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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 13

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

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A. “The characteristics of the first beast,” Revelation 13:1-10.

(a) It comes up out of the sea Revelation 13:1 - out of the commotion, the agitation of nations - a new power that springs up from those disturbed elements.

(b) It has seven heads and ten horns, and upon its horns ten crowns or diadems, Revelation 13:1.

(c) In its general form it resembles a leopard; its feet are like those of a bear; its mouth like that of a lion. Its connection with the great “dragon” - with Satan - is indicated by the statement that it derives its “power, and its seat, and its authority” from him Revelation 13:2 - a striking representation of the fact that the civil or secular Roman power which supported the church of Rome through all its corrupt and bloody progress was the putting forth of the power of Satan on the earth.

(d) One of the heads of this beast is “wounded to death” - that is, with a wound that is in itself mortal. This wound is, however, in some way as yet unexplained, so healed that the vitality yet remains, and all the world pays homage to the beast, Revelation 13:3. A blow is aimed at this authority which seems to be fatal; and there is some healing or restorative process by which its power is recovered, and by which the universality of its dominion and influence is again restored.

(e) The effect of this is, that the world renders homage really to the “dragon,” the source of this power, though in the form of adoration of the “beast,” Revelation 13:4. That is, while the outward homage is rendered to the “beast,” the real worship is that of the “dragon,” or Satan. This beast is regarded as:

(1)Incomparable - “Who is like unto the ‘beast?’” and

(2)Invincible - “Who is able to war with him?”

(f) In this form the beast is endowed with a mouth that “speaks great things and blasphemies,” Revelation 13:5 - that is, the power here referred - to is arrogant, and reviles the God of heaven.

(g) The time during which he is to continue is “forty and two months” - that is, twelve hundred and sixty days, or twelve hundred and sixty years. See the notes on Revelation 11:2.

(h) The characteristics of this beast, and of his dominion, are these:

  1. He opens his mouth in blasphemy against God, and his church, and all holy beings, Revelation 13:6.

Speaks like a dragon, Revelation 13:11; deceives those that dwell upon the earth, Revelation 13:14; is a persecuting power - causing those who would not worship the image of the first beast to be killed, Revelation 13:15.

From this comparison of the two beasts, the following things are plain:

  1. That the same general power is referred to, or that they are both modifications of one general dominion on the earth; having the same origin, having the same locality, and aiming at the same result.

(2)It is the same general domination prolonged - that is, the one is, in another form, but the continuation of the other.

(3)The one becomes weak, or is in some way likely to lose its authority and power, and is revived by the other - that is, the other restores its waning authority, and sets up substantially the same dominion again over the earth, and causes the same great power to be acknowledged on the earth.

(4)The one runs into the other; that is, one naturally produces, or is followed by the other.

(5)One sustains the other.

(6)They, therefore, have a very close relation to each other: having the same object; possessing the same general characteristics; and accomplishing substantially the same thing on the earth.

What this was, will be better seen after the exposition of the chapter shall have been made. It may be sufficient here to remark, that, on the very face of this the Roman power suggested to the mind, as a mighty persecuting power, in the two forms of the civil and ecclesiastical authority, both having the same origin; aiming at the same object; the one sustaining the other; and both combined to keep up the dominion of the great enemy of God and man upon the earth. It is impossible, also, not to be struck with the resemblance, in many particulars, between this vision and that of Daniel Daniel 7:0, and to be impressed with the conviction that they are intended to refer to the same kingdom in general, and to the same events. But this will be made more manifest in the exposition of the chapter.

Verse 1

And I stood upon the sand of the sea - The sand upon the shore of the sea. That is, he seemed to stand there, and then had a vision of a beast rising out of the waters. The reason of this representation may, perhaps, have been that among the ancients the sea was regarded as the appropriate place for the origin of huge and terrible monsters (Prof. Stuart, in loco). This vision strongly resembles that in Daniel 7:2 ff, where the prophet saw four beasts coming up in succession from the sea. See the notes on that place. In Daniel, the four winds of heaven are described as striving upon the great sea Dan 13:2, and the agitated ocean represents the nations in commotion, or in a state of disorder and anarchy, and the four beasts represent four successive kingdoms that would spring up. See the notes on Daniel 7:2. In the passage before us, John indeed describes no storm or tempest; but the sea itself, as compared with the land (see the notes on Revelation 13:11), represents an agitated or unsettled state of things, and we should naturally. look for that in the rise of the power here referred to. If the reference be to the civil or secular Roman power that has always appeared in connection with the papacy, and that has always followed its designs, then it is true that it rose amidst the agitations of the world, and from a state of commotion that might well be represented by the restless ocean. The sea in either case naturally describes a nation or people, for this image is frequently so employed in the Scriptures. Compare, as above, Daniel 7:2, and Psalms 65:7; Jeremiah 51:42; Isaiah 60:5; Revelation 10:2. The natural idea, therefore, in this passage, would be that the power that was represented by the “beast” would spring up among the nations, when restless or unsettled, like the waves of the ocean.

And saw a beast - Daniel saw four in succession Daniel 7:3-7, all different, yet succeeding each other; John saw two in succession, yet strongly resembling each other, Revelation 13:1, Revelation 13:11. On the general meaning of the word “beast” - θηρίον thērion - see the notes on Revelation 11:7. The beast here is evidently a symbol of some power or kingdom that would arise in future times. See the notes on Daniel 7:3.

Having seven heads - So also the dragon is represented in Revelation 12:3. See the notes on that passage. The representation there is of Satan, as the source of all the power lodged in the two beasts that John subsequently saw. In Revelation 17:9, referring substantially to the same vision, it is said that “the seven heads are seven mountains”; and there can be no difficulty, therefore, in referring this to the seven hills on which the city of Rome was built (compare the notes on Revelation 12:3), and consequently this must be regarded as designed, in some way, to be a representation of Rome.

And ten horns - See this also explained in the notes on Revelation 12:3; compare also the more extended illustration in the notes on Daniel 7:25, following The reference here is to Rome, or the one Roman power, contemplated as made up of ten subordinate kingdoms, and therefore subsequently to the invasion of the Northern hordes, and to the time when the papacy was about to rise. Compare Revelation 17:12; “And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings (marg. “kingdoms”), which have received no kingdom as yet, but receive power as kings with the beast.” For a full illustration of this, see the copious notes at the close of the seventh chapter of Daniel.

And upon his horns ten crowns - Greek, “ten diadems.” See the notes on Revelation 12:3. These indicated dominion or authority. In Revelation 12:3, the “dragon is represented as having seven diadems on his head”; here, the beast is represented as having ten. The dragon there represents the Roman domination, as such, the seven-hilled, or seven-headed power, and, therefore, properly described as having seven diadems; the beast here represents the Roman power, as now broken up into the ten dominations which sprung up (see the notes on Daniel as above) from the one original Roman power, and that became henceforward the supporters of the papacy, and, therefore, properly represented here as having ten diadems.

And upon his heads the name of blasphemy - That is, the whole power was blasphemous in its claims and pretensions. The word “blasphemy” here seems to be used in the sense that titles and attributes were claimed by it which belonged only to God. On the meaning of the word “blasphemy,” see the notes on Matthew 9:3; Matthew 26:65. The meaning here is, that each one of these heads appeared to have a frontlet, with an inscription that was blasphemous, or that ascribed some attribute to this power that properly belonged to God; and that the whole power thus assumed was in derogation of the attributes and claims of God. In regard to the propriety of this description considered as applicable to the papacy, see the notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:4.

Verse 2

And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard - For a description of the leopard, see the notes on Daniel 7:6. It is distinguished for bloodthirstiness and cruelty, and thus becomes an emblem of a fierce, tyrannical power. In its general character it resembles a lion and the lion and the leopard are often referred to together. In this description, it is observable that John has combined in one animal or monster, all those which Daniel brought successively on the scene of action as representing different empires. Thus in Daniel 7:2-7 the lion is introduced as the symbol of the Babylonian power; the bear, as the symbol of the Medo-Persian; the leopard, as the symbol of the Macedonian; and a nondescript animal, fierce, cruel, and mighty, with two horns as the symbol of the Roman. See the notes on that passage. In John there is one animal representing the Roman power, as if it were made up of all these: a leopard with the feet of a bear, and the mouth of a lion, with two horns, and with the general description of a fierce monster. There was an obvious propriety in this, in speaking of the Roman power, for it was, in fact, made up of the empires represented by the other symbols in Daniel, and “combined in itself all the elements of the terrible and the oppressive, which had existed in the aggregate in the other great empires that preceded it.” At the same time there was an obvious propriety in the symbol itself; for the bloodthirstiness and cruelty of the leopard would well represent the ferocity and cruelty of the Roman power, especially as John saw it here as the great antagonistic power of the true church, sustaining the papal claim, and thirsting for blood.

