Lectionary Calendar
Friday, September 22nd, 2023
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
Take our poll

Bible Commentaries
Revelation 13

Gann's Commentary on the BibleGann on the Bible

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verse 1

Chapter 13 - The Emerging of the Dragon’s Helpers

With the Dragon are: The First Beast and the Second Beast

The Sea Beast, Revelation 13:1-8

The Patience and Faith of the Saints, Revelation 1:1-10

The Earth Beast, Revelation 13:11-18

* POINTS: We must remember the churches in the first century to whom this was written were closer to the mind-set that would understand these symbols better than our remote western minds.

Also there were men among the churches with the spiritual gift of "wisdom" who could interpret these symbols to the churches (1 Corinthians 12:8; Revelation 13:18; Revelation 17:9) and tell definitively who was the beast. These hidden symbols would then baffle heathen readers and provide some protection from persecution.

And I . . The "I" could be "He", i.e., the dragon. The beast out of the bottomless pit, Revelation 11:7.

Textual comment: ASV = "And he stood" i.e., the Dragon, and "I saw" (It appears the "subject" of the one standing on the seashore should be the antecedent noun, the Dragon of Revelation 12:17).

And I saw . . The dragon is standing on the sand of the sea when John sees the beast rise up out of sea. Then he sees another beast rise up out of the earth, Revelation 13:11.

The dragon stood on the seashore watching a beast come out of the sea, in John’s vision (cf. Daniel 7:2-3; Daniel 7:7-8; Daniel 7:19-27). The implication is that the dragon summoned the beast out of the sea.416 Evidently this was part of his plan to destroy the rest of the woman’s offspring (Revelation 12:17). - Constable

beast rise out of the sea . . The first beast - Revelation 13:1-8 A beast from the sea.

[Occassionally the "earth" represents the "home" for the Jews, and "the sea" represents all the gentiles nations or the rest of the world. (Some conclude that “the waters” mentioned in Revelation 17:15 interpret “the sea,” so that it means “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues”; Lenski.). So this "beast" represents a foreign or gentile power.]

a beast . . The description of the beast is reminiscent of Daniel 7:1-7 FSB

a beast . . Lit. “a monster” (cf. Revelation 11:7), which describes a vicious, killing animal.

seven heads and ten horns . . Represents political and military power or “kings” (Revelation 17:12; cf. Daniel 7:24). Recalls the description of the dragon in Revelation 12:3 and the fourth beast in Daniel 7:7. - NIVZSB

a beast rise up out of the sea . . Until this stage of vision the dragon’s activities had been confined to Palestine, but now a beast rises out of the sea as the instrument by which to implement and to execute his diabolical plans. He summoned aid from Rome.

The beast had seven heads and ten horns, and was the symbol of the great power of Rome. The ten horns represented the ten divisions of the Roman empire, the emperor of which was seated on a throne situated on the seven hills of Rome, the universal symbol of the imperial city. - Wallace

upon his horns ten crowns . . The crowns represent its political and military power (cp. Revelation 17:3, Revelation 17:7-11; Daniel 7:7, Daniel 7:19-20)- NLTSB

the name . . Read, names, as in the margin. Cf. Revelation 17:3. The reference perhaps is to the blasphemous assumption of divine honours by the Roman emperors—most markedly (at least up to St John’s time) by Gaius. - CBSC

blasphemous names . . The Greek manuscripts are equally divided between the PLURAL (ms A) “names” (NRSV, NJB) and SINGULAR (mss P47, C, P) “name” (NKJV, TEV). Whichever is true, this is obviously an allusion to Daniel 7:8, Daniel 7:11; Daniel 7:20; Daniel 7:25 or Daniel 11:36. These blasphemous titles are connected with the (1) claim of deity or (2) evil titles (cf. Revelation 17:3). - Utley

The Dragon works through this Sea-Beast described next.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


The Dragon -- (Revelation 12:9) is Satan, the Devil.

