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THE BEAST OF THE SEA Part 1

 

 

Then I stood on the sand of the sea. 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. 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. And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. Revelation 13:1–3.

 

We learned at the end of chapter 12 that the great red dragon was enraged against the woman and went to war with the rest of her offspring. Realizing that the internal flood of heresy and ritual did not destroy the church built by Jesus Christ, the dragon now goes into the church business.

Notice the description of this beast that comes up out of the sea: It has seven heads and ten horns and it has crowns on its horns. This is exactly the same description of the dragon in chapter 12 verse 3. The only difference in the description is that this beast has a blasphemous name on his heads.

John had just seen the great sign appearing in heaven, which was the church built by Jesus beginning on the Day of Pentecost. Upon the appearance of the church a war consisting of two great battles breaks out in heaven. The first battle being the persecution of the church and the second battle being the struggles against heresies. The war came to an end when the great red dragon spewed out a flood that was swallowed up by the earth.

In chapter 13 that flood turns into the sea, which gives rise to a monstrous beast that demands worship and makes war against those who do not worship it.

 

The Beast Rises Up

 

You will recall from chapter 12 that when the literal persecution of the church failed a woe was pronounced in verse 12, “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil had come down to you.” We have learned that the earth symbolizes the unregenerate. Isaiah 57:20 tells us the sea symbolizes the wicked, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”

The waters spewed out to the mouth of the dragon gave rise to this beast whose foundation is the state of sin, the unregenerate life, and wickedness that continuously generates spiritual unrest and destruction. The creature is a beast. The word beast indicates a wild, ravenous animal. This is not a pet; it is a dangerous beast of prey. Coming up out of the unregenerate earth and causing spiritual unrest and destruction, it is evident that this beast it is a belligerent power that gains its strength and growth by preying upon feebler and harmless animals.

 

Seven Heads and Ten Horns

 

From this we learn that no matter how the beast tries to disguise itself, it is really the great red dragon of chapter 12. Its nature has not changed; it is still a Christ-less persecuting form of religion. This beast is the third in the systems of religion. The first two systems we identified as the church built by Jesus Christ in its struggles during the first two eras of church history. This third system of religion says it is the church built by Jesus but it is a church that dishonors Christ and effectively denies Him in the work of salvation.

We learned that the heads of the great red dragon were the persecuting power of Satan through the history of the Christian church. The beast of the sea attempts to disguise itself as the church of God by placing a blasphemous name on its heads. Blasphemy in the Bible means any and all impious or immoral speaking applied to God and the things of God. A name of blasphemy is the wrong use of the sacred name of God given to an evil and unholy use. In the letter to the church at Philadelphia in Revelation 3:9 that Christ places judgment on “those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not.”

The beast of the sea attempts to disguise itself as the church of God by simply calling itself the church of God, saying it is Christian when in reality it denies Christ and substitutes ritual and confirmation for faith and salvation.

 

Other Traits

 

This wild beast of the sea developed some other traits in its attempt to disguise the great red dragon.

Daniel chapter seven records the vision of the four world-empires leading up to the coming of Messiah. Each empire is depicted by a beast. First, a lion depicting the Babylonian Empire. Second, a bear depicting the Persian Empire. Third, a leopard depicting the Greek Empire. Fourth, a terrible beast with 10 horns depicting the Roman Empire.

The beast of the sea has characteristics of all four of these beasts. While these were political empires, there are attributes of each of these beasts to be found in the beast of the sea. First, it has a trait of the leopard. Daniel’s leopard, the Greek Empire, had dominion. The beast of the sea exercises dominion and rule over people as part of its nature. Daniel’s bear, the Persian Empire, devoured flesh. The beast of the sea devours people through its spiritual dominion over their lives. Daniel’s lion, the Babylonian Empire, was human. The beast of the sea is a human religion and not God’s religion. Daniel’s terrible beast, the Roman Empire, was exceedingly strong and it spoke pompous words. The beast of the sea is exceedingly strong and it takes a blasphemous name.

Also notice at the end of the description, we are told that “the dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.” The great red dragon, Christ-less religion, gave the beast of the sea its power, throne, and great authority. This third system of religion had great authority. From where does this authority come? This authority was revealed in chapter 12 verse 9 as the authority of the serpent of old, the Devil and Satan who deceives the whole world. The Devil gives this system of religion his authority to deceive the whole world. Through that deception the beast of the sea convinces mankind that it alone is the church built by Jesus even though it is a Christ-less religion.