And his feet were as the feet of a bear - See the notes on Daniel 7:5. The idea here seems to be that of strength, as the strength of the bear resides much in its feet and claws. At the same time, there is the idea of a combination of fierce qualities - as if the bloodthirstiness, the cruelty, and the agility of the leopard were united with the strength of the bear.

And his mouth as the mouth of a lion - See the notes on Daniel 7:4. The month of the lion is made to seize and hold its prey, and is indicative of the character of the animal as a beast of prey. John has thus brought together the qualities of activity, bloodthirstiness, strength, ferocity, all as symbolical of the power that was intended to be represented. It is hardly necessary to say that this description is one that would apply well, in all respects, to Rome; nor is it necessary to say, that if it be supposed that he meant to refer to Rome, this is such a description as he would have adopted.

And the dragon - See the notes on Revelation 12:3.

Gave him his power - Satan claimed, in the time of the Saviour, all power over the kingdoms of the world, and asserted that he could give them to whomsoever he pleased. See the notes on Matthew 4:8-9. How far the power of Satan in this respect may extend, it may not be possible to determine; but it cannot be doubted that the Roman power seemed to have such an origin, and that in the main it was such as, on that supposition, it would be. In its arrogance and haughtiness - in its thirst for dominion - in its persecutions - it had such characteristics as we may suppose Satan would originate. If, therefore, as the whole connection leads us to suppose, this refers to the Roman secular power, considered as the support of the papacy, there is the most evident propriety in the representation.

And his seat - θρόνον thronon. Hence, our word “throne.” The word properly means a seat; then a high seat; then a throne, as that on which a king sits. Here it refers to this power as exercising dominion on the earth.

And great authority - The authority was great. It extended over a large part of the earth, and, alike in its extent and character, it was such as we may suppose Satan would set up in the world.

Verse 3

And I saw one of his heads, as it were wounded to death - The phrase “wounded to death” means properly that it received a mortal wound, that is, the wound would have been mortal if it had not been healed. A blow was struck that would be naturally fatal, but there was something that prevented the fatal result. John does not say, however, by whom the wound was inflicted, nor does he describe further the nature of the wound. He says that “one of the heads” - that is, one of the seven heads - was thus wounded. In Revelation 17:9, he says that “the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sitteth.” In Revelation 17:10, he says, “there are seven kings.” And this would lead us to suppose that there were “seven” administrations, or forms of dominion, or dynasties, that were presented to the eye of John; and that while the number “seven,” as applied to the “heads,” so far identified the power as to fix its location on the seven “hills” Revelation 17:9, in another respect also the number “seven” suggested forms of administration of dynasties, Revelation 17:10. What is meant by saying that one of these heads was wounded to death has been among the most perplexing of all the inquiries pertaining to the Book of Revelation. The use of the word “seven,” and the explanation in Revelation 17:9, make it morally certain that Rome, in some form of its administration, is referred to. Of this there can be no doubt, and in this all are agreed. It is not, however, the papal power as such that is here referred to; for:

(a)The papal power is designated under the image of the second beast;

(b)The descriptions pertaining to the first beast are all applicable to a secular power and,

(c)There was no form of the papal spiritual dominion which would properly correspond with what is said in Revelation 17:10.

The reference in this place is, therefore, to Rome considered as a civil or secular power, yet Rome regarded as giving support to the second beast - the papal power. The general idea here is, that a state of things would exist in regard to that power, at the time referred to, as if one of the seven heads of the monster should receive a wound which would be fatal, if it were not healed in some way. That is, its power would be weakened; its dominion would be curtailed, and that portion of its power would have come to an end, if there had not been something which would, as it were, restore it, and save it from the wrath that was impending. The great point of difficulty relates to the particular application of this; to the facts in history that would correspond with the symbol.

On this there have been almost as many opinions as there have been interpreters of the Apocalypse, and there is no impropriety in saying that none of the solutions are wholly free from objection. The main difficulty, so far as the interpretation proposed above is concerned, is, in the fact that “one” of the seven heads is referred to as wounded unto death; as if one-seventh part of the power was endangered. I confess I am not able wholly to solve this difficulty; but, after all, is it certain that the meaning is that just one-seventh part of the power was in peril; that the blow affected just such a portion that it might be described as the one-seventh part? Is not the number seven so used in the Scriptures as to denote a considerable portion - a portion quite material and important? And may not all that is intended here be, that John saw a wound inflicted on that mighty power which would have been fatal if it had not been marvelously healed? And was it not true that the Roman civil and secular power was so waning and decaying, that it might properly be represented as if one of the seven heads of the monster had received a fatal wound, until its power was restored by the influence of the spiritual domination of the church of Rome? If this be the correct exposition, then what is implied here may be thus stated:

  1. The general subject of the representation is the Roman power, as seen at first in its vigor and strength;

(b)Then that power is said to be greatly weakened, as if one of its heads were smitten with a deadly wound;

(c)Then the wound was healed - this power was restored - by being brought into alliance with the papacy; that is, the whole Roman power over the world would have died away, if it had not been restored and perpetuated by means of this new and mighty influence, Revelation 13:12.

Under this new form, Rome had all the power which it had ever had, and was guilty of all the atrocities of which it had ever been guilty: it was Rome still. Every wound that was inflicted on that power by the incursion of barbarians, and by the dividing off of parts of the empire, was healed by the papacy, and under this form its dominion became as wide and as formidable as under its ancient mode of administration. If a more particular application of this is sought for, I see no reason to doubt that it may be found in the quite common interpretation of the passage given by Protestants, that the reference is to the forms of administration under which this power appeared in the world. The number of distinct forms of government which the Roman power assumed from first to last was the following: kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, military tribunes, emperors. These seven forms of administration were, at least, sufficiently prominent and marked to be represented by this symbol, or to attract the attention of one contemplating this formidable power - for it was under these forms that its conquests had been achieved, and its dominion set up over the earth. In the time of John, and the time contemplated in this vision, all these had passed away but the imperial. That, too, was soon to be smitten with a deadly wound by the invasion of the Northern hordes; and that would have wholly and forever ceased if it had not been restored - the deadly wound being healed - by the influence of the papal power, giving Rome its former ascendency. See the notes at the close of Revelation 13:15.

And his deadly wound was healed - That is, as explained above, the waning Roman secular power was restored by its connection with the spiritual power - the papacy. This was:

(a)A simple matter of fact, that the waning secular power of Rome was thus restored by connecting itself with the spiritual or ecclesiastical power, thus prolonging what might properly be called the Roman domination far beyond what it would otherwise have been; and,

(b)This would be properly represented by just the symbol employed here - the fatal wound inflicted on the head, and the healing of that wound, or preventing what would naturally be the effects. On the fulfillment of this, see the notes on Revelation 13:15, at the close.

And all the world wondered after the beast - The word used here - θαυμαζω thaumazō - means, properly, to be astonished; to be amazed; then to wonder at; then to admire and follow (Robinson, Lexicon). In Revelation 13:4, it is said that the world “worshipped” the beast; and the general idea is, that the beast received such universal reverence, or inspired such universal awe, as to be properly called worship or adoration. There can be no doubt of the propriety of this, considered as applicable to that secular Roman power which sustained the papacy. The homage was as wide as the limits of the Roman empire had ever been, and might be said to embrace “all the world.”

Verse 4

And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast - See the notes at Revelation 12:3; Revelation 13:2. That is, they in fact worshipped him. The word “worship” - προσκυνέω proskuneō - is not always, however, used in a religious sense. It means, properly, “to kiss”; to kiss toward anyone; that is, to kiss his own hand and to extend it toward a person, in token of respect and homage (Robinson, Lexicon). Compare Job 31:27. Then it means to show respect to one who is our superior; to kings and princes; to parents; and pre-eminently to God. See the notes on Matthew 2:2. The word may be used here to mean that homage or reverence, as to a higher power, was rendered to the “dragon”; not strictly that he was openly worshipped in a religious sense as God. Can anyone doubt that this was the case under papal Rome; that the power which was set up under that entire domination, civil and ecclesiastical, was such as Satan approved, and such as he sought to have established on the earth? And can anyone doubt that the homage thus rendered, so contrary to the law of God, and so much in derogation of his claims, was in fact homage rendered to this presiding spirit of evil?

And they worshipped the beast - That is, they did it, as is immediately specified, by saying that he was “incomparable” and “invincible”; in other words, that he was superior to all others, and that he was almighty. For the fulfillment of this, see the notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:4.

