The Four Main Views of Revelation 13:1-4

 

The Preterist view: They see the dragon in this passage as an invading power looking for allies in its evil quest. That power is Rome as it invades Israel. Some in this camp see this as the looming judgment against Rome for its slaughter of the righteous and invasion of Jerusalem. Others see this as Satan’s role influencing Rome. The sea is seen as the Gentile world or the pagan empires of Daniel. Most see this as the characteristics of an individual antichrist figure such as Nero or Rome. The healed wound is seen as the Nero resurrection myth being mocked, or the various emperors; others see this as the results of Rome’s violent wars and insurrections, and attempts of civil war. Some even speculate that Rome was wounded by the spread of Christianity and its assault on evil and its oppressive ways and/or the victory of Christ on the cross (Phil. 4:22). The worship of the beast and dragon is seen as Satanism, emperor worship, and the false gods of Rome. 

The Futurist view: They see this passage as a parallel to Daniel chapter seven, and an amalgamation of Daniel’s four beasts, meaning the Gentile nations and their collaboration and future attack on Israel.  The sea is seen as confusion and/or the great masses of humanity. Others see this as a European or Mediterranean power. The beast is the antichrist and he revives the Roman Empire. The characteristics are seen as the false charm and charisma of the antichrist as he deceives the masses. In addition the lion, bear, etc. describe the various empires coming together and their influence and hedonism. Most see these events as happening after the Tribulation. 

The Idealist view: They see this passage as a collection of the succession of political and social evils coming together for evil purposes in various times and places. The characteristics, such as the lion and bear, are seen as the activity of Satan and legislative actions of evil, persecutions, oppressions, or the rise of Satan against the world and the Church; some see this as corruption in the Church, or false religions, or both. The sea is seen as the Gentile world, corruption and paganism versus faithfulness and God (Is. 17:12; 60:5). The wound is seen as Rome and other evils recovering from the backlash of faithfulness and the rise of the Church, and/or the death of Nero. “Who is able to make war with him” is seen as the recovery and resilience of evil in Rome by the rise of Domitian. 

The Historicist view: They see this passage as an allegory involving the four beasts of Daniel, chapter seven, who blaspheme holiness and those who are faithful. The beast is seen as Roman paganism and the priests who propagated it. Others have seen this as the Catholic Papacy and/or oppressive ecclesiastical power, or perhaps the emperors of Rome. The sea is seen as the Gothic invasions; others as the various kingdoms of Rome. The seven heads are seen as the saying that Rome was built on seven hills.  The wound is seen as the hurts from paganism or the wounds to the Church because of apostasy, and the death of the beast, seen later, is the last of these pagan emperors, Julian, when he was killed.

Exegetical look into Revelation 13:1-4

 

