SEVEN HEADS AND TEN HORNS
PROBLEMS WITH JOHN’S REVELATION
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FOUR BEASTS OUT OF THE SEA
THE BEASTS OF REVELATION
COMPARISON OF THE BEASTS
FEATURES OF REVELATION 12
FEATURES OF REVELATION 13
THE GREAT AND DREADFUL BEAST
MORE ON REVELATION PROBLEMS
THE SMALL BEAST FROM REVELATION
THE SEVEN-YEAR TRIBULATION PERIOD
In my paper on Great Babylon I indicated that certain portions of the Book of Revelation, Chapter 17:7-18, were an intrusion into the text which disrupted the sense of the revelation. Here I shall explore that difficulty in greater depth.
The key words were “seven heads and ten horns.” The phrase is not limited to Rev 17:3 or 17:7. It also occurs in 12:3 and 13:1. What do they mean?
In order to obtain a better grasp on their possible significance, we must go back to Daniel and his apocalyptic beasts. The same numbers occur there, but not as direct as in the Book of Revelation.
These passages in both the Old and New Testament constitute political prophecies. It is not my purpose to delve into the political decisions of the nations. In my work I limit myself in every way possible to the spiritual components of unfolding world developments. But one cannot touch on world salvation without contacting the political components which affect the awesome personal decisions now facing us. In the following discussion I emphasize spiritual decisions which go beyond political events.
FOUR BEASTS OUT OF THE SEA
In Daniel 7 four beasts rise up out of the sea. Most interpreters believe the sea is symbolic of humanity. This idea is suggested by Rev 13:1 and 17:1. In Dan 7:4 the first beast is a lion with eagle’s wings. As Daniel looked the wings were plucked off. The lion was lifted up from the ground and made to stand upon two feet like a man. The mind of a man was given to it.
Some persons believe the “lion with eagle’s wings” describes symbolic royal creatures of ancient Assyria or Babylonia. Statues of such beasts were placed around palaces; pictures were painted on walls. The problem for modern biblical students is that such symbolism also represents nations on our world today. England uses the lion as its national symbol; the United States uses the eagle as its national symbol. The United States grew out of, or sprouted forth, from England. Our revolution gained independence from England. One could also understand the lion as a general symbol for Europe, since several of those countries have the lion as a part of their national symbolism. Major portions of the people of the United States truly are blended descendants from all of Europe.
(As illustration of this blending of European genetic stocks consider my personal family. I am mostly of German descent, perhaps of eastern Germany. My wife was the daughter of a woman from Slovakia and a man of Austrian nobility who grew up in Hungary. Two of our daughters married men of mixed Irish-Welsh descent. One of our nephews on my wife’s side married a woman of Spanish descent. His sister married a man of German descent.)
The plucking of the eagle’s wings from the lion could be interpreted as the American war for independence. On the other hand we have always had close ties to England; the sprouting of the eagle’s wings could represent that close relationship. The plucking might come later with great disillusionment and divorcing of those historical ties. Or the symbolism might mean the severing of ties with all the nations of Europe. The symbolism might also mean destruction of the United States, a permanent plucking and casting away.
The lifting up and standing upon two feet might mean that England, or Europe, will become a strong power in coming world events. The mind of a man suggests a powerful individual from the British Isles, or the European continent, who will exercise strong control.
The second beast in Dan 7:5 was like a bear. It was raised up on one side with three ribs between its teeth. It was given the command to arise and devour much flesh.
We cannot fail to recognize the symbolism of the bear. It is known around the world as Russia. Some may argue that the bear is not the Russian national symbol, but such argument is specious. One weekly program on American Television which ran over a period of months admitted this common recognition with its title “The Eagle and the Bear.” The symbols denote the United States and Russia. Symbolism is important to what
people understand and not to what a country may legislate. The picture shows that Russia will wield great power and will destroy many people. This is an explicit prediction of the current power
of Russia. She will devour much flesh in nuclear holocaust. If Russia is to devour much flesh, and if the United States is to be plucked off, the symbols provide prophecy that should be instructive to God’s people. Russia will destroy the United States. The third beast was like a leopard; it had four wings on its back and four heads. It was given dominion.
Note here the reference to heads.
Many believe the leopard represents nations of Africa; others believe it may mean Arab countries. However it may represent countries from any geographical region; the leopard spots denote variety of background among those nations. The four heads, symbolic of leadership or national power, might mean four separate nations in association, whether African, Arabian, or European. The wings might represent swift movement or quick forays of war. It would exercise power, but perhaps only for a short period. At the time of this writing we cannot say what the leopard represents.
The fourth beast is even more difficult to understand. It was terrible, dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth with which it devoured and broke in pieces. It was so intent on prosecuting its ambitions it stamped the residue with its feet. It had ten horns. Three of the horns were plucked up from the roots by a little horn which rose up among the other horns. In this horn were eyes like a man’s eyes, with a mouth speaking great things.
THE BEASTS OF REVELATION
In the Book of Revelation the word “beast” occurs thirty-eight times. These are, by chapter —
Examination of the word “beast” shows that use of the word is inconsistent; it represents several different objects or images. For example:
11:7 The beast ascends from the bottomless pit.
