What is the Beast of Revelation?
The Symbol of the Beast is Explained in Revelation 17
Who, or what, is the beast of Revelation? We cannot know the Mark of the Beast or any other details until we trace the history of kingdoms, both spiritual and earthly. The end-time beast can be considered as a spiritual kingdom, or the driving force behind religio-political systems on earth.
This evil spirit beast we are looking at is not the anti-christ mentioned in Revelation that describes a person. That topic will be discussed separately in the “Who is the Anti-Christ?” article.
We first need to look at Daniel chapters 2 and 7 so we can see the difference between earthly and spiritual kingdoms. After studying the original context, we can understand the beast of Revelation.
We begin with Daniel 2:31-45 – this section primarily comprises earthly kingdoms. It ends with the heavenly kingdom being firmly established on earth. The passage describes the famous statue vision of Nebuchadnezzar that is interpreted through Daniel.
There are 5 successive earthly kingdoms in the vision. We are focused on the 4th and 5th because they are important to know later for our Revelation study. The first 3 are historical and have no direct impact within end times. The 4th kingdom is ancient Rome, which has more of an impact.
The 5th kingdom interpretation explains the feet and toes of the statue. The toes do not mean ancient Rome is revived in the end times, even though there is still iron present in the feet of the statue vision. The toes are a distinct kingdom from Rome’s legs of iron, but there is an interesting association that we will examine later in Daniel 2:40-41 and in Revelation 17.
The relationship to end times is referenced in verse 34 of Daniel Chapter 2 – As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet
Christ’s kingdom is the “stone.” This Stone strikes the feet at the second coming. The beast, the evil kingdoms of the earth, and the anti-christ are destroyed at Christ’s next advent.
We know from Revelation 17:12 that 10 kingdoms, described as horns, are futuristic from the time when John penned Revelation. After considering all related passages, we can infer that the 10 horns of Daniel 7, Revelation 13, and Revelation 17, along with the 10 toes of Daniel 2, are the same group of 10 symbolic leaders contemporaneous to each other within the end times.
Next, we see the stone turning into a mountain that becomes the eternal kingdom physically established on earth. However, this mountain is not heavenly Mount Zion that exists today such as referenced in Hebrews 12:22.
In verse 35 of Daniel 2 we notice – the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
There are other passages that describe Christ’s heavenly kingdom as it stands today. We should understand the differences between Christ’s present reign compared to His future reign on earth. The disciples knew that the kingdom on earth was yet to come (Acts 1:6-11).
Filling the whole earth with Christ’s physical kingdom is part of the inheritance theme described throughout Scripture. It is the promised land fulfilled at last. We do not need to speculate if it was fulfilled figuratively in the Old Testament or the first century. This topic is thoroughly described in Hebrews 11:8-16. There are also brief references such as Psalm 37:29 repeated in Matthew 5:5. Christ literally grants the completed land promise of heaven on earth just after the second advent, after the beast is destroyed.
Next, we see Daniel explains the differences between the 4th and 5th kingdoms as he interprets the vision of the statue. Rome is portrayed as the iron empire since it did exactly what Daniel described as the 4th kingdom.
Daniel 2, verses 40 and 41 – And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom…
Based upon verse 44, the timing of the second coming can be firmly established to occur during the 5th kingdom of 10 toes. This is when the stone crushes the statue, and the mountain of God fills the whole earth.
Verse 44 states – And in the days of those kings [10 toes] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.
Daniel 2:44 describes the identical kingdom with the same timing as Daniel 7:22 and Daniel 7:27. We need to keep this important marker in mind if we are to understand Revelation since these prophecies repeat. Daniel uses different metaphors, but they have the same meaning of New Jerusalem coming from Heaven to be established on the newly restored earth (Revelation chapters 19 through 22). “New” is literally rendered from the original Greek text as the “regenerated” earth that Christ prophesied in Matthew 19:28. Eden Part 2 is a reoccurring theme.
Daniel 7 also deals with the 4th and 5th earthly kingdoms mentioned in Daniel 2. Here we visualize ancient Rome morphing into something that Chapter 2 explained little about. The 10 toes are described as 10 horns in verse 7of Daniel Chapter 7 –
… behold, a fourth beast, It had greatiron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.