The Beast -- Rome --Identified by Daniel’s prophecy, Daniel 7:3-7; Daniel 7:7; Revelation 13:1-2

The Second Beast (False Prophet) -- Religious elements catering to the beast and supporting the persecution against God’s people. (Revelation 13:11)

Babylon (the Harlot)-- Jerusalem and the Jewish system (See Revelation 11:8 )

The Woman on the Moon-- (Revelation 12:1) represents the righteous people on earth. (In OT they are called ’the remnant’. In NT time it becomes the church.)

The man child (Revelation 12:4-5) -- Christ

666 -- Revelation 13:18 the number of a man (undoubted the seven churches of Asia knew who it represented, probably Nero Caesar as his names equals 666.

Verse 2

now the beast . . "A Bear-footed Leopard with a Lion’s mouth" - 7 heads - 10 horns - 10 crowns.

This beast is made up of that seen in Daniel 7, the 4th kingdom = The Roman Empire, ROME. The Roman empire took on much of the characteristics of the three former empires.

The fourth beast in Dan. 7 is not described as like any ordinary animal: here he is described as combining the likeness of the other three. ... The Rome of St John’s day was “like unto” a Greek empire, and at the same time embodied elements derived from Babylon, and from Persia. - CBSC

The beast looks like a leopard but has feet like a bear’s, a mouth like a lion’s mouth, and ten horns, and it wages “war on the saints” (Revelation 13:7). - ESVSB

leopard = known for swiftness; (Habakkuk 1:8 ) Like the third beast in Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7:6).

leopard . . A metaphor for ancient Greece, alluding to the Greeks’ swiftness and agility as their military moved forward in conquest, particularly under Alexander the Great (cf. Daniel 7:6). - MSB

feet of a bear . . Like the second beast in Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7:5)

bear . . A metaphor for the ancient Medo-Persian Empire, depicting that kingdom’s ferocious strength, combined with its great stability (cf. Daniel 7:5). -MSB

mouth of a lion . . Like the first beast in Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7:4).

lion . . A metaphor for the ancient Babylonian Empire, referring to the Babylonians’ fierce, all-consuming power as they extended their domain (cf. Daniel 7:4). - MSB

dragon gave him his power . . Daniel identifies this beast doing the Dragon’s bidding in - Daniel 7:7 ff. Daniel 7:23; Daniel 8:9 as the fourth empire, Rome.

his throne . . (seat) Better, throne.

great authority . .The beast is a vassal who acts on behalf of and with the destructive force of the dragon. Since the dragon bestows his power on the beast, the beast shares many of the dragon’s characteristics. - FSB

But it was Rome doing the Dragon’s bidding.

The Dragon works through the Beast as his agent; the war is of Satan’s making, but the Empire is his tool for waging it. The Seer regards the persecuting Emperors as vassals of Satan; - Swete

authority . . The words rendered “power” and “authority” here are the same as “strength” and “power” in Revelation 12:10.

Verse 3

I saw . . Should be omitted from the Greek text, but of course must be supplied in sense. - CBSC

one of his heads . . Comparing Revelation 17:10-11, it has been thought that this indicates the death of Nero, - CBSC

That one of the heads had been fatally wounded but was healed has led to its identification with Nero. - NLTSB

one of the heads . . Is this a reference to one of the Caesars or to the Roman Empire itself.?

With the suicide of Nero it looked like possible civil war in the Roman empire which would tear it apart. Three generals, Galba, Otho, and Vespasian vied for the leadership. Vespasian, who had been leading the war against the Jews won out. and the Empire revived.

mortally wounded . . It was a fatal wound which would have killed the beast.

It should be observed that the wounded “head” of v.3 is elsewhere in the chapter a wound of the whole beast (Revelation 13:12; Revelation 13:14). - EBCNT

his deadly wound . . Lit., the stroke of his death. ["as slain to death"]- CBSC

its fatal wound had been healed . . The civil was that could have destroyed the strength and might of the Roman Empire was averted and under Vespasian and later his sons, Titus and Domitian, it regain all it’s strength and glory.

all the world marveled . .

Premillennialists take the beast’s wound as a parody of the Lamb’s wound (Revelation 5:6) and resurrection and the whole earth was astonished should have been the response to Christ’s resurrection.