13:1 A beast rising out of the sea; had seven heads and ten horns.
13:2 Like a leopard, feet like a bear’s, mouth like a lion.
13:4 Dragon gave his authority to the beast.
13:11 Another beast with two horns like a lamb, but spoke like a dragon. The number of this beast was 666.
15:2 Those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name.
16:2 The mark of the beast, and its image.
16:10 Fifth angel poured his bowl on the throne of the beast.
16:13 Mouth of the dragon, mouth of the beast, and mouth of the false prophet.
17:3 Scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns.
17:8 A mystical beast that was, is not, and is to come.
17:11 It is an eighth that belongs to the seven.
19:19 Beast gathers the armies of the earth.
19:20 Beast captured. Mark of the beast.
20:4 Image of the beast.
20:10 Beast and false prophet.
In 11:7 a beast ascends from the bottomless pit; in 13:1 another rises out of the sea (of humanity?). In 13:11 a specific statement is made which shows that beast to be different from the beast of 13:1-4. In 17:3 the beast is colored scarlet, although it has the same seven heads and ten horns as that of 13:1. The beast of 17:8f is still another; it is mystical and is an eighth that belongs to the seven.
COMPARISON OF THE BEASTS
These different beasts offer great confusion. We have exceeding difficulty in distinguishing among their respective roles and characters. In order to provide a more rigorous examination of several beasts in both Daniel and Revelation I list some characteristics analytically in the following table.
It is evident from the tabulation that items are common across the four passages, but with omissions, differences, and contradictions. In Rev 12:3 the ten horns appear on a great red dragon; in 13:1 they appear on a beast out of the sea; in 17:3 they appear on a beast that is scarlet in color. All these beasts in the Book of Revelation also have seven heads.
(The words “red” and “scarlet” are different in the Greek text.)
The leopard, lion, and bear of Daniel 7 are represented in Rev 13; they make up certain parts of that beast instead of separate beasts.
The diadems are on the beasts of Rev 12 and 13; in one case on the heads, in the other on the horns. They are not on the beast of Rev 17.
The color red (scarlet) is found on the beasts of Rev 12 and 17. The color is not on the beast of Rev 13.
|Names of blasphemy are on the beasts of Rev 13 and 17. They are not on the beast of Rev 12.
The color, the diadems, the names, and the animals all take partners but in each case of different pairing.
These factors contribute to a deep suspicion that we do not have pure text. Perhaps material was lost from the Book of Revelation after John’s creation, or perhaps a later Christian editor corrupted the text, or perhaps both. The impression is that someone has artificially altered the different beasts against unknown criteria, perhaps even invented characteristics by drawing parallels from Daniel, and from the original revelation.
The strange pairing of the colors, names, diadems, and animals suggests that an editor did not truly understand the material and scattered these features around to cover all possibilities.
Thus we see that the Book of Revelation offers many difficulties. We can gain additional insight through tabulation of the major elements from the scenes in Chapters 12, 13 and 17 before going on to discuss them.
1) A woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and cried out in anguish for delivery.
2) A great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns.
3) Seven diadems on his heads.
4) His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth.
5) The dragon stood before the woman to devour her child.
6) The child was a male who would rule the nations with a rod of iron.
7) The child was caught up to God and to his throne.
8) The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared by God where she was nourished for 1,260 days.
11) The beast exercised power for forty-two months.
12) It was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them.
13) It was given authority over all the earth.
The scene now jumps to the great war in heaven, with Michael and his angels fighting the dragon and his angels. When the dragon saw that he was cast down to the earth he pursued the woman. He poured out a great river of water to sweep her away but the earth swallowed the river.
1) A beast out of the sea.
2) Ten horns and seven heads.
3) Ten diadems upon its horns.
4) Names of blasphemy on its heads.
5) The beast was like a leopard.
6) It had feet like a bear.
7) It had a mouth like a lion.
8) The dragon gave its power to this beast.
9) One of its heads had a mortal wound but the wound was healed.
10) The whole earth followed the beast with wonder. Men worshiped the dragon; they also worshiped the beast because it was so powerful.
1) A scarlet beast.
2) It had seven heads and ten horns.
3) It was full of names of blasphemy.
4) A woman sat on the beast. She was bedecked with gold, jewels and pearls. She held a golden cup full of the abominations and the impurities of her fornications. She was Babylon the Great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations. She became drunk with the blood of the saints and the martyrs of Jesus.
The passage then breaks off into an interpretation of this strange vision. This continues to verse 15 where the waters are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.
5) The ten horns and the beast will hate the Great Harlot. They will make her desolate, devour her flesh and burn her up with fire.
FEATURES OF CHAPTER 12
Chapter 12 has several notable aspects.
- The woman flees into the wilderness. This would represent the flight of God’s people to avoid destruction in the coming nuclear and terrestrial devastations. If they were the prize of God’s program of planetary salvation the sun, moon and stars would represent the great honor those people earned in the heavenly realms. Twelve stars represents the twelve tribes of Israel; they become part of God’s great crown of glory.
- The child would represent the human birth of Melchizedek. Refer to my paper on Jesus and Melchizedek. He is the one who will rule the nations with a rod of iron. See Isa 11:4.
