Revelation 13

Revelation 13

The First Beast

13 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. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”

And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear:

  If anyone is to be taken captive,
    to captivity he goes;
  if anyone is to be slain with the sword,
    with the sword must he be slain.

Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

The Second Beast

Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in front of people, and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived. And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain. Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.


Revelation 13 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

The First Beast

At the end of Revelation 12, we read of Satan’s rage. He sets out to destroy the people of God. Now, in Revelation 13, we are introduced to the two henchmen by which Satan seeks to destroy believers. They are both covered in symbolism. We read that the first beast comes out of the sea. In the ancient world, evil was typically associated with the sea.

The first beast received authority from Satan, insulted God’s name, went to war against God’s people, and received the praise of the world. It’s easy to read between the lines and see that John’s description of the first beast was quite possibly the Roman Empire in his time. They did all of the above and would have represented this same characteristic to the early church. However, in the end times, this first beast ultimately represents the person of the Antichrist and his power (the world).

We also see that the beast is of the same family as the dragon. There is a familial resemblance. The horns, heads, and crowns are very similar even numerically. We read about how this beast suffers a mortal wound but heals itself. We don’t know if this is literal or figurative but that’s not really that important. What’s important is that this act draws worship from the whole world!

It’s also interesting that the battle scars of this first beast are similar to the lamb we saw previously in Revelation “looking as if it had been slain.” The supreme battle between good and evil took place at the cross where Jesus was slaughtered but where He ultimately turned the tables and slaughtered the enemy of our souls through His resurrection. Yet, in the end times, both are alive and well. Each of them (the lamb and the dragon) claim victory to their respective followers and seal their followers accordingly.

What are the bullet point accomplishments of this first beast?

  • It has a mortal wound that is healed and this will lead to the whole world worshiping it. In my opinion, this is the key to Revelation 13.
  • It was given a mouth to utter blasphemy against God.
  • It was allowed to make war on the people of God and conquer them.
  • And finally, it was given authority over all people who worship it and do not have their names written in the Book of Life.

The Second Beast

Let’s start by noting the differences. The first beast arose from the sea. The second beast comes from the earth. This was familiar to John’s audience. John is pulling metaphorically from the traditions known to the ancients at that time.

According to 1 Enoch 60:7-10 Leviathan was the sea monster which was said to have lived “in the abysses of the ocean,” and Behemoth resided in a “waste wilderness named Duidain.” John is pulling from ancient mythology to illustrate that these beasts are humanity’s most frightening imaginations being brought to reality. They are not playful characters from a children’s story. These beasts are authentic representations of the dark supernatural kingdom that has declared war on God and His children.

In other words, Leviathan and Behemoth are given power and authority over the people of God. This would have been the most terrifying realization possible for the ancient believer. It is a sobering message meant to wake those who were slumbering in compromise.

Who is the second beast? He is a deceiver. He is also known as the False Prophet. He will appear to be gentle and harmless as evidenced by his lamb horns. Jesus spoke of how the false prophets would come in sheep’s clothing.

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Matthew 7:15 NASB

His power will not draw people to him, but instead, be used to point people to the Antichrist. Individuals who love the supernatural and spiritual realms but do not read their Bible will be attracted to him. Those who prefer the miraculous signs and wonders to the absolute and objective Word of God will follow blindly. People will come to see the show and get carried away hook, line, and sinker. In John’s time, the second beast very likely could have represented the imperial priesthood who supported Rome in building their empire.

The False Trinity

Between the dragon (Satan), the first beast (Antichrist), and the second beast (the false prophet), they all come together to form the false trinity. Christ received authority from the Father and the Antichrist receives authority from Satan. The Holy Spirit testifies to Christ and the False Prophet glorifies the Antichrist. Satan and the powers of darkness mimic the Holy Trinity and seek to deceive as many as possible. It’s important to keep in mind that this power will not lack popularity. They will be loved and adored by the world on their path to total deception.

The Number – 666

Consider the fact that since the time John penned Revelation, nearly every generation has believed they are living in the end times. From the reformation, to Hitler, to modern times with Covid-19, every generation has had some kind of perceived end-times revelation. Nearly every generation has also concluded what they believe to be the mark or the Antichrist, from RFID chips, to social security, to Ronald Reagan and even the Pope. So, we must tread lightly and with humility on this subject. The temptation is to read Revelation 13 and quickly apply it to our immediate situation while disregarding the audience John was writing to, and that is a huge mistake.