Verse 4

worshipped the dragon . . Remember the Dragon is Satan. The Beast is Rome. With the Roman emperors claiming deity people are actually worshiping Satan. Worshiping anyone or anything taking the place of the Living God is worshiping Satan.

who gave authority . . Rather, because he gave his authority. The power of the beast was Satanic.

worshiped the beast . . . Likely a veiled reference to empeor worship. - FSB

Likely refers to idolatrous emperor worship, which John holds to be satanic (see note on Revelation 2:13). - NIVZSB

Who is like the beast? . . People praised the might and glory of Rome in the likeness of Israel’s praises of Yahweh’s uniqueness in the Old Testament (e.g., Exodus 15:11; Psalms 35:10; Isaiah 40:25).

Who is able to make war with him? . . Rome was conquoring all! From Britan to the Middle East. It was the longest lasting Empire the world had seen. But eventually it faced God’s judgment as well. But the answer to this question will come in chapter 19. (Revelation 19:20)

Remember, that individuals will face God in judgment at the end when Christ returns, but nations face God’s wrath and judgment in the life time.

Who can wage war against it? . . Ironically recalls Revelation 12:7-8, where Michael and the angels overpower the dragon.

Verse 5

given to him . . The beast of verse 4. The phrase "was given" would indicate that this was within God’s permissive will. Romans 13:1-3. Because God allows something doesn’t mean He approves. God even uses evil empires for His own purpose, i.e. Assyria and Babylon in the OT time.

mouth . . Those who spoke for the empire. Roman emperors made themselves "gods."

speaking great things and blasphemies . . A further allusion to Dan 7 (compare Daniel 7:8, Daniel 7:11; Daniel 7:20). - FSB

forty-two months . . The final 3½ years—1,260 days—of the Daniel’s 70th week (Daniel 9:26-27), was a time of great tribulation for both Jerusalem and the saints, Matthew 24:15; Matthew 24:21-22; Matthew 24:34 . During this period Nero was also persecuting Christians killing both Peter and Paul, see Revelation 2:13.

forty and two months . . --Revelation 13:5. Here is the third repetition of the thousand two hundred and threescore days of chapters eleven and twelve; and, as previously commented, it embraces the exact mathematical period from the date of Nero’s order to Vespasion for the invasion of Judea to the fall of Jerusalem. This was the period of time assigned to the emperor beast for the accomplishment of the destruction of Jerusalem and the obliteration of the Jewish state. - Wallace

Verse 6

And opened his mouth in blasphemy . . Especially Nero did this from AD 64 when Rome burned and he blamed the Christians to June AD 68 when Nero killed himself. This is perhaps what Paul prophesied in AD 51, 2 Thessalonians 2:4.

a mouth speaking arrogant words . . This is an allusion to (1) “the beast” in Daniel 7:8, Daniel 7:11, Daniel 7:20, Daniel 7:25; Daniel 11:30; ... “the man of sin” in 2 Thessalonians 2:4. - Utley

his name . . This identifies God and summarizes all His attributes (cf. Exodus 3:13-14). - FSB

his tabernacle . . the church.

those who dwell in heaven . . The True Living God and His angels. Acts 17:24.

and them that dwell . . And” should apparently be omitted, so that “them that tabernacle in Heaven” is in apposition with the “tabernacle” of God itself. - CBSC

them that dwell . . The identification of God’s dwelling as those who dwell in heaven confirms that the measured sanctuary (Revelation 11:1) symbolized the worshipers in it. Likewise, the “holy city” is the Lamb’s church-bride (Revelation 21:2, Revelation 21:9-27; see Ephesians 2:22). - ESVSB

dwelling place . . Likely refers not to a physical temple but to God’s people “who live in heaven” (Revelation 11:1; Revelation 21:3). - NIVZSB

Verse 7

make war with the saints . . Nero blamed the Christians in AD 64 and began his persecution. Jewish Christians got caught in the Jewish war as well. Paul accused of turning the world upside down, Acts 17:6.