Iron is mentioned in the 4th beast which is associated with Rome. We notice its transition from the old Roman empire splitting into many power centers (horns) of the 5th kingdom. This occurs over hundreds of years until the completeness of 10 comes at the end of the age. 10 symbolizes the entire earth, even though this group is described as divided nations. In the end, they agree to hand all their authority over to the devil’s empire of the beast (see Revelation 17:17). A separate discussion will examine Rome’s collapse and a resulting global dust cloud effect that morphs into unity at the end of days.
There is no need to figure out which 10 countries or what 10 leaders comprise the last kingdom on earth. The Bible does not hint of a necessity for an earthly power like a European Union or United Nations to take over the world. We should hold to the fact that Daniel stated the 10 are “divided” nations. They do not bond well, but they will be like-minded. Their solidarity will be to relinquish their power to the anti-christ.
The 4th and 5th kingdoms are different as we notice in verses 23 and 24 of Daniel 7 –
… As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth…
As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise…
“This kingdom”refers to the 10 horns of the 5th kingdom, not the 4th beast of the ancient Roman empire that was described previously as having iron.
Next, please take careful notice of another important concept mentioned in verse 11 of Daniel 7 – … And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire…
Daniel 7:11 parallels Revelation 19:19-20 with identical terms of the beast including the 10 horns being destroyed by fire. These related passages verify consistency to the period of the second advent when the stone crushes the 10 toes.
The beast is destroyed in the form of the anti-christ at the end of this age. The anti-christ is a person who dies, while the beast spirit inside him will reap spiritual death of the devil. Only Christ will reign forever after with His saints.
The previously mentioned beast kingdoms of Daniel 7:4-6 will exist during the heavenly kingdom of Christ that He will establish on earth. Even though national leadership will be destroyed, peoples from all nations remain on earth during the judgment period of Christ’s reign on earth. These are called survivor nations (Isaiah 45:18-23). Verse 12 of Daniel 7 reports this – … As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.
There are Old Testament passages about nations being active and bringing tribute to New Jerusalem in the messianic kingdom of the “new” heavens and earth. See Isaiah 60 and Isaiah 66:18-23. These prophecies are the same as John’s vision in Revelation 21:1-3 and Revelation 21:22-27.
Psalm 2:8, Daniel 7:14 and Colossians 1:12-16 provide us with background that Christ receives the entire earth, then shares with us the inheritance of the promise that began with Abraham. This assumes we share the same faith (Romans 4:16). Galatians 3:29 provides a summary – And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. The land promise and salvation are indivisible as referenced in Hebrews 11:8-16.
Ephesians chapter 1, especially verses 9 through 11 and verse 14, outlines the timeline of salvation unto its culmination. Salvation concludes when we “acquire possession” of our inheritance to be granted “in the fullness of time.”
We know Christ’s physical kingdom will be located on earth based upon Matthew 19:27-29, 2 Peter 3:13 and in verse 27 of Daniel 7 – And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints…
Christ has authority to grant the promised land referenced in Daniel 7:27 based on the earlier verse of Daniel 7:14 –
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
Christ rewards the promised land of heaven on earth to the saints at judgment day when we will inherit eternal life in the promised land. Matthew 19:29 – …[we] will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
In the next section, we move from Daniel to the book of Revelation.
The Beast of Revelation 13 and Revelation 17
We start by examining the beast of all beasts, the dragon of Revelation. We will see his relationship to the final beast kingdom that we examined in Daniel Chapters 2 and 7.
Early in Revelation Chapter 12, we notice activity of the devil at the time of Christ’s first advent with a description of the dragon. Verse 3 states –
And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems
To remove any doubt who the dragon is, John’s vision describes the executioner of evil in Revelation 12 verse 9 –
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth
There is something different about this great beast from the final beast mentioned in Daniel. The dragon has 7 heads, where no beast has 7 heads in Daniel. This may mean the devil is not mentioned in these chapters of Daniel. However, Revelation extends Daniel’s original vision by providing us with more information. 7 is a complete number in Scripture, so the devil’s heads convey his complete reign over evil, from Eden to the end of the age.
Next, we notice a 7-headed beast in Revelation 13. The beast of Revelation was fully active earlier in earth’s history and will return in the last days. This differs from Daniel. Each beast of Daniel represents an individual kingdom period throughout the stages of history. The 7-headed beast reveals Daniel’s beasts as a composite and the transition of Daniel’s 5th kingdom of 10 horns.
The major difference between the 5th kingdom of Daniel and the beast of Revelation is that there are no heads in Daniel’s. However, the similarities that are mentioned provide evidence of the transition to the end-time system.
