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Bible Commentaries

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Revelation 13

Verse 1

And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.

And I stood on the sand of the sea — This also was in the vision.

And I saw — Soon after the woman flew away.

A wild beast coming up — He comes up twice; first from the sea, then from the abyss. He comes from the sea before the seven phials; "the great whore" comes after them. O reader, this is a subject wherein we also are deeply concerned, and which must he treated, not as a point of curiosity, but as a solemn warning from God! The danger is near. Be armed both against force and fraud, even with the whole armour of God.

Out of the sea — That is, Europe. So the three woes (the first being in Persia, the second about the Euphrates) move in a line from east to west. This beast is the Romish Papacy, as it came to a point six hundred years since, stands now, and will for some time longer. To this, and no other power on earth, agrees the whole text, and every part of it in every point; as we may see, with the utmost evidence, from the propositions following: - PROP1. It is one and the same beast, having seven heads, and ten horns, which is described in this and in the seventeenth chapter. Of consequence, his heads are the same, and his horns also. PROP2. This beast is a spiritually secular power, opposite to the kingdom of Christ. A power not merely spiritual or ecclesiastical, nor merely secular or political but a mixture of both. He is a secular prince; for a crown, yea, and a kingdom are ascribed to him. And yet he is not merely secular; for he is also a false prophet. PROP3. The beast has a strict connexion with the city of Rome. This clearly appears from the seventeenth chapter. PROP4. The beast is now existing. He is not past. for Rome is now existing; and it is not till after the destruction of Rome that the beast is thrown into the lake. He is not altogether to come: for the second woe is long since past, after which the third came quickly; and presently after it began, the beast rose out of the sea. Therefore, whatever he is, he is now existing. PROP5. The beast is the Romish Papacy. This manifestly follows from the third and fourth propositions; the beast has a strict connexion with the city of Rome; and the beast is now existing: therefore, either there is some other power more strictly connected with that city, or the Pope is the beast. PROP6. The Papacy, or papal kingdom, began long ago. The most remarkable particulars relating to this are here subjoined; taken so high as abundantly to show the rise of the beast, and brought down as low as our own time, in order to throw a light on the following part of the prophecy: - A.D1033. Benedict the Ninth, a child of eleven years old, is bishop of Rome, and occasions grievous disorders for above twenty years. A.D1048. Damasus II. introduces the use of the triple crown. A.D1058. The church of Milan is, after long opposition, subjected to the Roman. A.D1073. Hildebrand, or Gregory VII., comes to the throne. A.D1076. He deposes and excommunicates the emperor. A.D1077. He uses him shamefully and absolves him. A.D1080. He excommunicates him again, and sends a crown to Rodulph, his competitor. A.D1083. Rome is taken. Gregory flees. Clement is made Pope, and crowns the emperor. A.D1085. Gregory VII. dies at Salerno. A.D1095. Urban II. holds the first Popish council, at Clermont and gives rise to the crusades. A.D1111. Paschal II. quarrels furiously with the emperor. A.D1123. The first western general council in the Lateran. The marriage of priests is forbidden. A.D1132. Innocent II declares the emperor to be the Pope's liege-man, or vassal. A.D1143. The Romans set up a governor of their own, independent on Innocent II. He excommunicates them, and dies. Celestine II. is, by an important innovation, chosen to the Popedom without the suffrage of the people; the right of choosing the Pope is taken from the people, and afterward from the clergy, and lodged in the Cardinals alone. A.D1152. Eugene II. assumes the power of canonizing saints. A.D1155. Adrian IV. puts Arnold of Brixia to death for speaking against the secular power of the Papacy. A.D1159. Victor IV. is elected and crowned. But Alexander III. conquers him and his successor. A.D1168. Alexander III. excommunicates the emperor, and brings him so low, that, A.D1177. he submits to the Pope's setting his foot on his neck. A.D1204. Innocent III. sets up the Inquisition against the Vaudois. A.D1208. He proclaims a crusade against them. A.D1300. Boniface VIII. introduces the year of jubilee. A.D1305. The Pope's residence is removed to Avignon. A.D1377. It is removed back to Rome. A.D1378. The fifty years' schism begins. A.D1449. Felix V., the last Antipope, submits to Nicholas V. A.D1517. The Reformation begins. A.D1527. Rome is taken and plundered. A.D1557. Charles V. resigns the empire; Ferdinand I. thinks the being crowned by the Pope superfluous. A.D1564. Pius IV. confirms the Council of Trent. A.D1682. Doctrines highly derogatory to the Papal authority are openly taught