Who is like unto the beast? - That is, he is to be regarded as unequalled and as supreme. This was, in fact, ascribing honors to him which belonged only to God; and this was the manner in which that civil and secular power was regarded in the period here supposed to be referred to. It was the policy of rulers and princes in those times to augment in every way possible the respect in which they were held; to maintain that they were the vicegerents of heaven; to claim for themselves sacredness of character and of person; and to secure from the people a degree of reverence which was in fact idolatrous. Never was this more marked than in the times when the papacy had the ascendency, for it was its policy to promote reverence for the power that sustained itself, and to secure for itself the idolatrous veneration of the people.

Who is able to make war with him? - That is, he is invincible. They thus attributed to him omnipotence - an attribute belonging only to God. This found a fulfillment in the honor shown to the civil authority which sustained the papacy; for the policy was to impress the public mind with the belief that that power was invincible. In fact, it was so regarded. Nothing was able to resist that absolute despotism; and the authority of princes and rulers that were allied with the papal rule was of the most absolute kind, and the subjugation of the world was complete. There was no civil, as there was no religious liberty; and the whole arrangement was so ordered as to subdue the world to an absolute and uncontrollable power.

Verse 5

And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things - John does not say by whom this was given; but we may suppose that it was by the “dragon,” who is said Revelation 13:2 to have given him his power, and seat, and authority. The fulfillment of this is found in the claims set up by the princes and rulers here referred to - that mighty secular power that sustained the papacy, and that was, in some sort, a part of the papacy itself. These arrogant claims consisted in the assertion of a divine right; in the power assumed over the liberty, the property, and the consciences of the people; in the arbitrary commands that were issued; and in the right asserted of giving absolute law. The language used here is the same as what is found in Daniel 7:8 when speaking of the “little horn:” “In this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.” For an illustration of the meaning of this, see the notes on that passage. Compare notes on Daniel 7:25.

And blasphemies - That is, the whole power represented by the “beast” will be blasphemous. See the notes on Revelation 13:1. Compare the notes on Daniel 7:25.

And power was given unto him to continue forty and two months - Three years and a half, reckoned as months; or twelve hundred and sixty days, reckoning thirty days for a month; or twelve hundred and sixty years, regarding the days as prophetic days. For the evidence that this is to be so regarded, see the notes on Daniel 7:25. This is the same period that we meet with in chap. Revelation 11:2, and in chap. Revelation 12:6. See the notes on those places. This fact proves that the same power is referred to in these places and in Daniel; and this fact may be regarded as a confirmation of the views here taken, that the power here referred to is designed to have a connection in some form with the papacy. The duration of the existence of this power is the same as what is everywhere ascribed to the papacy, in the passages which refer to it; and all the circumstances, as before remarked, show that the same general power is referred to by the two “beasts” which are described in this chapter. If so, the continuance or duration may be supposed to be the same; and this is indicated in the passage before us, where it is said that it would be twelve hundred and sixty years. In regard to the application of this to the papal power, and the manner in which the calculation is to be made of the duration of that power, see the notes on Daniel 7:25, and the remarks at the end of that chapter. The meaning in the passage before us I take to be, that the papal power, considered as a civil or secular institution, will have, from the time when that properly commenced, a duration of twelve hundred and sixty years. In the Scriptures there is nothing more definite in regard to any future event than this.

Verse 6

And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name - By his own arrogant claims; by his assumed authority in matters of conscience; by setting aside the divine authority; and by impious declarations in derogation of the divine claims. See the notes on Revelation 13:1.

And his tabernacle - Literally, his “tent” - σκηνὴν skēnēn. This is the word which is commonly applied to the sacred tent or tabernacle among the Hebrews, in which the ark was kept, and which was the seat of the Jewish worship before the building of the temple. It is thus used to denote a place of worship, considered as the dwelling-place of God, and is in this sense applied to heaven, Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 9:11; Revelation 15:5. It seems to be used here in a general sense to denote the place where God was worshipped; and the meaning is, that there would be a course of conduct in regard to the true church - the dwelling-place of God on the earth - which could properly be regarded as blasphemy. Let anyone remember the anathemas and excommunications uttered against the Waldenses and Albigenses, and those of kindred spirit that appeared in the long period of the papal rule, and he will find no difficulty in perceiving a complete fulfillment of all that is here said.

And them that dwell in heaven - The true worshippers; the members of the true church, represented as dwelling in this holy tabernacle. No one acquainted with the reproaches cast on the devoted and sincere followers of the Saviour during the dark periods of the papal rule can fail to see that there was in that a complete fulfillment of all that is here predicted.

Verse 7

And it was given unto him - By the same power that taught him to blaspheme God and his church. See the notes on Revelation 13:2, Revelation 13:5.

To make war with the saints - See this fully illustrated in the notes on the parallel passage in Daniel 7:21, and at the end of that chapter, (f).

And to overcome them - In those wars. This was abundantly fulfilled in the wars with the Waldenses, the Albigenses, and the other sincere followers of the Saviour in the time of the papal persecutions. The language used here is the same as what is found in Daniel 7:21; “The same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them.” See the notes on that passage.

And power was given him - See the notes on Revelation 13:2.

Over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations - For the meaning of these words see the notes on Revelation 7:9. The meaning here is, that this dominion was set up over the world. Compare Daniel 7:25. The fact that so large a portion of the kingdoms of the earth was under the influence of the papacy, and sustained it, and the claim which it set up to universal dominion, and to the right of deposing kings and giving away kingdoms, corresponds entirely with the language used here.

Verse 8

And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him - That is, as immediately stated, all whose names are not in the book of life. On the word “worship,” see the notes on Revelation 13:4.

Whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb - That is, of the Lord Jesus - the Lamb of God. See the notes on Philippians 4:3. Compare the notes on John 1:29. The representation here is, that the Lord Jesus keeps a book or register, in which are recorded the names of all who shall obtain everlasting life.

Slain from the foundation of the world - See the notes on Revelation 5:6. Compare the notes on Revelation 3:5. The meaning here is, not that he was actually put to death “from the foundation of the world,” but that the intention to give him for a sacrifice was formed then, and that it was so certain that it might be spoken of as actually then occurring. See Romans 4:17. The purpose was so certain, it was so constantly represented by bloody sacrifices from the earliest ages, all typifying the future Saviour, that it might be said that he was “slain from the foundation of the world.” Prof. Stuart, however (Com. in loco), supposes that this phrase should be connected with the former member of the sentence, “whose names are not written, from the foundation of the world, in the life-book of the Lamb, which was slain.” Either construction makes good sense; but it seems to me that what is found in our common version is the most simple and natural.

Verse 9

If any man have an ear, let him hear - See the notes on Revelation 2:7. The idea here is, that what was here said respecting the “beast” was worthy of special attention, as it pertained to most important events in the history of the church.

Verse 10

He that leadeth into captivity - This is clearly intended to refer to the power or government which is denoted by the beast. The form of expression here in the Greek is special - “If anyone leadeth into captivity,” etc. - Εἴ τις αἰχμαλωσίαν συνάγει Ei tis aichmalōsian sunagei. The statement is general, and is intended to make use of a general or prevalent truth with reference to this particular case. The general truth is, that people will, in the course of things, be dealt with according to their character and their treatment of others; that nations characterized by war and conquests will be subject to the evils of war and conquest - or that they may expect to share the same lot which they have brought on others. This general statement accords with what the Saviour says in Matthew 26:52; “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” This has been abundantly illustrated in the world; and it is a very important admonition to nations not to indulge in the purposes of conquest and to individuals not to engage in strife and litigation. The particular idea here is, that it would be a characteristic of the power here referred to that it would “lead others into captivity.” This would be fulfilled if it was the characteristic of this power to invade other countries and to make their inhabitants prisoners of war; if it made slaves of other people; if it set up an unjust dominion over other people; or if it was distinguished for persecuting and imprisoning the innocent, or for depriving the nations of liberty. It is unnecessary to say that this is strikingly descriptive of Rome, considered in any and every point of view, whether under the republic or the empire, whether secular or ecclesiastical, whether pagan or papal. In the following forms there has been a complete fulfillment under that mighty power of what is here said:

  1. In the desire of conquest or of extending its dominion, and, of course, leading others captive as prisoners of war or subjecting them to slavery.
  2. In its persecutions of true Christians, alike pursued under the pagan and the papal form of the administration.
  3. Especially in the imprisonments practiced under the Inquisition, where tens of thousands have been reduced to the worst kind of captivity. In every way this description is applicable to Rome, as seeking to lead the world captive or to subject it to its own absolute sway.

Shall go into captivity - As a just recompense for subjecting others to bondage, and as an illustration of a general principle of the divine administration. This is yet, in a great measure, to be fulfilled; and, as I understand it, it discloses the manner in which the papal secular power will come to an end. It will be by being subdued, so that it might seem to be made captive and led off by some victorious host. Rome now is practically held in subjection by foreign arms, and has no true independence; perhaps this will be more and more so as its ultimate fall approaches.