- Being caught up to God and his throne could mean the saving of Melchizedek from “Satan” in the form of Gog and Magog at the end of the thousand years, indicated in Rev 20:7-10.
- The 1,260 days, three and one-half years, would represent the time between the nuclear devastations and the twisting of the planet. One might assume that each day represents a year for the coming millennium but such earth period would be considerably in excess of one millennium.
FEATURES OF CHAPTER 13
- If the beast of Chapter 13 represents modern political states, it would follow the imagery of Dan 7. Although the beasts of Daniel 7 are described independently of one another, when compared against the descriptions of Revelation 13, some elements merge into one beast.
- If the bear’s feet of Rev 13 represent Russia and the lion’s mouth represents England, or Europe, this passage suggests that an alliance will be made between Russia and England, or western Europe. The leopard would represent other countries to make up this spotted arrangement. Although the two leopards should represent the same grouping of nations we do not know what is meant by the four wings and the four heads of Dan 7:6.
Other elements of Rev 13 find easy identification in today’s world.
- The seven heads were an accurate number for the Russian satellite countries of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Albania. However, the revolutionary changes in eastern Europe, and the decline of Russian power has made such possible assignment obsolete, unless those countries would reform into another economic, political, or military alliance. Attempts to find seven heads among the many Russian provinces result only in unrealistic forcing of the prophecy.
- The ten horns were an accurate number for the countries of the European Economic Community. In 1985 those were Ireland, the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, West Germany, Italy, and Greece. However, in January, 1986 the EEC was joined by Spain and Portugal to make the membership twelve nations. On the other hand the ten may represent an arrangement of western European countries if an alliance is formed.
- The one head with a mortal wound accurately represents Germany. The wound is the division of that country into east and west through the sword of World War II. The two Germanies became reunited in 1990.
- The red or scarlet color accurately represents communism. Until a century ago, before modern communist states and before the decline of the power of the Roman Catholic Church, this color was attributed to Roman Catholicism. But in the current world context we see that the national symbols of eagles, lions, and bears, together with the seven heads and ten horns, effectively denies that attribution.
- The scarlet color, when associated with the seven heads and ten horns, becomes clear and helps provide understanding of the heads and horns. In turn, the heads and horns of Daniel 7 become clear when associated with those of the Book of Revelation.
Without question the seven heads and ten horns make up a single beast. The descriptions suggest nations will come together into one grand alliance. According to Rev 13:5 this alliance will wield power for forty-two months. 13:6 says it uttered blasphemies against God and against the host in heaven. 13:7 says that during this period the beast will make war on the saints to conquer them. However, this sentence is not found in all Greek manuscripts. The alliance would be subject to the influence of the dragon, the devil, 13:4.
- This great alliance would indeed become a wonder to the world. Since 1989 events in Europe have produced awe in nations around the earth. No person on this planet expected such dramatic changes in European relationships, with the decline of the power of Russia, the breaking of the satellite countries from the dominion of Russia, the healing of the mortal wound of Germany, and redefinition of economic and political ties.
- If the passage were reliable it would tell us that men will be overwhelmed by the miracle of a new alliance; they will worship it, 13:8. The worship will not be literal bowing and praying as in religious ceremony, but in devotion to its power and allegiance to its control. Who will be able to fight against it? Will not all nations follow it? Will it not hold authority over the tribes and peoples of the earth? But God’s people will not succumb to its demands.
- From this integration of evidence we also have understanding of the “names of blasphemy.” In Rev 13 these names are on the seven heads. If these represent countries loyal to communist philosophies they would be godless; they deny the existence of God; they utter blasphemies against God. On the other hand, the dramatic tone of the passage suggests the “names of blasphemy” may mean devotion to a blasphemous spiritist power which takes control of the nations.
The further predictive nature of the four passages, when taken together as a whole, is shown by the following facts.
- In Rev 17 the beast was full of blasphemous names, suggesting that the blasphemy will come from all parts of the beast, both east Europe and west Europe. If severe economic problems and international crises force the nations to dictatorial policies, or if the spiritists assume control, western Europe would not be able to escape totalitarian regimens. Great social tribulation will result from severe economic, political and spiritist turmoil. Citizens will be forced to renounce moral allegiance and good conscience for survival. But those who love God will resist such tyranny. God’s people will give first allegiance to God and not to temporal institutions. This will create conditions for severe persecution.
- The forty-two months denote the period from the beginning of the alliance until the shattering of the nations. This would be the end of our civilization and the end of the present age.
- The forty-two months find parallel in Rev 11:2 where the holy city will be trampled. Similar parallels are found in Luke 21:24 where Jerusalem is trodden down by the nations until the times of the nations are fulfilled. We do not know if those nations are Moslem, European, American or a combination.
THE GREAT AND DREADFUL BEAST
We can return now to Dan 7:7-8 to reconsider that dreadful and terrible beast. It could denote the unholy alliance between east and west Europe and the terror that alliance will create. The devouring and breaking in pieces and the stamping of the residue would be parallel to the haughtiness and blasphemous conduct of Rev 13:5. This would explain the tyrannical exercise of authority over every tribe and people and nation and tongue. Although the latter seems an exaggeration for all nations across the face of the globe it would at least be true for the nations of Europe. It could also be true for many nations around the earth if the unholy alliance would institute international economic or spiritist control. There can be no doubt the whole earth would stand in awe of it.
