"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear Thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth" (Ps. 60:4).
THE REVELATION OF CHRIST
THE BEAST FROM THE SEA
By Given O. Blakely
Seven heads and Ten Horns
These are later defined as "seven mountains" and "ten kings" (17:9-12). Throughout history, Rome has been known as "the seven-hilled-city." Both poets and historians have so referred to the ancient municipality. The seven mountains upon which the city was situated are Mt. Aventin, Mt. Capitaline, Mt. Palatine, Mt. Esquiline, the Caelian Mount, Mt. Quirinal, and Mt. Viminal. Jerome once wrote to a Christian lady (in 342 A.D.), "Read what is written in the Apocalypse of the seven hills." The "kings," in this case, relate to the government of ancient Rome, then ruler of the world. In chapter seventeen, I will pursue this subject more fully.
While I am inclined to this view (the seven mountains are those upon which ancient Rome was built), it is a speculative view. In my judgment, we must not allow our minds to stop with that consideration. There is a larger picture to be seen-one of Kingdom principles.
The Greater Picture
While the historical fulfillment of this vision has merit, and can be justified to a decided degree, the strength of the vision is not found there. The immediate thing that should strike our attention is this: the first beast has precisely the same characteristics as the dragon. Remember, it was said of the dragon, "a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns" (12:3). Just as all blessing comes from God, all evil comes from Satan. It is Satan that is attacking the church through earthly government!
The governments of this world are more readily available to Satan. They are built upon pride, and have themselves as their focus. With Divine certitude we are told, "For the kingdom is the LORD'S: and he is the governor among the nations" (Psa 22:28). With remarkable consistency, however, this has not been the recognition of earthly governments. Even in our own nation, where once God was honored, there is significant opposition to His Sovereignty, Laws, and direction. It is the tendency of all worldly government to deteriorate, and to finally reject the King of kings, and oppose His people.
What our text is revealing is a Satanic strategy to capitalize on the governments of this world-to use them in a determined effort to remove the people of God from the face of the earth.
A Blasphemous Name
Here we are introduced to the religious approach our adversary employs. All seven of the heads of this formidable beast have a "blasphemous name." It is a single name, and not seven different names. Later, we are told the mouth of this beast belched out "blasphemies" (13:5). Blasphemy is a mark of Satan's aggression against the church (Dan 7:25; 11:36; 2 Thess 2:3-4; Rev 13:5-6; 17:3,5).
The word "blasphemy" means vilification (especially against God): evil speaking, railing, slander, and insulting talk. Such speech is a challenge to the Person and power of God, the rejection of His authority, and the questioning of His Word and deeds. Blasphemy is involved in the third commandment, "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain" (Ex 20:7). This type of speaking seeks to justify self at the expense of the Living God.
This arch foe denies the Godhood of God, and rejects His authority. He will not submit to the King of kings, but chooses to exalt himself above the most high. This is precisely what Satan himself did (Isa 14:13). It also is a trait of the religious foe of whom Paul spoke (2 Thess 2:4).
Some contemporary examples of blasphemy are the contention that religion has no part in public life, being angry with God when things to not go well, and questioning His Word. While these things are not considered serious by religious sophists, they are actually evidence of the influence of the wicked one.
The "beast" will challenge the people of God much like David's enemies challenged him. "Where is your God?" (Psa 42:3,10). It chides the saints like Sennacherib taunted the Israelites, "Let not thy God in whom thou trustest deceive thee, saying, Jerusalem shall not be delivered into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, thou hast heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, by destroying them utterly: and shalt thou be delivered?" (2 Kgs 19:10-11). We will see that circumstances will seem to justify the blasphemy proceeding from this beast. However, that seeming support will be overthrown by the conquering Lamb.
A Brief Summary
Briefly stated, the dominating governments of this world will appear to prevail as they are used by Satan to oppose the saints of God. They will play a significant role in the spewing of a flood from the dragon's mouth, designed to drown the people of God.
Ravenous and Ferocious
"Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion" (Verse 2a). This is a spiritual depiction of the opponent raised up and empowered by Satan. The description reminds us of the beasts seen by Daniel. That prophet saw "four beasts" rise out of the sea. They bore the same traits as this single beast. How awesome was the scene. "The first was like a lion . . . and a man's heart was given to it . . .
And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear . . . and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh . . . lo another, like a leopard . . . and dominion was given to it . . . " (Dan 7:1-7).
Here the creatures are combined in a single foe. The foe is lordly and intelligent as a stalking lion. It is fierce and ruthless like a bear. It is also swift and dominating like leopard.
Jesus is telling the church it will face a foe for which no human gifts and abilities will be adequate. The arm of flesh will yield no benefits against this foe. Lifeless and stilted religion will not equip the people of God to stand against such a calculating and merciless attack. Whatever one may think of Satan, he has greater power than any person, or all combined persons, outside of Christ. The wisdom of the world is impotent against such a assailant! Oh, that those who sit complacently within the walls of religious institutionalism knew this!
Empowered by Satan
"The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority" (Verse 2b). Satan has been cast out of heaven, but he remains in the earth, into which he has been hurled. He once offered the kingdoms of this world to Jesus, together with all of their pomp and splendor (Matt 4:8-9; Lk 4:5-7). Our Lord refused the offer, knowing they would all eventually succumb to His Kingdom. The beast, however, accepts the offer. This "beast" is quite willing to forfeit the blessing of God for the glory of this world. It has no difficulty subordinating any inclination to worship and serve the Living God, in order to gain temporary advantage.
Notice, the devil grants earthly government three things: His power, his throne, and great authority. Although the powers of this world imagine they have gained their position by themselves, they are deluded. First, it has been "given to them" from God Almighty to be seemingly successful. However, God has only done this in order that He might be justified in casting them down. Too, their effectiveness does not come from their evil schemes. It is the devil himself that has orchestrated and empowered their position!
Let no man wonder at the success of wicked rulers, or stand in amazement as though everything were out of control! The Lord is still the "Governor among the nations" (Psa 22:28). These insurrections will "proceed no further" than is required to fulfill the will of the Lord.
In the meantime, their achievements are owing to Satanic power. It is not the result of election campaigns, senate caucuses, and shrewd political wisdom. All of that is but the underside of the coin. Satan is the compelling force behind them! It is the devil that we really fight.
"Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately" (Lk. 12:35-36).