Unless otherwise marked, all Scripture quotations are taken from the World English Bible (WEB),
which is in the public domain.
"World English Bible" is a trademark of Rainbow Missions, Inc.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
The "NIV" and "New International Version" trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by the International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.
Scripture quotations marked HCSB®, are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. HCSB® is a federally registered trademark of Holman Bible Publishers.
Scripture quotations marked (YLT) are taken from Young’s Literal Translation (1862 / 1898), which is in the public domain.
Daniel and Revelation
Revelation 13 – The Reign
of Two Beasts
Revelation 13:1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads. On his horns were ten crowns, and on his heads, blasphemous names.
This chapter of Revelation describes two beasts. One comes up out of the sea. The other out of the land. First of all we must ask, “What is the symbolism of a beast?” As a review, in Daniel 4 we learned that Nebuchadnezzar was given the mind of an animal for seven periods of time. After the seven periods of time Nebuchadnezzar repented and gave glory to God. A beast is a world ruler who does not acknowledge the authority of God over him. He is against God, or Christ, and is thus an antichrist. Nebuchadnezzar repents of being an antichrist. In chapter 5 of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson Belshazzar did not repent. Belshazzar saw the writing on the wall from God and was killed that very night.
In Daniel 7, we learn about four beasts. Daniel 7:3 tells us the four beasts come up out of the sea. In verse 17 we are told these are four kings which will rise up out of the earth. Here in Revelation 13 there are two beasts. The first comes out of the sea and the second comes out of the earth (Revelation 13:11). In Daniel there does not seem to be a lot of difference between coming up out of the sea and coming up out of the earth. All four beasts are described as doing both. However, in Revelation 13, John does seem to make a distinction between these two beasts. The first comes from the sea and the second comes from the earth.
One clue could be in Revelation 17. Verse 1 tells us about the “great prostitute who sits on many waters.” Then in verse 15 we learn that, “The waters which you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages.” The sea itself covers the globe. Think of the sea and you think of far-off places. When you think of coming up out of the earth, it could be something closer to home.
John is making a distinction between the sea and the earth that was not made in Daniel. John uses the terminology of Daniel in that the beasts come out of the sea and the earth. But the beast from the sea would be a more of a global ruler, whereas the beast from the land would be more of a local ruler. Since the Bible is middle-east centric, the antichrist that comes out of the earth would be more of a local middle-east ruler. I believe the beast that comes from the sea will be a global one-world antichrist ruler, whereas the beast that comes from the land will be the Mahdi and will reign over all the Islamic nations that surround Israel.
I’ve been using the term ‘beast’ and ‘antichrist’ interchangeably as is commonly done. The ‘beast’ is the symbol that we get from Daniel. It means a king (ruler) or his kingdom. The word ‘antichrist’ is not found in Revelation. It is only found in 1 John and 2 John. We should note that John also wrote Revelation. The word ‘antichrist’ means ‘against Christ’. In 1 John and 2 John, antichrists are already with us. There are many antichrists. Anyone who is against Christ is an antichrist. Everyone who takes the mark of the beast is an antichrist because he is agreeing and uniting with the beast (ruler) in his blasphemies against Christ. Thus, both the beasts in Revelation are in fact antichrists. But the individuals who take the mark of the beast are not themselves beasts because they are not kings.
The first beast has ten horns and seven heads. Looking forward to Revelation 17, we find that the ten horns are ten kings, or kingdoms of the world. The ten horns are also found in Daniel 7, which is about the four beasts. These ten kingdoms all exist at the same time (for an hour). Their purpose is to give power and authority to the first beast, who will rule the world. These ten kingdoms will overcome the Christians of the world. But Christ will overcome the ten kingdoms.
Revelation 17:12-14 The ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority as kings, with the beast, for one hour. (13) These have one mind, and they give their power and authority to the beast. (14) These will war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings. They also will overcome who are with him, called and chosen and faithful."
Daniel 7:23-24 Thus he said, The fourth animal shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be diverse from all the kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces. (24) As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom shall ten kings arise : and another shall arise after them; and he shall be diverse from the former, and he shall put down three kings.