cf. Matthew 24:16-22;

war with the saints . . For the sense cf. Daniel 7:21 and Daniel 11:7: the latter proves that “the Saints” (i.e. the holy people of God) are to be understood as Christians, not as Israelites. - CBSC

This war on His saints is mentioned in Daniel 7:21, Daniel 7:25. It refers to the physical death of God’s people. There is a time when the enemy seems to be the victor (like Calvary), but Revelation and Daniel teach that it is short-lived! Notice that God’s people are protected from the wrath of God, but not from the wrath of the beast. God allows evil an apparent victory in order to reveal its true intentions and nature. - Utley

every tribe, tongue, and nation . . Some think this is simply describing the extent of the Roman Empire while others affirm that Satan’s influence and sin has gone into every conor and pocket of the world.

Verse 8

worship him . . Emperor worship -- burning incense to the Caesar.

Book of Life . . Revelation 21:27;

slain from the foundation of the world . . This translation could mean that Christ’s saving death was always part of God’s plan of salvation (compare 1 Peter 1:19-20). - FSB

The Lord Jesus who died to purchase the salvation of those whom God had chosen was fulfilling an eternal plan. - MSB

The phrase the foundation of the earth is used several times in the NT (cf. Matthew 25:34; John 17:24; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:19-20). There is also a very similar phrase in Matthew 13:35; Luke 11:50; Hebrews 4:3; Hebrews 9:26 and Revelation 17:8. - Utley

Verse 9

let him hear . . Repeats the exhortation from chs. 2 and 3 (see Revelation 2:7 and note). This phrase omits “what the Spirit says to the churches” as in the 7 letters to the churches.

The fact that these phrases relate to the churches seems to imply that the next phrase (Revelation 13:10) is also directed to the people of God. - Utley

Verse 10

leads into captivity shall go into captivity, he who kills -- A proverb repeated by the Lord Himself in Matthew 26:52. Evil has within it it’s own destructive power. Genesis 9:6 ; Jeremiah 43:11; Matthew 26:52 .

This proverb gives assurance to Christians that Rome itself, or any evil, will end up receiving what it gives out.

here is patience (perseverance) . . A bright ray of sunshine in this chapter. Be steadfast - in the midst of beasts and dragons, "God is not mocked!" The saints know that God is just and will deal with his enemies himself, it is not in our hands.

Verse 11

another beast . . This second beast (the land beast, or false prophet) is a lieutenant to the first, who will enforce the worship of the first beast, and sentencing to death those who disobey, Revelation 13:15, and by requiring a mark on the hand or forehead in order that men may buy and sell, Revelation 13:16-17., it acts like trade guilds, or a state religion that requires obedience to obtain certification to do business.

like a lamb . . The second beast resembles the Lamb, but its lying words expose its real nature; it is like a dragon (cf. Revelation 12:15; Revelation 16:13-14; Revelation 19:20). - ESVSB

The Land Beast -

Looked like a lamb, spoke like a dragon.

Two horns like a lamb (small), later identified as "the False Prophet".

This beast appears to be the Religious Arm that brought about the worship of Rome. The Pagan worship system.

I think that today we would refer to the likeness of this beast as "the media" - that is, the current Roman historians, newsmakers, and gossip spreaders were beginning to distinguish Christians from the Jews and saying all manner of ill things about them; that they hated the gods (were atheists) were cannibals (ate one on Sundays), etc. and railed against the worship of other gods (against drinking bouts and sexual orgies).

[This land beast would not be Jewish, for that is pictured next under the term of the Harlot, Babylon! ]

Verse 12

authority of the first beast . . This beast acted with authority from Rome, thus probably state sanctioned religious authorities, or state sponsored trade guilds.

causes -- worship the first beast . . Also called a False Prophet supporting the beast, Rome.

Pliny the Younger wrote to the emperor Trajan (AD 98–117) that people charged with being Christians were summoned under threat of execution to pray to Roman gods, make offerings to the emperor’s statue, and revile Christ’s name. - NIVZSB

who deadly wound was healed . . Rome survived a possible death keel from civil war by opposing generals trying to claim the emperor-ship of Rome and was saved and revived by Vespasian and his sons.