He that killeth with the sword - See the notes as above, on Matthew 26:52. There can be no doubt that this is applicable to Rome in all the forms of its administration considered as a pagan power; or considered as a nominally Christian power, either with reference to its secular or its spiritual dominion. Compute the numbers of human beings that have been put to death by that Roman power, and no better language could have been chosen to characterize it than what is used here - “killed with the sword.” Compare the notes on Daniel 7:24-28, II. (3), (g).

Must be killed with the sword - This domination must be brought to an end by war and slaughter. Nothing is more probable than this in itself; nothing could be more in accordance with the principles of the divine dealings in the world. Such a power as that of Rome will not be likely to be overcome but by the force of arms; and the probability is that it will ultimately be overthrown in a bloody revolution, or by foreign conquest. Indeed, there are not a few intimations now that this result is hastening on. Italy is becoming impatient of the secular power swayed in connection with the papacy, and sighs for freedom; and it is every way probable that that land would have been free, and that the secular power of the papacy, if not every form of the papacy itself, would have come to an end in the late convulsion (1848), if it had not been for the intervention of France and Austria. The period designated by prophecy for the final overthrow of that power had not arrived; but nothing can secure its continuance for any very considerable period longer.

Here is the patience and the faith of the saints - That is, the trial of their patience and of their faith. Nowhere on earth have the patience and the faith of the saints been put to a severer test than under the Roman persecutions. The same idea occurs in Revelation 14:12.

Verse 11

And I beheld another beast - Compare the notes on Revelation 13:1. This was so distinct from the first that its characteristics could be described, though, as shown in the Analysis of the Chapter, there was in many points a strong resemblance between them. The relations between the two will be more fully indicated in the notes.

Coming up out of the earth - Prof. Stuart renders this, “ascending from the land.” The former was represented as rising up out of the sea Revelation 13:1; indicating that the power was to rise from a perturbed or unsettled state of affairs - like the ocean. This, from what was more settled and stable - as the land is more firm than the waters. It may not be necessary to carry out this image; but the natural idea, as applied to the two forths of the Roman power supposed to be here referred to, would be that the former - the secular power that sustained the papacy - rose out of the agitated state of the nations in the invasions of the northern hordes, and the convulsions and revolutions of the falling empire of Rome; and that the latter, the spiritual power itself - represented by the beast coming up from the land - grew up under the more settled and stable order of things. It was comparatively calm in its origin, and had less the appearance of a frightful monster rising up from the agitated ocean. Compare the notes on Revelation 13:1.

And he had two horns like a lamb - In some respects he resembled a lamb; that is, he seemed to be a mild, gentle, inoffensive animal. It is hardly necessary to say that this is a most striking representation of the actual manner in which the power of the papacy has always been put forth - putting on the apparent gentleness of the lamb; or laying claim to great meekness and humility, even when deposing kings, and giving away crowns, and driving thousands to the stake, or throwing them into the dungeons of the Inquisition.

And he spake as a dragon - See the notes on Revelation 12:3. The meaning here is, that he spoke in a harsh, haughty, proud, arrogant tone - as we should suppose a dragon would if he had the power of utterance. The general sense is, that while this “beast” had, in one respect in its resemblance to a lamb - the appearance of great gentleness, meekness, and kindness, it had, in another respect, a haughty, imperious, and arrogant spirit. How appropriate this is, as a symbol, to represent the papacy, considered as a spiritual power, it is unnecessary to say. It will be admitted, whatever may be thought of the design of this symbol, that if it was in fact intended to refer to the papacy, a more appropriate one could not have been chosen.

Verse 12

And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him - The same amount of power; the same kind of power. This shows a remarkable relationship between these two beasts; and proves that it was intended to refer to the same power substantially, though manifested in a different form. In the fulfillment of this, we should naturally look for some government whose authority extended far, and which was absolute and arrogant in its character, for this is the power attributed to the first beast. See the notes on Revelation 13:2-4, Revelation 13:7-8. This description had a remarkable fulfillment in the papacy, considered as a spiritual dominion. The relation to the secular power is the same as would be indicated by these two beasts; the dominion was as widespread; the authority was as absolute and arrogant. In fact, on these points they have been identical. The one has sustained the other; either one would long since have fallen if it had not been upheld by the other. The papacy, considered as a spiritual domination, was in fact a new power starting up in the same place as the old Roman dominion, to give life to that as it was tending to decay, and to continue its ascendency over the world. These two things, the secular and the spiritual power, constituting the papacy in the proper sense of the term, are in fact but the continuance or the prolongation of the old Roman dominion - the fourth kingdom of Daniel - united so as to constitute in reality but one kingdom, and yet so distinct in their origin, and in their manifestations, as to be capable of separate contemplation and description, and thus properly represented by the two “beasts” that were shown in vision to John.

And causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast - That is, to respect, to reverence, to honor. The word “worship” here refers to civil respect, and not to religious adoration. See the notes on Revelation 13:4. The meaning here, according to the interpretation proposed all along in this chapter, is, that the papacy, considered in its religious influence, or as a spiritual power - represented by the second beast - secured for the civil or secular power - represented by the first beast - the homage of the world. It was the means of keeping up that dominion, and of giving it its ascendency among the nations of the earth. The truth of this, as an historical fact, is well known. The Roman civil power would have long ago lost all its influence and been unknown, if it had not been for the papacy; and, in fact, all the influence which it has had since the irruption of the northern barbarians, and the changes which their invasion produced, can be traced to that new power which arose in the form of the papacy - represented in Daniel Daniel 7:8 by the “little horn.” That new power gave life and energy to the declining influence of Rome, and brought the world again to respect and honor its authority.

Whose deadly wound was healed - See the notes on Revelation 13:3. That is, was healed by the influence of this new power represented by the second beast. A state of things occurred, on the rise of that new power, as if a wound in the head, otherwise fatal, was healed. The striking applicability of this to the decaying Roman power - smitten as with a deadly wound by the blows inflicted by the northern hordes, and by internal dissensions - will occur to every one. It was as if a healing process had been imparted by some life-giving power, and, as a consequence, the Roman dominion - the prolongation of Daniel’s fourth kingdom - has continued to the present time. Other kingdoms passed away - the Assyrian, the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Macedonian; Rome alone, of all the ancient empires, has prolonged its power over men. In all changes elsewhere, an influence has gone forth from the seven-hilled city as wide and as fearful as it was in the brightest days of the republic, the triumvirate, or the empire, and a large part of the world still listens reverently to the mandates which issue from the seat which so long gave law to mankind. The fact that it is so is to be traced solely to the influence of that power represented here by the second beast that appeared in vision to John - the papacy.

Verse 13

And he doeth great wonders - “Signs” - σημεῖα sēmeia - the word commonly employed to denote “miracles” (compare the notes on Acts 2:19); and the representation here is, that the power referred to by the second beast would found its claim on pretended miracles, and would accomplish an effect on the world as if it actually did work miracles. The applicability of this to papal Rome no one can doubt. See the notes on 2 Thessalonians 2:9. Compare Revelation 13:14.

That he maketh five come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men - That is, he pretends this; he accomplishes an effect as if he did it. It is not necessary to suppose that he actually did this, anymore than it is to suppose that he actually performed the other pretended miracles referred to in other places. John describes him as he saw him in the vision; and he saw him laying claim to this power, and actually producing an effect as if by a miracle he actually made fire to descend from heaven upon the earth. This is to be understood as included in what the apostle Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:9) calls “signs and lying wonders,” as among the things by which the “man of sin and the son of perdition” would be characterized, and by which he would be sustained. See the notes on that passage. Why this particular pretended miracle is specified here is not certain. It may be because this would be among the most striking and impressive of the pretended miracles performed - as if lying beyond all human power - as Elijah made fire come down from heaven to consume the sacrifice 1 Kings 18:37-38, and as the apostles proposed to do on the Samaritans Luke 9:54, as if fire were called down on them from heaven. The phrase “in the sight of men” implies that this would be done publicly, and is such language as would be used of pretended miracles designed for purposes of ostentation. Amidst the multitudes of pretended miracles of the papacy, it would probably not be difficult to find instances in which the very thing here described was attempted, in which various devices of pyrotechnics were shown off as miracles. For an illustration of the wonders produced in the dark ages in reference to fire, having all the appearance of miracles, and regarded as miracles by the masses of people, the reader is referred to Dr. Brewster’s Letters on Natural Magic, particularly Letter 12.

