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

Bible Commentaries
Revelation 13

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Verses 1-18

The conscious mind, enquiring after the truth and certainty of revelation, is worthy of all the aid that science can afford. In Daniel, as stated above, on chap. Revelation 10:5, we have before us three prophecies of the Assyrian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman empires, finally under the Roman power, divided into ten kingdoms, as represented by the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s image. Those visions of Daniel are here confirmed by the continuous visions of John. The tablet is broad, and the time of their enduring is not yet fully expired. Neither the republic of Plato, nor the dreams of Pindus can deteriorate from the history of a world, and facts substantiated by the succession of four empires which ruled the earth, and the ten kingdoms still subsist before our eyes.

To collect the force of those speaking truths, learned men have waded through countless volumes of history, and brought to light evidence which, like huge mountains, laugh at all defeat. The German divines were the first to give us portraits in detail. John Fox, in his Martyrology, and the learned Joseph Mede, in his protracted course of studies, have confirmed the continental chronologies. The adjoined tables exhibit a fair scale of facts.


Click image for full-size version

Click image for full-size version

Revelation 13:1 . I saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns. This idea of the beast coincides with Daniel’s four beasts, which ascended out of the sea: Daniel 7:3. And what can we understand by the sea but a world troubled with storms of wars, and a succession of complicated calamities?

Revelation 13:2 . The beast was like unto a leopard. Impetuous, cruel, and of various colours, like the Grecians. His feet were as the feet of a bear, the Persian bear, to tear and to destroy. His mouth as the mouth of a lion, the Assyrian lion, to roar against nations. The Romans had all that was terrific combined in their government and wars. To him the great dragon conceded his power.

Revelation 13:3 . I saw one of his heads, as (if) it were wounded to death, when the Goths pillaged Rome. But this wound was healed, when the people of Rome saluted Charles the great with the title of Augustus.

Revelation 13:3-4 . All the world wondered after the beast, saying, Who is able to make war with him? Here the papal hierarchy appears, in the exercise of power, and in blasphemous titles, while sitting in the temple of God, and speaking as though he were himself a god. This papal beast is that new power foretold by Daniel, in Daniel 8:24. And after, or behind the back of the imperial dragon, shall another power rise among the ten horns, and he shall be diverse from the first beast, and he shall subdue three kings; viz. Ravenne, and two other Gothic states in the north of Italy. Such was the rise of the papal power, behind or slyly on the back of the imperial beast.

Revelation 13:7 . And it was given to him to make war with the saints. To destroy all who would not bow the knee to Rome. He employed his secular sons to do this, by wars and oppressions. One million at least have perished in France. In the Netherlands the Duke of Alva boasted of destroying thirty thousand. Of those who perished in Spain, for the Spaniards got illumination from France, it is difficult to make a calculation. Mr. Fletcher, in his poem, sur la Grace, p. 359, quotes a celebrated author on the inquisition, who says that the inquisitors celebrated a feast called auto da fe; that is, an act of faith, in which they burned all condemned for heresy. “Torquemada filled the place of inquisitor general for fourteen years, and boasted that he had condemned eighty thousand heretics, six thousand of whom were burned alive with the most august and splendid pomp.” How many suffered in prison, we have no calendar to tell, but the lowest calculation is a hundred and fifty thousand, besides those who have suffered abroad. In a word, every nation under the power of the Roman beast has been watered, and some of them often watered, with the blood of the saints.

Revelation 13:7-10 . Power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations: and all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him. This is not true of the Germanic empire; but it is really true, that the christian world in general submitted to the pontificate. Power was given unto him to continue, πολεμον , to make war, forty and two months: Revelation 13:5. God limits the time of the wicked. This is exactly the same as the duration of Daniel’s little horn, twelve hundred and sixty days, which, according to the manner of calculating prophecy, implies so many years. Then he shall surely be destroyed. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword.

Revelation 13:11 . I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. The clerical empire rose out of the earth, as a wild beast leaves his den in the dark, and arrived at the highest glory and power. The two horns represent the two swords, or their temporal and spiritual power. The decretals or bulls of the church illustrate this; they are issued in the high tone of superior majesty.

