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Rays of Light Bible Lessons by Keith Holder

THE SEVEN-HEADED BEAST

Rev 13:1-2 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. 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. (Also see Rev. 13:3-10)

As one reads, studies, and attempts to truthfully interpret the prophetic symbolism of the lesson text, it would be well to read of a similar vision described in the seventh chapter of the book of Daniel. Both give us a prophecy of the evil powers that are assured to relentlessly persecute the church of Christ during the dark ages, brought on by the civil and religious powers in Europe and Asia Minor. And, by inference, they assure the same, or similar, trials and tribulations that the body of Christ will face in all historic ages, as well as the present. It is factual that this assured persecution is represented, symbolically, a number of times in Old Testament prophecies, as well as in John's heavenly vision recorded in this letter of his Revelation.

In the previous chapter, we found the persecution of the church of Christ, which was symbolically represented by the earthly influence of a great red dragon, a serpent which represented Satan himself. The final verse of that chapter states that, through his convincing influence on the enemies of Christ, he was determined to destroy the woman, and ...make war with the remnant of her seed, which symbolizes the faithful men and women that comprise the church of Christ. In this chapter, John witnesses the symbolic predictions of the methods Satan would use in order to carry out his war against Christ and His church.

As John's heavenly vision continued, the lesson text tells us that it was as if he was standing on the sandy shore of a great sea. And there he and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns. No doubt the beast symbolically represents a kingdom that was to rise at some future time. Although this beast is described similar to the great red dragon, ...that old serpent called the Devil, and Satan (Rev. 12:3-9), it seems that it is not this same dragon, but a brutal, earthly power that gains its strength, instructions, and guidance from Satan's power. It seems as if Satan, in this vision, is calling the beast to come forth from the sea in order to carry out his plan, to destroy the spiritual influence of Christ on earth, by the persecution of His church.

By tying together the same reference to the seventeenth chapter of the Revelation letter, we readily understand that the seven heads of the beast represent the seven mountains on which Rome was built, and the ten horns represent ten kings, which have no kingdom as yet (See Rev. 17:8-12). The ten crowns, or diadems as translated in the Revised KJV, which adorned these kings, symbolize royal rulers having great authority. Upon the seven heads could be seen the name of blasphemy. No doubt these kings were puppets of the Roman papacy. They were selected, and appointed, by Roman Catholic popes, and claimed to be divinely chosen by God's vicars. Such blatant, untruthful claims were, indeed, irreverent and contemptible in the sight of God.

The beast that arose from the sea was given this vivid description by the apostle John. It was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion. Without any doubt, this vicious, bloodthirsty, composite beast of prey represents tyrannical, oppressive Roman governmental rulers that existed totally under power of the Roman Catholic papacy, which in turn gained his power, and his seat, and great authority from the great dragon, the devil, Satan himself. This power over rulers of the world is exactly what Satan claimed while tempting Jesus at the beginning of His earthly ministry. Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me (Matt. 4:8-9).

Continuing on with the verses following the lesson text, John records that one of the heads of the symbolic beast was wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast (Vs. 3).This seems to tell us that a portion of the Roman government, represented by one of the hills, on which Rome was built, was severely wounded, as if by a sword. This signifies that the wound was received in a warring battle. The verse also tells us that the wound was severe, but it was healed and death was stayed, as we also learn in the following verse 14. To the wonder and amazement of the world, this symbolic "head" remained alive, gained favor, and approval, once again from the papacy, and continued its governmental duties of upholding and promoting Roman Catholicism. The civil leaders of Rome were appointed, installed, and sustained by the Catholic papacy. In turn Catholicism was established as the national religion of the Roman Empire, and was upheld, and defended, by the same secular leaders, whom the popes of Rome had authorized, and appointed, to govern their nation.

Verse four assures us that the beast (the civil government of the Roman Empire) received its power and authority from the dragon, Satan himself. This gift of power was not given directly to the secular government of Rome. Rather they received it through the "spiritual" leaders of the apostate Roman church, the church that, heeding the worldly, ambitious misguidance of the devil, abandoned the wisdom of God, found in the inspired New Testament, and replaced it with a false doctrine established through their own human wisdom. In this sense, the secular men and women of Rome, by their religious worship, which was based on the human doctrine of Catholicism, worshipped the dragon, instead of the Heavenly Father, who offered the world eternal salvation through His Son, Christ Jesus. Indeed, it was by the influence of Satan, which brought about the human corruption of God's Holy Word, through which the doctrine of Catholicism was established. And when their humanly devised doctrine and edicts were spoken by the popes, and enforced by the civil government of Rome, it was as if Satan, himself was, by their mouth speaking great things and blasphemies. By this symbolism, dominion over the church of Christ by the oppressive Roman civil and religious leaders was prophesied, and was to continue forty and two months (Vs. 5), which symbolically represents 1,260 years of spiritual darkness, during which the true body of Christ lay dormant.

