And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. 2 And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.
John’s vision of the dragon continued. The dragon stood on the sand of the seashore and watched a beast come up out of the sea. This beast is clearly a reference to the antichrist (see also Revelation 12:3-4) who Satan raises up and empowers to do his bidding in the final days before they are both defeated. The seven heads represent historical world powers of which the antichrist is the seventh (and the eighth in the sense that he fakes his own resurrection) (Revelation 17:9-11). The ten horns are ten kings who are given authority with the beast for a short time during his brief world rule (Revelation 17:12-13). On the ten horns are ten crowns, signifying that they will enjoy world dominion for a short time (v. 7-8). On his seven heads were blasphemous names, for the antichrist will set himself up as god and desire worship for himself (Daniel 11:37 and Revelation 13:7-8). The beast looked like a leopard but with the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion. These are three imposing animals, signifying speed, strength, and power, and the antichrist is one who will love war (Daniel 11:38). He will, like a leopard, advance quickly through nations conquering with ease given his military power like a mighty bear or lion (Daniel 11:40-43). His strength and power is Satanic, given to him by the devil himself. He is raised up by the devil for the express purpose of leading many astray and persecuting the people of God (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12). Satan knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12), and he will be as aggressive as possible to oppose God and His people (v. 7). However, while he may try to boast like a lion, he is not the Lion of Judah Who will slay him.
3 I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; 4 they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” 5 There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. 6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven.
One of the ways that the beast/antichrist will ascend into world power will be through an apparent resurrection, a cheap imitation of Christ’s genuine resurrection (Daniel 8:23, 11:21). Only Jesus has authority over death and hades (Deuteronomy 32:39); Satan does not have this authority (Revelation 6:8, 20:14). But he is an expert deceiver, and the beast’s apparent rising from the dead will be convincing to the masses. This “miracle” will make people worship the beast and Satan himself (c.f. John 4:48) because they will believe that he has power over even death. The whole earth will be amazed and follow after the beast and the signs and wonders that accompany him (2 Thessalonians 2:9, Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22, Revelation 13:13). They will believe that he is the one to be feared because of his satanic power, and they will fall in line with him (v. 8). In worshipping the beast, they will be worshipping Satan himself. Satan always wanted to receive worship like the Most High (Isaiah 14:14), and this will be the closest that he will get. Unfortunately for him, he is not the most high, and he will pay for his rebellion. The antichrist will speak great blasphemies against God and act arrogantly as if he is god and deserving of worship (Daniel 11:37, Revelation 13:8). He will be a corrupt con-artist, the most powerful political entity on the planet (v. 8), and the creator of a robust economy (Revelation 18:11-20) whereby many will get rich. However, it should be noted that this will not be real happy and peaceful for everybody because there will be a slave trade and human trafficking (Revelation 18:13). This means that in antichrist’s “peace” during the first three and a half years of the tribulation, life won’t be wonderful for most. He is a cruel person who enjoys oppression, cruelty, and rule by force. He will not care for the desire of women, implying that he will likely show no tenderness or gentleness toward females or to children (Daniel 11:37). Being a man of war who enjoys power and battle, it makes sense that he will hold the weak in derision. But this isn’t the worst of it. Though it likely won’t happen until the second three and a half year period, Jewish children will be traded in his economy, a boy for a prostitute and a girl for alcohol (Joel 3:3). But for the first three and a half years, the antichrist will fake peace with Israel, and the world will likely laud him as a great hero for his middle east peace treaty. As Daniel 9:27 says, “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” Yet war is in his blood (Daniel 11:38), and after three and a half years, his true nature will be fully revealed. He will persecute God’s people severely to an extent that they have never suffered before (Daniel 12:1), and that is significant because of how much travail the Jews have already had historically. Having broken his peace treaty with them, he will trample the holy city underfoot, put an end to sacrifices, defile the temple, set himself up as god, and try to kill as many Jews as he can. He will also persecute and kill the saints of Christ. He will be a terror of war and hate for this period of time during which God also reigns down plague after horrific plague on the earth. People will have to decide who is really more fearful, God or the beast. The two witnesses of God will also be testifying to the world concerning God and the gospel at this time, but they will be hated (Revelation 11:3). The hardness of heart of mankind will be evident and on full display during this three and a half year period. The antichrist will aggressively mock and blaspheme heaven during this time, and the wrath and vengeance of God won’t tarry very long (Revelation 19:11-21).
7 It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. 8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. 9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear. 10 If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.