Revelation 13:12 . He exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. Pagan Rome endeavoured to subjugate all nations to her unlimited controul, and christian Rome has endeavoured by every means to do the same. She has healed the wounded imperial power by presiding as the queen mother over her ten reigning sons.

Mr. Faber says, “Here we have a plain prediction of some spiritual power… which should arrogate to itself universal authority in religious concerns, and which should coëxist on the most friendly terms with the ten-horned temporal empire, instigating it to persecute, during the space of forty two months, all such as should dare to dispute its domination; and which, in short, should devise the problem of the two contemporary beasts, by exhibiting to the world the singular spectacle of a complete empire within itself.

Where we are to look for this power, since the great Roman beast was divided into ten horns, let the impartial voice of history determine. Daniel, who fully delineates the character of the little horn, is entirely silent respecting the two-horned beast. John, who as fully delineates the character of the two-horned beast, is entirely silent respecting the little horn. Yet the little horn, and the two-horned beast, act precisely in the same capacity, each exercising the power of the first beast, and each persisting in the same common destruction with him,” of all opposing power. Faber on Daniel, Daniel 7:7-14; Daniel 8:9-12.

Bishop Newton’s testimony is pertinent here. “The pope is the principle of unity to the ten kingdoms of the beast; and he causeth, as far as he is able, all who will not acknowledge his supremacy, to be put to death. In short, he is the most perfect resemblance of the ancient Roman emperors; is as great a tyrant in the christian church, as they were in the heathen world. He presides in the same city, usurps the same powers, affects the same titles, and requires the same homage and adoration; so that the prophecy descends more and more into particulars, from the Roman state to the Roman clergy, and thence to the pope, the head of the state, as well as the head of the church; the king of kings, as well as bishop of bishops.”

Revelation 13:13 . And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. The pope, and the princes of the church, represent the sun and stars of heaven, and his anathemas have frequently set whole kingdoms in a flame of discord and civil war.

Revelation 13:14-16 . And deceiveth them by means of those miracles 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. The pontificate is but an image of the ancient Roman power. The emperors had their senators, generals, prefects and governors: and the popes have their cardinals, legates, metropolitans, and bishops. These are the princes of the antichristian empire, who have power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should speak, in lying and ambiguous oracles, as well as the images in the pagan temples; and they have power to cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. The accomplishment of this prophecy is sufficiently obvious from the wars of extermination which the pontificate has prosecuted against all who would not submit to its tyranny; and from the cruel and bloody procedures of the courts of inquisition. Indeed, so rigorous and cruel have been those proceedings, that they have caused all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads, as the slaves had that of their masters. The adherents of antichrist have been compelled to receive badges of slavery; to receive the sign of the cross, and the chrism, on their forehead. They carry the crucifix, the rosary and chaplet, in their right hand; and are obliged to confess at least once a year to their proper priest, or be excluded from the kingdom of heaven.

On the image of the beast we must again remark, that the emperor Phocas, frequently called a tyrant in our books, declared the Pope universal bishop. He restored the image of the beast, for all the ten kingdoms submitted to the pontificate; and all the clergy hailed the day, for this son of the dragon, the ninety sixth pope, “could give them fields and vineyards.” This was in the year of our Lord 606. The following is copied from Mr. Whiston.

Of this title our archbishop Laud (a prelate not hostile to dignity) gives the following account. “About this time broke out the ambition of John, patriarch of Constantinople, affecting to be universal bishop. He was supported by Mauritius, then emperor [of the east.] But was bitterly opposed by Pelagius, and by St. Gregory; and in such sort, that Gregory plainly says, his pride shows that the time of Antichrist is near. So as yet, there was no universal bishop, no monarch over the militant church. But Mauritius being deposed and murdered by Phocas, anno Domini 602, this very Phocas conferred on pope Boniface the third, the very title which two of his predecessors had so warmly opposed, as monstrous and blasphemous, not to say, antichristian! Where, by the way, those two popes, Pelagius and St. Gregory, either erred in this weighty affair, respecting a universal bishop over the whole church; or if they did not err, Boniface and his successors, who assumed the title, were in the judgment of both their predecessors, antichristian.” Laud against Fisher, the jesuit, p. 116.

