Beast of Revelation

The Beast in Revelation

The Beast in Revelation’s Wide Influence

The book of Revelation has captured the imagination of Christians for a long time. Not only does it describe dramatic events in a visually rich way, it also teaches us about many different subjects like theology, history, politics, and even economics. These subjects all converge on a major character called “The Beast.” You know, that character which has inspired so many mediocre B-movies and heavy metal album covers. We have all known immature high-schoolers who giggled any time they saw the number ‘666’ scrawled on a bathroom wall. But there are some important lessons we can learn from studying who the Beast is and what the Mark Of The Beast is all about that apply to our lives right now.

Two Visions of a Beast

It all starts in Revelation 13. Here is what it says.

Revelation 13

1 And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its 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. 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 filled with wonder and followed the beast. 4 People 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 wage war against it?”

5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them.

In this passage, the apostle John gives details about what the Beast looks like, how he talks, who he has power over, and how long he rules. He who has ears, let him hear.

In this article, I will compare the Beast in Revelation to the vision Daniel sees of beasts in Daniel 7. Let’s look at Daniel 7 which was written 500-600 years before Revelation.

Keep this in mind from John’s vision: ten horns, ten crowns, seven heads, coming out of the sea, body of a leopard, feet like a bear, mouth of a lion. So what did Daniel see in chapter 7? He saw four beasts also coming out of the sea. What similarities do you observe?

Daniel 7

3 And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another. 4 The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human [e]mind also was given to it. 5 And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’ 6 After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.

The beasts which Daniel sees were a lion, a bear, a leopard, and one with ten horns. The image was interpreted for Daniel later in the chapter (vv. 15-27). Therefore, we know each of the beasts represent kings and the horns on the fourth beast are also kings.

Now compare that to Revelation. The different parts of the Beast are made from the four beasts in Daniel; body of a leopard, feet of a bear, mouth of a lion, and ten horns. Not every detail lines up. The Beast has seven heads for instance. Daniel’s fourth beast has iron teeth and bronze claws which aren’t included in Revelation. But there is enough to see that the two beasts share many similarities. Further, in Revelation 17:9-13, the ten horns and seven heads of the Beast are identified as kings just like the ten horns of the fourth beast in Daniel’s dream. 

One Beast Represents Reality of Governments

Before I point out my conclusions concerning these two passages of scripture, I acknowledge they are both difficult to interpret, and you will find a variety of perspectives among theologians. Therefore, I am not dogmatic on the subject. My approach is to carefully observe what is written and do my best to offer reasonable comments.

With that in mind, I conclude two things. First, the Beast in Revelation is also the 4th beast in Daniel’s vision. I believe this is true because of the visual similarities, but also because Daniel’s 4th beast and Revelation’s Beast both come out of the sea, declare blasphemies, make war against God and His people, rule for 42 months, and will be defeated by Jesus. Second, the Beast also more generally represents earthly kingdoms or governments (read: “the State” in the Rothbardian sense) because he is an amalgamation of the other 3 beasts in Daniel. He is one individual but even within his description you see a broader administration with the kings of the 7 heads and 10 horns. The Beast is a composite or multilayered image being a representation of earthly political power but also a specific person having a prominent role in end time events.

Let us consider a couple of implications. Categorically, it shows that earthly power in whatever form it takes ends up opposing God’s authority. Human authorities are set up by God to punish evildoers according to Romans 13. However, the counterbalance to this idea is that they tend towards corruption, instead becoming the evildoers themselves as seen in these passages. In the next section, I will take a closer look at the Beast looking at both Revelation and Daniel to understand his character and make some broader applications about how Christians should view government.

Governments are Beastly

beast of revelation 01Even though the Beast is a single character acting individually during the end-times, his visual appearance is a composite made up of other kingdoms. Therefore, what we learn about the Beast teaches us more broadly about political systems, whether they be kings, politburos, or representative governments.

To start, describing kings as beasts communicates something worth noting. The word beast has a connotation of something that is wild, dangerous, hungry, and aggressive. The beast images in Daniel and Revelation reinforce this intuition by describing the beasts as conquering, eating, and destroying. What is true of any beast is emphasized in the image of the Beast that Daniel sees.

Daniel 7

7 After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet.

Beasts are to be feared. They are to be avoided when possible. When that isn’t possible you need to protect yourself from them. Not every king is a bad king, true. However, it is wise to apply the same logic to any government because of their basic beastly nature.

Governments Target God and His People

Even more concerning is how the Beast speaks and acts towards God and His people.

Daniel 7

25 He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. 26 But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever.

Revelation 13

5 There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. 6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.

Revelation 17

3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns…

14 These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.

The Beast speaks out against God and wages war against believers. His anger and hatred is focused on a specific target. From the image of the Beast flows the principle that governments are an enemy of God and pose a major threat to His people. Obviously the Beast is a unique character with a unique mission against Christians, but my interest is more the principles we can draw about how we think and interact with governments today. The Christians in the Daniel and Revelation passages could be Jewish Christians only or they could refer to the whole Church. I recognize there are different schools of thought around this issue, but those differences do not affect this discussion. 