The beast of the sea sits on a throne, a place that emblemizes his authority to rule over people. Historically, chapter 13 moves into an era that follows the decline of the Roman Empire. It is in Rome that this throne was usurped by the beast of the sea so that it could effectively rule over the peoples of the then-known world. The dragon gives the beast of the sea his power. The power of Christ-less religion is fear—fear spirits, fear of witch doctors and supposed holy men, the power of superstition and outright violence.

 

The Wounded Head

 

Verse 3 reveals an ominous fact about the beast of the sea. “And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.”

We know that the great red dragon has seven heads, which we learned were its persecuting power during the history of the church. As the dragon dons the disguise of the beast of the sea, it is not one of the dragon’s head that is wounded; it is one of the heads of the beast of the sea. How many heads does the beast of the sea have? In English when we read the word one, we think of either the number one or any digit in a sequence. To us, in the context of seven heads it could be any one of the seven heads, not necessarily the first one. The Greek word one indicates one or first. So, again, how many heads does this beast have? The answer is two.

Chapter 12 ends sometime around the fifth century after the battle against heresies is effectively concluded. At this time the church has two cities that are looked to as the seats of authority: Rome and Constantinople. The Roman Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople on May 11, 330 A.D. The bishop of Rome and the bishop of Constantinople vied for complete domination of the church and it seemed with the Nicene Creed having been developed and adopted in Asia Minor that the bishop of Constantinople was in the lead as far as influence.

The mortal wound began with the jealousy and desire for preeminence between the churches of Rome and Constantinople. In the mid fifth century there were disagreements between the two factions over teaching concerning the consubstantial relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity. During the 8th and 9th centuries there were strong disagreements over the use of images in the church: Rome being in favor and Constantinople being against. And finally 1054 the churches split over the authority of the pope.

It was the separation of the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church that was the deadly wound of the beast of the sea. The deadly wound was healed in the sense that after the separation the Roman Church became the predominant church in what was the western Roman Empire. Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne Emperor of the Western Roman Empire on December 25, 800, which revived the empire after the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 A.D. The term Holy Roman Empire was adopted during the 13th century. This empire in its religious/political identity established the Roman Catholic Church as the ruling political power in Europe for centuries. The Greek Church, also known as the Orthodox Church, subdivided into national churches in Asia Minor and Eastern Europe and never achieved the political power of the Roman Church. The Orthodox Church as also overshadowed when Islam conquered the Ottoman Empire.

 

The Awe of the Beast

 

John views the beast of the sea and stands in awe of its accomplishments. It is almost as if he cannot believe his eyes. The great red dragon has devised a church constructed on the basis of a false salvation that has become the dominant religion in the realm where the church built by Jesus had won multitudes to true salvation. He has seen the political and religious battle waged by Rome to accomplish this end and there is a sense in which he stands amazed that God has allowed this to happen.

This church has the power, rule and authority given it by the dragon and it has succeeded in producing a Christ-less church that uses a statue of Jesus on the cross to deceive people into a false sense of security.

“All the world marveled and followed the beast.” Rome had displaced God’s church and the world saw only this beast and followed it according to its dictates. But, as we read further in chapter 13 we will find that Jesus still had His church even though it existed in the shadows of Rome.

 

Disclaimer.

 

It is important that we deal with real history, some of which is very unpleasant. This beast of the sea represents the Roman Catholic Church as a religious system. There are very evil at unpleasant things that happened in the history of the Roman Catholic Church and many of its Popes were wicked and evil men. While the Church gradually changed the gospel into rituals with no spiritual value, there were people that came to the church and were brought to Christ by the Holy Spirit in spite of the darkness of the church. As we look into the history of this church it must be remembered that the judgment seen in the Revelation is against the Catholic Church, not necessarily against Catholics. There have been noble and godly people associated with the Roman Catholic Church that are examples of piety and godliness.

Every church, denomination, and movement has its history, some of which is just as evil and ungodly as the Roman Catholic Church. None of us are in a position to feel superior to anyone else.