To emphasize, we cannot ignore the possibility the beast may reflect control brought about by the rebel Prince through the minds of his devotees. This aspect of developing world events should not be neglected.
The three horns in Dan 7:8 are a puzzle. A little horn grew among the three and plucked them up. The symbols suggest an assumption of power over the three. One could imagine a man growing out of the three countries of England, Scotland and Ireland, but Scotland is politically part of England and has no separate representation as a horn of power. Perhaps he comes out of a country on the continent, Austria, or some other nation. We should heed the power of this little horn. It had the eyes of a man and a mouth speaking great things.
Other parallels are found in the four passages. The mouth of Dan 7:8 is parallel to the mouth of Rev 13:2. The eyes of a man is parallel to the mind of a man in Dan 7:4. In Rev 13:2 the mouth is associated with the lion; in Dan 7:4 the mind of a man is also associated with the lion. These associations, all taken together, suggest again that some individual will come out of England, or Europe, who will carry great power and who will pluck up three of the countries, not to destroy them, but to assume control over them.
MORE ON REVELATION PROBLEMS
When we examine details of the several apocalyptic visions from Daniel and Revelation, when we tabulate the items and lay out their elements side by side, we are struck by several facts.
- God’s revelation is brought into sharp focus. We do not limit ourselves to interpretation of individual scenes isolated from one another. Instead we integrate details from passage to passage. As a result we see larger views in more graphic outline. We come to recognize the meaning of God’s revelation from higher perspectives. We grasp a larger world panorama that takes on a specific meaning for us in these last days of the earth age. We achieve this because we dare to use our minds in more rigorous study.
- The four beasts of Daniel 7 appear to be part of a single revelation but we cannot determine their relationship to one another without other information. Unless examined against world circumstances of today and against the beasts of Revelation we cannot perceive how they portray the onflow of destiny.
- Our ability to recognize the symbols becomes possible only be cause we live in a planetary context which gives life to those symbols. The meaning of eagles, lions, bears, heads, horns and scarlet color now takes on a reality not accessible to prior generations. We have a grand integration of revelation which depicts the living world environment of our own day. God used symbolism to bury his revelation so men would not destroy his destiny program. (And how the generations entertained themselves with it!)
- We might believe that the seven heads and ten horns of Rev 12:3 are mysteriously descriptive of the devil but Rev 13 and 17, when compared with Dan 7, cast a different light on that symbolism. This last fact exposes such serious difficulties with the Revelation text we must question its integrity. The symbols of heads, horns and scarlet color belong to modern world political powers; they do not belong to the millennial period. Somehow, someone, probably an early Christian editor, confused the text by mixing elements from one revelation segment to another, simply because he did not know the significance of the symbolism, (nor has anyone else), and attempted to make sense of it in his world context.
- We now clearly recognize this beast as an alliance of earthly countries, not a fallen celestial personality. These attributes are so easily identified it seems incredulous they would be assigned to the devil in such a confusing manner. Furthermore this assignment occurs only in Rev 12:3; it has no other biblical support.
- If a single verse, 12:3, were removed from the text this column would disappear from the tabulation above. Then Chapter 12 would hang together as a different topic: the flight of God’s people to the wilderness and the pursuit of the dragon to destroy them and the child. Here God’s people are represented as the twelve spiritual tribes of Israel, the twelve stars, while the man-child is one who will come to rule them. He is born as a human child. While many would say that John described the birth of Jesus we see from the context that this is a future forecast. This unique individual comes after the great tribulation, during the millennium.
How did this misleading confusion of text arise?
We can get a handle on this crucial problem if we examine John’s use of symbolism. The difficulty is shown clearly if we categorize his words and phrases. Earlier in this paper I showed the confusion from use of the word “beast.” Another example is use of the term “thirds” to indicate large numbers. In Chapter 8 the thirds include trees, sea, creatures, ships, rivers, waters, sun, moon, stars, and sunshine. In 9:15 and 18 it is the third part of men. In 12:4 a third part of the stars of heaven were swept down. Obviously the term is used to express large numbers or significant portions. Literal numbers were not intended; we cannot take them literally.
The confusion on the heads, horns and red color comes about because of the word “beast.” The use was not consistent. In 11:7 the beast is one who ascends from the bottomless pit. In 13:1 it is one which rises out of the sea with seven heads and ten horns. In 13:11 it is one which rises out of the earth, the little beast that serves the first beast. In 17:3 the beast with seven heads and ten horns is colored scarlet. But in 17:8 the beast ascends from the abyss and goes to perdition. The beast of 17:8 may not be the same beast as that of 17:3; the one of 11:7 may not be same as the one of 13:1. But the one of 11:7 may be the same as that of 17:8. In 20:10 the devil who had deceived the nations was thrown down and cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet were. Here the devil is distinguished from the beast. From comparison with 11:7, 11:8, and 9:11 we are not certain who is the devil and who a beast separate from the devil.