Laud gives next ten extracts in Latin, of original correspondence, most mortifying indeed to papal pride. Similar arguments occur in bishop Stillingfteet’s vindication, part 2. chap. 6.

The seventh chapter of Daniel, Revelation 13:8-18, should be read here; and we must hence conclude that the Pontificate was the image which healed the wound, and gave life to what is here plainly called “the image of the beast,” a vast empire firmly united in pride, interest, and tyranny, never surpassed by any monarch whose sceptre swayed the world.

Revelation 13:18 . Here is wisdom count the number of the beast and his number is six hundred threescore and six. This number is found in several Greek words, but which are quite irrelevant to the text. Irenæus visited Asia and talked with old men, disciples of John, as before stated in chap. Revelation 11:3. Now, as he gives the number expressly appropriate to the Latin church, we ought not to seek it elsewhere. Take the three examples below as quite sufficient.

Click image for full-size version


The first beast represents an entire view of the Roman empire, as Menochius allows. But the papists are divided in opinion about those beasts, and very much embarrassed. Gagnæus says, this beast is antichrist; but Sa doubts whether antichrist, or the Roman empire, or the devil, or the dragon be implied. Protestant critics, since the time of the Waldenses, have been generally agreed that the first beast means secular, and the second papal Rome. Jurieu expounds the first beast as indicative of the empire for two thousand five hundred and sixty years. The secular period, including the christian emperors, continued about one thousand three hundred years; and the little horn or period of the pontificate shall continue twelve hundred and sixty years. Such is the sentence of God on the apostate church. Now, from the shock, and we may almost say downfal of papal Rome by the late ruler of France, we have the greatest providential inducement to revive our enquiries into the sure word of prophecy. Who can see popery rising twelve hundred years ago, and now declining with vengeance, and not believe in the prophetic periods of this chapter? Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy: chap. Revelation 1:4. And the more so as the Mahomedan antichrist seems to fall at the same time. And Mahomedanism, when unsupported by the sword, can never stand against Christianity. This first beast rose like a crocodile out of the sea, for the exiles and vagabonds who founded Rome came chiefly by water, and settled on the Leviathan shore. So Virgil flattered the Romans of the Æneid with a Trojan descent, in the routine of a voyage by Carthage. Seas are also said to import the conquered nations by the Roman arms; but I prefer the former gloss. The seven heads, are the seven forms of government which succeeded one another in that empire: kings consuls decemvirs tribunes of the people perpetual dictators triumvirs and emperors.

The ten horns on the seventh or highest head are the ten kingdoms into which the empire was divided, when subdued by the Goths, the Huns, and the Vandals, in the latter part of the fifth century. The states of the church, including Tuscany and Romania the two Sicilies Lombardy with Istria France Spain Ireland Britain Germany, south of the Elbe Pannonia, now Hungary and Illyrium, now Turkey. The name of blasphemy upon his heads, are the titles of the beast which belong to the Almighty, and to the Almighty only. The emperors claimed divine honours, temples were erected to their memories, and incense was offered to their geniuses.

Rome styled herself the celestial and eternal city, the goddess of the earth. The titles of the pontiff are equally blasphemous: His Holiness Infallible Judge Vice God God on earth Vicar of Christ. His blaspheming against them that dwell in heaven, in paying divine homage to the holy angels and martyrs, which they abhor. “The dragon,” who gave him his power and throne, is the devil, who styles himself the prince of this world, He it was that instigated the pagan emperors to persecute the church; and since the eleventh century, through the advice of the secular clergy, he has instigated christian princes to do the same. Within the last seven hundred years, two or three millions of christians have lost their lives for bearing their testimony against the corruptions of popery. “The head wounded to death and healed again,” is the imperial head which was wounded by the Goths, Huns, and Vandals, but healed in some sort when Charles the great was proclaimed emperor of the Romans, or when Justinian received the imperial dignity.

But Jurieu has given another opinion concerning the healing of the deadly wound, which I prefer. He says that the wound was healed, when the ten christian kings were deceived by the clergy to acknowledge the bishop of Rome as sovereign pontiff. In this view, “all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power to the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” By thus submitting to the temporal and spiritual tyranny of Rome, they in reality forsook the Lord, and did homage to the devil.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 13". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/revelation-13.html. 1835.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile