In Revelation 13 we learn that Satan supported the two beasts. These beasts also supported one another. The question is, who or what are the beasts? Why are they in league together? What does the mark of the beast indicate? While not being overly dogmatic about this, a rational, logical study of the chapter will reveal many answers and clear up a great deal of confusion.
The Beast of The Sea
Satan gave authority to the beast of the sea (Rev. 13:1-10).
Note: In some translations the word “I” appears but it should actually be “he” in verse one. So, it would read, “Then he stood on the sand of the sea.” The “he” is the dragon, Satan.
The beast rising out of the sea is satanic; moved and motivated by the devil. It has seven heads and ten horns, associating it with the dragon of 12:3. Blasphemous names are on its heads. This was manifest in the Caesars as they claimed deity.
To understand why this beast is the Roman Empire, compare this beast with Daniel’s (Dan. 7:7, 8, 17, 23-25). It points to the same kingdom, the fourth kingdom, as the vision of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2. There Daniel interpreted the various parts of the image as four kingdoms starting with Babylon. In world history the fourth kingdom was Rome: Babylon, Mede-Persian, Grecian, Roman. Hence, the first beast of Revelation 13 can be safely identified with the Roman Empire that was moved against Christ’s church by Satan.
This beast was mortally wounded, then healed (Rev. 13:3). The facts fit best with the death of the emperor Nero, which ended persecution temporarily until Domitian revived it.
The beast received worship and was believed to be invincible (Rev. 13:4). The Caesars were considered gods and the empire was thought to be indestructible.
In Revelation 13:5-7, the beast rebels against God and persecutes the saints; making war on them. His authority reached to the end of the earth. The ones who worship him are those not written in the Lamb’s book of life, that is, non-Christians (Rev. 13:8, 9). The meaning of verse 10 is that the persecutors received what they gave. The saints need to trust that God will make things right.
The Beast of The Earth
In the latter half of Revelation 13, the beast from the earth supports the beast from the sea. This beast arises from the earth (Rev. 13:11). If you go back to Revelation 12:15, 16, you will see that the dragon, Satan, spewed forth a torrent of lies and false doctrine (see article on Rev. 12). From this cesspool of religious poison came the false religion of emperor worship. The pagan priests were used to enforce this religion; on the pain of death (Rev. 13:14, 15).
As a false religion, it was deceitful in appearance (Rev. 13:11). It looked like a lamb, but was speaking as the dragon, the devil. Remember, Jesus warned about a “wolf” in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15).
Later in Revelation, the two beasts are mentioned further, but notice that the second one is identified as the “false prophet” (Rev. 16:13; 19:20; 20:10). This shows us that this second beast is religious in nature, a false religion closely associated with the first beast; pagan religion supporting the Roman Empire.
Notice also that this beast performs signs in an attempt to deceive the people (Rev. 13:13-15; cf. 2 Thes. 2:9, 10; Acts 8:9-13).
Finally, we come to the “mark of the beast” (Rev. 13:16-18). Though much speculation has circulated among men, this mark is not all that mysterious. Consider this: God marked His people in Revelation 7:3. This is the counter-point to that. It was used to some degree to control commerce. The number given is 666. What does this mean? Seven is symbolic of perfect. Six is one short of it. Three sixes gives the idea of that which is imperfect striving to reach the level of deity—often represented by the number 3 (think of the Godhead; Father, Son, Holy Spirit).
Here is what we have then: Those caught up in Emperor worship are caught up in a religion that strives to elevate the imperfect (Caesar) to deity. If one was not in this religion, he or she would be shut out of many economic opportunities. Christians were outcasts in society, socially and economically. This really is the most sensible understanding of 666. It is not hidden in bar-codes, a birth mark on a world leader, found in a president’s name, or embedded in our monetary system—whether on credit cards or currency.
Steven F. Deaton