[Rev. 13:1] ¶ Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, and on its horns were ten diadem crowns, and on its heads a blasphemous name. [Rev. 13:2] Now the beast that I saw was like a leopard, but its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. The dragon gave the beast his power, his throne, and great authority to rule. [Rev. 13:3] One of the beast’s heads appeared to have been killed, but the lethal wound had been healed. And the whole world followed the beast in amazement; [Rev. 13:4] they worshiped the dragon because he had given ruling authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast too, saying: “Who is like the beast?” and “Who is able to make war against him?” [Rev. 13:5] The beast was given a mouth speaking proud words and blasphemies, and he was permitted to exercise ruling authority for forty-two months. [Rev. 13:6] So the beast opened his mouth to blaspheme against God—to blaspheme both his name and his dwelling place, that is, those who dwell in heaven. [Rev. 13:7] The beast was permitted to go to war against the saints and conquer them. He was given ruling authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation, [Rev. 13:8] and all those who live on the earth will worship the beast, everyone whose name has not been written since the foundation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was killed. [Rev. 13:9] If anyone has an ear, he had better listen! [Rev. 13:10] If anyone is meant for captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed by the sword, then by the sword he must be killed. ¶ This requires steadfast endurance and faith from the saints. [Rev. 13:11] ¶ Then I saw another beast coming up from the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but was speaking like a dragon. [Rev. 13:12] He exercised all the ruling authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and those who inhabit it worship the first beast, the one whose lethal wound had been healed. [Rev. 13:13] He performed momentous signs, even making fire come down from heaven in front of people [Rev. 13:14] and, by the signs he was permitted to perform on behalf of the beast, he deceived those who live on the earth. He told those who live on the earth to make an image to the beast who had been wounded by the sword, but still lived.
This is perhaps the most contentious chapter in this Revelation. More speculation has been generated over the identity of this mysterious character known as “the beast” than any other mysterious figure in human history. With so much attention, it strikes me as odd that several obvious things are overlooked. Firstly, there are two beasts identified in this chapter. A ‘beast’ was an Old Testament expression for a godless ruler. The prophet Daniel establishes this. ‘From across the sea’ signifies that this particular godless ruler will not be from the (Promised) ‘Land’ (Israel). One of these two beasts is from across the sea. But the other beast is from the Land (Greek word, “ge”). Secondly, John states that with “wisdom” his readers could identify who the first beast is using the common practice of gematria (where letters have numerical value). It’s difficult to see how anyone in the first century, even with infinite wisdom, could know of any identity in the 21st Century!
This makes me wonder about how people can overlook relatively obvious things, such as these two points I have just made. But perhaps this is how some people generally read the Bible - straining at minutiae details while missing the large and obvious. To read the Book of Revelation as if it were a prognosticator’s tea-cup filled with mysterious tea-leaves predictions about our future is perhaps to miss the grandest point that this Book is making: Jesus Christ is Lord. Beasts may rant and oppose, but Christ will be vindicated!
Those who oppose Christ, do so at their peril. Fighting against God has a certain inevitability about it. Fighting against His children has a certain and sure consequence to it! The original readers benefited from this truth. Modern readers can as well.