Another illustration of the problem with John’s beasts is found in Rev 15:2. Here the scene shifts from earthly episodes to heavenly ones. John saw those who had conquered the beast and its image and “the number of its name.” They stood beside a sea of glass with the harps of God in their hands. The use of the phrase “who had conquered” might mean those who did not bow down to the political beast or its image. On the other hand the conquering might be of that remnant of the biological beast which resides in all of us, our physical heritage. The “beast” and the “image” is that animal legacy. God is judging us on how well we have mastered our biological and emotional impulses. But if we take this view of the beast of 15:2 “the number of its name” makes no practical sense. Once again we find a cause to suggest that some early Christian editor offered interpretation of the revelation.
Is it possible John had difficulty in terminology? We find parallel in persons who lack vocabulary. A child might talk about this thing, that thing, and that other thing when he means a chair, a table and a cabinet. The word “thing” is vague, not specific. The word “beast” is also vague and is applied to creatures or objects for which one cannot find adequate terminology. If John was presented visions he could not adequately describe he would have been at a loss for words; various items all became “beasts”. John used the word for the devil, for a confederation of states, for mechanisms of social repression, and for other purposes. How can we distinguish among them unless we study their context? If the context is not clear then the beast cannot be known with certainty. Thus doubt creeps in; hence debate rages over the assignments.
This problem can be illustrated further. In the latter part of Chapter 13 the lamb-like second beast caused men to make an image of the first beast. This image received breath so that it could even speak. If men did not worship the image of the first beast they would be slain. In 14:9 and 14:11 we are told that all those who worship the image and the beast and receive its mark will drink the wine of God’s wrath.
What does all this mean?
Suppose John was presented visions of twentieth-century technology with the use of airplanes, automobiles, radio, television, and computers. How might he describe them? He did not have words like radio, television, electromagnetic transmission, rasters, satellites and so on. He was forced to describe his experiences with ancient Greek vocabulary. A television picture or a computer screen would be an image. The image received breath (a loudspeaker) so that it could even speak. The lamb-like second beast (if modern electronics) did not cause men to make an image of the political alliance; it permitted men to transmit images of meetings, or affairs, or mandates of the first beast. (The Greek word has great latitude of use.)
From these varied applications of the word beast we see why such confusion exists in the Revelation text. What else could John do? He had no other vocabulary.
The problems in Revelation are not limited by John’s wide use of the word beast. If he had divided his writing into sections, with each section devoted to a specific vision, we might be able to make more sense of it, even with lack of explicit vocabulary. But the various beasts seem to run together without clear division, even with mixture from one to the other. How did all this confusion come about? Did John lack ability to separate different items? It seems impossible. The man knew what he saw, even though he may have been at a loss for words. He could hardly have confused the different visions. Then where did the confusion take place?
As stated earlier, a sensible explanation is that an early Christian editor created the confusion. Suppose John’s original manuscript came through the hands of an individual who thought he could clarify the mixture of images, especially those of the word “beast.” The editor, not blessed with the original visions, could not discriminate among them. He did not like the confusion he encountered and therefore attempted to restructure John’s text. The mixing of images is clearly illustrated by those who did not conquer the (biological) beast, those who bore the mark of the (national confederation) beast, and those who were afflicted with plagues, 16:2. In an attempt to satisfy his own mind an editor might have melded them together. The number of its name for the biological beast in 15:2 was borrowed from 13:17 to this passage where it does not belong. He inserted the remark about heads, horns, and red color in 12:3 in attempt to relate that passage to the others dealing with the devil (or the dragon). This mixing then led to all manner of false concepts. Men have searched to understand for two thousand years but without success. They could never come to agreement if they did not recognize the perversion of text which obviously exists and which must have been created by that early Christian editor. In the face of these problems the true meaning had to remain obscure.
This limitation of vocabulary, the mixing, melding and blending together of text, and the introduction of invented concepts, plagues the entire Book of Revelation. Other examples can be illustrated.
The phrase “a star fallen from heaven” in Rev 9:1, whether from John or an early Christian editor, leads to other problems. In Isa 14:12 we are told that Hillel ben Shachar, that Day Star, Son of Dawn, was fallen from heaven and cut down to the ground. From the parallel phrasing we could deduce that the star of Rev 9:1 fallen from heaven was Lucifer. But the “fallen” star is a “good” angel on a divine mission; he holds the key to the abyss. This view is confirmed in 20:1 where John says he saw an angel coming down from heaven holding the key of the abyss. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil, and cast him into the abyss. Therefore the phrase about a star fallen from heaven in 9:1 is either an unconscious borrowing by John of words from Isa 14 or a mixing of phrases by some later ignorant editor.
Other illustrations show the magnitude of the Revelation problems. In 9:11 the fallen personality is the angel of the abyss. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, Destruction or Ruin, and in Greek Apollyon, Exterminator or Destroyer. This is the only place in the Bible with such designations. This passage is one reason Christians know the Devil as a fallen angel rather than recognizing him as a divinely created son.
Still another problem is the false prophet. He is first introduced in Rev 16:13. He is associated with the dragon and the beast. In 19:19-20 the beast together with the kings of the earth make war against him who sits on the horse. The beast and the false prophet are captured and thrown into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone. The false prophet was the one who had worked the signs to deceive those who received the mark and worshiped its image, 19:20, 13:14.
Unfortunately the false prophet is never clearly defined; he is linked only by passing remarks. Because of the lack of definition and clarity he is subject to great and varied speculations. Many commentators avoid discussing him. As I shall discuss below, he is modern technology and computers with their evident material advantages which all the while leads the world to ruin and social repression?
Still other problems afflict the Book of Revelation. In 14:3-5 is a special group of 144,000 who sang a new song before the throne. They had been redeemed from the earth. They had not defiled themselves with women, for they were chaste. No lie was found in their mouths; they were spotless.
The statement about defiling themselves with women leads one to believe they never had sexual intercourse. This is supported by the statement that they were chaste. The Greek word is par thenoi. It means a virgin and is so translated by KJV. It could be inferred to mean a male celibate. But this would mean none of the 144,000 were ever married.
The 144,000 are first mentioned in Chapter 7; the statements imply both men and women. There cannot be two different groups with such extraordinary, identical and obviously symbolic numbers. Furthermore, both groups carry the mark of God in their foreheads, 7:3 and 14:1. They cannot be merely men.
Many interpretations have been attached to the defilement. Heb 13:4 says that marriage should be honored and that the marriage bed is undefiled. But God will judge the immoral and adulterous. If the statement in Rev 14:4 were limited to non-defilement with women we could assume it would mean all married men who were not adulterous, in consonance with Heb 13:4. But to say they were virgins, or celibate, creates extreme difficulty. Again we might see this remark as an intrusion into the text by a Christian editor, based on his notions of sexual conduct. Similar thoughts hold for the statement that no lie was found in their mouth. The editor was expressing views of idealistic and heavenly purity not found on earth.
Still another example is the beast that “was, is not, and is to come.” It is to ascend from the abyss, 17:8. This would make it the Devil. Remarks follow about the seven heads; the seven heads are seven hills on which is seated the Great Harlot. Many students believe this means Rome with its famous seven hills. But they also are seven kings, “five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come.” This phrasing parallels that of the beast who is to ascend from the abyss. But the beast that was and is not is an eighth that belongs to the seven. Obviously this whole passage is confused and corrupt. If the seven heads are seven communist satellite countries they cannot be mysterious kings “fallen, is, and yet to come.” Perhaps the “seven hills” was inserted by that Christian editor who thought the passage was a prophecy on Rome, well known for its persecution of the new Christian sect. The famous seven hills would be a natural association for him to make from the seven heads. But in modern context the eighth head might be inferred to be Russia, domineering over the seven satellite countries (heads). If the beast that “was, is not, and is to come” does not represent the devil, but rather a confederation of nations, it could refer to the Holy Roman Empire, which covered most of Europe in the middle ages, then broke into independent nations, and now is forming to reunite. Given this confusion it is impossible to arrive at sensible understanding through literal acceptance of the text.
From these illustrations and from the comparison of the heads and horns in Rev 12, 13 and 17 with Dan 7 we see why our textual sources are faulty. They are not pure. There are omissions in individual passages, seeming differences of application, and contradictions from one passage to another which require firmness and caution in decipherment and interpretation.
This last fact has a crucial impact upon our belief in the reliability of the Bible. Plainly, the Bible is not clear. Details from any single passage cannot be trusted verbatim; they cannot be accepted literally. They must be judged, weighed, evaluated, and studied against other passages, against the real world in which we live, and with a strong dose of common sense.
This does not mean the Bible does not come from God. It surely does. It is his revelation to us. But it comes through human channels. It could not come any other way. It took human beings to write it and publish it. It took other human beings to preserve it and to carry it from generation to generation. During that process impurities crept in. The original writers did not clearly state their experiences nor the information given to them. They may not have fully understood. They were limited by the vocabularies of ancient times to depict scenes which strain modern scientific vocabularies. Original texts were not always carefully preserved; segments may have been lost. Later individuals, entrusted with the original manuscripts, did not hold them in respect. They rewrote or altered the texts to conform to their personal views.
We should not neglect the possibility that God may have permitted corruption to creep in because of danger to his destiny program. If revelation had been stated too clearly the generations may have twisted it to their own earthly desires. Perhaps God worked around this possibility by intentionally misleading apostate and godless people while preserving the essentials of information for his truly dedicated people. And those essentials are crucial to coming decisions.
THE SMALL BEAST FROM REVELATION
With this integration of apocalyptic visions, with a more comprehensive grasp of events to occur in Europe, and with knowledge of defects in the Revelation text, we are in a better position to examine that fascinating beast described in Rev 13:11-18.
This beast is famous for its number: 666. The number has befuddled countless generations. It is usually regarded as the number of a man, the Antichrist.
Because of the attention given to this beast, and because of its importance in coming decisions, it deserves close examination. There are several features which, when laid out in detail, provide better understanding.
- The beast had two horns like a lamb, 13:11.
- This beast spoke like a dragon.
- It had the power to make fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men.
- It deceived those who dwell on earth, bidding them make an image for the beast which was wounded by the sword and yet lived.
- It gave breath to the image of the beast so that the image could even speak.
- It caused those who would not worship the beast to be slain.