  • Dragon stood…shore of the sea coming out of: Meaning a vicious, killing monster and refers to the attempt of Satan to mock God by attempting to create His creation. This is also an image of summoning a powerful demon. Satan brings his representation out of the chaos of the sea counter to God’s creation out of the chaos of nothing. It is interesting to note that Satan cannot create matter or bring something from nothing; he can only recruit, manipulate, and deceivingly use what God has already made, turning it into bad (Gen. 1; Col. 1:15-17; Rev. 11:7, 12:9,17; 13:15).
  • Beast coming out of the sea: This is meant to represent a messianic figure. Sea is a Jewish metaphor for what is frightful and terrible; it was also a colloquialism (saying) for a dwelling for monsters and things inexplicable and/or hostile (Job 7:12; 41:1; Psalms 74:13; 89:9-10; Is. 27:1).
  • Beast was a maxim meaning a persecuting power and/or a people who are demonic and evil. This term does not denote a singular person being an antichrist although the theme as John uses in 1 John does apply as opposing Christ. These two metaphors, beast and sea put together in this literature type refer to the tenacity, fierceness, and repulsiveness of this beast. In John’s time this also represented the Romans or any secular, pagan authority because Rome was birthed near the sea in its Mediterranean location as compared to the inland Asia Minor churches. Also, a symbol of Rome was an eagle with 12 wings and three heads coming out of the sea (Dan. 7:3; Rev. 11:7; apocryphal book 4 Ezra 11).
  • Ten horns … seven heads … ten crowns: Each of these is a metaphoric parallel to the nature of Christ. For example, horns means leadership, power, and authority; head is wisdom and position as well as domination; ten crowns is counter to Christ’s many crowns (Ex. 6:14; Num. 1:16; 27:2; Jos. 6:4; 1 Kings 1:49-51; Rev. 19:12). The beast is acting like the counterfeit of Christ—who is the image of God; the beast is as an image of Satan in his character seeking to trick people into believing that the real God is obtuse, when in fact the devil is. Seven heads was also a saying that Rome is a city built on seven hills (Psalm 2:7; Col. 1:15-18; Heb. 1:3).
  • Blasphemous name: Infers that his name is not worthy, whereas in contrast, Christ is worthy. Roman emperors had a tendency to take the  titles of deities for their title, such as Domitian, who took it to an extreme (perhaps a contemporary of John, if a late date is in view of his penning of Revelation), was addressed as Dominus et Deus noster meaning “Our Lord and God” (John 1:14; Phil 2:9-11; Col. 2:9; Rev. 19:12).
  • Leopard…bearlion: John is drawing images and characteristics from Daniel’s four beasts. Leopard also meant “being swift” and “military conquest;” bear meant “ferocious strength” and “stability;” and a lion meant “power” and “dominion” (Dan. 7:2-7; Rev. 12:3; 17:8-11).
  • Dragon gave the beast his power: Satan empowers the beast whereas in contrast God empowers and is Christ, who empowers us (John 5:21-23; Rev. 3:21; 5:12-13; 12:10).
  • Fatal wound…been healed: A counterfeit theme to the Resurrection of Christ that is the proof and means for evangelism, but Satan can’t duplicate it so some how it is imitated or faked. Some see this as the recovery power of the beast. This is also of the theme of Nero.
  • Was astonished: Somehow, this is the means that the beast uses (trickery) so people become amazed with and are attracted to be followers, going away from God and goodness (Rev. 17:8).
  • Men worshiped: This is also a counterfeit to true worship whereas, in contrast, people worshiped what is wrong and evil. People are attracted to the conniving and scheming of evil rather than to the centrality of Christ (John 5:23).
  • Who is like the beast: A counterfeit of praise, taking praise that is meant for God, twisting and perverting it (Ex. 15:11; apocryphal book Judith 6).
  • Who can make war against him? This may be an expression of the tenacity, persistence, recovery, and resilience of evil, as we say now, “you can’t fight city hall.”

Revelation 13:1-4: What are the Contexts?

During this time in history, Nero died (in 68 A.D.) by either suicide or murder, and a rumor was instituted that he would come back in vengeance on the aristocracy to destroy them and all those who doubted or came against him. Many Romans were in fear of his expected return. Then, during Domitian’s reign (81-96 AD), a cult leader, claiming he was Nero, rose in power in Asia Minor where these seven churches were, so this imagery was already in people’s minds through literature and circumstances. This person also made an allegiance with the Parthians, making himself the perfect antichrist figure. He was hunted down and executed. The Jews wrote oracles predicting that Nero would return to terrorize the Christians and prevent Jewish conversions just as some Christian groups used Hitler, Russia, and other groups to make their point and create fear. The early Christians greatly feared Nero, who had thousands of Christians put to death, and the prospect that he might come back was terrifying (called the Nero redivivus myth, Latin for “renewed or “living again”). 

In fact, Nero’s name was used as a term for the antichrist, which we will see later in this chapter. This image was so terrifying that for hundreds of years, most all of the great early scholars, including Augustine, Jerome, and many modern scholars too like Barclay and F.F. Bruce, believed that Nero was to whom John was referring and was the antichrist. Perhaps, John is borrowing from the news of his day or popular myths and this form of apocalyptic literature to make his point and show us how Satan works so we do not buy into his game. By the way, antichrist means anyone who opposes Christ, as a term it is found in First and Second John but nowhere else including in Revelation, although it can be argued that the theme of antichrist is found here. This is why we are to look at what the symbolisms refer to or are pointing to and not the meaning in English or what symbols themselves may mean in our day, else we get caught in vain speculation and miss the point that Christ has for us. 