In Daniel 7, we learned that the four beasts are modern-day kingdoms. The first beast is a lion, and represents the United States and England. The second beast is a bear, and represents Russia and the old Soviet Union. The third beast is a leopard, and represents the European Union. The fourth beast is the United Nations. All four beasts can be seen in the Middle East Quartet. The Quartet are these four world powers working together to influence Israel. The group was established in 2002, in Madrid. Tony Blair, from England, is the Quartet's current Special Envoy.
The United Nations is the fourth beast of the Quartet. It rules the world with resolutions and has done so since right after World War II. These resolutions have become more and more powerful during the course the baby-boom generation. The ten kings will come out of the fourth beast, which is the United Nations. Eventually, the world will be organized into ten global regions. We see them today as trade agreements. For example, NAFTA is all of North America. The European Union covers Europe. Shortly after these ten global regions are formed, the first beast antichrist will be given power to rule over these ten kingdoms.
The first beast has ten horns and seven heads. On the ten horns are ten crowns. Compare this with the description of Satan given earlier in Revelation 12.
Revelation 12:3 Another sign was seen in heaven. Behold, a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven crowns.
The description of the dragon puts more emphasis on the seven heads, whereas the description of the first beast puts more emphasis on the ten horns. With the dragon, the crowns are on the seven heads, whereas with the first beast, the crowns are on the ten horns. With the dragon, the seven heads are mentioned first, whereas with the first beast the ten horns are mentioned first.
The ten horns are all end-time kingdoms. The seven heads, on the other hand, are historical kingdoms. These are kingdoms which have ruled over Jerusalem and/or Israel in the Middle East. We will see more about the historical seven heads in Revelation chapter 17. The beast of Revelation is about the end-time ruler and government. But Satan has ruled over the course of many centuries. And Satan’s goal has been to rule over Jerusalem and Israel. With Satan, the emphasis is put on the historical seven heads. With the first beast, the emphasis is put on the ten horns of end-time kingdoms.
But we must remember that the power of the beast comes from Satan. Satan rules through the beast, making the beast be an antichrist. So Satan rules over the ten kings. Thus, Satan also has ten horns.
We should also take a peek forward to Revelation 17 regarding the seven heads and the ten horns of the beast. In Revelation 17, the seven historical heads are first.
Revelation 17:3 He carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet-colored animal, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.
Revelation 17:7 The angel said to me, "Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
In these verses, there is no mention of the crowns on either the heads or the horns. But the seven heads are mentioned first. Thus, more emphasis is being placed on the seven historical heads. Revelation 17 talks a lot more about the seven heads than about the ten horns. As we will see, that chapter is about Mystery Babylon, which is about Islam. It’s about the end-time world religion, predominantly in the Middle East. Since Mystery Babylon dates back to the original Babylon, more emphasis is being placed on the historical aspect of the seven heads. This chapter, on the other hand, is more about the end-time global government of the first beast and less about the more regional Middle East government of the second beast.
The seven heads are not just historical in nature. They represent historical kingdoms which have ruled over Israel. These kingdoms all had their own religions and foreign gods. The seven heads are about religions that compete with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Thus, the seven horns are about competing false religions, including Islam. The ten horns are more about the antichrist world government of the end times. From this perspective, the ten horns can be viewed as related to the first beast whereas the seven heads are related to the second beast.
Revelation 13:2 The beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.
The first beast “was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion.” These three animals are the same as the first three beasts of Daniel 7. The lion is the West, including the United States. The bear is Russia and the old Soviet Union. The leopard is the European Union.
The mouth is like a lion. This equates what the antichrist will say with what the United States and England are today saying. The world is being united under the banner of democracy. But the rich people of the world control that democracy. The whole world is following the culture and government of the United States. The first beast antichrist may even come from the United States.
The first beast has feet like those of a bear. The rhetoric of the first beast may be that of democracy. But his actions will be like that of the Old Soviet Union and communism. The antichrist will be in favor of big government, with government supposedly solving all of man’s problems.
The first beast will look like a leopard. The European Union is the model for the ten regions of the world. Each region will probably have a common currency. Each region will probably have individual states but will be a federation of those states, with most of the power residing in each of the ten federations.
Revelation 13:3 also says, “The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.” This brings us back to the previous chapter about the woman about to give birth. In the middle of the seven years, there is a war in heaven. Michael and his angels fight the demonic forces. Michael is victorious and Satan is thrown down to the earth.
Revelation 13:3-4 One of his heads looked like it had been wounded fatally. His fatal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled at the beast. (4) They worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast ? Who is able to make war with him?"
