Revelation Chapter 13
A NOTE ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF VERSES 1 THROUGH 10
Brethren have struggled with the interpretation of this chapter because, historically, it appears to be out of order. This has even led to inaccurate interpretations. For instance, the prevailing Bible Student view of the wounding of one of the heads is that the Reformation accomplished this. This IS accurate. But when we see the head wounded in Verse 3 and the 1260 years shown as taking place later, in Verse 5, it does not seem easy to reconcile THE ORDER OF INFORMATION PRESENTED. However, once we see a little secret of the construction of this narrative, we can feel very comfortable with the symbolisms and their historical fulfillments which Brother Russell presented to us.
Once we are introduced to the Leopard Beast and its physical description (Verses 1 and 2), we are given a SERIES of histories of this beast. Each history, each part of the series, begins with what has been GIVEN to the beast. Then follows what RESULTS from the beast’s having been given these various things. With each part of the series, history CLICKS BACK, that is, looks back in time to take another look at this beast. Hence:
(1) In Verse 2, the beast is GIVEN power, throne, and authority. Then in (Verses 3 and 4) we see the HISTORY of that authority: one of the heads (authorities) is wounded; but the beast recovers.
(2) In Verse 5, the beast is GIVEN two things: a Mouth, and Authority TO “DO” for 1260 years. Then in (Verse 6) we see the HISTORY of those two things: Blaspheme against God and the saints during that period.
(3) In Verse 7, the beast is GIVEN authority over the restless classes of humanity (tribes, peoples, tongues, and nations.) Then in (Verse 8) we see the HISTORY of that authority: ONLY “those who dwell on the earth” really worship him. The rest merely submit to his overwhelming control.
Verse 9 then gives the LESSON which applies to all of the above histories.
Seeing this clever and consistent method of narrative makes this chapter very clear and easy of interpretation.
VERSE 1 “And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.”
It is IMPORTANT TO NOTE that the first phrase of this verse, viz. “AND HE (the Dragon spoken of in the previous chapter) STOOD ON THE SAND OF THE SEASHORE”, belongs to the end of Chapter 12.
AND I SAW: Here again we have John’s peculiar section marker. It is with this phrase that the new vision (and subsequent Chapter) begins.
A BEAST COMING UP OUT OF THE SEA: – A beast represents the less-than-ideal characteristics of mankind. (See Eccl 3:18.) Sometimes the symbol seems to apply to one man as with Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:16.) Most often, however, the symbol applies to a group of men (a government or institution) one with unholy characteristics.
This beast (the Roman Catholic Church-dominated arrangement), comes out of the sea (the restless mass of humanity), because this apostate Christianity was born in the crumbling ruins of the pagan Roman Empire — a time of great restlessness and turmoil.
HAVING TEN HORNS: Horns are powers — supporting powers. The history of Roman Europe shows a rather continuous involvement of about ten states in support of the Roman arrangement. (See “Notes on the Revelation of Jesus Christ” by Bro. Anton Frey, page 190.) [Editor: Europe contains (10) language groups also.]
SEVEN HEADS: Heads are the idea part of any creature. The church-dominated empire has gone through seven major changes in the way it has related church to state beginning back in the days of Justinian when the church became more than just the state religion.
ON HIS HORNS WERE TEN DIADEMS: – This is different from Chapter 12 which has the diadems (crowns) on the HEADS rather than on the HORNS. Here is the difference:
CHAPTER 12: Emperors (who were at the helm of any of the forms — heads — of government) ruled the Roman Empire. Rome WAS the authority, NOT its provincial horns. Thus the crowns were on the heads.
CHAPTER 13: After the ascendancy of the “little horn,” the Empire began losing its over-all rule. When Justinian made the Bishop of Rome PONTIFEX Maximus, it was, in fact a political move despite the meaning of the title. Justinian needed to enforce CIVIL RULE in the provinces far from Constantinople. The fact that the “little horn” could subdue three other horns shows the civil power of the Papacy in the region. Thus Rome lost its over-all dominion and the various provinces (horns) GAINED political autonomy. This is here shown by the crowns’ being on the horns FROM THIS POINT FORWARD.