Not only does the Beast target believers in the end times, we see earthly political powers following his example targeting God’s people throughout history. This even begins in the Old Testament with the Hebrews, as Israel was enslaved by the kings of Egypt. In the book of Esther, laws were written in the Persian Empire to kill all the Jews, though they were thwarted. In the book of Zechariah, he prophesies against the leaders of Israel for oppressing and killing their own people. The Roman imperial government put Jesus to death, then persecuted the Church for over 300 hundred years. 

Beyond biblical times, some Muslim countries still oppress Christian communities as second-class citizens or dhimmis. In the French Revolution, the new government executed many priests and religious people. The Russian Revolution did the same thing on a larger scale. Laws in the US today persecute Christians for not pledging allegiance to secular notions of morality.

Church Fathers on Government

In support of this idea, multiple early church fathers in the 2nd-5th centuries were suspicious of government.

“All the powers and dignities of this world are not only alien to, but are enemies of God. Through them, punishments have been determined against God’s servants. Through them, too, penalties prepared for the impious are ignored.” – Tertullian

“So we have no pressing inducement to take part in your public meetings. Nor is there anything more entirely foreign to us than affairs of state.” – Tertullian

“Christians are not allowed to use violence to correct the delinquencies of sin.” – Clement of Alexandria

“We are to scorn trying to ingratiate ourselves with kings or any other men – not only if their favor is to be won by murderers, licentiousness, or deeds of cruelty – but even if it involves impiety towards God, or any servile expressions of flattery and fawning.” – Origen

“Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, ‘What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor’.” – Augustine

Not every church father or theologian has had such a negative view of government. But looking at the nature of the Beast started me down a path. The first, and very obvious, step is to consider the Beast as an enemy of God. The next step is to recognize that the Beast is not just one person (though he is one person) but also multiple sets of kings, the seven heads and the ten horns. At the end of the path, is the realization that looking at the image of the Beast widens our view to earthly kingdoms. Maybe not every king is a bad king. As much as a government upholds justice and protects its people from harm, Christians should support and encourage it. However, that doesn’t change the biblical principle that the consistent adversary and most dangerous enemy to Christians is government.

How to Tame Governments

The next logical thing is to decide what the Church must do to protect itself from such a formidable enemy. Whether in a personal situation or on a national scale, the very last option is defensive force. Only in a worst-case scenario should we consider taking up arms. Thoughtful personal defense includes several things first, like avoidance, distance, de-escalation, and a secure home. Likewise, defense against the government beast should include things like separation of powers, rule of law, and healthy protection of rights. Those are all things that set limits on a government’s power over people. At the same time, the nature of a beast is the desire to wield power, to throw off any kind of constraint placed on their ability to rule. If Christians have any hope to tame the beasts which they live under, we also need to seek to reduce the size and scope of government, even to the point of dissolution. 

The more power a government wields, the harder it will be to hold them accountable. In order to do that there are many other things we should do. The more money a government has access to, the more power they have to act. Therefore, it is important to minimize the amount of money they take in taxes and remove their control over money and banking. It is harder for them to oppress citizenry when it is easier to move out of their area of jurisdiction. So Christians should push for political decentralization. That means breaking up existing governments into smaller geographic components. It also means giving local levels of government more autonomy under national or federal levels. Lastly, it means building up non-governmental institutions that work to take care of society. These activities are things like retirement planning, homeless care, healthcare, elderly care, unemployment protection, etc. We need churches, extended families, private charities, businesses and other organizations to take more responsibility away from all levels of government.

This is how we defang the Beast. It will not prevent the Beast in Revelation from emerging in the last days, but it will protect people from oppression and violence now. In addition, the world that Christians build today could also determine how believers can protect themselves from the Beast in the future.

The Vision of The Mark of the Beast

beast of revelation 02Revelation 13

16 And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17 and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.

The idea of the Mark of the Beast has probably captured the imaginations of pop culture even more than the Beast himself. Nothing has ignited more fear and inspired more art ranging from thought-provoking to brain-dead. I found some fun comic book cover art on the subject and interspersed it through the article for your enjoyment. You can judge where in the thought-provoking-to-brain-dead spectrum they fall. First, I will address what this mark means. Then, I can discuss how these ideas flow out of previous sections of the article. Last, I will lay out the real-world implications and what measures should Christians take today to prepare the Church. 

The Mark of the Beast Defined

When John writes that people will be marked by this name or number. By that he means either something printed or branded on the skin like is done with cattle. The mark itself is the name of the beast or his number, 666. Bear in mind that John is writing down what he is seeing, and so much of what he sees is symbolic in nature. That is clearly the case with the Beast. He isn’t saying a beast who has seven heads and ten horns will literally walk the earth. Also, in Revelation 17 John says the Beast will make war with the Lamb. We know the Lamb symbol is intended to be Jesus, based on the context of Revelation. John sees people taking a mark or brand on their head or right hand in a vision. God is communicating truth through the vision, but the vision isn’t always like watching a movie God took of the future. Therefore, it doesn’t mean that people will have a physical marking somewhere on their body. It could and I would not rule out that possibility, but it isn’t necessarily the case.