At this point in time, the two witnesses will be killed and the New Jerusalem will disappear. The world will believe the forces of the beast have defeated Christ in the New Jerusalem. They will celebrate by exchanging gifts. But it will be demonic forces which allow the antichrist to make war with Michael and his angels. Thus, the world will worship Satan. And they will worship the antichrist because of the authority and power that he is given.
Verse 3 tells us that one of the seven heads looked like it had been fatally wounded. But the wound is healed, giving more reason for the world to worship the antichrist. What is this about?
Looking forward to chapter 17 of Revelation, we are given several clues about the seven heads. We will examine those verses in more detail when we get to that chapter. But for now, we need to take a quick look.
Revelation 17:9-11 Here is the mind that has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sits. (10) They are seven kings. Five have fallen, the one is, the other has not yet come. When he comes, he must continue a little while. (11) The beast that was, and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is of the seven; and he goes to destruction.
The seven mountains are not the Seven Hills of Rome. The Greek word used really means ‘mountains.’ There is another Greek word for ‘hills’ that could have been used if these are really hills. In the Old Testament, mountains can mean kingdoms. The seven heads are seven kingdoms. Verse 10 says the seven heads are seven kings. The seven mountains are the same as the seven kings or kingdoms.
The seven heads represent historical kingdoms because five have fallen, one is, and one will come. These seven have controlled Israel and Jerusalem. From the time of John, the five that have fallen are the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylon, Medo-Persian, and the Greek Empire of Alexander the Great, which was divided into four kingdoms. The one that “is” would be the Roman Empire. The one that would come is the Islamic Caliphate. The eighth is a revival of the Islamic Caliphate. But it also says the beast once was, now is not, but will come again.
Revelation 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not; and is about to come up out of the abyss and to go into destruction. Those who dwell on the earth and whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel when they see that the beast was, and is not, and shall be present .
Note that the beast, that once was, will return. When he does return, he will come up out of the abyss. The early church believed Nero would return to be the end-time antichrist. Could they have been right? His name, along with his title “Caesar Neron” adds up to 666 in the Greek. What if Nero were to somehow return and somehow possess a man to become the antichrist. Nero had already died when John wrote Revelation. Perhaps Nero is the one who once was, now is not, but will come again. If so, the world would wonder at this miracle and will worship Satan because of his power. Read the verse in Revelation 13 again.
Revelation 13:3-4 One of his heads looked like it had been wounded fatally. His fatal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled at the beast. (4) They worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast ? Who is able to make war with him?"
Revelation 13:5-7 A mouth speaking great things and blasphemy was given to him. Authority to make war for forty-two months was given to him. (6) He opened his mouth for blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his dwelling, those who dwell in heaven. (7) It was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them. Authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation was given to him.
Chapters 4 and 5 of this book cover the reasons why the New Jerusalem will appear at the start of the great tribulation. Chapter 34 of this book, on Revelation 21:9-22, will cover this appearance in more detail. This verse here in Revelation 13 says that the antichrist will open “his mouth for blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his dwelling, those who dwell in heaven.” The pre-tribulation appearance of the New Jerusalem helps explain this verse.
In Greek and Hebrew, the word for ‘sky’ and ‘heaven’ is the same word. If you look up into the sky or space you are looking at heaven. If a world leader today were to blaspheme God’s dwelling, or those who live in heaven, it would come across as very foolish. This blasphemy makes a lot more sense with the appearance of the New Jerusalem, and with the world being terrified. The world will follow the antichrist in blaspheming the New Jerusalem and those who live in it.
I believe the very appearance of the New Jerusalem will spur on the one world government. People will be afraid of it and will push to form a world unity that will stand up against this alien invasion. After all, the two witnesses will surely talk about the kingdom of Christ that is to come. “Authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation [is] given to him.” This will also bring about a hatred of Christians. This is especially true for those who stand firm and agree with the two witnesses. So the world government, under the authority of the first beast, will “make war with the saints, and overcome them.”
Thus, the great tribulation lasts “forty-two months.” “Authority to make war for forty-two months was given to him.” The great tribulation is tribulation for the saints. It’s a great tribulation for those who side with the two witnesses and believe in Christ Jesus for the overcoming of all our sinful habits. Verse 7 refers to believers as saints. The word ‘saint’ means holy one. Great tribulation will bring holiness to those in the Church who will remain faithful to Jesus Christ in the New Jerusalem. These saints (holy ones) who put their faith in Christ to overcome sin will rule the world as kings and priests with Christ when he sets up his kingdom.
