The System of the Beast

When we unpack the beasts of Daniel (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome), we understand that each nation is identified with an animal to describe it (lion, bear, leopard) – until the final terrifying beast. This final Roman beast cannot be identified as an animal. The Roman beast is a composite beast made up of all the previous nations combined. Daniel 7 does not explicitly say this, however, Revelation gives us a better picture. In Revelation chapter 13 we find this same beast coming up out of the sea. The text tells us of its 7 heads and 10 horns, but also states that the beast resembled a leopard, bear, and lion. The same three animals of Daniel 7. What this means is that the Roman beast is a composite made up of many kingdoms, spanning across history. The beast is not a single individual or nation, but a system across time that opposes God. Revelation 17 again speaks about the beast having 7 heads and 10 horns. This time John explains that the 7 heads are 7 mountains and 7 kings. The text is telling us there is a double meaning. In the Old Testament often mountains are used as imagery for nations. So, the meaning is showing the composite nature of the beast as 7 nations. Many scholars believe this refers to Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. Verse 10 says that of the 7 kings, 5 have fallen, one is, and one is to come. This fits perfectly with the nations since 5 of them had fallen and Rome was the world power when John wrote Revelation. But this still leaves the 7th nation. Many believe this is a revived Rome. I agree, but not in the timing often claimed (in the future). Remember there is a dual meaning to the 7 mountain/kings. The other meaning refers to the Roman Caesars. At this point it is very important to understand history. If this dual meaning is valid then starting with Julius Caesar we would have 7 kings.
1) Julius Caesar 49-44
2) Augustus 31-14
3) Tiberius 14-37
4) Caligula 37-41
5) Claudius 41-54
6) Nero 54-68
Galba 68-69, Otho 69-69, Vitellius 69-69
7) Vespasian 69-79
It is imperative that we understand what the final book of the New Testament actually is. Many of us have been perilously led astray. David Chilton rightly enlightens us, “St. John brings these ideas together, metaphorically calling the apostate Jerusalem of his day Babylon the Great. The Great Tribulation, culminating in the holocaust of A.D. 70, was the restitution demanded for its theft and slaughter of the Old Testament prophets, of the New Testament martyrs, and of the Lord Jesus Christ; and these motifs are built into the very structure of Revelation, the final Covenant Lawsuit.”
The writing of the New Testament ended by 70 A.D. In fact, God destroyed the entire Old Testament religious system at that time when the Romans burned Jerusalem to the ground, literally digging up the foundations of the temple. The religious sacrificial system of the Jews never was revived. It is dead. This is important in understanding the Roman beast and the 7 kings. What John is describing is the 7 Caesars up to 70 A.D. However, we all know the Roman Empire continued after this time, and Revelation addresses this as well. So, the 7 kings start from Julius Caesar, just before the time of Christ, and end with Vespasian who became Emperor in 69 A.D. What is crucial is understanding what happens between the 6th and 7th Caesar. The Roman Empire died, falling briefly into civil war and fighting for who would be Emperor. The death of Nero brought chaos to Rome and many believed the empire would implode. But it didn’t. Revelation 13:3 says, “One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.” This does not refer to the person of the Anti-Christ coming back to life, but the Roman beast coming back to life. The head, Nero, committed suicide and this caused a time of chaos, but the wound was healed, and the beast came back to life. This happened when Vespasian became Emperor. He stabilized the chaotic empire and brought peace and stability back to Rome. It was a new beginning after a dark time. In Revelation 17, it states, “As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.” The beast had 7 heads/kings, but an 8th is mentioned. Why? In Biblical symbolism the number 8 means new beginning. This 8th king is talking about the new beginning of the beast. It could refer to Vespasian or the entire Flavian dynasty, but it does refer to a new beginning. With Vespasian and the Flavian dynasty began what may be considered the most prosperous time in Rome’s history, which lasted just over a century.
At this point I think we should step back and use a broad lens. One of the problems in dealing with the details of difficult Biblical prophecies is getting lost in the details and missing the bigger picture. After all, we must ask what principles am I learning and where are the applications to this study? Very valid questions. I would respond by saying, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness”. (2 Timothy 3:16) So we should study the whole counsel of God and apply it. But we must realize that the big picture is needed to see the broad principles for application. When we consider Daniel 2 and 7, which talk about the beast kingdoms, we are startled by how the beast system is destroyed by the kingdom of Christ. The text of these chapter shocks and shakes us into the new kingdom mindset. And that is the larger picture. Revelation 19 tells us of the righteous judge who makes war against the enemies of God and destroys them. The beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire. The chapter begins with, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” (vs. 2) Then continues in verse 6, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” (vs. 6-8). So, again we must see the beast system in the larger picture of prophecy. The book of Revelation is a covenant lawsuit, but it is also the proclamation and reality of the victory of Jesus and his true bride. The system of the beast is only relevant in the context of the victorious reign of Jesus. Revelation 19 is our reality, the spiritual reality of a kingdom that advances in and from victory toward the end of the age.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s