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The Beast of the Sea, in a medieval tapestry

The Beast is a figure in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. There are two beasts described in Revelation 13; the First Beast arises out of the sea, having seven heads and 10 horns. The Second (Lamb-like) Beast arises out of the earth, having the appearance of a lamb while speaking like a dragon. This Beast exercises authority on behalf of the first beast, causing the Earth-dwellers to make an image of the First Beast, and worship him. It is able to give life to this image so that it could speak and kill anyone who doesn't worship the First Beast. This Beast is later called “The False Prophet” (Rev. 16:13; Rev. 19:20; Rev. 20:10). In Christian eschatology the Beast together with the Dragon (Satan) and the First Beast (the Antichrist) forms the unholy trinity.

Identity of the Beast From the Sea

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Eschatology differences
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Preterist view

Preterist interpretations, a theological position also advocated by most academic scholars[1][2], generally identify the First Beast with Imperial Rome, particularly with Nero. Much evidence is given by preterists and secular scholars as to why the Beast from the Sea probably referred to Nero.

For example, Rome was known in antiquity as the city of seven hills (Rev. 13:1, Rev. 17:9), Revelation was a warning about events that were "shortly" to take place (Rev. 1:1), and the instrument of Nero's death was a sword ("If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if any one kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed." - Revelation 13:10).

Historicist view

Many Historicists such as the Seventh-day Adventist Church identifies the first Beast with the Papacy. According to adherents of this view, the "image to the beast" represents Protestant churches which will form an alliance with the Papacy, and the "mark of the beast" refers to a future universal Sunday law. Some Adventists have interpreted the number of the beast, 666, as corresponding to the title Vicarius Filii Dei of the Pope. But it was pointed out by Catholic apologists that Vicarius Filii Dei was never an official name or title of the Pope (appearing in the forged Donation of Constantine) — rather it was Vicarius Christi. Latin also does not use the letter U, but V, which would throw off the numerical value of the title. The beast number 666, which some Historicists claim is engraved in the Pope's tiara, has never been shown to exist. Pre-Seventh-day Adventist Historicists who identify the Papacy as the Beast include Reformers such as John Wycliff and Martin Luther, as well as other prominent figures such as Isaac Newton.

Dispensationalist or Futurist view

Futurists identify the Beast with the Anti-Christ who may appear before or immediately after the rapture to rule the world and deceive the Jews. They hold that the Beast will rule the world using a world government like unto or greater than the Roman empire. Christian Zionist author Hal Lindsay has written of the Antichrist as head of a revived Roman Empire (A United States of Europe Or European Union). They also believe that RFID tagging could represent the Number of the Beast, which Revelation 13:16-17 says will be placed by the Beast in the right hands or foreheads of humans and necessary for commerce.

Idealist View

Idealists identify the Beast not as a specific entity but as a symbolic representation of all sociopolitical systems that have oppressed the church throughout history. Some Idealists also adopt the Futurist idea that the final fulfillment of the Beast symbol will be an intense and widespread persecution of the church immediately preceding the return of Christ.

Alternative views

Beast wearing papal tiara from Luther's translation of the New Testament from 1522.

  • German Protestant theologian Ethelbert Stauffer argued that this beast refers to the Roman emperor Domitian, who ruled from 81-96 AD because he had reigned during the proposed time of origin of the Apocalypse and supposedly was called "The Beast" as a "secret derisive nickname" by Romans, Greeks, Christians and Jews. Domitian's official title in Latin was Imperator Caesar Domitianus Augustus Germanicus. This was rendered as Autokrator Kaisar Dometianos Sebastos Germanikos for his Greek-speaking subjects. And in turn, for their coins, this abbreviated to A.KAI.DOMET.SEB.GE=666 (1+20+1+10+4+70+40+5+300+200+5+2+3+5).
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the 10-horned, seven-headed wild beast symbolizes a world power. The seven heads mean that this modern day "beast" would have the lineage of the 7 major world powers that have dominated mankind (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, Anglo-American). The beast itself is an eighth king. The 10 horns (10 being a biblical number symbolising earthly completeness) represent governments united together in purpose to form this world power. They believe that Christ began ruling as king from 1914 until the destruction by Christ of the present systems of things on earth. The dual government world power (the two-horned wild beast also featured in Revelation) is the same false prophet mentioned in Rev 16 which help give life to the Beast, The United States and Britain as the Dual world power while the beast is the United Nations.(Rev 13:15-17).

They believe that Daniel's prophecy is a direct precursor and crosses over into John's revelation and the symbology is very similar. They believe that Daniel's prophecy of the king of the north and south starts just after Alexander the Great's death (the Greek world power represented as a winged four-headed leopard in Daniel) and refers to Ptolemy's kingdom in the south and Seleucus' kingdom in the north. It then loosely describes some of the major events concerning these world powers, with the king of the south representing the subsequent world powers that evolved from Ptolemy's kingdom (Roman, Roman Catholic, Britain and USA) and the north representing its major opponents.

