The Two Beasts
1 I looked and saw a beast coming up from the sea. This one had ten horns and seven heads, and a crown was on each of its ten horns. On each of its heads were names that were an insult to God. 2 The beast I saw had the body of a leopard, the feet of a bear, and the mouth of a lion. The dragon handed over its own power and throne and great authority to this beast. 3One of its heads seemed to have been fatally wounded, but now it was well. Everyone on earth marveled at this beast, 4and they worshiped the dragon who had given its authority to the beast. They also worshiped the beast and said, “No one is like this beast! No one can fight against it.”
5 The beast was allowed to brag and claim to be God, and for 42 months it was allowed to rule. 6The beast cursed God, and it cursed the name of God. It even cursed the place where God lives, as well as everyone who lives in heaven with God. 7 It was allowed to fight against God's people and defeat them. It was also given authority over the people of every tribe, nation, language, and race. 8 The beast was worshiped by everyone whose name wasn't written before the time of creation in the book of the Lamb who was killed.
9If you have ears,
10 If you are doomed
to be captured,
you will be captured.
If you are doomed
to be killed by a sword,
you will be killed
by a sword.
This means God's people must learn to endure and be faithful!
11I now saw another beast. This one came out of the ground. It had two horns like a lamb, but spoke like a dragon. 12It worked for the beast whose fatal wound had been healed. And it used all its authority to force the earth and its people to worship that beast. 13It worked mighty miracles, and while people watched, it even made fire come down from the sky.
14This second beast fooled people on earth by working miracles for the first one. Then it talked them into making an idol in the form of the beast that did not die after being wounded by a sword. 15It was allowed to put breath into the idol, so it could speak. Everyone who refused to worship the idol of the beast was put to death. 16 All people were forced to put a mark on their right hand or forehead. Whether they were powerful or weak, rich or poor, free people or slaves, 17they all had to have this mark, or else they could not buy or sell anything. This mark stood for the name of the beast and for the number of its name.
18You need wisdom to understand the number of the beast! But if you are smart enough, you can figure this out. Its number is 666, and it stands for a person.
I wish we could end our journey together on a happy note, but it is not to be. We left Satan yesterday defeated and all washed up on the beach (12.18) But he is nothing if not persistent. And now he gathers reinforcements, his partners in crime.
First, the beast from the sea. He is a fearsome creature, part leopard, part bear and part lion. He derives his authority from Satan, wields enormous power, gathers admirers, accepts worship, blasphemes God and persecutes the Church. A nasty piece of work.
Then the beast from the earth. He is less threatening, but no less dangerous. He too is bent on discrediting God and destroying God’s people. What the sea beast does through brute force his companion achieves by deceit. He looks like a lamb, performs miracles and speaks persuasive words. If the first beast represents the power of Rome, the second is a sort of public relations officer for the empire.
Are the beasts still around in our world? Absolutely. Wherever secular authorities oppose God’s truth and persecute those who proclaim it, the sea beast is on the move again. And when we are enticed by alternative spiritualities that undermine the truth of God’s word in the interests of novelty or relevance, we encounter the earth beast once more.
Sometimes it appears that evil is in the ascendancy on earth as the satanic trinity go about their work, but John’s vision is given to tell us that from heaven’s perspective we are the victors. Our witness to truth will win the day because Christ has already won and we stand in him. We are those marked, not by the beast (v 18) but by the Spirit of the living God (Ephesians 1:13). So we can end our journey on a happy note after all!
Father in heaven, give me strength and wisdom to stand firm against the forces all around me that oppose your truth, and give me grace to follow you faithfully to the end. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.
After 40 years of ministry in the Anglican Church in England I retired and set up Zoe Ministry through which I teach and preach and encourage leaders in the task of building healthy churches. I am an attentive (?) husband and contented father and grandfather, love soccer (only watching of course), play the organ, enjoy writing, and relish driving my MX5 Sports car. Publications: '15 minutes to wake the dead' : a selection of sermons; Gentle Encouragement for Becalmed Preachers and Bewildered Congregations, Zoe Ministry 2009