- A bridge between the 5th kingdom of Daniel and the beast of Revelation 13 is the 10 horns. This is a key to understand the rise of the beast.
- The anti-christ is associated with the last form of the beast in Daniel and Revelation. Both chapters speak of a great “mouth” that blasphemes God. The mouth emerges out of the last beast (Daniel 7:8, 7:11, 7:25, and Revelation 13:5-6).
- Under the power of this beast, the anti-christ is allowed to temporarily conquer the saints. This is until Christ comes after the tribulation period. See Daniel 7:21-22, Daniel 7:25-26, and Revelation 13:7.
- Daniel and Revelation both show that the end time beast is destroyed with fire (at the second advent).
The 5th kingdom of Daniel is not a normal kingdom since it is divided and stems from the 4th beast. The first 4 beasts were typical empires. The collapse of Rome did not produce a unified empire, although Charlemagne and others tried. However, there is a transition from the 4th beast to the addition of 10 horns, then to the final beast empire form.
What is the relationship of the dragon to the beast? The heads of the dragon represent complete reign of the devil himself over earth’s history, while each head of the beast represents the devil’s spiritual interaction during the corresponding kingdom’s period. This interaction is through the Prostitute of Revelation 17:3 who represents mankind’s religio-political connection to the devil through these respective kingdoms. See the “What is Mystery Babylon the Great?” article for more information.
The final beast is also a composite of all beasts mentioned in Daniel 7 (Revelation 13:2). It is a picture of the ultimate beast, a summation of all kingdoms under the devil’s authority throughout time since the fall.
The beast is depicted as the dragon’s last kingdom that rules until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, when Christ comes to deliver the promised land (Luke 21:24-27). The final beast is not complete until the Great Tribulation Period begins, when it rises from the pit (Revelation 11:7, Revelation 17:8).
The beast rises out of the abyss, with “pit” sharing the same meaning. It also rises out of the symbolic universal sea. Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 speak of beasts coming out of this sea, while Revelation 17 conveys the beast of Revelation 13 rising out of the pit. The places where this beast rises from are different terms, yet it is still the same beast since they are symbolic locations. The pit means death, while the sea means the entire nations of the earth. Both meanings are correct when we dig deeper into the original texts.
Revelation 13:1 And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.
After the devil is removed from access in the heavenly realm (Revelation 12:7-12), he receives authority to combine his spiritual beast kingdom with the divided kingdoms of the earth. The beast rises from the sea of these divided nations, but they will ultimately unify towards a purpose. They will have “one mind” with the beast (Revelation 17:13). This is the 5th beast of Daniel that gives up all its earthly power to the devil’s final beast kingdom.
There were changes in the devil’s authority from Eden, to Babel, to Rome, and onward. He started with the original authority he was given in Eden. This was diminished after the fall with his loss of direct access to the entire earth. He was then allowed indirect spiritual access. He will be granted full access again in the future. This will occur when he possesses the body of a human as the anti-christ. Please see the Appendix for a table showing his authority.
The devil is presently allowed indirect authority on earth until Daniel 12:1, 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7 and Revelation 12:7-9 occur. These 3 passages are the same period when the devil’s direct access to earth is reinstated. It is at the time when the beast rises from death. We know the entire beast was not active during the time of John since the angel told him the beast “is not” (Revelation 17:8). Only heads of the beast have been active since the fall.
The devil will be granted authority on earth but only for a “short time” as mentioned in Revelation 12:12, with his followers receiving the same time constraint in Revelation 17:12. This authority is granted by God to complete all prophecies (Revelation 17:17). Ultimately, God allows this to fulfill his predetermined will of salvation.
Revelation 13:4 they [people] worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast,
All people on earth will see the devil’s spiritual reign of the beast through the physical reign of the anti-christ. This is after the 10 kingdoms give up control of the entire earth (Revelation 17:13). The Great Tribulation Period begins when this occurs. It is not limited to Israel or other local phenomena.
Revelation 13:7 … authority was given it [the final beast] over every tribe and people and language and nation.
In Revelation Chapter 17, an angel explains more about the final beast to John. The vision starts with an image of a woman riding on it in verse 3 – I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. We should notice that the scarlet color of the beast is the same as the dragon. The other details of the 7 heads and 10 horns are also the same as Revelation chapters 12 and 13.
Next, we find confirmation that the beast was previously active on earth but not at the time of John.
Revelation 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about [going] to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction.