Revelation 13:8-10 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been killed. (9) If anyone has an ear, let him hear. (10) If anyone has captivity, he will go into captivity. If anyone [kills] with the sword, he must be killed. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints.
There is a little confusion in verse 10. The KJV translates it as, “He that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword.” The NIV translates it as, “If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.” This sounds rather redundant. The ESV is very similar. Young’s Literal translates it as, “If any one by sword doth kill, it behoveth him by sword to be killed.”
The NIV and the ESV seem to go against the more literal reading of the Greek to make the verse say those who are killed seem to be destined to be killed. But I think the more literal translation is correct. Verse 7 says, “It was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.” War would seem to imply two sides to the battle. But those who hopelessly fight will be defeated.
The overall meaning of verse 10, therefore, is that of defeat. The saints will be overcome by the antichrist and the world government that is to come. This means the saints must have endurance. The verse says, “Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints.” I think the New Jerusalem will not be seen during these forty-two month of great tribulation against the saints. So it will be a time of endurance and faith. It will be a time of hope and belief that Christ will appear again after the forty-two months which are given to the antichrist. Jesus said, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22, 24:13, Mark 13:13).
There is also a translation issue in verse 8. The ESV translates it as, “whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life.” The KJV translates it as, “whose names are not written in the book of life … from the foundation of the world.” The NIV translates it as, “whose names have not been written in the book of life … from the creation of the world.” Young’s Literal translates it as, “whose names have not been written in the scroll of the life … from the foundation of the world.”
Those who believe in a predestination of salvation tend to believe that only those who are elected to be saved had their names written in the book of life before the creation of the world. Both the Old Testament and Revelation speak about the possibility of names being blotted out of this book. But the belief is that no names are ever blotted.
Those who do not believe in a predestination of salvation tend to believe names are written in the book of life when one becomes saved. This presents a difficulty with this verse for them. The verse seems to indicate the names were written before the creation of the world.
The New Wine System takes a slightly different approach. I prefer to translate the verse as, “everyone whose name has not been continually written from the foundation of the world.” This is a very literal translation of the Greek. The idea is that everyone’s name was written before the creation of the world. But when one deliberately and knowingly rejects Jesus Christ as their Savior, their name is blotted out. Thus, those who are saved are those whose names have been continually written, and have not been blotted out. For more information about this verse, refer to section 7.5 of my book, New Wine for the End Times.
Hebrews 10:26-27 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more a sacrifice for sins, (27) but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and a fierceness of fire which will devour the adversaries.
Those who deliberately and knowingly reject Christ’s salvation will be blotted from the book of life. In other words, those who side with the antichrist, against Christ, will lose their salvation. There is no longer a sacrifice for them. The two witnesses will preach that Jesus is the way (road), the truth, and the life. It’s only through Jesus that we can be saved from sin and death. It’s only through Jesus that we can be resurrected. Those who are blotted from the Lamb’s book of life will not be given life. They will not be resurrected.
Verse 9 says, “If anyone has an ear, let him hear.” Each of the seven letters to the seven churches says something along the lines of, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Jesus often said the same thing during his ministry. Even Christ’s lost sheep hear his voice. Those whose names have not been blotted from Christ’s book of life still hear Christ’s voice. But when you harden yourself to hearing Christ’s voice, and you deliberately and knowingly reject Christ’s salvation, you are blotted from the book of life. Those who are blotted no longer hear Christ’s voice. Those who side with (worship) the antichrist to blaspheme Christ, and take the mark of the beast, will be blotted from under heaven. They will not be resurrected. But they will come to life and be thrown into the lake of fire.
Let’s read that verse again in a traditional translation. “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been killed” (Revelation 13:8.) Because they don’t understand the Old Testament teaching about the book of life, most people get the cause and effect of this verse backwards. They assume that their name is written in the book of life because they are believers. They believe “once saved always saved” even though Paul taught we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Then they conclude that because their name is in the book of life, they will not be one of those who worship the beast. But actually, what the verse is saying, is that those who do worship the beast will be blotted from the book of life.