in France. A.D1713. The constitution Unigenitus. A.D1721. Pope Gregory VII. canonized anew. He who compares this short table with what will be observed, verse3, Revelation 13:3 and Revelation 17:10, will see that the ascent of the beast out of the sea must needs be fixed toward the beginning of it; and not higher than Gregory VII., nor lower than Alexander III. The secular princes now favoured the kingdom of Christ; but the bishops of Rome vehemently opposed it. These at first were plain ministers or pastors of the Christian congregation at Rome, but by degrees they rose to an eminence of honour and power over all their brethren till, about the time of Gregory VII. (and so ever since) they assumed all the ensigns of royal majesty; yea, of a majesty and power far superior to that of all other potentates on earth. We are not here considering their false doctrines, but their unbounded power. When we think of those, we are to look at the false prophet, who is also termed a wild beast at his ascent out of the earth. But the first beast then properly arose, when, after several preludes thereto, the Pope raised himself above the emperor. PROP7. Hildebrand, or Gregory VII., is the proper founder of the papal kingdom. All the patrons of the Papacy allow that he made many considerable additions to it; and this very thing constituted the beast, by completing the spiritual kingdom: the new maxims and the new actions of Gregory all proclaim this. Some of his maxims are, 1. That the bishop of Rome alone is universal bishop2. That he alone can depose bishops, or receive them again3. That he alone has power to make new laws in the church4. That he alone ought to use the ensigns of royalty5. That all princes ought to kiss his foot6. That the name of Pope is the only name under heaven; and that his name alone should be recited in the churches7. That he has a power to depose emperors8. That no general synod can be convened but by him9. That no book is canonical without his authority10. That none upon earth can repeal his sentence, but he alone can repeal any sentence11. That he is subject to no human judgment12. That no power dare to pass sentence on one who appeals to the Pope13. That all weighty causes everywhere ought to be referred to him14. That the Roman church never did, nor ever can, err15. That the Roman bishop, canonically ordained, is immediately made holy, by the merits of St. Peter16. That he can absolve subjects from their allegiance. These the most eminent Romish writers own to be his genuine sayings. And his actions agree with his words. Hitherto the Popes had been subject to the emperors, though often unwillingly; but now the Pope began himself, under a spiritual pretext, to act the emperor of the whole Christian world: the immediate dispute was, about the investiture of bishops, the right of which each claimed to himself. And now was the time for the Pope either to give up, or establish his empire forever: to decide which, Gregory excommunicated the emperor Henry IV.; "having first," says Platina, "deprived him of all his dignities." The sentence ran in these terms: "Blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, incline, I beseech thee, thine ears, and hear me thy servant. In the name of the omnipotent God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I cast down the emperor Henry from all imperial and regal authority, and absolve all Christians, that were his subjects, from the oath whereby they used to swear allegiance to true kings. And moreover, because he had despised mine, yea, thy admonitions, I bind him with the bond of an anathema." The same sentence he repeated at Rome in these terms: "Blessed Peter, prince of the apostles, and thou Paul, teacher of the gentiles, incline, I beseech you, your ears to me, and graciously hear me. Henry, whom they call emperor, hath proudly lifted up his horns and his head against the church of God,-who came to me, humbly imploring to be absolved from his excommunication,-I restored him to communion, but not to his kingdom,-neither did I allow his subjects to return to their allegiance. Several bishops and princes of Germany, taking this opportunity, in the room of Henry, justly deposed, chose Rodulph emperor, who immediately sent ambassadors to me, informing me that he would rather obey me than accept of a kingdom, and that he should always remain at the disposal of God and us. Henry then began to be angry, and at first intreated us to hinder Rodulph from seizing his kingdom. I said I would see to whom the right belonged, and give sentence which should be preferred. Henry forbad this. Therefore I bind Henry and all his favourers with the bond of an anathema, and again take from him all regal power. I absolve all Christians from their oath of allegiance, forbid them to obey Henry in anything, and command them to receive Rodulph as their king. Confirm this, therefore, by your authority, ye most holy princes of the apostles, that all may now at length know, as ye have power to bind and loose in heaven, so we have power to give and take away on earth, empires, kingdoms, principalities, and whatsoever men can have." When