Verse 13

great wonders . . Perhaps such as Simon the Sorcer had been noted form, Acts 8:8-9 and Bar-Jesus in Acts 13:6-8 ; and Acts 14:11.

Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:9.

makes fire comes down . . This identifies the land-beast as making religious claims and asserting itself like miraculous working prophets of old, as Elijah did in 1 Kings 18:38 and 2 Kings 1:10-12.

These counterfeit signs are done to give credence to the first beast.

Amazing wonders are not automatically signs of God (cf. Exodus 7:8-13.

making fire come down from heaven . . The false prophet (the second beast) counterfeits God’s judgments to bolster the specious claim that the first beast is divine (cf. 1 Kings 18:38; 2 Kings 1:10 - ESVSB

Verse 14

he deceives . . Deception is the name of the game for false religions,

Matthew 24:23-24

signs which he was granted to do . . Something that was within God’s permissive will. (Revelation 13:14; cf. Revelation 19:20; Deuteronomy 13:1-4; 2 Thessalonians 2:9) God is able to use evil to accomplish his purposes.

make an image to the beast . . Another allusion from Daniel 3:4-6.

The false prophet worked as the beast’s “Minister of Propaganda.” ( Bruce, p. 653)

In John’s day, images, busts, and statues were set up throughout the empire in tribute to the deified emperor. This was especially prevalent in areas where the emperor would likely never travel. Having these images gave an identity to the people’s god and promoted nationalism throughout the land. In contrast to the gods in the Greek and Roman pantheons, the emperor and the benefits he bestowed were thought to be tangible manifestations of divinity and goodness. Christians who refused to take part in emperor worship were branded as ungrateful, unpatriotic, unholy, and undeserving of the emperor’s benevolence.- FSB

wounded by the sword . . This seems to affirm the wound was from warfare. Civil war within the Roman Empire.

Verse 15

give breath to the image . . Possibly hyperbolic language used to express the authority that the false prophet and the images had. The command to worship and the threat upon the disobedient was so real that the images themselves seemed to be demanding allegiance. - FSB

image of the beast . . The worship of Caesar images held the power of life and death.

as many as would not worship . .

Pliny the Younger wrote to the emperor Trajan (AD 98–117) that people charged with being Christians were summoned under threat of execution to pray to Roman gods, make offerings to the emperor’s statue, and revile Christ’s name. - NIVZSB

Verse 16

rich and poor . . The trade guilds made sacrificial offerings that Christians could not engage in. Each trade and every city had its patron "god." Certificates were given to show that such a one had participated in sacrifice to the gods and to Caesar. Without such a certificate one could not legally trade and sell.

The Christians were considered "atheists" because they would not recognize Caesar as god.

mark -- hand..forehead . . As the saints were sealed unto God in 7:3, here the evil one mimics God’s action by marking his own. The Greek word implies an animal brand or a seal on a governmental document.

Because of the location of the sign, some have thought that it was a perversion of a Jewish phylactery (cf. Deuteronomy 6:8). Others assume that it relates to the first century Roman culture, in which slaves were branded with their owner’s name or soldiers tattooed in honor of their general. - Utley

a mark . . In the ancient world religious branding was a common way to display devotion to a particular deity. The Greek word charagma (meaning “mark, brand, stamp”) describes the imperial logo on commercial documents, merchandise, and coinage. - FSB

mark . . Demonstrates absolute loyalty and perhaps ownership. There is no neutrality: one has either the beast’s mark or God’s seal (Revelation 7:3-4; Revelation 14:1). It may reflect the ancient practice of branding or tattooing disobedient slaves, soldiers, and loyal adherents to certain pagan cults. - NIVZSB

marked on the right hand or the forehead . . The Israelites bore God’s law on their hands and foreheads to signify his authority over their deeds and thoughts (Deuteronomy 6:8). Neither the beast’s mark nor the seal of God on believers’ foreheads (cf. Revelation 7:3; Revelation 14:1; cf. also Exodus 28:36-38; Ezekiel 9:4) have to be understood as physical features, though they may be that. Both symbolize the spiritual control of heart allegiance and behavior, either by the beast or by the Lamb; but God’s seal secures safety. - ESVSB

Verse 17

no one buy or sell . . The beast no only demands worship and also controls financial dealings.

able to buy or to sell . . There would be economic depression and poverty for those who would not bear the mark. The church in Smyrna may have already been feeling these effects (see note on Revelation 2:9). - FSB

The mark of the beast . . see notes on previous verse, Revelation 13:16.