Even though this passage is about the contrasts of Satan, many commentators have seen this figure of the beast as the person of the antichrist. However, there are some severe interpretive problems with this view. For one, the passage does not say it is the antichrist; nowhere in Revelation is there an antichrist personality other than representations of those who oppose Christ and fight His people. This points us to an antichrist in purpose but not a specific personality. (The Greek word for antichrist means “opponent to the Messiah;” in Scripture, it means anyone who opposes Christ, not necessarily a specific person – 1 John 2:18-22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7. In 2 Thess 2:3, “man of lawlessness” refers to rebellion, but again, not to a specific person. What some commentators have done is take several passages out of their context and string them together to create their position). In this way, anyone who opposes Christ is an antichrist as it is defined elsewhere in Scripture and by John. Thus, many read into the passage their views rather than seeing what this actually says in the original language and what would be understood by John’s readers in this type of literature and images.

Revelation 13:1-4

Introduction 

The First Beast 

This passage is about the contrasts of Satan versus the distinctions of Christ. Satan seeks to counterfeit and mock God. This is about the forgery of making what is evil and hideous seem attractive. The beast demands our worship and declares war upon the faithful! This passage is cut from its verse references to its context, as it really starts at the close of chapter 12, where Jesus asks us to trust Him as the dragon stands on the shore of the sea. John now sees another vision—a beast rising out of the depths of the sea. This beast had seven heads, ten horns, and ten crowns on each of its horns. There were blasphemous names written on it. This beast looked like a leopard with the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion. This beast gets its power from the Dragon. One of the heads was wounded but then was healed. The world marvels and worships this beast, deceived by its power and presence. 

John draws from Daniel’s four beasts (Dan. 7: 3-7) which represented four succeeding empires. Most scholars assume they are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon/ Persia and Alexandrian Greek/Roman, while others give them other orders, meanings and speculations. These refer to idolatrous kingdoms that persecute the faithful. In John’s time, they were in the age of Rome, the fourth period. Thus, it is a composite of domineering evil that also means worldly oppression, so that John’s readers could know what was evil and what was not of the character of God. We see this as an invading force whose wickedness and debauchery is unprecedented as the world is duped into worshiping Satan and or his evil ways; however, ignorance is no excuse. 

  1. How would you contrast the character of Satan versus the distinctions of Christ? How and why does Satan seek to counterfeit and mock God? How have you seen this done?
  1. Why did the people worship this beast while at the same time, be callous and uncaring of the real, Holy God? How do we do this in the church today?

What does Revelation 8: 1-13 mean to us now?

 

These judgments seem to come against the Roman Empire, as the word meanings and Jewish metaphors suggest those found in Jesus’ “Olivet Discourse” in Matthew 24, and thus may have already occurred. However, that does not mean the final accumulation and sentence of God’s judgment has occurred; we are still waiting for that. These themes seem to repeat themselves throughout the history of the Church and society. However, a final buildup and its fruition still is to occur before Jesus comes back. 

These seven angels stand before God and His Throne. They have His approval and empowerment to carry out His plan. You are in His plan! Remember, as faithful Christians who are sealed, we have His approval. We may still face these persecutions and tribulations, but the difference is we have His love that turns a sentence of judgment and death into martyrdom for His glory. This passage attests to the fact that we must be dependant on God, and not bow to lethargy in our spiritual formation. This is the mark of a mature Christian. This is not a time to be lazy, to rationalize our situation, seek sympathy from others, or think He does not care, that we are useless. When we face darkness in our lives, it is a time to shape up and seek Christ as Lord.  We must be discerning, courageous, hopeful, and proactive in our faith. Be obedient and trusting, regardless of your situation, and remember you are His special child whom He has sealed. Keep in mind that God wants to rescue His people from those who are hostile to Him, and who want to oppress, control, or persecute us. 

Questions to Ponder: 

  1. When these events come to pass (if they have not already), what do you think they will look like? How will these events send shock and awe to the average person?
  1. Why does it seem that a characteristic of God’s judgment is He does not do it all at once, rather He is slow and uses order? Do you think that He is slow to give time for His grace to work and people to seek forgiveness, even when they do not seek Him?
  1. God is patient, but He is ready at any time to unleash these sentences. How do you feel about this? Are you ready?
  1. Do you think this passage is literal? If so how will this be played out? If you think this is symbolic, how do you think it will play out? How do people’s idolatrous motivations and misguided followings influence His judgment?
  1. What do you need to do to take seriously that God is in control? Because of His grace, He only allows a fraction of His judgments. How can you have more confidence in Christ to deliver you out of your tough situations?

© 2006 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org

The Four Main Views of Revelation 8: 1-13

 

The Preterist view: They see this passage as the result of and further explanation from the first four seals being opened. The setting, as they see it, is that of the Jewish wars with Rome and the destruction of Israel as a nation in 66-70 A.D. and the resulting disasters, as these are the “Last Days” of the commonwealth of Judaism that has come to be a “Babylon” of evil (Deut. 29:18; Jer. 9:15). The trees and grass represent the remnant of Jews who are left after 70AD. These plagues do not come against the Church, as we are saved from God’s wrath (Rom. 2:7-9; 1 Thess. 5:9). The mountains are symbolic of the government of Israel as God’s mountain falling (Ex. 15:17; Matt. 21:21). The “sea” represents the Gentiles and the “land” represents Israel. The Romans slaughtered the Galileans and tossed their bodies into the Sea of Tiberius. Wormwood refers to the decaying bodies left by the Romans and how they tainted the waters. The sun, moon, and stars refer to the fall of a series of Roman Emperors in the first century; others say it is the fall of the Herod dynasty and the Jewish Priests who had the power. The “woes” refer to the warnings of more Roman devastation, which the early church saw, and left Jerusalem, saving themselves before its destruction, where perhaps a million people were killed. 

The Futurist view: They see this passage as literal. This camp is greatly divided over the meaning of this passage, seeking newspaper interpretation rather than word meanings or looking to the Old Testament. Some of the more “credible” theories are that the trumpets are the final, drastic judgments of God. The trees and grass represent the fall of the western nations and God’s divine wrath upon us by His attacks on water and aquaculture. Some see this as nuclear war and the resulting ”fallout.” Some see the mountains falling into the sea as literal, much like an asteroid. Others see it as symbolic for everything that is popular falling. Some see it is the Gentile nations at war led by the antichrist, or God destroying the false church led by false teachers. Others see this as the destruction of the Catholic Church. Wormwood is seen as the Pope or Antichrist. The “great star” is seen as the political leaders who are apostate, or a comet from space hitting the earth. In the eighties, this group saw the Soviet Union as Wormwood; others said it was Reagan because each of his names had six letters. The sun, moon, and stars refer to the diminishing of spirituality during the tribulation (2 Thess. 2:11-12). Others see this as literal such as eclipses and astronomical phenomena. Some say it is the result of nuclear fallout. They associate all kinds of ideas to the eagle, and see the “woes” as inferring that they are warnings and not necessarily judgments, which is a contradiction to their other theories. Or they could be demonic woes to their coming judgment, or a warning of the coming three judgments (which makes more sense.) Their view would be better off if they weaned themselves from their misguided conjectures, and concentrated on reading their Bible more! 

The Idealist view: They see this passage as series of happenings and calamites that will occur again and again throughout Church history. Most in this camp do not see it as pertaining to a specific period. The trumpets are synchronous with the “seals” of the previous passages. They see these plagues as attacking the foundations of life support, water, and crops as natural calamities so we do not take things for granted. Some in this camp see these as attacks against the Church; others see them as God’s wrath against the wickedness of the world as reminiscent of the Egyptian plagues. Some see these as literal; others as symbolic. The mountains are images from Babylon’s fall and the punishment of wickedness (Jer. 51:25-42). Others see it as a volcano and the eruption of Vesuvius in 79AD. Wormwood is seen as the effects of natural disasters or God’s judgment. The “great star” is seen as punishment from God and its severity; others see this as idol worship that pollutes the mind and faith (Jer. 2:13-23). The sun, moon, and stars refer to the fall of Rome. Others see those as the doom of the ungodly who look to astrology and idols as their guide and or God’s control over the universe (Isa. 13:10; Luke 21:28). Others see “one-third” as a warning and not a final, determined judgment. The “woes” refer that the worst is still to come. 

The Historicist view: They see this passage as four great blows to the Western Roman Empire, first in 408-410, and then in 476 A D. Hail and fire are symbols of God’s judgment reminiscent of the Egyptian plagues. The trees and grass represent the results of war and bloodshed and the consequential calamites to His Church. The fraction of one-third represents Rome that occupied one—third of the known earth then. The “mountains” are a symbol of strength or seats of power. Many see this as the fall of Rome by the Goths and primarily the Vandals in 428-468 AD who destroyed their ships and commerce. The “great star” is seen as the invasion of the Huns in 440 AD against Rome where thy killed over 300,000. Others see this as evil politicians and heretics such as Pelagius, who corrupted the Church. Wormwood is seen as false teachings affecting the Church. The sun, moon, and stars refer to the Roman political firmament in 476-479 A.D. during the last of the Roman Emperors. Others see this as events that affect the Church. The “woes” suggest that a turning point is about to happen, from the Roman Empire to the Dark Ages or Gothic period, in three waves, a Turkish invasion, the Saracens conquest, and then the French Revolution.

Exegetical look into Revelation 8: 1-13

 

  • Seven trumpets indicates the pronouncement of God’s voice by the angels, who present His judgment, monitored by His grace. These are not to be feared by Christians. They are the answers to the prayers of the saints. His decisive judgment is answering them by His complete victory; His final victory is at hand (see previous study; Rev. chaps. 7-8).
  • Sound them. This “sounds off” the warnings that proclaim that a sequence of devastating plagues from the will of God is about to take place.
  • Hail and fire mixed with blood. This shows that God’s judgments are slowly and powerfully unveiled just as they were in Egypt (Ex. 7:14-24; 9:13-25; Job 38:22-23; Psalm 18:13; 78:48; 105:32; Ezek. 38:22).
  • A third of the earth indicates that God is in control and allows only a fraction by His grace. This also sets God up in a position that suggests He may not have completed His final punishment yet. 
  • Huge mountain, all ablaze… great star, blazing. “Mountains,” in Scripture, mean kingdoms (Isa. 2:2; Zech. 4”7; Psalm 46:2; Jer. 51:25). This wording is typical of apocalyptic literature such as “Sibylline Oracles” (a collections of 4,000 verses, supposed prophecies by Hellenistic Jews in Alexandria in the second century B.C.). These are hyperbole metaphors, meaning they are plagues from God and not man, and that will affect our daily life such as our water supply; people will die from dehydration (Jer. 51:25-42).
  • Sea turned into blood. This term is indicative to the first plague in Egypt (Ex. 7:20-21). It means the ultimate destiny of mankind as being judged and the preparation for the Second Coming and or the Last Judgment. This is called “eschatological;” it is from God and His judgment, not the pollution from man’s industrial machine. Volcanic upheavals can also produce this effect from God’s direction, see Revelation chap 6 notes (Isa. 15:9; 2 Pet. 3:10-12; Rev. 6:13; 9:1).
  • Wormwood. This refers to an herb (Artemisia absinthium, of the family Asteraceae) that is not poisonous but has a harsh, sour taste, and was used as an insect repellent. This was a metaphor for suffering, disaster, mourning, and idolatry. This may mean plagues will strike the earth’s drinking water supplies (Deut. 29:18; Ex. 15:25; Prov. 5:3-4; Jer. 8:14; 9:15; 23:15; Lam. 3:19; Rev. 3:15-16).
  • Turned dark. Like the other plagues, this one parallels the ninth one of Egypt (Ex. 10:22-23). “Darkness” means foreboding judgment that first invokes fear, and then a response for repentance. It is associated with “End Times” by other apocalyptic literature (Rev. 6:12-13).
  • Woe/terror is reminiscent of an O.T. prophetic oracle, such those of Jeremiah and Amos, giving further warning as more is to come. In fact, there are three more  “trumpet plagues,” each one a “woe” or a stern warning (Amos. 5:18-6:1; Rev. 6:10; 9:12; 10:1-11:14).
  • Inhabitants of the earth refers to wicked people who refuse to repent or acknowledge God as Lord. This is not referring to those who are righteous and “sealed” (Rev. 9:4).