What happens when they are tested in the great tribulation? In the letter to the church of Philadelphia, Christ says, “Because you kept my command to endure, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, which is to come on the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10). In other words, those who endure to overcome all their sinful habits will not be tested. The 144,000 will not be tested. But most of the Church will be tested. Many have been taught the pre-tribulation rapture and given the belief that they will not be tested in the great tribulation. Others have been taught that there will not be a literal antichrist or a great tribulation. But they will be terrified to learn that they really will be tested in the great tribulation.
Christ teaches us to take up our cross and follow him. Christ was ready to die, and in fact was crucified on the cross. We must also be ready to die for Christ. Those who deny Christ before men will themselves be denied by Christ before the Father (Matthew 10:33). Peter thought that he would never deny Christ. “Peter said to him, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ All of the disciples also said likewise” (Matthew 26:35). Peter thought he was ready. But he was not. We must be willing to lose our heads by the sword rather than deny Christ.
Some will think they can take the mark of the beast and then be forgiven. They will reason that they are not worshiping the beast in their heart, just on the outside. But what you do in front of men is because of your heart. They are taught their names are in the book of life so they will not really worship the antichrist. But anyone who takes the mark of the beast will be blotted from the book of life. They will lose their salvation. Jesus said, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22, 24:13, Mark 13:13). Jesus also said, “Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33).
Revelation 13:11-14 I saw another beast coming up out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke like a dragon. (12) He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. He makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. (13) He performs great signs, even making fire come down out of the sky to the earth in the sight of people. (14) He deceives my own people who dwell on the earth because of the signs he was granted to do in front of the beast; saying to those who dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast who had the sword wound and lived.
In Revelation 16:13, 19:20, and 20:10 we find out this second beast is also called the false prophet. So we begin to think of the second beast as a side-kick of the antichrist who is a global ruler. We must not miss the fact that he is introduced to us as a beast. The symbolism of the beast, from Daniel, indicates the false prophet is himself a world ruler who is against Christ. I believe the false prophet will be the Mahdi of the Muslims.
The Mahdi will be the head of the Islamic Caliphate. A Caliph is one who follows or replaces Muhammad. He is both the religious leader and the governmental leader of all Muslims. Under Islam, and the teaching of Muhammad, you cannot separate church and state. Sharia law requires that the government be headed by and controlled by Islamic law. The ultimate form of Sharia law is to have a Caliph who is the ruler of all Muslims and the government. What is a good term for a government ruler who also heads a false religion? It’s a beast who is also a false prophet. I believe the Mahdi will head the Islamic countries of the Middle East region of the world.
This second beast “had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke like a dragon.” The two horns are probably the Sunni and the Shia. The Mahdi will unite the entire Islamic world, which means uniting the Sunni and the Shia. For centuries there has been a battle between the Sunni and the Shia as to who will rule the Islamic world and establish the Islamic Caliphate.
The two horns are like a lamb, but he speaks like a dragon. This means there will be much effort to portray the Mahdi as being peaceful and attractive to Christianity. But he will in fact be speaking for Satan. Islam is a religion that is explicitly against Christ. So it’s a religion that speaks for Satan. It teaches that Christ did not die on the cross. And that Christ was not the Son of God. There is no room for compromise on these two teachings. In Islam, anyone who believes that Christ died for our sins, or that Christ is the Son of God, commits their greatest of all sins. Any religion that teaches these things is moving in the spirit of antichrist (1 John 2:18, 2:22, 4:3, 2 John 1:7) and is speaking for Satan.
In these four verses we find out the false prophet will perform many signs and wonders to convince the world that Islam is true, and to convince the world to worship the first beast. Again, the world will worship the first beast by coming against Christ and those who dwell in the New Jerusalem. It will be very difficult to take a middle ground. Everyone will be forced to side with either Christ or with the antichrist.
One of these signs is apparently that the first beast will be wounded by the sword and then be healed. He will be brought back from the dead. I discussed this issue earlier in this chapter. Verse 3 tells us that one of the seven heads looked like it had been fatally wounded. But the wound is healed causing the world to marvel at the beast. Looking forward to chapter 17 of Revelation, I theorized that the beast could be Nero coming out of the abyss. No doubt the world will marvel at Nero coming back from the dead. Perhaps Satan performs this miracle through the false prophet. But all three will go to their destruction. In Revelation 19:20, the first beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire. In Revelation 20:10, Satan is also thrown into the lake of fire. This is the destruction of their souls. For these three, the destruction is the harshest and takes the longest.