God will allow the antichrist to severely persecute and kill Jews and tribulation saints, but their blood will be avenged. The antichrist becomes head of the most powerful empire on the planet, and all people will be under his rule. All people on the earth from every tribe, tongue, and nation will worship him (interestingly, this is a weak and perverted attempt to counterfeit the worship of God in heaven portrayed in Revelation 4 and 5 by people of all nations, tribes, and tongues), except for those who have insight and faith to believe in the true Sovereign of the world (Daniel 12:10). Those who come to faith during the tribulation period have their names in the Book of Life like all the saints who have come before them. These will see the deception for what it is and not bow before the beast or take his mark (Matthew 24:24, Revelation 19:20, 20:4). The devil is powerful enough to deceive the entire world into worshipping himself through the proxy of the antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:8-12), but God’s Word has given a warning not to fall for this. People need to know the Bible so that they will not be fooled and doomed to an eternity in hell. Those who come to faith during the tribulation period need to recognize that they will likely end up as captives or dead (Revelation 20:4). If they choose to fight with the sword, they will lose and die by it. Overcoming and the perseverance of the saints is not a matter of military might or earthly prosperity during this time, but it is a matter of holding to faith and worshipping Christ no matter what. There will be grave consequences for those who refuse to bow before the beast, but those who overcome in Christ will stand firm, knowing that He will reward them in short order. That said, this should be a great incentive not to wait to believe until after the tribulation period has begun. There is an urgency to gospel proclamation and a warning concerning God’s wrath that accompanies evangelism. Those who have ears to ear need to hear now so that they don’t wait until this horrific time on earth to believe should it come during their lifetimes.
11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. 12 He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. 13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who *had the wound of the sword and has come to life. 15 And it was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, so that the image of the beast would even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. 16 And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, 17 and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.
Satan, the antichrist, and his false prophet make up this false and unholy trinity. The second beast is the antichrist’s false prophet. He speaks like a dragon because he speaks for the devil. He has the same authority that the antichrist himself has, for they are both backed by satanic power. The two horns could emphasize his dual persona as a spokesman for the antichrist and servant of the devil. It could also relate to his two primary responsibilities, the first of which is to deceive the earth by making people worship the antichrist. The second is to perform great signs by even making fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of mankind. It is not coming from the dwelling place of God, but it is likely from the spiritual realm. It is meant to be intimidating and coercive, demonstrating that noncompliance will not be tolerated. It is a rule by fear rather than of love and grace and open invitation. This is but one way where the false prophet is far different from Jesus, the true Lamb of God and speaker of truth. The false prophet will tell those on earth to make an idol consecrated to the antichrist on account of his apparent death and resurrection. He will make the idol of the image of the antichrist able to breathe and speak and tell people to bow down and worship the antichrist. Those who do not worship before it will be killed. The false prophet will make sure that people everywhere, whether rich or poor or slave or free, are given a mark signifying that they have committed themselves to the service and worship of the antichrist. The mark will be on their right hand or forehead so that it is easily visible, accessible, and obvious to all where their allegiance lies. All things that Satan does are cheap counterfeits of God’s good and perfect ways, plans, and deeds. Even the mark (whether high-tech, supernatural, or low-tech as per Leviticus 19:28 is not given) is a cheap imitation version of the sealing that God has done to those who are His own (see Revelation 14:1 and notes on Revelation 7:4-8). The mark will be required in order to buy or sell under the antichrist’s world rule. The entire economic order of the world will be bound up in a false religion of emperor worship. Thus, without the mark no one can conduct business or even buy food to eat. Either the antichrist’s name or number will be necessary in order to function in his economy, and his number is 666, which points to that of a man, that which is incomplete, insufficient, and short of the glory and holiness of God. God uses the number 7 to reveal Himself and His nature, from the seven golden lamps in the temple and in heaven (Numbers 8:2, Zechariah 4:2, Revelation 4:5) to the seven spirits of God (Revelation 1:4, 3:1, 4:5) to the seven days of creation (Genesis 1). It is a number of perfection, completeness, holiness, and true deity. The Holy Trinity is holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8), a true seven, seven, seven as opposed to the unholy trinity, a six, six, six. Those who are wise will not take the name or the number of the beast, and they will instead recognize Jesus as Lord even though it will almost certainly cost them their lives (v. 10). The beast’s economy will be so corrupt that even children will be used as currency to buy prostitution and alcohol (Joel 3:3). This is but one example of how and why the beast’s number is that of a man, for he even uses people as commodities and currency. Those who are foolish enough to take the mark will drink the coming wrath of God in full strength (Revelation 14:9-10) including suffering the plague of seeing the mark turn into a malignant sore (Revelation 16:2) as well as being cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20).