Note and remember that the Papacy was ONE OF THE CROWNED HORNS — but the one he chose to wear was an ecclesiastical crown with power to give “Divine Right” to the lesser horns. This left this “little horn” with astonishing influence which would never have been attainable were he only to wear an ordinary civil crown. Because this delegation of power to the horns begins historically with Justinian, we are justified in seeing Justinian as the FIRST of the seven heads of this beast.
ON HIS HEAD WERE BLASPHEMOUS NAMES: The whole concept of church-state union (fornication) is an abomination in God’s sight. Therefore, the heads, the ruling church-state collaboration, are a blaspheme. Blaspheme means “an evil-speaking.” What has spoken more evilly of God’s character than what the apostasy-state combination has done in His name? The word NAME means character. Blasphemous names, therefore, mean evil-speaking characteristics. Thus, the false church need not have SAID anything bad about God. It is what it DID that says it all.
VERSE 2 “Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.”
THE BEAST WHICH I SAW: It is important to note that this beast borrows from the first three civil beasts of Daniel 7. Satan is quick to incorporate the “best” of his previous efforts. Babylon, Persia, and Greece were each distinguished by certain characteristics which allowed them to gain great power. The Papal beast, by using the success of all of these, was able not only to GAIN, but to RETAIN power for a long time.
LIKE A LEOPARD: (See Jer 13:23). This beast is camouflaged (wolf in sheep’s clothing?) and thus able to work without being seen (behind the scenes). It is spotted — able to use one policy here, a conflicting one there, — whatever suits its nefarious ends. Like Greece (which was represented by the leopard in Daniel 7,) Papacy claimed to be the seat of learning and civilized attainment.
HIS FEET LIKE A BEAR: How does this beast walk? Where does a bear walk? Wherever it wants to! The Papal beast, through its enormous size, its threatening power, was able to convince all would-be challengers to submit. Just to look at it would give all powers pause. The description of Persia (Dan. 7:5) suggests the bear in a threatening position. The response is – okay! Take what you want! “Arise, devour much meat!”
MOUTH LIKE A LION: Babylon’s king had a mouth which was both pompous and threatening. (See Dan. 4:30 and 3:19.) Papacy, of course, has the same reputation (Dan. 7:8, 20, 25.) Compare Isaiah 31:4.
It is not clear why John mentions the characteristics in REVERSE of the order found in Daniel. Daniel deals with Lion, Bear, and Leopard: Revelation 13 deals with Leopard, Bear, and Lion. This may simply be because Daniel was looking FORWARD as to what WOULD COME while John is looking BACKWARD seeing WHAT WAS.
AND THE DRAGON GAVE HIM HIS POWER, THRONE, AND GREAT AUTHORITY: It is not easy to say whether or not these elements were received at any specific time. Whatever church-state exultation occurred occurred at the expense of the dying pagan Roman Empire. Chapter 12 dealt with this change. The first real POWER was given with Constantine’s making of Christianity the Empire’s mandated religion. The THRONE may refer to AUTHORITY OF JUDGMENT or to the literal PLACE of rule by the GREAT MOUTH — the horn which dominates the beast. THRONE, as a symbol of the authority of judgment, possibly dates from Justinian’s granting of the title of PONTIFEX MAXIMUS (Chief Religious Ruler) to the Papacy. Papacy was, of course, in ROME. We may, therefore, find the THRONE referring to this SEAT OF POWER. It is so mentioned in Rev 2:13 — during Pergamos (the period of Earthly Elevation.) The removal of the capital from Rome to Constantinople by Constantine gave Papacy a PHYSICAL location from which to build its sphere of influence. Justinian made this throne official. GREAT AUTHORITY (which the emphasis on GREAT) seems to go beyond the chief religious title and the exultation of one of the “horns.” The fact that Charlemagne allowed his crowning by the Pope, the fact that Otto the Great founded an empire called the Holy Roman Empire (the FIRST WORD of which title exalts the Papacy), show the GREAT AUTHORITY which the dragon (civil power) GAVE to the Pope.
Continued with next post.
Excerpts taken from the New Albany Notes on Revelation