Revelation 13:15-18 It was given to him to give breath to it, to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause as many as wouldn't worship the image of the beast to be killed. (16) He causes all, the small and the great, the rich and the poor, and the free and the slave, to be given marks on their right hands, or on their foreheads ; (17) and that no one would be able to buy or to sell, unless he has that mark, the name of the beast or the number of his name. (18) Here is wisdom. He who has understanding, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is six hundred sixty-six.
Verse 14 says the world will make an image of the beast. Back in chapter 10 of this book we discussed the war in heaven and the abomination of desolation. We learned that the abomination will be a stone structure or a statue on the Temple Mount. In 168 BC the first abomination of desolation, in Daniel 11:31, was a statue of Zeus on the Temple Mount. We also know that the abomination will be set up right at the beginning of the great tribulation. It only makes sense that the abomination of desolation is this image of the beast.
Much has been said about the mark of the beast. Books have been written that the mark of the beast could be a computer chip implanted under the skin. The reasoning is that the computer chip will be used for electronic fund transfers. But how can a chip for a bank transactions cause one to lose their salvation? The mark must be a declaration of the loyalty to the antichrist. It must be a public declaration against Jesus Christ in the New Jerusalem. This is especially true in the context of the book of life just a few verses back.
With the false prophet being the Mahdi, it also makes sense that the mark is a public declaration of loyalty to the teachings of Mohammed. In the teaching of Mohammed, those who do not accept Islam become second-class citizens. I don’t believe this verse says people without the mark will not be able to buy food. Almost all modern-day businesses buy and sell goods and services. People without the mark will not be able to own businesses. They will not be able to own stores which buy from distributors and sell to the consumer.
This is a full implementation of Sharia law. Does this mean that Sharia law will be fully implemented world-wide? It will certainly begin in the Middle-East, which is the region of the world where the false prophet will rule. But there will probably be efforts to implement it globally. Even today we are seeing Sharia law gain ground.
Is the mark of the beast the same as the name of the beast or the number of his name? The verse says you must have one of these in order to buy or sell. So it’s quite possible that globally there will be alternatives to being a Muslim in order to own a business. I believe that having the name of the beast is the same as having the authority of the beast. The number of his name could be a number given on the basis of that authority. In other words, the government will be able to authorize the ownership of businesses. Numbers will be given for the legal ownership of businesses.
Verse 18 begins with, “Here is wisdom.” In other words, this is a riddle for the wise who understand Scripture. “He who has understanding, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. His number is six hundred sixty-six.” The preterist view of Revelation is that the Roman Emperor Nero (ruling 54–68) is the first beast of Revelation 13.
In both ancient Hebrew and in ancient Greek, every letter of the alphabet has numerical values. Numbers could be represented by spelling the words out, or by giving the letters whose corresponding numeric values add up to the desired value. Thus, any name has a number. In the Greek, the name Jesus adds up to 888. There seems to be an obvious connection between 666 and 888. However, this is based on our decimal number system, which didn’t exist at the time Revelation was written. The number 666 can be written with three letters, one for six, one for sixty, and one for six hundred. But there are not corresponding letters for eight, eighty, or eight hundred.
In Hebrew “Caesar Nero” is “Nron Qsr” (pronounced "Nerōn Kaisar".) It adds up to 666 using Hebrew letters. In Latin his name is “Nro Qsr” (pronounced "Nerō Kaisar".) When transliterated into Hebrew, this name also adds up to 666. (Information was obtained from the Wikipedia article on the “Number of the Beast.”) In that same article we read:
In the Nero Redivivus legend, a belief that Nero returns to life is noted that "After Nero's suicide in AD 68, there was a widespread belief, especially in the eastern provinces, that he was not dead and somehow would return (Suetonius, LVII; Tacitus, Histories II.8; Dio , LXVI.19.3). Suetonius (XL) relates how court astrologers had predicted Nero's fall but that he would have power in the east. At least three false claimants did present themselves as Nero redivivus (resurrected)." It has also been suggested that Nero's return to power would be through emperor Domitian, whose style of rulership resembled that of Nero and who put the people of Asia (Lydia) under heavy taxation.
