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19 July 2019

Revelation's Beast compared to Daniel's Fourth Beast

Synopsis:   The single “beast from the sea” in Revelation is related to but distinct from the four beasts that Daniel saw ascending from the sea – Revelation 13:1-10.

John saw a beast from the sea with seven heads
In discussions on the book of Revelation, the “Beast” from the sea is often assumed to be the fourth beast from Daniel. Is Revelation simply expounding on Daniel’s earlier vision of a fourth beast or presenting something more? (Daniel 7:1-8Revelation 13:1-10).

That the vision of four beasts in Daniel lies behind the image of a beast ascending from the sea in the book of Revelation is indisputable. However, Revelation expands on the language and imagery from Daniel to build its own more complete picture. Remember:  what was “sealed” in Daniel is not sealed in the book of Revelation. John envisions something beyond what Daniel saw, his single Beast is an amalgamation of all four of the beasts that Daniel saw rising from a chaotic sea (Daniel 12:1-4, Revelation 22:9-10).

Both Daniel’s fourth beast and the single “Beast” in Revelation ascend from the sea, both have ten horns, and both wage war against the “saints.” The tens horns in both visions represent “ten kings.” However, the several significant differences outweigh the similarities. (Daniel 7:21-24, Revelation 13:7, 17:12).

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 was a monstrosity with ten horns.

In Revelation, the traits of all four of Daniel’s beasts are combined into one entity, then listed in reverse order from the vision of Daniel - the beast with ten horns, the leopard, the bear, and, lastly, the lion.  The single “Beast” in Revelation is a composite of all four of Daniel’s beasts; it is related to them but, also, is something more.

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 fourth beast had ten horns; however, another “little horn” ascended from among the ten after three of them were removed. This “little horn” was “speaking great things.” 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.” In Daniel, the “little horn” was speaking great things, whereas, in the vision of John, the “Beast” itself was “given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies” (Daniel 7:8, Revelation 13:3).

The four beasts from the sea in Daniel represent four successive kingdoms. The first, the winged lion, undoubtedly was Babylon. The second, the bear with one side raised higher than the other, 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 2:38, 8:2011:1-2).

The third beast with four wings and four heads represented the Greek conquests begun by Alexander the Great with the overthrow of the Persian Empire. After his death, his kingdom was divided into four lesser domains among his competing 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. In this vision’s interpretation, the Goat is identified with Greece (Daniel 8:1-27).

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 wages war against the saints (Revelation 11:4-7, 13:7).

Daniel’s four successive kingdoms had historical fulfillments prior to the composition of the book of Revelation; the rise and fall of Daniel’s fourth beast was already in John’s past, therefore, the single “Beast” from the sea in Revelation is not identical to Daniel’s fourth beast, although the two are certainly related.
The book of Revelation does not use Daniel’s fourfold framework of four successive empires. Instead, it utilizes a sevenfold succession of kingdoms. The seven heads of the “Beast” represent “seven mountains” on which the Great Harlot sits. In turn, they represent “seven kings” or kingdoms. In John’s day, five of the seven had already “fallen,” “one is,” and “another is yet to come.” The identities of the five “fallen” realms are not pursued and, presumably, are not relevant to Revelation’s message (compare - Daniel 7:177:23, Revelation 17:8-10).

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 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.” Since the Lamb has already been exalted to reign from Heaven’s Throne, and since the Devil has been expelled from the heavenly courtroom as a result, Satan’s agents cannot attack Christ directly. Instead, they assault his Church. The “Beast” attacks the Lamb by waging “war” against the saints (Revelation 5:5-12, 11:712:1713:7-1020:7-10).

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 to any of Daniel’s four beasts, but it certainly is of the same nature and character.

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. However, his final beastly attempt will be far worse for all who follow the Lamb than any of his previous efforts (Genesis 11:1-9).

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