In Revelation 13 John is shown two beasts. One rises out of the sea, and the other is a land beast. The sea beast was a monster of indescribable horror resembling a leopard. It had seven heads and ten horns. As it stepped out of the water, it had feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion. One of its heads was mortally wounded and the deadly wound was healed. All on earth who were not Christians marveled, followed and worshiped the beast. No one was able to make war with him. He blasphemed the name of God, God's church, and all who dwell in heaven. He was allowed to make war with God's people and overcome them. This was the same monster we studied in chapter 12
Then John saw another beast arising from the land. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. The two beasts were close friends. The lamb beast exercised all the authority of the leopard beast. In fact the lamb beast causes all people on earth to worship the first beast, except God's people. These two creatures were in cahoots with each other. They were partners in ruling the earth with a rod of iron. The lamb beast deceived the whole world with the supposed wonders it performed. He caused all on earth to receive a mark of ownership to both beasts, except those whose names were written in God's Lamb book of life, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He caused all to have a mark on their hand or forehead, and without it no one could buy or sell. A special name was given to the beast. To him was given the name 666 which is the number of a man..This would enable all to identify who this beast represents. Such was the vision of the sea beast and the land beast.
According to many expositors of the Historical Interpretation, the first sea beast is identical to the beast called a dragon in chapter 12. Many Bible scholars have identified this beast as a symbol of the Western Roman Empire under two forms– Pagan Rome of the Caesars and Papal Rome under the universal rule of the Popes. The Pulpit commentary says of this first beast, “The essential identity of this beast with the dragon of chapter 12 is plainly shown. Probably, this is the beast referred to n chapter 11:7 and more fully in chapter 17. Here Satan or the Dragon is described under the aspect of the world. At the time of this writing this power was evidently heathen Rome.” John Hinds in his commentary on this chapter says, “containing all the power represented by the three wild beasts, made the Roman Empire the
most terrible kingdom that ever existed.” Hinds identified the Dragon of chapter 12 as the Roman Empire, first under the rule of th e Caesars and later under the rule of the Popes. He also identifies the two beasts in this chapter as the two forms of the Roman Empire as it existed in the Dark Ages, combining both political and religious power, both church and state. I agree with those expositors who identify the leopard beast as the Roman Catholic church as the world state government, and the Lamb beast as the Roman Catholic church with complete religious power on earth. These two beasts symbolize Papal Rome with both the power of the state and the church, and this combined power made the Roman Catholic church invincible. The true Church of Christ of the first three centuries never had such power.
B. W. Johnson, another outstanding commentator says of this first sea beast, “This beast bears the old dragon mark(Revelation 12:3) of seven heads and ten horns. It must therefore be some manifestation of the same power. It is some power that fights against God, that is the deadly enemy of the church, .that overcomes the church for 1260 years. I believe we are justified in declaring Rome as the seat of this beast. Rome, pagan and Papal, is specially pointed out.”—The Peoples New Testament With Notes
The astute British scholar John Newton makes this comment, “No doubt is to be made that this beast was designed to represent the Roman Empire, for thus far both ancients and moderns, Papists and Protestants are in agreement. The only doubt and controversy is whether it was Rome Pagan or Christian, imperial or papal. John saw this beast rising out of the sea, but the Roman empire was risen and established long before John's time; and therefore this must be the Roman empire, not in its then present form, but in some future shape and form, and it rose in another shape and form after it was broken to pieces by the incursion of the northern nations.”—Dissertations on the Prophecies. It is quite evident that Newton identifies this beast as the Roman Empire under the Popes and not under the Caesars. The Empire of the Caesars arose in 43 B.C., but Papal Rome did not arise until about 500 A.D. But it was the same Empire under a different form. This sea beast in Revelation 13 ruled over the entire world and also the Lord's church for some one thousand years.