- It caused all, free and slave, rich and poor, great and small, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead. No one could buy or sell unless he had the mark. The mark is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
- The number of the beast is a human number. The number is six hundred and sixty-six. KJV translates the phrase as “the number of a man.” (Some ancient manuscripts give the number as six hundred and sixteen.)
What does all this mean?
It had two horns like a lamb. Unfortunately, there is no explanation for the two horns. One cannot easily find a representation for nations or rulers. However, biblical horns symbolize power and authority. Perhaps John attempted to show this without relating it to national significance. Perhaps this power and authority is universal, not limited to national boundaries. We can only speculate on the meaning of the number two.
A lamb is docile and harmless; no one fears it. It also is tender in youth, not mature. The youthful immaturity could mean that it has not reached full development, that it is a new social mechanism. If the horns are small, like those of a lamb, they are not grown to their full power.
The innocent appearance may be highly deceptive; it may be the means by which people are enslaved and bound to the will of the dragon. As Eve was deceived by the serpent, misled to believe that her eyes would be opened and she would not die, so this innocent appearing beast misleads men to believe they will obtain great advantage; instead they bind themselves to evil and destruction.
This second beast exercises authority for the first beast, apparently the beast of United Europe. The worship forced by the second beast may not be worship of the devil or the Antichrist but may be worship in the sense that everyone, free and bond, must acquiesce to the demands of the first beast, with full allegiance.
The power may be in the control it has over the people of the earth. It may be an instrument which demands submission, not through physical force, but through license to live and function in society. It implements full tyrannical authority.
How does it accomplish this tyrannical power?
Few individuals are willing to come to grips with the stark reality that we cannot buy or sell today without the mark of federal government. Through social security or federal registry numbers the governments of the earth have already fulfilled this prophecy. If anyone doubts this fact let him try to conduct business, buy, sell, hire, or otherwise operate within the context of our present social order. He cannot do so except by going to a strictly cash base, and then only if he does not report his activities, in violation of national laws. Everyone is already bound. Some may feel these are benign policies intended to regulate society. Those individuals will soon discover how malicious and tyrannical those policies can become.
From Rev 20 we know the devil will not come as the Antichrist until the end of the thousand years. The number 666 cannot be assigned to him. The prophecy of a United Europe shows the context is for our own day. Therefore the number 666 must have some other significance.
Many persons have been misled to believe the number is that of a man, although RSV translates the phrase to say that it is a human number. The Greek text is not sufficiently clear, whether “the number of a man,” “the number of man,” or “a human number.” Examination of the number casts other light.
In the earliest known Greek manuscripts the number is given in words, not in numerals. John wrote exakosioi exikonta ex = “six hundred and sixty-six.” He did not write the Greek letters: ex-chi-sigma = “666.” Why did he use words and not numbers? There are several possibilities.
- To ensure the number would be preserved. Three digits in a text are easily lost; three words are more safe in survival.
- To avoid concentration on the number; to direct attention to the meaning of the number. The meaning was important, not its numerical significance.
- The Greek number system used letters of the alphabet, not numerals as in our modern system borrowed from the Arabs. Although John explicitly states this is a number perhaps he feared that later readers would attempt to assign the numbers in their numerical designations rather than in their meaning. This is amply illustrated through history. Every generation tries to find application to notorious human leaders through manipulation of their names, their birthdays, or other factors. This false numerology has mislead countless individuals. It can be illustrated today. President Ronald Reagan avoided use of his middle name, Wilson. He did so because his three names all have six letters. If we indulged in such strange numerology we might say that Ronald Wilson Reagan = 666.
- The common commercial system in use in John’s day was the Roman, not the Greek. If John had used the Greek number symbols he would have forced the reader to think in Greek numbers. By writing the numbers out in words he naturally leads the reader to numbers in common use, the Roman. 666 in Roman numerals is DCLXVI. These are all the Roman numerals in descending order except for M = 1,000, which was not used in John’s day. The arrangement suggests an attempt to portray the idea of number and the use of numbers, but not a specific number.
He forces our attention to the problem when he says that wisdom is required. We are instructed to reckon the number of this strange beast which rises out of the earth. Political powers and nations rise out of the sea. This beast is not a political power nor a nation; it rises out of the earth.
In the Bible the word earth denotes the origin of created forms composed of chemical elements. Adam was made of the dust of the earth; his body was fabricated from the chemical elements of the earth. If this little beast with the two horns rises out of the earth it must be composed of material substances. It is a man-created beast, not a national power.
These various factors give us better insight into John’s brief description. This beast is man-made, it appears docile and harmless, it’s two horns have not come to full development, but it exercises tyrannical power.
This beast is the computer, and computerized systems. They now control the world. Without them the nations could not function. Every citizen of the advanced nations of the world today is entered into computer files.
Additional elements enter into the coming tyrannical control.
a) electronic surveillance, and
b) positive identification of individual human beings.
These mechanisms already exist in our technological society; they are either in place for use or can be installed in a short period of time.
The computer appears perfectly innocent but is ideal for control of human subjects through government numbers. It works on numbers and exercises power through numbers. This is the significance of John’s remarks in Rev 13. He was telling us, in the language of the first century AD, about the use of numbers, and the use of a device to handle numbers.
