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A Bible Study:

The Revelation to John

May 30, 2006

A Study of the Revelation to John

A Study of the Revelation to John

By Bernie Parsons - May 30, 2006

A Study of Revelation Chapter 13:1-18



Revelation 13:1: And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.


Recall from our Daniel study that beasts were empires. Here John sees a beast risiing from the sea. We studied before that a sea represents a sea of people. An empire rose among the nations, with seven heads and ten horns. We saw this same description used in Revelation 12:3 & 9 to describe Satan (the adversary), or the devil (the false accuser). Why does it describe the Roman Empire, as well as Satan? As we shall see as the study progresses, Satan seduced the emperors of Rome to oppose God’s people. They followed the way of false gods, and of disobedience to the true and living God. Satan’s greatest power was that of lying, and deceiving.


Revelation 17:9 & 10 say that the seven heads are seven hills upon which the beast sits, and also represent seven kings, or emperors. The ten horns are ten men who are given power like kings, but are under the power and authority of the beast.


Revelation 17:9: “And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.

10: And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.


The city of Rome sits on seven hills, and I take this to mean that the Roman Empire is under discussion here. The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary gives the following definitions for blasphemy: 1 a : the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God b : the act of claiming the attributes of deity. In the case of the Roman Emperors, both of these are true. Not only did they disrespect the true and living God, they also proclaimed themselves to be gods!


Revelation 17:15: “And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.”


Rome ruled over many nations, cultures, and languages.



Revelation 13:2: And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.


That this empire is likened to a leopard indicates speed, the feet of a bear shows great strength, while the mouth of the lion reveals the ability to tear to pieces the enemy. The dragon, which we have already seen to be Satan, caused this empire to have power and authority to rule over the people. How did they do this? They did it by wreaking death and destruction upon their conquered peoples, creating fear in them, and threatening them with death. They forced the worship of false gods upon the people that they conquered.



Revelation 13:3: And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.


More of this comes up later. To me, this is indicative of the fact that the first emperors were of the Claudian dynasty. There came a period where three men who were not of that dynasty rose to power and were quickly dispatched, after which the Flavian family rose to dominance of the empire. This is the “wounded head that was healed”. The people saw the empire founder under the quick succession of rulers in AD 69, and no doubt thought that the empire would tear itself apart in civil war. That the empire returned to stability caught the wonder and awe of the empire’s citizens and subjects.



Revelation 13:4: And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?


The citizens and subjects of the empire saw it as indestructible. They viewed Rome as the “eternal city”. Who could fight against, and defeat, Rome? The fact that its head was wounded, but healed, seemed to assure that Rome would never be defeated, and would not fall! Of course, by bowing to false gods and goddesses, and to the Roman emperor as a god, they worshipped Satan through this idol worship.



Revelation 13:5: And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.


It was Nero, the last of the first Roman dynasty, who sent Flavius Vespasianus (Vespasian) in 66 AD to put down the Jewish revolt in Judaea, before he was called away to Rome to become emperor, after three others had risen and fallen in quick succession around 69 AD. He left his son, Flavius Titus, to finish the destruction of Jerusalem. The conquest of Judaea took 42 months, or 3-1/2 years.



Revelation 13:6: And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.

7: And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.


“And power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations” clearly identifies the Roman Empire, and its emperor. Nero persecuted Jews and Christians, and ordered the conquest of Judaea by Vespasian.


Recall the words of Jesus, regarding the prophecy by Daniel:


Matthew 24:15: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

16: Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:”



Revelation 13:8: And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.


Non-Christians would put their trust in the emperor, and the empire.



Revelation 13:9: If any man have an ear, let him hear.


The wise will understand about whom John is writing.



Revelation 13:10: He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.


Jesus spoke similar words to Peter.


Matthew 26:52: “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”


The emperors, who lived and ruled by violence, would often meet violent ends. In other words, “the meek shall inherit the earth”. Those who rule are targets for those who wish to rule. Those who make a name for themselves invite warriors who fancy themselves the stronger. Nero persecuted and killed Christians, and he died a violent death. It was told that he committed suicide, assisted by his personal servant, by a stab wound to the throat.



Revelation 13:11: And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.


Another beast arises from the earth, replacing the first beast. This is the Flavian dynasty, the two horns signifying the two sons of Vespasian—Titus and Domitian. The Flavians arose from peasant stock, men who took their living from the earth.



Revelation 13:12: And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.


Just as the world thought that the Roman Empire was crashing down with the quick succession of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, up comes Vespasian to take the reins of power and pull the empire back together! He, of course, praised the earlier emperors, and caused the worship of false gods to continue.



Revelation 13:13: And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,

14: And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.

