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 12:1-6 mean to us now?

 

In this passage, we see God, who cares and protects, and satan, who seeks to destroy. We see God, who sends a good King, and satan, who seeks to kill that King so he can be a bad king. This passage is very clear in its Jewish imagery as it is reminiscent of the struggle of satan who refuses to submit before God, who seeks to usurp God’s rule and plan, who desires to influence and control the world for evil, and who hates righteousness and all things of God. This is also a picture of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ who comes to earth as a child; satan vehemently seeks to prevent His birth and destroy His redemptive plan and work. The woman is often seen as Israel who is called to mother and birth righteousness and be the example of God to the world (Psalm 2:9-12). 

In this passage, we also see God, who deeply loves us and has a plan, even against the most heinous evil powers, persecutions, and disruptions of liberty and life. God is in control! As a Christian, we are a deeply and truly loved child of God; we are accepted in Him and we have a plan that is in Him; thus, we have no need or reason to freak, fear, or to stress, for He is in control and is Sovereign. Satan cannot buffet against Him nor can he buffet against us when we are in Christ. 

Questions to Ponder: 

  1. What do you think the images in this text are, such as a large red dragon with seven heads and ten horns wearing seven crowns? Why do most Christians prefer to speculate instead of researching to see what these images meant to the original audience and language?
  1. Why do you suppose John also uses the style of a Greek play and the mythology of the Greek gods?
  1. How and why does understanding the literature and metaphors—what the 1st century Jew saw—gives us a richer meaning of what the text (God) is seeking to communicate with us today?
  1. What happens when we refuse to interpret Scripture in the light of its context and word meanings or see that some of these imageries are deeply rooted in Judaism? (Remember, we can disagree, but never divide over these non-essential issues, and always discuss in love and respect.)
  1. How do you see the relevance of this passage to your life? How would you contrast satan’s opportunist ways versus God and the righteous people of faith?
  1. Why does the Church struggle to stay faithful? What are the things that cloud our seeing His desire to lead His church in His precepts?

 

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

The Four Main Views of Revelation 12:1-6

 

The Preterist view: There are two prevailing views in the veracity of this passage. One sees it as the continual destruction of Jerusalem; Babylon represents Jerusalem as viewed from the throne room of God, while the Church is in conflict with worldly principles. The other view sees Babylon as Rome, the great persecutor of the saints, while the judgments still wage against Jerusalem. The woman is seen as the faithful Jews escaping Jerusalem. The Dragon is the beast from Daniel representing Old Testament Babylon. The birth of the child is seen as the birth of the Church, not the birth, life, or work of Christ. The Desert is the Jews’ escape, prior to the destruction. Others see this passage as the miracle of the safety of the Christians who all escaped the fall of Jerusalem. 

The Futurist view: They see this passage as the middle of the Great Tribulation where the antichrist breaks his contact with Israel, shuts down the Temple, and becomes the “abomination of desolation” in Matthew 24. (However, this is not from the text, but speculation.) Others in this camp see this as an interlude when God is giving other descriptions of important events prior to the great judgment or outside of the timeline. The woman is seen by Catholics as Mary in her post- “assumption” (the Catholic view is that Mary is partially divine and exulted, because she is Mother of God, was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven.) role. Others in this camp see her as representative of the Church, or people who are faithful, or the professing Church. Male child is seen as the promise to overcome, or the Church triumphant. Others see it as Jesus and His Jewish heritage. The stars are a reference to Joseph’s dreams; others see this as the holiness of Christ. Few in this camp see the dragon as Satan; rather, they see it as a metaphor for the Roman Empire or an incarnation of the Beast of Chapter 13. The stars, in reference to the Dragon, are not considered literal stars; rather, they are seen as perhaps asteroids, airplanes, a look back to Satan’s revolt against God, or the evil political forces of the day. Devour is seen as Satan’s failed attempt to stop Christ. (It is interesting to note that their theories are very contradictory of one another.) The Desert is seen as the persecution of the Jews in the last days (with great debate on how, when, and where they will be refuges to, and concerned only with their speculations about the text). 1,260 days is seen as the last half of the Tribulation or the time of the persecution of the Jews. (It is amazing how one can read a passage and totally miss the point, or read in what one wants to see and ignore what is actually there.) 