Verse 14

And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles - Nothing could possibly be more descriptive of the papacy than this. It has been kept up by deception and delusion, and its pretended miracles have been, and are to this day, the means by which this is done. Anyone in the slightest degree acquainted with the pretended miracles practiced at Rome, will see the propriety of this description as applied to the papacy. The main fact here stated, that the papacy would endeavor to sustain itself by pretended miracles, is confirmed by an incidental remark of Mr. Gibbon, when speaking of the pontificate of Gregory the Great; he says: “The credulity or the prudence of Gregory was always disposed to confirm the truths of religion by the evidence of ghosts, miracles, and resurrections” (Decline and Fall, 3:210). Even within a month of the time that I am writing (October 5, 1850), intelligence has been received in this country of extraordinary privileges conferred on some city in Italy, because the eyes of a picture of the Virgin in that city have miraculously moved - greatly to the “confirmation of the faithful.”

Such things are constantly occurring; and it is by these that the supremacy of the papacy has been and is sustained. The Breviary teems with examples of miracles performed by the saints. For instance: Francis Xavier turned a sufficient quantity of salt water into fresh to save the lives of five hundred travelers who were dying of thirst, enough being left to allow a large exportation to different parts of the world, where it performed astonishing cures. Raymond de Pennafort laid his cloak on the sea, and sailed from Majorca to Barcelona, a distance of a hundred and sixty miles, in six hours. Juliana lay on her death-bed; her stomach rejected all solid food, and in consequence she was prevented from receiving the eucharist. In compliance with her earnest solicitations, the consecrated wafer was laid on her breast; the priest prayed; the wafer vanished, and Juliana expired. Many pages might be filled with accounts of modern miracles of the most ridiculous description, yet believed by Roman Catholics - the undoubted means by which papal Rome “deceives the world,” and keeps up its ascendency in this age. See Forsyth’s Italy, ii. pp. 154-157; Rome in the Nineteenth Century, i. p. 40, 86, ii. p. 356, 3, pp. 193-201; Lady Morgan’s Italy, ii. p. 306, iii. p. 189; Graham’s Three Months’ Residence, etc., p. 241.

Saying to them that dwell on the earth - That is, as far as its influence would extend. This implies that there would be authority, and that this authority would be exercised to secure this object.

That they should make an image to the beast - That is, something that would represent the beast, and that might be an object of worship. The word rendered “image” - εἰκών eikōn - means properly:

(a)An image, effigy, figure, as an idol, image, or figure;

(b)A likeness, resemblance, similitude.

Here the meaning would seem to be that, in order to secure the acknowledgment of the beast, and the homage to be rendered to him, there was something like a statue made, or that John saw in vision such a representation - that is, that a state of things existed as if such a statue were made, and people were constrained to acknowledge this. All that is stated here would be fulfilled if the old Roman civil power should become to a large extent dead, or cease to exert its influence over people, and if then the papal spiritual power should cause a form of domination to exist strongly resembling the former in its general character and extent, and if it should secure this result - that the world would acknowledge its sway or render it homage as it did to the old Roman government. This would receive its fulfillment if it be supposed that the first “beast” represented the ancient Roman civil power as such; that this died away - as if the head had received a fatal wound; that it was again revived under the influence of the papacy; and that, under that influence, a civil government, strongly resembling the old Roman dominion, was caused to exist, depending for its vital energy on the papacy, and, in its turn, lending its aid to support the papacy.

All this in fact occurred in the decline of the Roman power after the time of Constantine, and its final apparent extinction, as if “wounded to death,” in the exile of the last of the emperors, the son of Orestes, who assumed the names of Romulus and Augustus, names which were corrupted, the former by the Greeks into Momyllus, and the latter by the Latins “into the contemptible diminutive Augustulus.” See Gibbon 2:381. Under him the empire ceased, until it was revived in the days of Charlemagne. In the empire which then sprung up, and which owed much of its influence to the sustaining aid of the papacy, we discern the “image” of the former Roman power; the prolongation of the Roman ascendency over the world. On the exile of the feeble son of Orestes (476 a.d.), the government passed into the hands of Odoacer, “the first barbarian who reigned in Italy” (Gibbon); and then the authority was divided among the sovereignties which sprang up after the conquests of the barbarians, until the “empire” was again restored in the time and the person of Charlemagne. See Gibbon, iii. 344ff.

Which had the wound by a sword, and did live - Which had a wound that was naturally fatal. but whose fatal consequences were prevented by the intervention of another power. See the notes on Revelation 13:3. That is, according to the explanation given above, the Roman imperial power was “wounded with a fatal wound” by the invasions of the northern hordes - the sword of the conquerors. Its power, however, was restored by the papacy, giving life to what resembled essentially the Roman civil jurisdiction - the “image” of the former beast; and that power, thus restored, asserted its dominion again, as the prolonged Roman dominion - the fourth kingdom of Daniel (see the notes on Daniel 7:19 ff) - over the world.

Verse 15

And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast - That is, that image of the beast would be naturally powerless, or would have no life in itself. The second beast, however, had power to impart life to it, so that it would be invested with authority, and would exercise that authority in the manner specified. If this refers, as is supposed, to the Roman civil power - the power of the empire restored - it would find a fulfillment in some act of the papacy by which the empire that resembled in the extent of its jurisdiction, and in its general character, the former Roman empire, received some vivifying impulse, or was invested with new power. That is, it would have power conferred on it through the papacy which it would not have in itself, and which would confirm its jurisdiction. How far events actually occurred corresponding with this, will be considered in the notes at the close of this verse.

That the image of the beast should both speak - Should give signs of life; should issue authoritative commands. The speaking here referred to pertains to what is immediately specified, in issuing a command that they who “would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.”

And cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast - Would not honor it, or acknowledge its authority. The “worship” here referred to is civil, not religious homage. See the notes on Revelation 13:4. The meaning is, that what is here called the “image of the beast” had power given it, by its connection with the second “beast,” to set up its jurisdiction over people, and to secure their allegiance on pain of death. The power by which this was done was derived from the second beast; the obedience and homage demanded was of the most entire and submissive character; the nature of the government was in a high degree arbitrary; and the penalty enforced for refusing this homage was death. The facts that we are to look for in the fulfillment of this are:

(1)That the Roman imperial power was about to expire - as if wounded to death by the sword;

(2)That this was revived in the form of what is here called the “image of the beast” - that is, in a form closely resembling the former power;

(3)That this was done by the agency of the papal power, represented by the second beast;

(4)That the effect of this was to set up over people a wide-extended secular jurisdiction, of a most arbitrary and absolute kind, where the penalty of disobedience to its laws was death, and where the infliction of this was, in fact, to be traced to the influence of the second beast - that is, the papal spiritual power.

The question now is, whether facts occurred that corresponded with this emblematic representation. Now, as to the leading fact, the decline of the Roman imperial power - the fatal wound inflicted on that by the “sword” - there can be no doubt. In the time of “Augustulus,” as above stated, it had become practically extinct - “wounded as it were to death,” and so wounded that it would never have been revived again had it not been for some foreign influence. It is true also, that, when the papacy arose, the necessity was felt of allying itself with some wide extended civil or secular dominion, that might be under its own control, and that would maintain its spiritual authority. It is true, also, that the empire was revived - the very “image” or copy, so far as it could be, of the former Roman power, in the time of Charlemagne, and that the power which was wielded in what was called the “empire,” was what was, in a great measure, derived from the papacy, and was designed to sustain the papacy, and was actually employed for that purpose. These are the main facts, I suppose, which are here referred to, and a few extracts from Mr. Gibbon will show with what propriety and accuracy the symbols here employed were used, on the supposition that this was the designed reference:

(a) The rise, or restoration of this imperial power in the time and the person of Charlemagne. Mr. Gibbon says (3:342), “It was after the Nicene synod, and under the reign of the pious Irene, that the popes consummated the separation of Rome and Italy (from the Eastern empire) by the translation of the empire to the less orthodox Charlemagne. They were compelled to choose between the rival nations; religion was not the sole motive of their choice; and while they dissembled the failings of their friends, they beheld with reluctance and suspicion the Catholic virtues of their foes. The difference of language and manners had perpetuated the enmity of the two capitals (Rome and Constantinople); and they were alienated from each other by the hostile opposition of seventy years. In that schism the Romans had tasted of freedom, and the popes of sovereignty; their submission would have exposed them to the revenge of a jealous tyrant, and the revolution of Italy had betrayed the impotence as well as the tyranny of the Byzantine court.”

Mr. Gibbon then proceeds to state reasons why Charlemagne was selected as the one who was to be placed at the head of the revived imperial power, and then adds (p. 343), “The title of patrician was below the merit and greatness of Charlemagne; and it was only by reviving the “Western empire” that they could pay their obligations, or secure their establishment. By this decisive measure they would finally eradicate the claims of the Greeks; from the debasement of a provincial town the majesty of Rome would be restored; the Latin Christians would be united, under a supreme head, in their ancient metropolis; “and the conquerors of the West would receive their crown from the successors of Peter. The Roman church would acquire a zealous and respectable advocate”; and under the shadow of the Carlovingian power, the bishop might exercise, with honor and safety, the government of the city.” All this seems as if it were a designed commentary on such expressions as these: “And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed,” “saying to them that dwell on the earth that they should make an image to the beast which had the wound by a sword, and did live; and he had power to give life unto the image of the beast,” etc.

(b) Its extent. It is said Revelation 13:12, “And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” Compare Revelation 13:14-15. That is, the extent of the jurisdiction of the revived power, or the restored empire, would be as great as it was before the wound was inflicted. Of the extent of the restored empire under Charlemagne, Mr. Gibbon has given a full account, iii. pp. 546-549. The passage is too long to be copied here in full, and a summary of it only can be given. He says, “The empire was not unworthy of its title; and some of the fairest kingdoms of Europe were the patrimony or conquest of a prince who reigned at the same time in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Hungary.

I. The Roman province of Gaul had been transformed into the name and monarchy of France, etc.

II. The Saracens had been expelled from France by the grandfather and father of Charlemagne, but they still possessed the greatest part of Spain, from the rock of Gibraltar to the Pyrenees. Amidst their civil divisions, an Arabian emir of Saragossa implored his protection in the diet of Paderborn. Charlemagne undertook the expedition, restored the emir, and, without distinction of faith, impartially crushed the resistance of the Christians, and rewarded the obedience and service of the Muslims. In his absence he instituted the Spanish March, which extended from the Pyrenees to the river Ebro: Barcelona was the residence of the French governor; he possessed the counties of Rousillon and Catalonia; and the infant kingdoms of Navarre and Aragon were subject to his jurisdiction.

III. As king of the Lombards, and patrician of Rome, he reigned over the greatest part of Italy, a tract of a thousand miles from the Alps to the borders of Calabria, etc.

IV. Charlemagne was the first who united Germany under the same scepter, etc.

V. He retaliated on the Avars, or Huns of Pannonia, the same calamities which they had inflicted on the nations: the royal residence of the Chagan was left desolate and unknown; and the treasures, the rapine of two hundred and fifty years, enriched the victorious troops, or decorated the churches of Italy and Gaul.” “If we retrace the outlines of the geographical picture,” continues Mr. Gibbon, “it will be seen that the empire of the Franks extended, between east and west, from the Ebro to the Elbe or Vistula; between the north and south, from the duchy of Beneventum to the river Eyder, the perpetual boundary of Germany and Denmark. Two-thirds of the Western empire of Rome were subject to Charlemagne, and the deficiency was amply supplied by his command of the inaccessible or invincible nations of Germany.”

(c) The dependence of this civil or revived secular power on the papacy. “His deadly wound was healed.” “And caused the earth to worship the first beast.” “Saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast.” “He had power to give life unto the image of the beast.” Thus Mr. Gibbon (3:343) says, “From the debasement of a provincial town, the majesty of Rome would be restored; the Latin Christians would be united, under a supreme head, in their ancient metropolis; and the conquerors of the West would receive their crown from the successors of Peter.” And again (3:344) he says, “On the festival of Christmas, the last year of the eighth century, Charlemagne appeared in the church of Peter; and, to gratify the vanity of Rome, he had exchanged the simple dress of his country for the habit of a patrician. After the celebration of the holy mysteries, Leo suddenly placed a precious crown on his head, and the dome resounded with the acclamations of the people, ‘Long life and victory to Charles, the most pious Augustus, crowned by God the great and pacific emperor of the Romans!’ The head and body of Charlemagne were consecrated by the royal unction; his coronation oath represents a promise to maintain the faith and privileges of the church; and the first-fruits are paid in rich offerings to the shrine of the apostle. In his familiar conversation the emperor protested his ignorance of the intentions of Leo, which he would have disappointed by his absence on that memorable day.

But the preparations of the ceremony must have disclosed the secret; and the journey of Charlemagne reveals his knowledge and expectation; he had acknowledged that the imperial title was the object of his ambition, and a Roman senate had pronounced that it was the only adequate reward of his merit and services.” So again (3:350), Mr. Gibbon, speaking of the conquests of Otho (962 a.d.), and of his victorious march over the Alps, and his subjugation of Italy, says, “From that memorable era, two maxims of public jurisprudence were introduced by force and ratified by time:

I. That the prince who was elected in the German diet, acquired from that instant the subject kingdoms of Italy and Rome.

II. But that he might not legally assume the titles of emperor and Augustus, until he had received the crown from the hands of the Roman Pontiff.” In connection with these quotations from Mr. Gibbon, we may add, from Sigonius, the oath which the emperor took on the occasion of his coronation: “I, the Emperor, do engage and promise, in the name of Christ, before God and the blessed apostle Peter, that I will be a protector and defender of this holy church of Rome, in all things wherein I can be useful to it, so far as divine assistance shall enable me, and so far as my knowledge and power can reach” (quoted by Prof. Bush, Hieroph. Nov. 1842, p. 141). We learn, also, from the biographers of Charlemagne that a commemorative coin was struck at Rome under his reign, bearing this inscription: “Renovatio Imperil Romani” - “Revival of the Roman Empire” (Ibid.). These quotations, whose authority will not be questioned, and whose authors will not be suspected of having had any design to illustrate these passages in the Apocalypse, will serve to confirm what is said in the notes of the decline and restoration of the Roman secular power; of its dependence on the papacy to give it life and vigor; and of the fact that it was designed to sustain the papacy, and to perpetuate the power of Rome. It needs only to be added, that down to the time of Charles the Fifth - the period of the Reformation-nothing was more remarkable in history than the readiness of this restored secular power to sustain the papacy and to carry out its designs; or than the readiness of the papacy to sustain an absolute civil despotism, and to make the world subject to it by suppressing all attempts in favor of civil liberty.

Verse 16

And he caused all - He claims jurisdiction, in the matters here referred to, over all classes of persons, and compels them to do his will. This is the second beast, and, according to the interpretation given above, it relates to the papal power, and to its claim of universal jurisdiction.

Both small and great - All these expressions are designed to denote universality - referring to various divisions into which the human family may be regarded as divided. One of those divisions is into “small and great”; that is, into young and old; those small in stature and those large in stature; those of humble, and those of elevated rank.

Rich and poor - Another way of dividing the human race, and denoting here, as in the former case, all - for it is a common method, in speaking of mankind, to describe them as “the rich and poor.”

Free and bond - Another method still of dividing the human race, embracing all - for all the dwellers upon the earth are either free or bond. These various forms of expression, therefore, are designed merely to denote, in an emphatic manner, universality. The idea is, that, in the matter referred to, none were exempt, either on account of their exalted rank, or on account of their humble condition; either because they were so mighty as to be beyond control, or so mean and humble as to be beneath notice. And if this refers to the papacy, every one will see the propriety of the description. The jurisdiction set up by that power has been as absolute over kings as over the feeble and the poor; over masters and their slaves; alike over those in the humblest and in the most elevated walks of life.

To receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads - The word here rendered “mark” - χάραγμα charagma - occurs only in one place in the New Testament except in the Book of Revelation Acts 17:29, where it is rendered “graven.” In all the other places where it is found Revelation 13:16-17; Revelation 14:9, Revelation 14:11; Revelation 15:2; Revelation 16:2; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 20:4, it is rendered “mark,” and is applied to the same thing - the “mark of the beast.” The word properly means “something graven or sculptured”; hence:

(a)A graving, sculpture, sculptured work, as images or idols;

(b)A mark cut in or stamped - as the stamp on a coin.

Applied to people, it was used to denote some stamp or mark on the hand or elsewhere - as in the case of a servant on whose hand or arm the name of the master was impressed; or of a soldier on whom some mark was impressed denoting the company or phalanx to which he belonged. It was no uncommon thing to mark slaves or soldiers in this way; and the design was either to denote their ownership or rank, or to prevent their escaping so as not to be detected.

Most of us have seen such marks made on the hands or arms of sailors, in which, by a voluntary tattooing, their names, or the names of their vessels, were written, or the figure of an anchor, or some other device, was indelibly made by punctures in the skin, and by inserting some kind of coloring matter. The thing which it is here said was engraven on the hand or the forehead was the “name” of the beast, or the “number” of his name, Revelation 13:17. That is, the “name” or the “number” was so indelibly inscribed either on the hand or the forehead, as to show that he who bare it pertained to the “beast,” and was subject to his authority - as a slave is to his master, or a soldier to his commander. Applied to the papacy, the meaning is, that there would be some mark of distinction; some indelible sign; something which would designate, with entire certainty, those persons who belonged to it, and who were subject to it. It is hardly necessary to say that, in point of fact, this has eminently characterized the papacy. All possible care has been taken to designate with accuracy those who belong to that communion, and, all over the world, it is easy to distinguish those who render allegiance to the papal power. Compare the notes on Revelation 7:3.

Verse 17

And that no man might buy or sell - That is, this mighty power would claim jurisdiction over the traffic of the world, and endeavor to make it tributary to its own purposes. Compare Revelation 18:11-13, Revelation 18:17-19. This is represented by saying that no one might “buy or sell” except by its permission; and it is clear that where this power exists of determining who may “buy and sell,” there is absolute control over the wealth of the world.

Save he that had the mark - To keep it all among its own friends; among those who showed allegiance to this power.

Or the name of the beast - That is, the “mark” referred to was either the name of the beast, or the number of his name. The meaning is, that he had something branded on him that showed that he belonged to the beast - as a slave had the name of his master; in other words, there was something that certainly showed that he was subject to its authority.

Or the number of his name - In regard to what is denoted by the number of the beast, see the notes on Revelation 13:18. The idea here is, that that “number,” whatever it was, was so marked on him as to show to whom he belonged. According to the interpretation here proposed, the meaning of this passage is, that the papacy would claim jurisdiction over traffic and commerce; or would endeavor to bring it under its control, and make it subservient to its own ends. Traffic or commerce is one of the principal means by which property is acquired, and he who has the control of this has, to a great degree, the control of the wealth of a nation; and the question now is, whether any such jurisdiction has been set up, or whether any such control has in fact been exercised, so that the wealth of the world has been subject to papal Rome? For a more full illustration of this I may refer to the notes on Revelation 18:11-13, Revelation 18:16-17; but at present it may be sufficient to remark, that the manifest aim of the papacy, in all its history, has been to control the world, and to get dominion over its wealth, in order that it might accomplish its own purposes. But, besides this, there have been numerous specified acts more particularly designed to control the business of “buying and selling.” It has been common in Rome to prohibit, by express law, all traffic with heretics. Thus a canon of the Lateran council, under Pope Alexander III., commanded that no man should entertain or cherish them in his house or land, or traffic with them (Hard. vi., 2:1684). The synod of Tours, under the same Pope Alexander, passed the law that no man should presume to receive or assist the heretics, no, not so much as to exercise commerce with them in selling or buying. And so, too, the Constance council as expressed in Pope Martin’s bull (Elliott, vol. 3, pp. 220, 221).

Verse 18

Here is wisdom - That is, in what is stated respecting the name and the number of the name of the beast. The idea is, either that there would be need of special sagacity in determining what the “number” of the “beast” or of his “name” was, or that special “wisdom” was shown by the fact that the number could be thus expressed. The language used in the verse would lead the reader to suppose that the attempt to make out the “number” was not absolutely hopeless, but that the number was so far enigmatical as to require much skill in determining its meaning. It may also be implied that, for some reason, there was true “wisdom” in designating the name by this number, either because a more direct and explicit statement might expose him who made it to persecution, and it showed practical wisdom thus to guard against this danger; or because there was “wisdom” or skill shown in the fact that a number could be found which would thus correspond with the name. On either of these suppositions, special wisdom would be required in deciphering its meaning.

Let him that hath understanding - Implying:

(a)That it was practicable to “count the number of the name”; and,

(b)That it would require uncommon skill to do it.

It could not be successfully attempted by all; but still there were those who might do it. This is such language as would be used respecting some difficult matter, but where there was hope that, by diligent application of the mind, and by the exercise of a sound understanding, there would be a prospect of success.

Count the number of the beast - In Revelation 13:16 it is “the number of his name.” The word rendered here “count” - ψηφισάτω psēphisatō - means, properly, to count or reckon with pebbles, or counters; then to reckon, to estimate. The word here means “compute”; that is, ascertain the exact import of the number, so as to identify the beast. The “number” is what is immediately specified, “six hundred threescore and six” - 666. The phrase “the number of the beast” means, that somehow this number was so connected with the beast, or would so represent its name or character, that the “beast” would be identified by its proper application. The mention in Revelation 13:17 of “the name of the beast,” and “the number of his name,” shows that this “number” was somehow connected with his proper designation, so that by this he would be identified. The plain meaning is, that the number 666 would be so connected with his name, or with what would properly designate him, that it could be determined who was meant by finding that number in his name or in his proper designation. This is the exercise of the skill or wisdom to which the writer here refers: substantially that which is required in the solution of a riddle or a conundrum. If it should be said here that this is undignified and unworthy of an inspired book, it may be replied:

(a)That there might be some important reason why the name or designation should not be more plainly made;

(b)That it was important, nevertheless, that it should be so made that it would be possible to ascertain who was referred to;

(c)That this should be done only in some way which would involve the principle of the enigma - “where a known thing was concealed under obscure language” (Webster’s Dictionary);

(d)That the use of symbols, emblems, hieroglyphics, and riddles was common in the early periods of the world; and,

(e)That it was no uncommon thing in ancient times, as it is in modern, to test the capacity and skill of people by their ability to unfold the meaning of proverbs, riddles, and dark sayings. Compare the riddle of Samson, Judges 14:12 ff. See also Psalms 49:4; Psalms 78:2; Ezekiel 17:2-8; Proverbs 1:2-6; Daniel 8:23.

It would be a sufficient vindication of the method adopted here if it was certain or probable that a direct and explicit statement of what was meant would have been attended with immediate danger, and if the object could be secured by an enigmatical form.

For it is the number of a man - Various interpretations of this have been proposed. Clericus renders it, “The number is small, or not such as cannot be estimated by a man.” Rosenmuller, “The number indicates a man, or a certain race of men.” Prof. Stuart, “The number is to be computed more humano, not wore angelico”; “it is a man’s number.” DeWette, “It is such a number as is commonly reckoned or designated by men.” Other interpretations may be seen in Poole’s Synopsis. That which is proposed by Rosenmuller, however, meets all the circumstances of the case. The idea is, evidently, that the number indicates or refers to a certain man, or order of people. It does not pertain to a brute, or to angelic beings. Thus it would be understood by one merely interpreting the language, and thus the connection demands.

And his number is six hundred threescore and six - The number of his name, Revelation 13:17. This cannot be supposed to mean that his name would be composed of six hundred and sixty-six letters; and it must, therefore, mean that somehow the number 666 would be expressed by his name in some well-understood method of computation. The number here - six hundred and sixty-six - is, in Walton’s Polyglott, written out in full: Ἑξακόσιοι ἑξάκοντα ἕξ Hexakosioi hexakonta hex. In Wetstein, Griesbach, Hahn, Tittmann, and the common Greek text, it is expressed by the characters χξς = 666. There can be no doubt that this is the correct number, though, in the time of Irenaeus, there was in some copies another reading - χις = 616. This reading was adopted by the expositor Tychonius; but against this Irenaeus inveighs (Liv. v. 100:30). There can be no doubt that the number 666 is the correct reading, though it would seem that this was sometimes expressed in letters, and sometimes written in full. Wetstein supposes that both methods were used by John; that in the first copy of his book he used the letters, and in a subsequent copy wrote it in full. This inquiry is not of material consequence.

It need not be said that much has been written on this mysterious “number,” and that very different theories have been adopted in regard to its application. For the views which have been entertained on the subject, the reader may consult, with advantage, the article in Calmet’s Dictionary, under the word “antichrist.” It was natural for Calmet, being a Roman Catholic, to endeavor to show that the interpretations have been so various, that there could be no certainty in the application, and especially in the common application to the papacy. In endeavoring to ascertain the meaning of the passage, the following general remarks may be made, as containing the result of the investigation thus far:

(a) There was some mystery in the matter - some designed concealment - some reason why a more explicit statement was not adopted. The reason of this is not stated; but it may not be improper to suppose that it arose from something in the circumstances of the writer, and that the adoption of this enigmatical expression was designed to avoid some peril to which he or others might be exposed if there were a more explicit statement.

(b) It is implied, nevertheless, that it could be understood; that is, that the meaning was not so obscure that, by proper study, the designed reference could not be ascertained without material danger of error.

(c) It required skill to do this; either natural sagacity, or particular skill in interpreting hieroglyphics and symbols, or uncommon spiritual discernment.

(d) Some man, or order of men, is referred to that could properly be designated in this manner.

(e) The method of designating persons obscurely by a reference to the numerical signification of the letters in their names was not very uncommon, and was one that was not unlikely, in the circumstances of the case, to have been resorted to by John. “Thus, among the pagans, the Egyptian mystics spoke of Mercury, or Thouth, under the name 1218, because the Greek letters composing the word Thouth, when estimated by their numerical value, together made up that number. By others, Jupiter was invoked under the mystical number 717; because the letters of ̔Η ΑΡΧΗ HEĒ ARCHEE - “Beginning,” or “First Origin,” which was a characteristic of the supreme deity worshipped as Jupiter, made up that number. And Apollo under the number 608, as being that of ηυς ēus or ὑης huēs, words expressing certain solar attributes. Again, the pseudo-Christian, or semi-pagan Gnostics, from John’s time and downward, affixed to their gems and amulets, of which multitudes remain to the present day, the mystic word αβρασαξ abrasax or αβραξας abraxas, under the idea of some magic virtue attaching to its number 365, as being that of the days of the annual solar circle,” etc. See other instances referred to in Elliott, 3:205. These facts show that John would not be unlikely to adopt some such method of expressing a sentiment which it was designed should be obscure in form, but possible to be understood. It should be added here, that this was more common among the Jews than among any other people.

(f) It seems clear that some Greek word is here referred to, and that the mystic number is to be found in some word of that language. The reasons for this opinion are these:

  1. John was writing in Greek, and it is most natural to suppose that this would be the reference;

(2)He expected that his book would be read by those who understood the Greek language, and it would have been unnatural to have increased the perplexity in understanding what he referred to by introducing a word of a foreign language;

(3)The first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, and not those of the Hebrew, are expressly selected by the Saviour to denote his eternity - “I am Alpha and Omega,” Revelation 1:8, Revelation 1:11; and,

(4)The numerals by which the enigma is expressed - χξς - are Greek. It has indeed been supposed by many that the solution is to be found in the Hebrew language, but these reasons seem to me to show conclusively that we are to look for the solution in some Greek word.

The question now is, whether there is any word which corresponds with these conditions, and which would naturally be referred to by John in this manner. The exposition thus far has led us to suppose that the papacy in some form is referred to; and the inquiry now is, whether there is any word which is so certain and determinate as to make it probable that John meant to designate that. The word Λατεινος Lateinos - “Lateinos, the Latin” (Man) - actually has all the conditions supposed in the interpretation of this passage. From this word the number specified - 666 - is made out as follows:

30 1 300 5 10 50 70 200 = 666

In support of the opinion that this is the word intended to be referred to, the following suggestions may be made:

(a) It is a Greek word.

(b) It expresses the exact number, and corresponds in this respect with the language used by John.

(c) It was early suggested as the probable meaning, and by those who lived near the time of John; who were intimately acquainted with the Greek language; and who may be supposed to have been familiar with this mode of writing.

Thus it was suggested by Irenaeus, who says, “It seems to me very probable; for this is a name of the last of Daniel’s four kingdoms; they being Latins that now reign.” It is true that he also mentions two other words as those which may be meant - ευανθας euanthas, a word which had been suggested by others, but concerning which he makes no remarks, and which, of course, must have been destitute of any probability in his view; and Τειταν Teitan, which he thinks has the clearest claims for admission - though he speaks of the word Λατεινος Lateinos as having a claim of probability.

(d) This word would properly denote the Roman power, or the then Latin power, and would refer to that dominion as a Latin dominion - as it properly was; and if it be supposed that it was intended to refer to that, and, at the same time, that there should be some degree of obscurity about it, this would be more likely to be selected than the word “Roman,” which was better known; and,

(e) there was a special propriety in this, on the supposition that it was intended to refer to the papal Latin power. The most appropriate appellation, if it was designed to refer to Rome as a civil power, would undoubtedly have been the word “Roman”; but if it was intended to refer to the ecclesiastical power, or to the papacy, this is the very word to express the idea. In earlier times the more common appellation was Roman. This continued until the separation of the Eastern and Western empires, when the Eastern was called Greek, and the Western the Latin; or when the Eastern empire assumed the name of Roman, and affixed to the Western kingdoms one and all that were connected with Rome the appellation of Latin. This appellation, originally applied to the language only, was adopted by the Western kingdoms, and came to be that by which they were best designated. It was the Latin world, the Latin kingdom, the Latin church, the Latin patriarch, the Latin clergy, the Latin councils. To use Dr. More’s words, “They Latinize everything: mass, prayers, hymns, litanies, canons, decretals, bulls, are conceived in Latin. The papal councils speak in Latin, women themselves pray in Latin. The Scriptures are read in no other language under the papacy than Latin. In short, all things are Latin.” With what propriety, then, might John, under the influence of inspiration, speak, in this enigmatical manner, of the new power that was symbolized by the beast as Latin.

The only objection to this solution that has been suggested is, that the orthography of the Greek word is Λατινος Latinos - “Latinos,” and not Λατεινος Lateinos - Lateinos, giving the number 661, and not 666; and Bellarmine asserts that this is the uniform method of spelling in Greek authors. All that is necessary in reply to this is to copy the following remark from Prof. Stuart, vol. ii. p. 456: “As to the form of the Greek word Λατεινος Lateinos, namely, that ει ei is employed for the Latin long 4, it is a sufficient vindication of it to cite Σαβεῖνος Sabeinos, Φαυστεῖνος Fausteinos, Παυλεῖνος Pauleinos, Αντωνεῖνος Antōneinos, Ατειλιος Ateilios, Μετεῖλιος Metei̬lios, Παπεῖριος Papeirios, Ουεῖβιος Oueibios, etc. Or we may refer to the custom of the more ancient Latin, as in Plautus, of writing i by ei; e. g., solitei, Diveis, captivei, preimus, Lateina, etc.” See this point examined further, in Elliott, 3:210-213.

As a matter of historical interest, it may be observed that the solution of the difficulty has been sought in numerous other words, and the friends of the papacy and the enemies of the Bible have endeavored to show that such terms are so numerous that there can be no certainty in the application. Thus Calmet (Dictionary, “Antichrist”), after enumerating many of these terms, says: “The number 666 is found in names the most sacred, the most opposite to antichrist. The wisest and best way is to be silent.”

We have seen that, besides the name “Lateinos,” two other words had been referred to in the time of Irenaeus. Some of the words in which the mysterious number has been since supposed to be found are the following:

נרון קסר Neron Caesar.
50 + 200 + 6 + 50, and 100 + 60 + 200 =

Diocles Augustus (Dioclesian) = DCLXVI.
C. F. Julianus Caesar Atheus (the Apostate) = DCLXVI.
Luther - לולתר
200 + 400 + 30 + 6 + 30 =

Lampetis, Λαμπετις
30 + 1 + 40 + 80 + 5 + 300 + 10 + 200 =

ἡ Λατινη Βασιλεια hē Latinē Basileia
8 + 30 + 1 + 300 + 10 + 50 + 8 + 2 + 1 + 200 + 10 + 30 + 5 + 10 + 1 =

Ἰταλικα εκκλησια Italika ekklēsia
10 + 300 + 1 + 30 + 10 + 20 + 1 + 5 + 20 + 20 + 30 + 8 + 200 + 10 + 1 =

Ἀποστατης Apostatēs (the Apostate)
1 + 80 + 70 + 6 + 1 + 300 + 8 + 200 =

רומיית (Roman, sc. Sedes)
200 + 6 + 40 + 10 + 10 + 400 =

רמצנושׁ (Romanus, sc. Man)
200 + 40 + 70 + 50 + 6 + 300 =


It will be admitted that many of these, and others that might be named, are fanciful, and perhaps had their origin in a determination, on the one hand, to find Rome referred to somehow, or in a determination, on the other hand, equally strong, not to find this; but still it is remarkable how many of the most obvious solutions refer to Rome and the papacy. But the mind need not be distracted, nor need doubt be thrown over the subject, by the number of the solutions proposed. They show the restless character of the human mind, and the ingenuity of people; but this should not be allowed to bring into doubt a solution that is simple and natural, and that meets all the circumstances of the case. Such a solution, I believe, is found in the word Λατεινος Lateinos - “Lateinos,” as illustrated above; and as that, if correct, settles the case, it is unnecessary to pursue the matter further. Those who are disposed to do so, however, may find ample illustration in Calmet, Dictionary “Antichrist”; Elliott, Horae Apoca. iii. 207-221; Prof. Stuart, Com. vol. ii. Excursus iv.; Bibliotheca Sacra, i. 84-86; Robert Fleming on the Rise and Fall of the papacy, 28, seq.; DeWette, Exegetisches Handbuch, New Testament, iii. 140-142; Vitringa, Com. 625-637, Excursus iv.; Nov. Tes. Edi. Koppianae, vol. x. b, pp. 235-265; and the Commentaries generally.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 13". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/revelation-13.html. 1870.
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