Henry submitted, then Gregory began to reign without control. In the same year, 1077, on September1, he fixed a new era of time, called the Indiction, used at Rome to this day. Thus did the Pope claim to himself the whole authority over all Christian princes. Thus did he take away or confer kingdoms and empires, as a king of kings. Neither did his successors fail to tread in his steps. It is well known, the following Popes have not been wanting to exercise the same power, both over kings and emperors. And this the later Popes have been so far from disclaiming, that three of them have sainted this very Gregory, namely, Clement VIII., Paul V., and Benedict XIII. Here is then the beast, that is, the king: in fact such, though not in name: according to that remarkable observation of Cardinal Bellarmine, "Antichrist will govern the Roman empire, yet without the name of Roman emperor." His spiritual title prevented his taking the name, while he exerciseth all the power. Now Gregory was at the head of this novelty. So Aventine himself, "Gregory VII was the first founder of the pontifical empire." Thus the time of the ascent of the beast is clear. The apostasy and mystery of iniquity gradually increased till he arose, "who opposeth and exalteth himself above all." 2 Thessalonians 2:4. Before the seventh trumpet the adversary wrought more secretly; but soon after the beginning of this, the beast openly opposes his kingdom to the kingdom of Christ. PROP8. The empire of Hildebrand properly began in the year1077. Then it was, that upon the emperor's leaving Italy, Gregory exercised his power to the full. And on the first of September, in this year, he began his famous epocha. This may be farther established and explained by the following observations: - OBS1. The beast is the Romish Papacy, which has now reigned for some ages. OBS2. The beast has seven heads and ten horns. OBS3. The seven heads are seven hills, and also seven kings. One of the heads could not have been, "as it were, mortally wounded," had it been only a hill. OBS4. The ascent of the beast out of the sea is different from his ascent out of the abyss; the Revelation often mentions both the sea and the abyss but never uses the terms promiscuously. OBS5. The heads of the beast do not begin before his rise out of the sea, but with it. OBS6. These heads, as kings, succeed each other. OBS7. The time which they take up in this succession is divided into three parts. "Five" of the kings signified thereby "are fallen: one is, the other is not yet come." OBS8. "One is:" namely, while the angel was speaking this. He places himself and St. John in the middlemost time, that he might the more commodiously point out the first time as past, the second as present, the third as future. OBS9. The continuance of the beast is divided in the same manner. The beast "was, is not, will ascend out of the abyss," Revelation 17:8,11. Between these two verses, that is interposed as parallel with them, "Five are fallen, one is, the other is not yet come." OBS10. Babylon is Rome. All things which the Revelation says of Babylon, agree to Rome, and Rome only. It commenced "Babylon," when it commenced "the great." When Babylon sunk in the east, it arose in the west; and it existed in the time of the apostles, whose judgment is said to be "avenged on her." OBS11. The beast reigns both before and after the reign of Babylon. First, the beast reigns, Revelation 13:1, etc.; then Babylon, Revelation 17:1, etc.; and then the beast again, Revelation 17:8, etc. OBS12. The heads are of the substance of the beast; the horns are not. The wound of one of the heads is called "the wound of the beast" itself, verse3; Revelation 13:3 but the horns, or kings, receive the kingdom "with the beast," Revelation 17:12. That word alone, "the horns and the beast," Revelation 17:16, sufficiently shows them to be something added to him. OBS13. The forty-two months of the beast fall within the first of the three periods. The beast rose out of the sea in the year1077. A little after, power was given him for forty-two months. This power is still in being. OBS14. The time when the beast "is not," and the reign of "Babylon," are together. The beast, when risen out of the sea, raged violently, till "his kingdom was darkened" by the fifth phial. But it was a kingdom still; and the beast having a kingdom, though darkened, was the beast still. But it was afterwards said, "the beast was," (was the beast, that is, reigned,) "and is not;" is not the beast; does not reign, having lost his kingdom. Why? because "the woman sits upon the beast," who "sits a queen," reigning over the kings of the earth: till the beast, rising out of the abyss, and taking with him the ten kings, suddenly destroys her. OBS15. The difference there is between Rome and the Pope, which has always subsisted, will then be most apparent. Rome, distinct from the Pope, bears three meanings; the city itself, the Roman church, and the people of Rome. In the last sense of the word, Rome with its dutchy, which contained part of Tuscany and Campania, revolted from the Greek emperor in726, and became a free state, governed by