The Idealist view: They see this passage as a metaphor and story of the birth of Christ, the slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem, and the coming of His Kingdom and His ascension. Thus, this passage is not prophetic; rather, it deals with what has already taken place during our Lord’s life on earth and satan’s unsuccessful attempts to intervene and destroy Christ and His work. As with the Historicist view, the Idealists also see this passage as dealing with the internal affairs of the church and its struggle to stay faithful. The woman is faithful Israel, stars are Joseph’s dreams, the labor is the pains of the persecuted Church, The dragon is the evil political rulers, the stars are the rebellion of satan, and the child is Jesus, His birth, and the One who frustrates Satan’s plans. The Desert is God’s power, control, faithfulness, and care for the Church. 

The Historicist view: They see this passage as another interlude to give us insights and information of events that have already taken place or covered prior in Revelation. Many see this as the struggle of the inward status and affairs of the church, its battle of inward corruption and missed opportunities and liberalism or apostate-ism, or becoming more secular and less spiritual. The woman is seen as the vision of the true and righteous Church, its promise, mission, and success. Giving birth is about the political struggles of the Church; the sun and stars are seen as the Romans and other outside influencers. Male child is seen as the children of the Church and the dragon is an image of Rome and/or satan or any persecutor. The stars are seen as the period of Rome in 313 A.D.—the great persecutions before the conversion of Rome. The child was snatched up is seen as the conversion of Rome in 324 A.D. and the rod of iron as the dominion of the Church afterwards.

Exegetical look into Revelation 12:1-6

 

