Revelation 13:1-2 (NIV) 1 And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 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.
On verses 1-2: Picture this: While the red dragon representing Satan stands on the sea shore, a beast rises out of the sea. Like the dragon, this beast from the sea has 7 heads and 10 horns (compare Revelation 12:3 with 13:1). Resembling a leopard but also having feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion, this beast is not for God but against God. Each of the beast’s 7 heads displays a blasphemous name, making a false statement about God (v1b). The dragon and the beast are clearly affiliated as the dragon gives the beast his power, his throne and great authority.
Revelation 13:3 (NIV) 3 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 astonished and followed the beast.
On verse 3: The more we learn about the relationship between the dragon and this beast from the sea, the more you may find that the relationship between the dragon and this beast resembles, in an evil and corrupt way, the relationship between God the Father and Jesus the Son. For example, here in verse 3 the beast from the sea is said to have suffered a fatal wound from a sword (see verse 14), but the fatal wound appears to be healed, causing much of the world to be astonished and to follow the beast. According to many commentators, this is Satan’s way of mimicking how Jesus Christ was dealt a fatal blow on the cross but was raised to life by the Father, causing much of the world to follow after Jesus.
Revelation 13:4-10 (NIV) 4 Men 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 make war against him?” 5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. 6 He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast–all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. 9 He who has an ear, let him hear. 10 If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.
On verses 4-10: This beast from the sea is also known as the anti-Christ, a world dictator who will reject the Lord as God and set himself up as a god to be worshiped. Just as Christians worship God the Father as well as God the Son, so many in the world will worship the dragon Satan as well as his “son” the beast from the sea, the anti-Christ (v4). Just as Jesus would speak what the Father would tell him to speak, so it appears that the beast from the sea gets his words from Satan. But whereas Jesus spoke words of humility and truth, this beast from the sea will speak proud words and blasphemies (v5). Whereas Jesus spoke to communicate the truth about God and to honour Him, the beast from the sea will speak blasphemous (false) and slanderous words about God, God’s temple and God’s people (v6). This beast from the sea will wage war against the Christians at that time and seemingly conquer them (v7). That is why in verses 9-10 John urges Christians who are destined to go into captivity or to be killed to patiently endure such suffering and to keep faithful to the Lord (v10).
Elsewhere, this anti-Christ is called “the man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4) and, according to many scholars, is represented by the rider on the white horse in Revelation 6:2.
Revelation 13:11-14 (NIV) 11 Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. 12 He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. 13 And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. 14 Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.
On verses 11-14: In addition to the dragon representing Satan and the beast from the sea representing Satan’s anti-Christ, a third personage appears: a beast from the earth. Whereas this beast from the earth has the appearance of a lamb with two horns, he speaks like a dragon (v11) – a reminder that the devil can sometimes come like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Many commentators believe that this beast from the earth will present himself as a spiritual leader who supports the political reign of the anti-Christ, this beast from the sea. Performing great and miraculous signs, like causing fire to come down from heaven (v13), this beast from the earth will deceive the inhabitants of the earth into worshiping the anti-Christ (v12). He will even set up an image in honour of the anti-Christ for people to worship it (v14).
When you consider the roles of the red dragon, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the earth and the relationships between them, together they resemble something like an unholy trinity. Satan the red dragon is like an evil version of God the Father, the beast from the sea like an evil version of God the Son, and the beast from the earth like an evil version of God the Holy Spirit. In this way the beast from the earth can be compared and contrasted with the Holy Spirit. Whereas the Holy Spirit moves in the authority of Jesus and on Jesus’ behalf, this beast from the earth “exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf” (v12a). Whereas the Holy Spirit leads the earth and its inhabitants to worship Jesus, so the beast from the earth leads people to worship the anti-Christ (v12b).
Revelation 13:15-18 (NIV) 15 He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. 16 He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17 so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name. 18 This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.
On verses 15-18: With mysterious power given to it (by the dragon Satan presumably), the beast from the earth causes an image of the anti-Christ to seemingly come to life. The image is made to speak and can even cause those who refuse to worship it to be killed. The beast from the earth also forces every person to receive a mark on their right hand or forehead bearing the name or number of the anti-Christ. The name, or number, is 666. Anyone who did not have this mark could not buy or sell goods.
(By the way, why is 666 also called “man’s number” (v18)? It is because six falls short of seven, which is often used in the Bible to symbolize God and perfection. The number 666 could also be a reference to this unholy trinity of the red dragon, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the earth.)
What can we learn from all this? Here are two lessons I learn from this chapter:
Though Satan is aware that his final destiny is to be destroyed, that does not stop him from trying to disrupt as much of God’s work, destroy as many of God’s people, and steal as much of God’s worship as he can. Revelation 13 shows us how Satan tries to do this by using the two beasts. But notice that as much as Satan wants to be God, his attempts to be like God do not compare. Notice that Satan needs to resort to fear and coercion to get people to worship him (“Worship me or be killed”, “Worship or you can’t buy or sell goods”). In contrast, God is worshiped in heaven by those who freely and joyfully choose Him. So while Satan may try to mimic God by forming his own unholy trinity, while he may try to set himself up to be worshiped as God, there is no one like our God. No one else worthy of our worship than God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Revelation 13 describes how for 3.5 years Satan, the Anti-Christ and the beast from the earth will reign on the earth and in so doing cause many Christians to go into hiding, captivity or the grave. As much havoc as the red dragon, the beast of the sea and the beast of the earth will wreak during that three and a half year period, God will be victorious in the end. Sometimes, as with most great stories, things will go from bad to worse before they get better, but God will prove Himself glorious and victorious in the end.
Thank You, Heavenly Father, Jesus the Son, and Holy Spirit, for being God like no other. You are worthy of my worship. Thank You that I get to worship both now and forever. In Jesus’ name, AMEN