Apparently, the devil was not “living” on earth at the time of John. The only time that the devil seemed to have a physical body on earth was at the Garden of Eden. There is an interesting passage in the Gospels where the devil meets Christ, but it looks as if it was in spirit. Also, he entered Judas as a spirit (Luke 22:3), so these passages do not seem to point to a literal body. God considers fallen angels as being “dead.” They do not have living bodies.
Luke 4:5-6 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.”
Interestingly, as related to our study, the “kingdoms of the world” concept mentioned in Luke 4 relates to the 7 heads of the dragon in Revelation. This Gospel passage confirms his granted authority. Even though the devil does not have a physical body here now, he rules the earth by the spiritual realm. Paul reports his evil spirit realm as cosmic, not earthly (Ephesians 6:12).
There are many examples throughout Scripture about individual kingdoms within a territory like Egypt or Assyria, but not any global empires until the future Great Tribulation Period. There is one unique empire we need to learn about regarding the individual head that was active during John’s day. It is the only one that can explain the transition from Daniel’s 4th beast to his vision of the 5th kingdom with 10 horns.
The beast’s heads are depicted as mountains. Mountains are “high places” mentioned in the Old Testament where humanity and the spiritual realm meet. Ancient Sumerian words like Ki and Kur often related Mountains to the underworld with gods and demons (see Sacred-Texts.com article).
The 7 heads of the beast are not only spiritual meetings between humans and the devil but are also 7 kings or kingdoms that channel government towards evil. The heads are each based upon false religious and political systems during a kingdom period such as Babylon or Greece.
Revelation 17:9-10 the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while.
The 6th head in the succession is Rome, mentioned as the one that “is.” This leaves one final earthly kingdom yet to come after John wrote Revelation. The 7th head is the evolution of Rome to the divided nations that are spread over the earth. They come together with one mind of the anti-christ after the beast rises out of the sea, as the devil is removed from the heavenly realm.
Rome was in power at the time John wrote Revelation and is known to be a pagan kingdom that openly worshipped false gods for earthly gain. Rome’s beliefs trace back to the most ancient mystery religion, worship with the devil. A separate article will cover this historical progression.
The final beast is part of a long chain of the devil’s deception over major empires. This is because the beast is the spirit of the devil himself. The devil has interacted on earth directly through the serpent, then indirectly through spiritual influence over kingdoms. Only 1 head operated during any period, and the beast of Revelation is no exception. All heads relate to the beast during their time of power, however, we learn of an 8th head that connects all heads as part of the devil’s spirit. He has been influential since Eden.
Revelation 17:11 As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.
This 8th head shows a transition from earthly based kingdoms to a pure evil kingdom led by the devil himself through the person of the anti-christ. The 7th head is the last earthly empire of the 10 horns before this final phase occurs. The beast has always existed since the fall, whether in direct communication with humanity through a physical body or through the realm of the dead (demonic influence). Now we understand the link between all the heads.
The 10 toes, 10 kings, and 10 horns references are the global leaders that combine as one mind with the anti-christ to complete the transition to the final beast. Remember that the 5th kingdom began as a mix of iron and clay (Daniel 2:41). They will crumble soon after they try to merge (Daniel 2:43). Humanity will not bond to the devil for long.
Revelation 17:12-13 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast.These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast.
The end comes when all prophecies of this age are fulfilled during the second advent. Revelation 17:14 – They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful. This prophecy was first described in Daniel 2:44 showing the 10 kingdoms being active at the second coming.
We see God’s plan has been in place for a long time. Revelation 17:17 – God has put it into their [the 10 kings] hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled
The only way Revelation can be understood is through context of the entire Bible with guidance from other passages such as Isaiah and Luke. We can strip away at the symbolism to find the literal meaning when we combine and compare all references.
The devil’s kingdom is destroyed at the second advent – Daniel 7:11 and Revelation 19:19-20. This ultimately means there will not ever be any type of reign of the devil when Christ comes to set up His permanent kingdom on earth (reference Daniel 2:35, 2:44 and Daniel 7:27). Only Christ will reign from that point, while he also grants authority for His saints to reign with him.
Revelation 5:10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.
In the next article we will learn about a “little horn” who comes out of the 10 horns. This is the famous anti-christ. We will also learn about the Mark of the Beast. Please see “Who is the Anti-christ?”
“Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.” All scripture quotes in italics.
All bold-face type within Scripture quotations has been added by the author for emphasis.
© 2021 by K.J. Soze