Many modern conspiracy theorists try to distort the number 666 to fit their agenda but in my opinion, they all fall short when measured with Scripture. It’s important to recognize that the number is actually six-hundred sixty-six and not simply three sixes as many translate it. In the end, it’s safe to assume that John only intended his close associates to be able to decrypt the number. Some of the wisest theologians have taken their best shot and come up empty on the translation for this number. Hundreds of years later, the mystery remains.

If the number is to be translated in the end times, we can rest assured that all those who know Jesus will agree on the identity. It is inconsistent with the sweep of Scripture to assume that true believers would be scattered and confused regarding the identity of the Antichrist.

What do we know about John’s audience? What did all this mean to them?

Well, once you get this far into Revelation you forget that John is still writing to the 7 churches and beyond in Asia Minor. Some of these communities were facing tremendous persecution at the hands of the Roman government. Pagan and emperor worship was widespread and Christians were being forced to decide if they would compromise and bend the knee to worship another or continue to endure in their faith and face the consequences.

They had to decide, are they really a Christian or not? Will they stay faithful to Jesus or leave their first love? If they chose not to worship the Roman emperors, it is speculated they would not be able to receive their “mark” which was most likely a certificate allowing them to buy and sell in the marketplace. After the first beast is described, that section ends with these words, which would have spoken so deeply to the believers of John’s day.

If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

Revelation 13:10 ESV

I personally believe John, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is using these intense visual images to convey an urgent and somber message to each of the communities who were struggling to follow. Your faith will be tested. Your allegiance will be tested. The alarm is being sounded. It is a call to endurance, and it is a call to perseverance. The forces of darkness are summoning Leviathan and Behemoth from the deep and chaos and destruction are on their way.

What does reading this text do for you? I know for me, it creates a perspective change. The things I thought were important matter much less to me. The first-world problems I’ve been so stressed out about pale in comparison to the end of time when what will be required of me will not come from a place of material possession.

My money won’t matter. My weapons won’t be able to defend me. My intellect won’t rescue me. My favorite political leader won’t save me. My heart will be tested. Your heart will be tested.

Am I easily discouraged and quickly filled with fear, and if so, why? If this stuff kicked off tomorrow, would you be ready to face what Jesus would ask of you? The only way is in Him. So what would Jesus say about your relationship with Him these days? These are the questions I believe John wanted his followers to be asking themselves and these are questions that have no easy answers, but they are questions we must ask given the immediate context of this letter.

And speaking of immediate context, I want to speak briefly on what garners the most attention from Revelation 13 – namely, the mark of the beast.

The Mark Of The Beast

I’ve mentioned a few times of how critical worship is to Revelation 13. It is so critical. Let’s look at what the text says before we even get to the mark of the beast which doesn’t appear until the end of Revelation 13. This is what John writes before that…

And they (the whole earth) worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?”

Revelation 13:4 ESV

So, before the mark, there is worship.

It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed.

Revelation 13:12 ESV

Again, the purpose and intention of the second beast is to steal your worship away from Jesus. And finally, in verse 15…

And it was allowed to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast might even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain.

Revelation 13:15 ESV

Again, all these verses are prior to us learning that there will be a mark of the beast given. Why is that important? Because the mark is reserved for those who compromise their faith in some conscious, meaningful way, and choose to worship the beast and the image of the beast. If that’s not enough evidence, let’s look at all the verses after the mark of the beast in revealed…

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand,  10  he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.

Revelation 14:9-10 ESV

So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.

Revelation 16:2 ESV

And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur.

Revelation 19:20 ESV

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

Revelation 20:4 ESV

What’s the lesson here? Worship, worship and more worship. Given all the maniacal speculations that are out there, this point cannot be overstated.

The mark will be a natural consequence to who or what you worship in this life. Remember, back in Revelation 7, Jesus sealed His children on their foreheads. Now, in Revelation 13, Satan is sealing his. What determines the seal is communicated in Scripture by the verses above.

It is, very simply, the object of your worship. The message is obvious; don’t exchange your worship of Jesus for the ease of living. Don’t exchange your worship of Jesus for what’s comfortable or popular. Don’t exchange your worship of Jesus for anything.

True Believers Won’t Be Tricked

Let me be absolutely clear. I believe the Bible teaches if you know Jesus and you are sealed with His Holy Spirit that you cannot be tricked into somehow taking the mark of the beast.

