19 July 2019

Revelation's Beast compared to Daniel's Fourth Beast


In discussions on the book of Revelation, the “Beast” from the sea is often assumed to be the fourth beast from Daniel (Daniel 7:1-8; Revelation 13:1-10). Is Revelation simply expounding on Daniel’s earlier vision of a fourth beast?
     That Daniel’s vision of four beasts lies behind Revelation’s image is indisputable. Perhaps the book of Revelation borrows language from Daniel to build its own picture.
     Both Daniel’s fourth beast and Revelation’s “Beast” ascend from the sea, both have ten horns and both wage war against the “saints” (Daniel 7:21, Revelation 13:7). The tens horns in both visions represent “ten kings” (Daniel 7:24, Revelation 17:12). However, the more significant differences outweigh such similarities.
     Daniel saw four individual beasts ascending from the sea, whereas, John saw only one. In Daniel’s vision, the first beast is compared to a lion, the second to a bear, the third to a leopard, but the fourth one has no analog in the animal kingdom; it is a monstrosity with ten horns.
     In Revelation, the traits of all four of Daniel’s beasts are combined into one creature and listed in reverse order (i.e., the beast with ten horns, the leopard, the bear, and the lion). Revelation’s single “Beast” is a composite of all four of Daniel’s beasts; it is related to them, of the same character, but also is something beyond them.
     The ten horns of Daniel’s fourth beast represent ten kings that rule the fourth kingdom. In contrast, the ten horns of Revelation’s “Beast” have “received no kingdom as yet; but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour” (Revelation 17:12).
     Daniel’s beast had ten horns and another “little horn” rose up from among them after three of the ten were removed. This “little horn” was “speaking great things” (Daniel 7:8). In contrast, Revelation’s Beast has “seven heads” in addition to its ten horns, one of which was “smitten unto death; and his death-stroke was healed” (Revelation 13:3). In Daniel, the “little horn” was speaking great things, whereas, in Revelation, the “Beast” itself was “given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies.”
     Daniel’s four beasts from the sea represent four successive kingdoms (Daniel 7:17, 7:23). The first, the winged lion, undoubtedly was Babylon (Daniel 2:38). The second, the bear with one side raised higher than the other, almost certainly was the Medo-Persian Empire that succeeded Babylon. In the book of Daniel, the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians” is always a single kingdom that includes both nations (Daniel 8:20, 11:1-2).
     The third beast with four wings and four heads would then represent the Greek conquests begun by Alexander the Great with the overthrow of the Persian Empire. After Alexander’s death, his kingdom was divided into four lesser domains among his generals. The four heads of the leopard point to this fourfold division.
     The identity of the fourth beast is made clear in the vision of the Ram and the Goat and in its interpretation. The “little horn” speaking “great things” from the fourth beast appears again as a ruler over one of the Goat’s four successor regimes (Daniel 8:1-27). In this vision’s interpretation, the Goat is identified with Greece. The “little horn” is a king “of fierce countenance” who wages war against the saints and desecrates the Temple, setting up in it a “transgression that desolates.” This parallels the “little horn” of the preceding vision that waged war against the saints and the beast of Revelation that likewise wages war against the saints (Revelation 11:4-7; 13:7).
     Daniel’s vision of four successive kingdoms had historical fulfillments prior to the composition of Revelation; the rise and fall of Daniel’s fourth beast was in John’s past.  Therefore, the single “Beast” from the sea in Revelation 13:1-10 is not identical with Daniel’s fourth beast.
     The book of Revelation does not use Daniel’s framework of four successive kingdoms. Instead, it utilizes a sevenfold succession of empires. The seven heads of the “Beast” represent “seven mountains” on which the Great Harlot sits. In turn, they represent “seven kings” or kingdoms (compare Daniel 7:17, 7:23). In John’s day, five of the seven had already “fallen,” “one is,” and “another is yet to come” (Revelation 17:9-11). The identities of the five “fallen” realms are not pursued and, presumably, their identities are not relevant to Revelation’s message.
The one kingdom that “is,” that is, the one that was present in John’s day, could only be Rome. The “Beast” was already active persecuting the churches of Asia.  However, there is yet to be a future and final incarnation of the “Beast.” When it appears, it “must continue a little while” and then “go into destruction.”
     In this manner, John presents the “Beast” as a trans-historical reality.  It was already alive and working to destroy the Church in the late first century. Many of the aspects of this “Beast” are recognizable in the character and activities of the Roman Empire, just as first-century realities are seen in the messages to the Seven Churches of Asia in chapters 2-3.
     One day the final “Beast” will arrive and proceed to “make war with the Lamb” (Revelation 17:14). Since the Lamb has already been exalted to reign from Heaven’s throne (Revelation 5:5-12), and since the Devil has been expelled from the heavenly courtroom as a result (Revelation 12:9), Satan’s agents cannot attack Christ directly. Instead, they assault his Church. The “Beast” attacks the Lamb by waging “war” against the saints (Revelation 11:7, 12:17, 13:7-10, 20:7-10).
      In Revelation 13:1-10, John borrows imagery from Daniel 7:1-8 and 7:21 to build a portrait of another world power that will threaten the very existence of the Church.  It is not identical with any of Daniel’s four beasts, but it most certainly is of the same nature and character as them.
     The rise and fall of imperial powers throughout history follow a consistent pattern. Satan has been pushing this same agenda since, at least, the incident at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9). However, his final beastly attempt will be far worse for all who follow the Lamb than any of his previous efforts.

No comments:

Post a Comment