeable laws, symbolized by “the feet of a bear.”


The Sea Beast also had a mouth “like the mouth of a lion.” In Daniel 7 the lion represented the Babylonian Empire. The mouth is the part of the body that speaks, and according to Daniel 2, the ones who spoke for Babylon in a religious sense, the “mouthpiece” of their religion, were “the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans," in other words, the Babylonian priesthood.[17] “Herodotus, the world traveler and historian of antiquity, witnessed the mystery religion and its rites in numerous countries and mentions how Babylon was the primeval source from which all systems of idolatry flowed.”[18] The mystery religion of Babylon was characterized by its priests with their highly developed ritual magic.

It is surprising how much ritual magic resembles the liturgy of the Roman Church. “To work most magic, the magician sings or speaks special words in a certain order. These magic words are called incantations or spells. Some incantations form prayers to demons, spirits or other supernatural forces. Magic actions accompany the words spoken in performing much magic…Magic objects include things with supposed supernatural powers.[19]

The Catholic priesthood in their liturgies use just such special, highly ritualized words and actions in order to “create” the actual body and blood of Christ. Even though no change has taken place in the bread and wine that can be detected, they insist that each mass is a renewal of the sacrifice of Christ, and that “The whole Christ, flesh and blood, body and soul, Divinity and humanity, is really present.”[20] It is considered that the eating and drinking of these is an actual partaking of salvation, and this ritual is the central act of the Catholic faith, and in fact the core of the Catholic religion.

In addition, miraculous powers are attributed to icons and relics (holy objects such as the bones and clothing of the saints, pieces of the “true cross,” etc.), as well as to holy places, which are destinations for pilgrims. The priests, monks and nuns who officiate and administer these “mysteries” serve an equivalent role to the priests of the ancient mystery religions.

The sixth “head” (characteristic) of the sea beast is the system of priests who use ritual magic, symbolized by the “mouth of a lion.”


The sea beast also had ten horns. In Daniel 7:7 the prophet saw “a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet…and it had ten horns.” This beast represented the Roman Empire, which was characterized by its powerful and brutal military prowess. The highly organized Roman legions, with their advanced military strategy and weaponry and well-developed road system were able to quickly extend their power to crush all rebellion or resistance.

The Papacy was the successor to the line of Roman emperors in the west. Although the church did not always have its own army, it controlled the armies of those countries that were under its domination. Thus the Franks and later the Holy Roman Empire and Spain became the military arm of the church. The nations of Europe that put their armies at the disposal of the papal church in order to carry out its agenda are represented by the ten horns.

The seventh head and the ten horns of the sea beast represent the military might of the papacy, operating through the countries of Europe that were under its authority, and it is this head that suffered a "deadly wound." Revelation 13 informs us that "the deadly wound was healed." The beast with its healed military head is called Babylon in the Book of Revelation and is depicted in Revelation 17 as a harlot riding a scarlet beast with the same seven heads and 10 horns as the beast from the sea of Revelation 13. Last-days Babylon is an international confederacy of powers that has the same characteristics of the sea beast described above, and like the medieval Papacy it will "make war with the saints" (Revelation 13:7), so much so that the harlot is "drunk with the blood of the saints" (Revelation 17:6).

[1] Daniel 7:19

[2] Isaiah 64:8,9, Jeremiah 18:4-6, Lamentations 4:2, Romans 9:21.

[3] A comparison of verses 17 and 23 of Daniel 7 shows that Daniel uses the words “kings” and “kingdoms” interchangeably.

[4] The three tribes that were destroyed by the papal allies were the Heruli (AD 493), the Vandals (AD 534) and the Ostrogoths (AD 553) Smith, Daniel and the Revelation (Hagerstown, MD Review and Herald Publishing, 1972) p. 128.

[5] There are a number of significant dates in the establishment of the political power of the Papacy. In AD 476 the last western Roman emperor, Romulus Augustulus, was deposed and the territory of the western empire was overrun by “barbarian” tribes who were followers of Arian Christianity and who were considered heretics by the Roman Catholic Church. In AD 508 the Franks became the first of the barbarian tribes to accept the Catholic religion, becoming the military allies of the papacy. In AD 533 the powerful Byzantine emperor Justinian issued a decree declaring the pope to be the head of all the Christian churches. In AD 538 the armies of Justinian drove the Ostrogoths out of Rome, leaving the effective authority in the hands of the Papacy. See Smith, Daniel and the Revelation.

[6] Some of the primary examples of Greek factions warring against each other include the Peloponnesian wars between the Greek city-states (most notably Athens and Sparta), the wars between the Hellenistic kingdoms, the division of Constantinople into four “sports clubs” that at one point destroyed half the city and killed 30,000 people (the “Nika riots” of AD 531), the iconoclast-iconodule controversies of the 8th and 9th centuries, the factions who after the war of independence murdered Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first prime minister, and the brutal civil war between communists and royalists after World War II.

[7] Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus and Gregory of Nyssa

[8] For example, the first general council of the church, held in Nicaea in 325, was called by Constantine in order to deal with the Arian controversy, which threatened the unity of the church and thus the stability of the empire.

[9] Walker, Williston A History of the Christian Church (New York, C. Scribner, reprint available from pg. 154.

[10] See 1 Samuel 17:34-37.

[11] Esther 3:12-15, 8:9-14.

[12] Esther 1:13,15, 19, 4:11, 16, Daniel 6:8,12,15.

[13] The “Catholic Church developed its distinguishing characteristics between 160 and 190 AD. The hitherto relatively independent congregations were now knit into an effective union. The power of the bishops was greatly strengthened, a collection of authoritative New Testament Scripture recognized and a creed formulated. Comparatively loosely organized Christianity now became a rigid corporate body, having recognized official leaders and capable not merely of defining its faith, but of shutting out from its communion all who did not accept its creed or its officers...About AD 50, he was of the church who had received baptism and the Holy Spirit and called Jesus, Lord; about AD 180, he who acknowledged the rule of faith [creed], the New Testament canon, and the authority of the bishop” Walker pgs. 59,60

[14] 1 Corinthians 14:26-33, 1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9.

[15] Esther 1:19, Daniel 6:8,12,15.

[16] “Pope” The World Book Encyclopedia, (Chicago, IL 1986).

[17] Daniel 2:2,27, 4:7, 5:11.

[18] Ralph Woodrow, Babylon Mystery Religion (Riverside, CA). Pg.4. This book includes misinformation, particularly those sections that are derived from "The Two Babylons" by Alexander Hilsop, and in fact the athor has since repudiated some concepts and information and has allowed "Babylon Mystery Religion" to go out of print. Nevertheless, there is good and valid information in both this book and in "The Two Babylons" but it must be distinguished from that which is questionable.

[19] “Magic” World Book Encyclopedia, (Chicago, IL 1986).

[20] Joseph Pohle, “Dogmatic Theology” The Catholic Encyclopedia, Accessed 10-21-2014.