We are told that those who have the mark of the beast will receive the fullness of God’s wrath. Earlier in Revelation, we read of how God’s plagues were poured out on all people except for those who had been sealed by Him. So, naturally, those who hate God will worship the beast, receive the mark, and receive God’s judgment. Those who love Jesus will worship God, be sealed by Him, and be protected from (or strengthened to endure) His judgment. This is why it is so important to have established a direction in our lives prior to the end times. The domino effect of our choices today will naturally lead us to our destiny in the afterlife.

The mark of the beast directly follows a choice and intent to be an enemy of God, refusing to repent of your sin, refusing to accept the forgiveness offered by the blood of Jesus, and refusing to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in becoming more like Jesus. If the mark of the beast leads to hell, then it has to be consistent with the Gospel truth we already know sends people to hell.

Someone who doesn’t know God who takes the mark is no worse off than they were to begin with. They were already an enemy of God being dead in their sin. In other words, what sends you to hell is worshiping something other than Jesus with all your heart, soul, and strength and the mark simply confirms in the end who your allegiance is to or where your allegiance has already been.

What did Jesus say about His children?

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  28  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  29  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  30  I and the Father are one.”

John 10:27-30 ESV

Who qualifies for these promises? Those who hear Jesus’ voice and truly follow Him with all their heart, soul, and strength. If you have repented of your sin and are actively following Jesus, you can have assurance that you belong to God and that no scheme of the enemy can snatch you from His hand. We must remember this as we read on.

Many Will Be Deceived

So, with that said, do I believe that the mark of the beast will deceive some who call themselves believers? Yes. Just as Jesus said, not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom, right? Only those who do the Father’s will. I believe the mark itself stands as a metaphor for our patterns of thinking and doing. What it comes down to at the end of time is whether or not your heart was consistent with your words.

The mark of the beast is described as being on the forehead and hand/wrist. This is possibly a metaphor for our patterns of thinking (forehead) and doing (hand/wrist). This idea is not something I made up. It’s found in one of the most well-known passages in the Bible.

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  6  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 ESV

Look specifically at verse 8. Some of this is not speaking literally, right? By the time Jesus stepped on the scene, the Jews had begun a practice of actually wearing tiny boxes with verse-filled parchment on their foreheads. These were called phylacteries. Jesus condemned the Pharisees for missing the point because it wasn’t about the outward sign. It’s always been about the heart.

They tie onto people’s backs loads that are heavy and hard to carry, yet they aren’t willing even to lift a finger to help them carry those loads. 5 They do everything so that people will see them. Look at the straps with scripture verses on them which they wear on their foreheads and arms, and notice how large they are! Notice also how long are the tassels on their cloaks!

Matthew 23:4-5 GNB

In the end times, the mark we bear will reflect the heart. We all know Satan is a mimicker. The mark of the beast will follow the inward heart condition just like Jesus has produced an inward heart change in His children. So, with that being said, the people who are in jeopardy of being deceived by the mark of the beast are those who only know about Jesus outwardly but do not truly know Him in their hearts.

In other words, we can’t just believe in Jesus and never follow through with giving Him our entire lives and expect that we will experience the richness of His promises. If we do not give Jesus our hearts, our minds, and our souls, we are in danger of being deceived.

You are an image-bearer and the mark you reflect either bears Christ or it bears the image of the beast. Jesus was never concerned with outward appearances. His concern has always been the heart and specifically the object of our affection and worship.

Modern Application

The interpretation of Revelation 13 translated well for the early churches. They were stripped of everything. They suffered under the authority of a supreme empire that hated their God. They were persecuted beyond belief. Refusal to fall in line was an immediate death sentence in many cases.

So, we can easily apply this to our current situation. What if this were to go down here in our country? What if, as Christians, we were marked for destruction by the beasts? What would our response be? Many people (even non-believers) claim they would never get the mark of the beast or follow suit with the Antichrist, yet, Scripture tells another story. The Bible tells us many will be deceived and these powers will seek to deceive even the elect, if possible.

“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.  25  “Behold, I have told you in advance.

Matthew 24:24-25 NASB

The question is not necessarily what you will do at that time, but what are you doing now? If you are not taking up your spiritual armor daily, how will you then have wisdom later? If you are not stepping out in faith and strengthening your relationship with Jesus, the owner of all knowledge, then how do you expect to have discernment later? Jesus tells us to stay sober and be ready.

Behold, He says, I have told you in advance.

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