  • Sign. Usually means something seen in the sky or an astronomical event. Here, it is an illustration, conveying an event that is unexpected and astonishing. As with most symbols and metaphors in Scripture, it is an expression with the intention of pointing to something beyond it (Luke 21:11, 25; Acts 2:19).
  • A woman. This refers to righteousness and motherhood (as Israel is portrayed as mother to the race), faith, and to the Christ. It is possibly a reference to “The Madonna,” Mary, the mother of Jesus. It was a very powerful symbolic image in ancient cultures, especially Judaism. This would have been a comfort to the struggling Messianic community. Classically, some, especially the Catholics, see this as Mary and the drama of the incarnation of Christ prior to His arrival on earth. (It is interesting to note that the Christian Scientists see this woman, her spirit, as the founder of their cult.) Is. 62:5.
  • Clothed. Referring to dignity and exalted Israel, or, to God’s glory.
  • Sun, with the moon. These are Jewish references to Abraham and Sarah, referring to the birth of the people of Israel, their hope, and blessings to come.
  • Twelve stars. This is a symbol of the 12 tribes of Israel and refers to Joseph’s dreams. In conjunction with the woman and context, it is clearly referencing Israel. Some see this as satan’s rebellion (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). This term or passage has nothing to do with astrology or the zodiac, other than it uses similar imagery for illustration sake but not as substance (Gen. 37:9-10; Lev. 19:26-28, 31; 20:6; Deut 18:9-14; Is. 8:19; 47:12-13; Jer. 10:1-2).
  • Pregnant. In contrast, a virgin meant someone who is faithful, and a prostitute meant someone who is pregnant and not married, denoting unfaithfulness. This is meant to contrast the heavenly with the evil, faithful and heavenly Jerusalem versus the harlot and oppressor Babylon, reviled in Israel for its destruction of the Temple, the theft of the Ark, and the captivity of the people (Is. 7:14; 9:6; 26:18-19; 54:1; Micah 5:3; John 16:21; Rev. 17:5; 21:2). 
  • Pain. As in struggle, good versus evil, our will versus God’s will, satan’s opportunist ways versus God and the righteous people of faith. This can also mean the suffering of waiting for the Messiah to come and/or waiting for the second coming.
  • Give birth refers to the birth of the Messiah; it also denotes being saved, either as faithfulness, or being saved by Christ. It also meant for Jews, the captives of Babylon, traveling back to Israel to rebirth the nation and Jerusalem (Is. 54:1-4; 66:7-13; Micah 4:10; 5:2-3; Rev. 12:17).
  • Red dragon…. The term “dragon” literally means “serpent” or “sea monster” such as the leviathan, and symbolizes monstrous evil (common in Canaanite and Mesopotamian myths), and Heracles and his battle with the hydra. A dragon is also a description of satan who is the enemy of God, who is a terrifying and destructive beast, and who seeks the total devastation of God’s people. This image is not meant to terrify us, but show us how he works so we can beware and defend. This was also a metaphor for Babylon and the enemies of Israel and God. It is very unwise to read in meanings that are not there to this and other metaphors (apocryphal book “Bell and the Dragon;” Gen. 3:1-15; Psalm 74:13-15; 89:9-10; Is. 27:1; 30:7; 51:9; Ezek. 29:3; Luke 10:18; 11:14-23; John 12:31; Col. 2:15; Rev. 12:7-9; 13:2; 20:2).
  • Seven heads. This represents domination, and also refers to astuteness and universal wisdom (Rev. 13:1).
  • Ten horns and seven crowns is the image of great power as well as battle and warfare, depicting how satan rises up to battle God, but he is sent to everlasting torment in Rev. 20:10!
  • Tail swept a third of the stars is a Jewish metaphor for the power of Heaven fighting on behalf of Israel. This also meant pouring rain and rebellion. This also referred to satan’s betrayal and rebellion and the fall of 1/3 of the angels under him. This metaphor also meant to sin or to fall into sin and be corrupted. For us, it can mean the rebellion against Christ (Judges 5:20; Is. 24:21; Dan. 12:3; Rev. 8:10).
  • He might devour her child. Satan was unable to prevent Christ’s incarnation and redemption, thus, he seeks to manipulate and destroy His followers (Matt. 2:13-18; Luke 4:28-29).
  • Gave birth …a son. Referring to deliverance, this metaphor also pointed to Augustus in Greek thought, and to a savior in Judaism and early Christianity. This theme was a great comfort to the early persecuted Church. This, in the early Church, referred to the Messianic enthronement of Jesus Christ, His birth, death, resurrection, and Lordship (John 16:21).
  • A male child. This is a perhaps a recoding of the fulfillment of Micah 5:3: Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. It refers to Christ’s incarnation, His role as Messiah and Savior, and how His triumph and accomplishments certify this fact (Is. 7:14; 9:6). As Jesus’ words state, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks (Matt. 23:37-39).
  • Rule all the nations… Iron scepter. Meaning the coronation of a divine leader who will conquer evil. This doesn’t mean oppression or dictatorship; rather, it refers to a caring shepherd, and at the same time, God’s strength, authority, and right to rule (Rev. 2:27; 11:15; 19:15).
  • Child was snatched up to God. May refer to the ascension of Christ. In Greek myths, children were taken and hidden from their enemy until they were old enough, trained to defend themselves, and could go after their oppressors. The image here is that our God protects, and desires us to mature, be trained up, and be ready to defend (Psalm 2:6-9; Is. 9:6-7; Micah 5:3; Acts 1:9; 2:33; Heb. 1:1-3; 12:2).
  • Desert/Wilderness means “spiritual refuge,” and refers to how the people of God, after the Exodus, wandered for 40 years, their faithfulness and betrayal, and the grace of God. Also, their waiting for their inheritance of the Promised Land. In the Early Church, this was referred to as the period between Jesus’ first coming and His second coming. The Jews were expecting a deliverance from the Romans by a second Exodus (Hosea 2:14).
  • Taken care of means spiritual protection, as God promises His protection to a persecuted Church (Rev.13:5).
  • 1,260 days perhaps refers to the great tribulation of Daniel, but more likely is a metaphor for trials and troubles. This does not mean a literal number but a type of trouble such as persecution (Dan. 9:2-24; Rev. 11:2).