The beast, which symbolically represented the apostate Catholic Church and its papal leadership, opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, and His tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven (Vs. 6). To speak blasphemy against anyone, is to speak irreverently or profanely, about them, or to curse or revile them in any way. Although such contemptuous remarks can be made about anyone, blasphemy is generally considered a deliberate and sinful action toward anything that is sacred, especially toward God. This verse mentions three kinds of spiritual blasphemy against God, and things made holy by His authority. To usurp His authority by adding to, deleting from, compromising, or humanly modifying His doctrine, is to blaspheme His name. To deny the existence of God, or to contemptuously ridicule, speak scornfully, or deny the truthfulness of His scriptural doctrine, is to blaspheme His name. His tabernacle is used here to symbolically identify His New Covenant abiding place on earth, which is the church of Christ. To cast any aspersions against the New Testament body of Christ; to slanderously defame it or the spiritual reason for its existence, is to blaspheme ...His tabernacle. The heavenly abode is promised to obedient Christians - to those followers of Christ whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life (Also See Phil. 4:3 and Vs. 8 below). They are referred to here as men and women who believe in God and His doctrine of eternal salvation, have repented of their sinful lives, confessed Jesus to be the Son of God, have been baptized by emersion for the remission of their sins, and have been added to the church of Christ. It is their names that are written in God's heavenly book of life. To ridicule, change, or defy this plan of salvation in any manner, and to contemptuously ridicule, or persecute, the faithful members of His body, is to blaspheme ...them that dwell in heaven.

Having described those that blaspheme God, reference is once again made to those that did, indeed, speak blasphemy against God, His doctrine, and all His children. They were historically known as the secular leaders of the Roman Empire, as well as the Roman Catholic papacy who selected, appointed, and required them to carry out the orders of this "beast," that is, to persecute and destroy God's true tabernacle on earth, the church of Christ. Verse 7 indicates that the vindictive, and vile,power of this Roman beast came from the great red dragon (Rev. 12:3). It was given the devil's divisive, worldly, self-glorifying power to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. For 1,260 years, the influence and teaching of God's word by the church of Christ was hindered and caused to seek a remote "wilderness" for refuge from such extreme persecution.

And during this period of time it has been historically recorded that all people - all kindreds, and tongues, and nations, fell down at the feet of the "beast" and worshipped him. The "world" paid supreme homage to the various popes of the Catholic Church, whom they referred to as the "vicar of God," that is, the appointed apostle, who succeeded, and assumed the duties of the apostle Peter, who was, according to their erroneous creed, the earthly representative of Jesus Christ. Verse 8 tells us that, all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him (the beast).Without any doubt, those referred to here are they thaterringly worshipped this false earthly god, and are identified as those whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. For emphasis the word "not" was underlined to assure all that read this passage of scripture that true, faithful members of the body of Christ, that is, God's children did not then, nor do they now, worship any being other than our Heavenly Father, our Creator, the Author of eternal salvation through His Son, Christ Jesus.

If any man have an ear, let him hear (Vs. 9), which means that the things said in this symbolic prophecy regarding the "beast" of Rome are deserving of special consideration, in order that Christians can recognize, avoid, and speak against this earthly-devised doctrine of Satan. It is also extremely important for all Christians understand the anti-Christian, detrimental affect the followers of the "beast"may haveon the church of Christ. The lesson found in Galatians 6:7 is exactly what is being taught in verse ten, following the subject text. Paul wrote to these churches of Galatia saying, Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. The influence"beast" of Rome, brought much persecution and tribulation to the church of Chirst, and by civil threats of death, prevented its spiritual prosperity and growth.

Therefore the fate of these oppressors was that they, too, would eventually be overcome and led into captivity. They killed with the sword, and they too, will be slain. This is the predicted lot of these vile persecutors of God's church. Therefore, John admonishes the church to have patience and faith - they will soon be vindicated and saved from their terrorists.