Does this mean that the end-times antichrist will also have a name that adds up to 666? Or could this prophecy be fulfilled simply by the return of Nero? Earlier in this chapter we examined the verse in Revelation 17 about the beast who once was, now is not, but will come again. He comes out of the abyss but goes to his destruction. Perhaps the early Church had this verse in mind in believing that Nero will return. If Nero does return, then there would be no requirement for his modern-day name to also add to 666. Should we necessarily apply a modern-day name to the rules of an ancient alphabet? But it’s still possible. J.R. Church once pointed out that the names “William Jefferson Clinton” and “Hillary Rodham Clinton” both independently add up to 666 when transliterated into Hebrew.
But what about the fact that the world will wonder about the fatal wound that is healed? Apparently, the antichrist is killed and comes back to life. The antichrist might claim to be a reincarnation of Nero. But I don’t think that would bring about the wonder that seems to be described. A better possibility might be that the world ruler is killed. Then later he comes back to life. He would have to be dead for more than just a couple of hours for it to be a great wonder. The soul would have completely departed from the body. Perhaps after coming back to life again he has the soul of Nero instead of his original soul. This would explain why the world marvels at this event. At the same time, Nero would be coming out of the abyss to rule the world again.
Note that some of the early Church believed Nero would come back through the emperor Domitian. It seems that the early Church realized Satan does not have the power of resurrection, which would mean getting a new body. They seemed to think that Nero could come back in the body of someone else, especially in the body of another world ruler. I tend to avoid quickly dismissing the opinions of the early Church with regard to Revelation. They lived in a time when the Church would have still been influenced by the teaching of John himself.
Let’s bring Revelation 13 back to God’s purpose. Revelation 13:7 says that during a period of 42 months the beast will conquer the saints. We find this also in Daniel 7:25, where the saints are handed over to the beast for a “time, times, and half a time.” Why does God allow his saints to be conquered?
The 42 months comes after the time of the trumpets. The time of the trumpets is when the symbolic temple is built. (The building of the physical temple will probably parallel the building of the symbolic temple.) The 42 months is a time when the saints are handed over to the beast. Consequently, it can’t be a time when the symbolic temple is built. After the time of the trumpets, the man of lawlessness will set himself up in the physical temple, proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The Jews would not willingly allow this today. So, this would mark the start of the 42 months when the Gentiles will again trample Jerusalem. During the time of the trumpets there is an urgency, as well as today, to spread the gospel. It’s a limited time of the harvest. But then there will be a time when no more work of the harvest can be done (John 9:4). That will be the 42-month reign of the beast.
John 9:4 I must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day. The night is coming, when no one can work.
When a new believer accepts Jesus, usually there must be a time of sanctification (Acts 26:18, Romans 15:16, 1st Corinthians 1:2, 6:11, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 2 Timothy 2:21, Hebrews 2:11). The Greek word for sanctify is ‘ hagiazo,’ and means to “set apart” or to “make holy.” Sanctification involves the believer overcoming sin by faith in Christ. But it’s not auto-magic. We must fight our sinful natures. The theme of Revelation, as given in each of the seven letters to the seven churches, is that we must overcome sin in order to inherit the kingdom. The Holy Spirit does the greater work as we do his good works. But we must be involved in the sanctification process and strive to overcome sin.
The time of the trumpets is a time when the Church will grow into every nation, tribe, people, and language (Revelation 7:9). It’s a time when all the Church will get serious about overcoming sin. But after the last believer has come into the vine of Israel, there must be a time of sanctification. There must be a time when the Church goes through the desert before entering the Promised Land. This is a time when no more work of the harvest can be done (John 9:4). All believers will be in the vine of Israel. But not all believers will be ready for Christ to return (Revelation 19:7). Until every believer is in the vine, Christians should boldly preach the gospel even if we lose our lives. But when we see the ‘abomination of desolation’, we are to ‘flee to the mountains’ (Matthew 24:15-25). There will be no more work of the harvest to be done after the abomination of desolation. The great tribulation can sound scary. But we know that we are on the winning side.
Romans 8:28-30 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. (29) For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (30) Whom he predestined, those he also called. Whom he called, those he also justified. Whom he justified, those he also glorified.
The 42-month reign of the beast, which is the great tribulation, is included in the “all things” that work for the good of those who love him. It’s a time when the entire Church will be “conformed to the likeness of his Son.”