15: And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.


In the one sense, it can be said that Vespasian, and his son, Titus, made fire come down from heaven when Titus torched the temple in Jerusalem. It was the will of God, but was done maliciously by the conquering Romans as a sign that their pagan gods were stronger than the God of the Jews. To many, especially Gentiles, this seemed to be true.


As for miracles, the writer Gaius Suetonius (swē-tō ' nē-əs) Tranquillus wrote thusly:


“Vespasian as yet lacked prestige and a certain divinity, so to speak, since he was an unexpected and still new-made emperor; but these also were given him. A man of the people who was blind, and another who was lame, came to him together as he sat on the tribunal, begging for the help for their disorders which Serapis had promised in a dream; for the god declared that Vespasian would restore the eyes, if he would spit upon them, and give strength to the leg, if he would deign to touch it with his heel. Though he had hardly any faith that this could possibly succeed, and therefore shrank even from making the attempt, he was at last prevailed upon by his friends and tried both things in public before a large crowd; and with success. At this same time, by the direction of certain soothsayers, some vases of antique workmanship were dug up in a consecrated spot at Tegea in Arcadia and on them was an image very like Vespasian.”


Another historian, Cornelius Tacitus (AD 56 to 120), tells it this way:


During the months while Vespasian was waiting at Alexandria for the regular season of the summer winds and a settled sea, many marvels occurred to mark the favour of heaven and a certain partiality of the gods toward him. One of the common people of Alexandria, well known for his loss of sight, threw himself before Vespasian’s knees, praying him with groans to cure his blindness, being so directed by the god Serapis, whom this most superstitious of nations worships before all others; and he besought the emperor to deign to moisten his cheeks and eyes with his spittle. Another, whose hand was useless, prompted by the same god, begged Caesar to step and trample on it. Vespasian at first ridiculed these appeals and treated them with scorn; then, when the men persisted, he began at one moment to fear the discredit of failure, at another to be inspired with hopes of success by the appeals of the suppliants and the flattery of his courtiers; finally he directed the physicians to give their opinion whether such blindness and infirmity could be overcome by human aid. Their reply treated the two cases differently: they said that in the first [the case of the blind man] the power of sight had not been completely eaten away and it would return if the obstacles were removed; in the other [the useless hand], the joints had slipped and become displaced, but they could be restored if a healing pressure were applied to them. Such perhaps was the wish of the gods, and it might be that the emperor had been chosen for this divine service; in any case, if a cure were obtained, the glory would be Caesar’s, but in the event of failure, ridicule would fall only on the poor supplicant. So Vespasian, believing that his good fortune was capable of anything and that nothing was any longer incredible, with a smiling countenance, and amid intense excitement on the part of the bystanders, did as he was asked to do. The hand was instantly restored to use, and the day again shone for the blind man. Both facts are told by eye-witnesses even now when falsehood brings no reward.“


We see that Vespasian gained a reputation as having performed miracles. In this way, he was able to persuade the people to continue their worship of the idol gods, as well as himself, as emperor. Faith in the Roman Empire was restored under the new Flavian dynasty, unrelated to the old dynasty of the Claudians.


We also see that it was Vespasian, and his son Titus, who conquered Judaea, destroyed the temple, and the city of Jerusalem, and either killed or took the Jews into captivity.



Revelation 13:16: And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:

17: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.


A mark on the forehead is indicative of what is on the mind. For instance:


Ezekiel 9:4: “And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.”

Deuteronomy 6:5: “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

6: And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

7: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

8: And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.”


In other words, those who would love the worship of the emperor, and his gods, would have the mark of Rome in his mind, or on his forehead, as it were. Bearing the mark in the right hand could well mean the use of the Roman coinage. Without the mark, one could not do business.


Again, the mention of the name of the beast, or the number of his name, can be referring to the likeness of Caesar on the coins, and the abbreviated spellings of the names of the Caesar.



Revelation 13:18: Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.


Many have struggled with the meaning of the number 666. However, one thing is clear—it is the number of a man. It is not a government, a technology, or a cultural or political movement of any sort—it is the number of a man.


As to what man is intended, we have seen already that it has to do with the Caesars of ancient Rome. What remains is to pinpoint the man being indicated by the number. Many think that is is Emperor Nero, and offer an explanation for that. However, it is quite involved, requiring a certain abbreviation of his name in the Latin, being translated into Hebrew, and then tallied to arrive at 666. (Some old manuscripts use the number 616, which can also be equated to a form of the same name.)


Since Nero severely persecuted Christians, and ordered the conquest of Judaea, which culminated in the destruction of the Jewish nation, Jerusalem, and the temple, this seems quite logical.

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