The bigger point is what the mark represents. It means that people will place their faith in and declare allegiance to the Beast in some way. The Beast’s name or number means that people will identify their lives with him. In a similar way today, it is possible for people to misplace their devotion and allegiance on politicians, their own nation, or their own race. In the future according to Revelation, people will connect their life to him and publicly show that the Beast is their master. It is much like what we Christians do with Jesus. We publicly identify ourselves with Him in baptism (which is frequently called a “mark” of a Christian) and through public worship. The location of the mark represents that they will serve him with their thoughts (the head) and will work to accomplish his will on the earth (the right hand). Read the passages below. One comes before the mark is mentioned in chapter 13. The other is from later in Revelation.

beast of revelation 03Revelation 13

the whole earth was amazed and followed after 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, and who is able to wage war with him?”…7 It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them…8 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 slain.

Revelation 19

20 he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image

You can observe that the act of receiving the mark is coupled with worshiping the beast. Some people are worried that they will somehow be tricked into taking the mark, but it should be clear that taking the mark is an act of the will. People will be aware of what they are doing. Embedded in the original passage I showed is the threat he will use to convince people to take the mark. Some won’t need persuasion. Others may need to be convinced by force. The Beast will threaten people’s very lives. 

Revelation 13

17 and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark

The Mark of the Beast in the World Today

Only those who base their life on worshiping Jesus will have a reason to refuse the mark. As I wrote in a previous section, the Beast and his earthly shadows; secular governments, the little beasts; are belligerent towards God and His people. If we are to follow Jesus, believers need to realize that our major adversary in the physical world is government. 

Throughout history and up until today, using similar policies, states have tried to force Christians to show loyalty to their regime. Rome in the 1st century required all citizens to worship Caesar as a god. Christians were correct to disobey even though it caused severe persecution. State churches in the medieval and early modern periods went so far as to put dissenters to death. Current secular governments set up social credit scores to control access to capital and markets. Progressives “cancel” anyone who defies their politically correct speech standards. These are all examples of “beasts” requiring people to take their “mark”.

Revelation 13

6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God… 7 It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them

beast of revelation 04The Beast attacks God and His people with ideas, in the economy, and with war. He attacks with ideas through the blasphemies he speaks, which are mentioned in Revelation 13:6 and other areas in Daniel and Revelation. He attacks us economically by requiring the mark for entry into the market. Last but not least he openly engages in violence against Christians. The same can be said for governments around the world today. Few governments are in open warfare against Christians but they all are engaging in ideological and economic war against us. They are pushing immorality of all sorts and calling it good. They even take pride in it (hint, hint). These messages don’t always come straight from the government, but they use large corporations and politically affiliated organizations to speak for them. They accuse Christians of bigotry. When they do what is the usual outcome? Or what do those in power target when attacking Christian “bigotry”. They try to take away our ability to make a living. They try to remove us from the market. It is more subtle than a firing squad but if carried to the logical end, the outcome is the same.

More directly, governments around the world are developing systems where they give people a social score and more or less access to the market based on how “good” your behavior is. It is the beast who decides what “good” means. I would describe this encroaching totalitarianism as the spirit of the Beast. Even though I have described today’s governments as beasts, they aren’t the actual Beast and who knows what twists and turns will happen before he comes onto the scene. But it is reasonable after reading Revelation 13 and thinking through current events to see that there is an observable similarity. That is what I call the spirit of the Beast; the lust for control, the co-opting of all aspects of life under the state, the appetite to expand authority over a wider area, and the desire to punish dissidents.

Revelation 13 gives us a peek into how much control governments want over our lives. It may not start out this way, but at the end of the road the Beast requires that you worship him.

Escape From ohe Mark of the Beast

If believers are to survive while the Beast rules the earth, they will need an alternative way to sell goods or services and buy the necessities of life. In order to do that we will need to find alternatives to the fiat currency systems that are in place. The kind of money that is most common today is fiat, meaning it is declared money by government law. Hopefully, you can detect the problem in the definition. It is set up and controlled by beasts. If believers are ever going to secure their future they will need to find a way to separate money from the state. There are several ways to do this. One option is to reestablish a gold standard. Another is to use a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin or Ethereum. We will also need some form of alternative marketplace. It could be a secure, hidden physical space. Or it could be an anonymous digital market. What is important for Christians is that someone develops an alternate system before the Beast comes onto the scene.

The Immediacy of the Mark of the Beast

Let’s not wait until the day of the LORD to act. Believers and non-believers both need a way out of the fiat currency and central banking systems in control today. We live in a world controlled by beasts of varying ferocity. They take and take from all of us in ways obvious and subtle.

Understanding the Beast and the Mark of the Beast is important. It isn’t just theological minutiae to argue over in a seminary. It is part of understanding our world, God’s plan, and the gospel. God didn’t create a world of injustice and violence. He created Paradise. But mankind sinned and Paradise was lost. Now God is enacting His plan to redeem people for Himself through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To follow Jesus is to obey Him. To obey Him is to take on His mission. His mission is telling others about Him and living as He created us to live; in peace, in justice, in love, and in freedom.