He gave us a specific illustration in verse 13. He said it works great signs, meaning it has the power to do many different things. One of those signs was to make fire come down to earth in the sight of men. What did John mean? Note that nuclear missiles are guided by computers. This harmless appearing beast can make fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of men. That is one of its great signs.
The use of computers is already widespread for the surveillance of citizens in most countries. It truly exercises the authority of the first beast. Computers impress everyone with their quiet efficiency, seemingly as harmless as a lamb. Yet they wield great power. Today they are used by law enforcement agencies and tax agencies to monitor the citizens of countries. They speak not for the dragon, but carry tremendous potential for deception and betrayal. They could be used by the dragon to subdue the world through totalitarian force. Computers also carry the image of man in their ability to act intelligently on information fed to them. Of course this process is programmed by human beings but the computer clearly carries an image of human thought.
A recent development in computers is the power of speech. Computers can now make intelligible human sounds. The image of the beast, the computer, can speak.
A second factor necessary to subdue the citizenry of modern countries is positive identification. This is now possible in a way never before realized. Laser technology provides the tool. Lasers can tattoo figures and numbers into human skin invisibly and painlessly. It would be easy to tattoo social security numbers or bar codes on the right hand or the forehead of every man, woman and child. All could be marked with this invisible tattoo within a few months.
The need for this identification might arise under severe economic hardship. If each person were allotted food, clothing, and transportation according to need it would be possible to track this rationing through infrared or laser scanners. To maintain control governments might be forced to such extreme ends. Naturally they would hold full control on location, condition, employment, and every other important social aspect of the individual. This could bring tyranny beyond imagination.
Technology already exists: computers are installed; laser beams developed; scanners tested; numbers in place for every man, woman and child. If individuals do not obey this great beast, if they do not submit, if they do not worship it, they cannot continue to live. If they rebel they will be subject to great persecution. And if these mechanisms come under the control of the spiritists, devil’s agents, the names and numbers would be truly blasphemous.
Furthermore, the laws of the nations now provide for emergency powers of all rulers. In the United States the President has full authority to declare a state of emergency under any circumstance he deems necessary. He can then exercise full dictatorial control. According to this law Congress cannot void his authority for six months.
THE SEVEN-YEAR TRIBULATION PERIOD
The books of Daniel and Revelation have periods which are 1290 days, Dan 12:11, 1335 days, Dan 12:12, forty-two months, Rev 11:2 and 13:5, and 1260 days, Rev 11:3 and 12:6. Two of these periods, when added together, make about seven years. This is the notorious tribulation period.
Wild speculations exist around these numbers. Every so-called interpreter has his own idea of the meaning of the periods.
The coming events have three major episodes. The first is the outbreak of the spiritist persecution and the parallel national emergencies. The second is the nuclear holocaust; the third is the twisting of the planet.
These three episodes would mark the lines between the two periods.
Dan 12:11 — And from the time that the continual burnt offering is taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.
If the taking away of the continual burnt offering marks the trampling down of Jerusalem by the nations, Luke 21:24, and if the nations will trample over the holy city forty-two months, Rev 11:2 this period would be the first half of the seven years.
This would also be the time of the beast with seven heads and ten horns; it will exercise power for forty-two months, Rev 13:5.
A discrepancy exists between Daniel and Revelation. At thirty days per month Daniel has forty-three months, not forty-two.
With our knowledge of Revelation corruptions we should exercise care in accepting those numbers. Since Daniel was not subject to the hands of that early Christian editor his numbers may be more reliable. This caution extends to the period of the two witnesses in Rev 11:3. They may appear for much less than three and one-half years.
The “setting up” of the abomination of desolation, nuclear weapons, means their release by Great Babylon. It does not mean preparing them in readiness by the modern state of Israel.
If these numbers can be trusted the time lapse after the outbreak of the spiritist operations, the international emergency, and the trampling down of Jerusalem, will be about forty-three months.
Dan 12:12 — Blessed is he who waits and comes to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days.
The phrase “comes to” more properly in Hebrew means “to reach.” It denotes those who survive another forty-four and one-half months. At that time the planet will undergo the cataclysmic geological changes.
During this period, after the nuclear holocaust, the 144,000 will be taken away. None will be taken away before all have made decisions and taken action to preserve themselves for the future of this world. The timing of this lift-off of a select group is noted in Matt 24. The statements show explicitly that the lift-off will come after the nuclear holocaust.
I discuss this unique group in another work I call The Redeemed.
Only through deep and abiding faith will God’s people be able to stand in the coming trials. They will be persecuted and put to death for their faith and allegiance to God. Tyrannical demands of the nations, and of devil agents, will soon oppress all of us.
When will God’s people awake? When will they choose to no longer follow the ways of the world? When will they separate themselves from the society which has given them great material comfort? When will dedication to God become overriding in their lives with complete commitment to the laws of God?
The day of decision now swiftly descends upon us.
Books in Print
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The Birth of a Divine Revelation
The Origin of the Urantia Papers
Spirit Entry Into Human Mind
The Coming Spiritual Storm
Our Celestial Visitors
A Program in World Rehabilitation
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