The historical one-headed Babylonian Beast (Sirrush) on the Ishtar Gate in Babylon.

They believe the rebuilding of "heavenly" or " New Jerusalem" has already occurred in heaven since 1914 and that the Jehovah will put it in the hearts of the governments to give the beast "Teeth" as it were to turn on Babylon the Great, which represents the world empire of false religion (because she rides the wild beast and misleads the governments and people and in Revelation 18, The Governments, Merchants and others will then miss her). This beast then turns its attention to God's Spiritual holy land (Dan 11:44-45) and lays down his temporary palace (palatial tents) between the Mediterranean* and Mount Zion representing his modern day people and not physical Israel (Grand sea* and Holy mountain of Decoration*). This occurs because of the signs of Matt 24:29-31 when once mankind as a whole realizes that they will die and "beat themselves' they we look for God's Servants to kill them. In turn this will start Armaggedon.

They believe that the fulfillment of these prophecies along with the signs about earthquakes, pestilence, war, famine and many others (Mat 24:7-14, Rev 6),the signs which have plagued mankind since Jesus began ruling as King in Jehovah's subsidiary Government since 1914.

  • Aleister Crowley (1875–1947) claimed that he was the Beast prophesied in Revelation and took the name “Το Μέγα θηριον” ("To Mega Therion"), Greek for “The Great Beast”, which adds up to 666 by isopsephy, the Greek form of gematria.[3][4]
  • Some identify the Beast with a Super Computer in Brussels, Belgium.[5];[6] However, author Joe Musser attributes the origin of this urban legend to his 1970 novel Behold, a Pale Horse and to an ad campaign promoting the movie The Rapture which featured the Brussels-based super computer. This ad campaign consisted of make-believe newspapers containing "reports" on various aspects of the movie. Musser speculates that stories subsequently run in an unnamed Pennsylvania newspaper and a 1976 issue of Christian Life magazine were mistakenly based on these ads.[5][6]
  • There are a number of sites online [7][8][9] that identify the beast as being a revived Islamic Caliphate. By comparing the eschatology of the Bible and the Qu'ran, they claim to see how the eschatology in the Qu'ran fits straight into the eschatology in the Bible, if the revived Caliphate is the Beast and the Jesus in the Qu'ran is the Anti-Christ of the Bible. Moreover, they claim that the historical Caliphate fits the description of the seventh empire and a revived Caliphate would fit the description of the eighth empire that is the seventh empire that was, but then did not exist, and then came back as the eighth empire, as described in the Book of Revelations.

Identity of the beast from the land

This earth-beast has been variously identified as:

  • the Jewish religious system of the first century that conspired with the Roman state to suppress and persecute the early church (this is the view of several preterist interpreters) [10]
  • a chief administrator of Roman rule in Ephesus and Asia Minor, i.e., the "henchman" of the Emperor. This is probably the provincial governor (or proconsul) who would have overseen the political and religious operations of the area from his capital in Ephesus[11]
  • the Roman imperial priesthood of the Roman Imperial Cult that sought to enforce worship of Caesar. These priests demanded worship of the emperor and demanded those who refused be put to death. Those who worshipped the emperor received a certificate (libellus) or mark of approval. In the reign of Emperor Decius (249-251 AD), those who did not possess the certificate of sacrifice to Caesar could not pursue trades (Rev. 13:17), a prohibition that conceivably goes back to Nero.[12]
  • a literal individual living and working in conjunction with the Antichrist at the end of the age.
  • the High Priest of the Provincial Imperial Cult, who would have been a leading citizen from one of the main cities. The imperial cult in Ephesus was set up by Domitian in 89 AD[11] (Ephesus is the location of one of the Seven Churches in Asia to whom the Book of Revelation was addressed)
  • the priesthood of the Roman Catholic Church
  • the Papacy (this is the view of some of the Protestant Reformers)
  • a figurative portrayal of the presence and influence of false teachers, particularly false prophets, throughout the course of church history
  • the United States of America (this is the view of the Seventh-day Adventist Church). This interpretation was introduced by Adventist pioneer, John Nevins Andrews.

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are described in the last book of the New Testament of the Bible, called the Book of Revelation of Saint John the Evangelist at 6:1-8. The chapter tells of a scroll in God's right hand that is sealed with seven seals. Jesus Christ opens the first four of the seven seals, which summons forth the four beasts that ride on white, red, black, and pale-green horses symbolizing conquest, war, famine, and death, respectively. The Christian apocalyptic vision is that the four horsemen are to set a divine apocalypse upon the world as harbingers of the Last Judgment.

See also