its senate. From this time the senate, and not the Pope, enjoyed the supreme civil power. But in796, Leo III., being chosen Pope, sent to Charles the Great, desiring him to come and subdue the senate and people of Rome, and constrain them to swear allegiance to him. Hence arose a sharp contention between the Pope and the Roman people, who seized and thrust him into a monastery. He escaped and fled to the emperor, who quickly sent him back in great state. In the year800 the emperor came to Rome, and shortly after, the Roman people, who had hitherto chosen their own bishops, and looked upon themselves and their senate as having the same rights with the ancient senate and people of Rome, chose Charles for their emperor, and subjected themselves to him, in the same manner as the ancient Romans did to their emperors. The Pope crowned him, and paid him homage on his knees, as was formerly done to the Roman emperors: and the emperor took an oath "to defend the holy Roman church in all its emoluments." He was also created consul, and styled himself thenceforward Augustus, Emperor of the Romans. Afterwards he gave the government of the city and dutchy of Rome to the Pope, yet still subject to himself. What the Roman church is, as distinct from the Pope, appears, 1. When a council is held before the Pope's confirmation; 2. When upon a competition, judgment is given which is the true Pope; 3. When the See is vacant; 4. When the Pope himself is suspected by the Inquisition How Rome, as it is a city, differs from the Pope, there is no need to show. OBS16. In the first and second period of his duration, the beast is a body of men; in the third, an individual. The beast with seven heads is the Papacy of many ages: the seventh head is the man of sin, antichrist. He is a body of men from Revelation 13:1; he is a body of men and an individual, Revelation 17:8; he is an individual, Revelation 17:12. OBS17. That individual is the seventh head of the beast, or, the other king after the five and one, himself being the eighth, though one of the seven. As he is a Pope, he is one of the seven heads. But he is the eighth, or not a head, but the beast himself, not, as he is a Pope, but as he bears a new and singular character at his coming from the abyss. To illustrate this by a comparison: suppose a tree of seven branches, one of which is much larger than the rest; if those six are cut away, and the seventh remain, that is the tree. OBS18. "He is the wicked one, the man of sin, the son of perdition" usually termed antichrist. OBS19. The ten horns, or kings, "receive power as kings with the wild beast one hour," Revelation 17:12; with the individual beast, "who was not." But he receives his power again, and the kings with it, who quickly give their new power to him. OBS20. The whole power of the Roman monarchy, divided into ten kingdoms, will be conferred on the beast, Revelation 17:13,16,17. OBS21. The ten horns and the beast will destroy the whore, Revelation 17:16. OBS22. At length the beast, the ten horns, and the other kings of the earth, will fall in that great slaughter, Revelation 19:19. OBS23. Daniel's fourth beast is the Roman monarchy, from the beginning of it, till the thrones are set. This, therefore, comprises both the apocalyptic beast, and the woman, and many other things. This monarchy is like a river which runs from its fountain in one channel, but in its course sometimes takes in other rivers, sometimes is itself parted into several streams, yet is still one continued river. The Roman power was at first undivided; but it was afterwards divided into various channels, till the grand division into the eastern and western empires, which likewise underwent various changes. Afterward the kings of the Heruli. Goths, Lombards, the exarchs of Ravenna, the Romans themselves the emperors, French and German, besides other kings, seized several parts of the Roman power. Now whatever power the Romans had before Gregory VII., that Daniel's beast contains; whatever power the Papacy has had from Gregory VII., this the apocalyptic beast represents, but this very beast (and so Rome with its last authority) is comprehended under that of Daniel.

And upon his heads a name of blasphemy — To ascribe to a man what belongs to God alone is blasphemy. Such a name the beast has, not on his horns, nor on one head, but on all. The beast himself bears that name, and indeed through his whole duration. This is the name of Papa or Pope; not in the innocent sense wherein it was formerly given to all bishops, but in that high and peculiar sense wherein it is now given to the bishop of Rome by himself, and his followers: a name which comprises the whole pre-eminence of the highest and most holy father upon earth. Accordingly among the above cited sayings of Gregory, those two stand together, that his "name alone should be recited in the churches;" and that it is "the only name in the world." So both the church and the world were to name no other father on the face of the earth.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 13". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wen/revelation-13.html. 1765.