* If the mark of God on his people was not literal why believe this one is?

The idea comes from owners branding their slaves.

[In 3 Maccebees 2:28 -99 , a decree from Antiochus was to have had pagan gods names tattooed (branded) on their bodies ... it reads:

28“None of those who do not sacrifice shall enter their sanctuaries, and all Jews shall be subjected to a registration involving poll tax and to the status of slaves. Those who object to this are to be taken by force and put to death; 29those who are registered are also to be branded on their bodies by fire with the ivy-leaf symbol of Dionysus, and they shall also be reduced to their former limited status.” ]

the number of his name . . In Hebrew and in Greek, letters were used for numerals, every letter having its own proper significance as a number. - CBSC

Verse 18

This calls for wisdom . . We may not know for sure for two reasons: "wisdom" has the definite article and may be referring to 1) supernatural wisdom and 2) understanding - 1 Corinthians 12:8 And just because we don’t know for sure, doesn’t mean the seven churches of Asia did not know.

There were in all of the churches the spiritually endowed teachers, who possessed the "spiritual gifts" of the inspiration era, as recorded in chapters twelve and thirteen of First Corinthians. In the catalog of such gifts were listed the special endowments of "wisdom," "discernment," and "understanding." This agrees with the words of the text, here is wisdom, and let him that hath understanding count the number. These supernaturally endowed teachers in the churches could certainly decipher the cryptogram. - Wallace

it is the number of a man . . John then gives a clue as to the identity of the owner mark by employing gematria—the practice of assigning numbers to letters of the alphabet. His number is 666. John hides the man’s identity, perhaps because revealing the name would place him and his readers in danger.

I believe it to be the number of Nero Caesar = 666. He gave the order for the destruction of Jerusalem.

Nero Caesar (adopted by many modern interpreters) is convincing - CBSC

“Nero Caesar,” written in Hebrew characters, add up to 666 - ESVSB

The reference could be to “Nero Caesar,” whose name if written in Hebrew characters adds up to 666.- NIVZSB

One of the most popular interpretations is a Hebrew rendition of “Neron Caesar,” which equals 666 - Lenski

No name could be more conclusive and decisive than that of Nero Caesar--the ruling emperor. The Hebrew tongue was employed in Revelation 16:16 in the symbol of Armageddon, and for less reason than justifies Hebrew ciphers in this case. In Revelation 17:11 the beast was visualized as the sixth ruling emperor in succession from Julius Caesar. - Wallace

The prophets and teachers in the New Testament churches were not professional cryptographers, but being the recipients of "spiritual gifts" by apostolic impartation, they possessed inspired powers to discern that which the ordinary mind could not discover. It is not without reason that 1 Corinthians 12:8 and 1 Corinthians 13:2 would include the necessary power to decipher the code of Revelation 13:18 to the members of the churches involved in these calamitous developments and trying experiences, which were so immediately present with them, but so remotely past to us. - Wallace

You can see from various commentaries and their alphabetical tables that there are many suggestions made about the identity of the "666."

[Modern "prophets" have applied the 666 to Kissinger, Hitler, Ronald Wilson Reagan, etc. ]

- - - - - - - - - -

Rev. 13 is full of gloom and despair - But Revelation doesn’t end with ch. 13. Sometimes our lives may have some gloom and despair, but it doesn’t end that way.

Message: Everything that could Christians and their faith - is in the end destroyed itself!

Ch. 14 is the counterpart to ch. 13. A message of Hope and Comfort - the Lord and His Host!

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Revelation 13". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gbc/revelation-13.html. 2021.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile