1] Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. 2] Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. 3] And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. 4] So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”
5] And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. 6] Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 7] It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. 8] All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
9] If anyone has an ear, let him hear. 10] He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. (NKJV)
This chapter introduces the last of the seven beings. We’ve seen the woman, the Child, the dragon, Michael the archangel, the remnant, and now we’re introduced to two “beasts,” one from the “sea” and the other from the “earth.” There’s a lot of discussion about these two beings. Until the time they’re actually here, this will continue, but it will be seen that John describes them perfectly, not in a “physical” sense, but in a moral and spiritual sense. We’ll join the discussion on the first one in this post.
As we get into the chapter, the first thing is a note on the phrase, Then I stood on the sand of the sea, v. 1. It’s said that this should read, “he stood on the sand of the sea,” referring to the devil as he goes about to make war with the remnant of the woman’s offspring, 12:17.
Then John sees a beast rising up out of the sea and goes on to describe it as having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. There’s some discussion about what this means. Some say it refers to a “revived Roman Empire.” Others say it refers to the leader of that empire. I kind of like the phrase, “revised Roman Empire,” because I don’t know that the actual empire will be revived. And certainly one individual is singled out, as we’ll see. However it happens, it will be a political thing in play at the same time as other things with the same description, or these things being explained, 12:3; 13:1; 17:3.
It was a boast of the Roman conquerors that they never totally destroyed their enemies, but assimilated the best of their societies. Hence the description using a leopard, a bear and a lion. These are reminiscent of the beasts that Daniel saw in Daniel 7:2-7. There, they represented successive world empires; here they embody a single empire with the speed of a leopard, the strength of a bear, the splendor of a lion’s roar.
It isn’t just these physical qualities that propel a particular person into the spotlight. A singular event happens to him: he is mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed, v. 3. This astonishes “all the world,” so that they marvel and follow the beast.
There’s a lot of discussion about this. Did the man actually die, or did he fake it?
The latter is certainly possible. There are drugs and chemicals which mimic death to the point that it’s very difficult to know for sure if a person is alive. That may be, but I tend to the view that he actually dies and is brought back to life.
There are instances, even in our own time, of people being declared dead and returning to life. One such instance is the book, Heaven is Real, the story of a little boy who gives evidence that he actually was in heaven for a time. Another instance is the book, 90 Minutes in Heaven, the story of Don Piper, who was declared dead for an hour and a half, a book in which he describes what happened, both to his body and to himself.
There are instances in Scripture of folks dying and coming back to life: 2 Kings 4:34-36; 13:21; Matthew 27:53; Luke 7:14, 15.
The main argument against the idea that he actually dies is that only the Lord Jesus died and rose again. And that is true. No one has even risen from the dead as He did. The individuals mentioned above were or are still mortal and did die or will die again, though I’m not sure about the folks in Matthew 27.
And what about Hebrews 9:27: It is appointed for men once to die? emphasis added. That’s generally true, but the instances in Scripture are miracles, which don’t follow natural or normal experience.
What about the devil performing such a miracle? Scripture tells us that he has on occasion done marvelous things, Exodus 7:11, 12, 22; 8:7. Revelation 12 will happen in an unusual time, a time where “normal” isn’t necessarily what happens.
There is more than “normal,” or natural, in all this. We read in v. 4 of the dragon who gave authority to the beast. I believe this will be a time when it is obvious that there is more to what’s going on than what meets the eye. It will be acknowledged that demonic forces are in play. Men won’t care, but will be deceived into openly following and worshiping Satan. Such things won’t be hidden, as they are now.
There’s something else here, as well, perhaps only hinted at. We’ve already seen that the devil as active in all this. Verse 5 says that this man, whom we’ll call the Antichrist, is given a voice and given authority. Verse 7 says it was granted to him to do something. This reminds us so much of Daniel 7:25,
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.
You see, and perhaps you’re getting tired of me making so much of it, but I think it’s necessary in these apostate and degenerate times, the devil can only do what God permits him to do. Cf. Job 1, 2. I remember a story of a high school student saying, “Satan rules,” and another student, a believer, didn’t know how to answer him. He should have answered, “Well, he’d like to have you believe that, but it isn’t true. God rules.” He rules even Satan. That’s what got him in trouble originally. He wanted to be God.
In the time spoken of in Revelation, Satan is given great sway, even more than he has now, when he deceives the whole world, Revelation 12:9. Also 1 John 5:19. Satan works through a number of intermediaries to accomplish this, but in the time of the Antichrist, he will have one man in particular to do his bidding. He will be successful: All who dwell on the earth will worship him – but only to a point – whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Our Lord said that this time would be so deceptive and so “real” that, “there shall arise false Christ, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect,” Matthew 24:24 (KJV).
Paul put it like this: …the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason [not receiving love of the truth] God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness, 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12, emphasis added. See also Isaiah 66:3, 4; Romans 1:21-32.
It’s a solemn thing, this having access to God’s Word. This country has been extraordinarily blessed in this manner. We’ve enjoyed almost unparalleled prosperity and freedom. But I’m afraid we’re seeing Romans 1 being played out right before our eyes. Things that were generally unthinkable and unacceptable only a few years ago are openly and aggressively pursued and promoted. We are truly “worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator.” And we see the results of that, too, in our culture. Things described in Romans, the “unrighteousness” described there, are everywhere in our society.
But what about you and me individually” We can’t do much about society in general, but how about in our own lives? Where is the Word of God in them? Do we read the Word? Do we know it? Does it influence our lives? Our thoughts? Or does it sit, neglected and forlorn on a shelf or table somewhere?
O that more Christians could echo Job’s words in Job 23:12, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food.”