Another distinguishing feature of this leopard beast is that one
of his heads was as if it had been mortally wounded. Scripture says of this beast that the seven heads had two meanings. The seven heads
stood for the seven famous hills of Rome, and they also represented seven kings. Five had already fallen when John lived; one presently was in existence, and the seventh one had not yet come. It is suggested that the seven heads represent seven forms of government that ruled in the Western Roman Empire. Five had come and gone before John's time, and the sixth head was in power when John wrote. This would be the Emperor form of government ruled by the Caesars. The 6th head was wounded when the Roman Empire was defeated by the Barbarians of Europe and ended the reign of the Caesars in 476 A.D. The head which was wounded was healed when that same Roman Empire revived about 500 A.D. when the Popes replaced the Caesars as Emperors and ruled with the same power and authority with which the Caesars once ruled. By 600 A.D. the wounded head was healed, and Rome once again ruled the world. Since many expositors have clearly identified this leopard beast as Papal Rome, this particular explanation of the wounded head that revived is the most reasonable explanation that has ever been given of this passage.
The second beast in the chapter was a two-horned lamb beast. It has two little horns like a lamb but speaks like a dragon. It cooperates with the leopard beast; they are closely related. This beast performs many tricks and pretended miracles to deceive the masses. This beast represents the religious power of the Empire, and it is also called the false prophet. . It orders the people to make an image or statue to the leopard beast. It orders all who refuse to worship the beast and its image to be put to death. Finally, it orders the mark of the beast to be impressed on the right hand or forehead of all worshipers as an evidence of loyalty. To help us identify the beast, he is given the name of 666, which is said to be the number of a man
John T. Hinds gives this explanation of the beast whose number is 666: “Commentators have offered a variety of applications for the expression, “the number of a man.” But the simplest and most natural one is that the name of a man, the numerical value of which is 666 is so connected with the institution represented by the beast that it is a positive plausible view of the text. Eliot, who is followed by several other expositors, explains in detail facts that seem conclusive evidence that Latinos, father of the Latin race, was the man meant (Vol, III, pp.245-255). He quotes Irenaeus, a church historian of the second century, who made the same application of the text. An objection is offered against the interpretation of Irenaeus because he spells the name Lateinos instead of Latinos. This objection, however,
is without force, for he was using the Greek form of the word.”( A Commentary on the Book of Revelation, P. 204).
Thomas Newton, the British scholar, gives this explanation of the
number 666: “Mention having been made of the number of the beast or the number of his name(for they are both the same), the prophet proceeds to inform us what the number is, leaving us from the number to collect the name(verse 18). It was a method practiced among the ancients to denote names by numbers, as the name Jupiter by the number 737. Several names possibly might be cited which contain the number 666, but it is evident that it must be some Hebrew or Greek name; and with the name other qualities and properties of the beast must agree. The name alone will not constitute agreement. All other particulars must be perfectly applicable, and the name must also comprehend the precise number of 666. No name appears more proper and suitable than that famous one mentioned by Irenaeus, who lived not long after St. John's time, and was the disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of John. He saith that the name Lateinos contains the number 666, and it is very likely, because the last kingdom is so called, for they are Latins who now reign. No objection therefore can be drawn from the spelling of the name, and the thing agrees to admiration. Mass, prayers, human litanies, canons, decretals, bulls are conceived in Latin. The Papal church speaks Latin. Nor is the scripture read in any other language under popery than Latin” (Dissertations on the Prophecies, p. 552,553). In my judgment this is the best explanation of the number of the man whose name is 666. According to the Historical Interpretation, we do not have to depend just on the number 666 to identify the beast. By other qualities and particulars this beast has already been identified as Papal Rome under two forms: Papal Rome and State Rome. . This beast represent Rome with bothj the power of the state and the power of the church. The first beast represents the Roman Catholic church with the power of the state; the second beast represents the Catholic church with all religious power on earth. The church of Rome retained all political and religious power on earth from 500 A.D. till the Protestant Reformation in the 1500's.
D'aubgne, the French historian, made this statement about the Protestant Reformation, “Primitive Christianity and the Reformation are the two greatest revolutions in history. Primitive Christianity and the Reformation are one and the same revolution, brought about at different epochs and under different circumstances. The history of the
Reformation is distinct from that of Protestantism. In the former, every thing bears the mark of a regeneration of the human race–of a religious and social change emanating from God Himself. In the latter, we too often witnessed a glaring degeneracy from first principles, the struggles of parties, a sectarian spirit, and the traces of petty individualities. The history of Protestantism may have an interest for Protestants only. The history of the Reformation addresses itself to all Christians, or rather to all mankind”(History of the Reformation, Preface}.