- The beast in the Original Greek refers to a “bestial” man, one who is brutal, savage, and ferocious. In context, this in its context infers that the sea is a dwelling place for monsters, suggesting terrifying, repulsive, and evil things that seek to lead the world and the Church astray. This passage also depicts how God is still in control even over the beast, and in times of insurmountable chaos and suffering (Job 7:12; 41:1; Psalm 74:13; 89:9-10; Is. 27:1). Here, “the beast” makes his first appearance; this may not be the same person all of the time such as the antichrist, rather a metaphor or a theme of intent rather than a specific personality (The reason why we do not always take these images literally is for the reason that this is “apocalyptic literature” written in symbolism, poetry and imageries conveying ideas and representations. Whereas most of Scripture is narrative and epistles (letters) that we do take as literal). At this place, the beast it denotes someone of power and influence who is doing the persecution, and more on the beast when we get to chapter 13 (Psalm 87:4; 89:10; Is. 51:9; Dan. 7:3-8, 16-25). Some say this indicates that the antichrist will take over the Temple and John is seeking to prevent or at least slow it down; however, this is not shown in the text or context (2 Thess. 2:3-4).
- Abyss means “very deep” (the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament word for bottomless). Jewish tradition saw this as a literal, subterranean place, used for the imprisonment of evil demons and Satan, which was actually on the earth (for more detail see Rev. 9:1-11 study). John is using this image to show the beasts “demonic character” (Gen. 1:2; 7:11; Prov. 8:28; Luke 8:31; Rev. 9:1; 20:1).
- Their bodies. The denial of burial was considered one of the most grievous insults and a great cruelty and sin in ancient cultures (Deut. 21:22-23; Isa. 5:25; Acts 14:19).
- Great city likely refers to Jerusalem, but the context suggests it is symbolic of any city that is in rebellion and opposition to God. Thus, many commentators have suggested it refers to Rome or Babylon. It is more than a specific, worldly Jerusalem, but any city or people group that fights against God deteriorates into apostasy—such as Sodom—and thus becomes primed for judgment (Is 1:10; Gal. 4:25-26; Rev. 11:1; 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18-19, 21).
- Figuratively refers to the contrast between Jewish and Roman authorities, both of whom are performing evil. Revelation often gives clues to those who are not 1st century Jew’s who may not understand the metaphors of this type of literature that is based on Old Testament imagery and 1st century life and customs. We can understand just as well when we seek to understand the Old Testament and get a better handle on the original language and culture.
- Sodom refers to a city that had little to no morality and/or compromised greatly, such as first century Jerusalem that betrayed its covenant with God (Is. 1:9-10, 21; Jer. 23:14).
- Egypt represents accentuated oppression and slavery; as Egypt oppressed Israel, so Jerusalem oppresses the righteous Jews and Christians (Rev. 2:9; 3:9).
- Where also their Lord was crucified is perhaps an Early Church metaphor to contrast pagan with righteous. It could be a metaphor for Rome that had the authority to crucify, but also had authority to stop it.