Four Beasts into One

In Revelation, the single “beast from the sea” is related to but distinct from the four beasts from Daniel’s vision

From the Sea - Photo by Daniel Mirlea on Unsplash
In
Revelation, the single “beast from the sea” displays all the animal characteristics of the four creatures that Daniel saw ascending from a chaotic sea. John’s “beast” is from the same lineage as Daniel’s four “beasts” but is also something more. It certainly is not identical to the “fourth beast” with the “little horn,” though it has incorporated some of the latter’s attributes - [Photo by Daniel Mirlea on Unsplash].

That Daniel’s vision of four “beasts” is behind John’s image of the “beast from the sea” is indisputable. But the latter employs the language and imagery of the former to build its own more complete picture. What was “sealed” in Daniel is not sealed in Revelation and envisioned something beyond what Daniel saw. His single “beast” is an amalgamation of all four of the “beasts” seen by Daniel ascending from the sea - (Daniel 12:1-4, Revelation 22:9-10).

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

Daniel saw four individual beasts ascending in succession from the sea, whereas, John saw only one. In Daniel, the first beast was compared to a lion, the second to a bear, the third to a leopard, but the fourth had no analog in the animal kingdom, it was a monstrosity with “ten horns” and “seven heads.”

In Revelation, the animal features of all four “beasts” are combined into one new entity, then listed in reverse order from the vision of Daniel - The beast with “ten horns,” the leopard, the bear, and lastly, the lion.  John’s single “beast” is a composite of all four of Daniel’s creatures. It is related but also is something beyond them. Its composite nature means it is NOT identical to Daniel’s fourth “beast” – It includes the features of all four of the “beasts” seen by the prophet.

The “ten horns” of Daniel’s fourth beast represented ten kings that would reign over the fourth kingdom. In contrast, the “ten horns” of John’s “beast” have “received no kingdom yet, but they will receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour” - (Revelation 17:12).

The fourth beast in Daniel had “ten horns,” but another “little horn” ascended among the ten after three were removed, and it was “speaking great things.” But in Revelation, the one “beast” had “seven heads” in addition to its “ten horns,” one of which was “struck dead, and his death-stroke was healed.” And in Daniel, the “little horn” of the “fourth beast” was “speaking great things,” but in Revelation, the “beast” itself was “given a mouth speaking great things and slanders” - (Daniel 7:8, Revelation 13:3-5).

In Daniel, the four beasts represented four successive kingdoms. The first, the winged lion, undoubtedly symbolized Babylon. The second, the bear with one side “raised higher than the other,” most likely represented the Medo-Persian Empire that overthrew Babylon. And in Daniel, the “kingdom of the Medes and Persians” is always a single unit that includes both nations - (Daniel 2:38, 8:2011:1-2).

The third beast with four wings and four heads represented the conquests of Alexander the Great, especially his defeat of the Persian Empire. After his death, his kingdom was divided into four lesser domains. The four heads of the leopard represented that fourfold division.

Greek Temple - Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash
Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash

The identity of the “
fourth beast” is not made clear until the vision of the Ram and the Goat in the eighth chapter of Daniel, where the “little horn” speaking “great things” is identified as a malevolent king who ruled over one of the four successor kingdoms of the “goat,” that is, Greece. That king “of fierce countenance” waged war against the “saints,” desecrated the Temple, erected the “transgression that desolates,” and caused the cessation of the daily burnt offering in the sanctuary - (Daniel 7:15-26, 8:21-26, 9:26-27, 11:30-36).

Revelation does not employ the framework of four successive empires that features prominently in Daniel. Instead, it employs a sevenfold succession of kingdoms. The “seven heads” of the “beast” represent “seven mountains” on which the “Great Harlot” sits. In turn, the “seven mountains” symbolize “seven kings” or kingdoms, five of which had “fallen” before John received his visions, one was “present” in his day, and another was “yet to come” - (Daniel 7:177:23, Revelation 17:8-10).

The kingdom that “is” when John recorded his visions could only be the Roman empire, the “beast” that even then was persecuting the “churches of Asia,” but there yet remained a future and final incarnation of the “beast.” When it appeared, it would “continue a little while,” and then “go into destruction.”

Thus, the single “beast from the sea” represents something far beyond what Daniel originally saw, for it is a trans-historical reality. It was present in the four historical empires represented by Daniel’s “four beasts,” and it was working in John’s time to destroy the “saints.”

One day, the final or seventh incarnation of the “beast” will arrive to “make war with the Lamb,” and since the “Dragon” was expelled from the heavenly courtroom upon the enthronement of Jesus, Satan’s earthly agents cannot attack him directly. Instead, they make war against his “saints” - (Revelation 5:5-12, 11:712:1713:7-1020:7-10).

Thus, Revelation borrows imagery from Daniel to build its portrait of the World-Power that threatens the very existence of the Church throughout the present era.  It is not identical to any of the “four beasts” from Daniel, but it certainly is of the same nature and character. His four malevolent entities were forerunners, prototypes of the final incarnation of the “beast,” and that creature was attacking the “churches of Asia” already in the first century. But its ultimate form will appear only at the end of the age when Satan launches his final attempt to annihilate the church – (Revelation 20:7-10).




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