Who Is the Beast?

Comment on this article

Few people understand the book of Revelation and its many mysterious symbols. There are many conflicting ideas about the Beast of Revelation, but the Bible makes itself clear, and reveals vital truth that you need to know!


The book of Revelation in your Bible is a puzzle to most people. It is full of unusual imagery and mysterious figures. One of these is a "Beast" that will change the future of the world.

The book of Revelation is filled with symbols. One of these is a "Beast" with seven heads and ten horns. According to Bible prophecy, this future Beast will rule many nations. Just who is this Beast? What do its heads and horns represent? The answer may surprise you, and it will help you understand the future of the world.

Regular readers of this magazine understand that Jesus Christ will soon return to this earth, to usher in the "Millennium"—the Kingdom of God here on earth. But Bible prophecy reveals that before Christ begins His reign on earth, nations will battle one another in a devastating world war. One of those battling superpowers is described, in your Bible, as a beast with seven heads.

John Describes the Beast

What is this mysterious Beast? The Apostle John described a vivid vision of a creature with seven heads and ten horns. "So [an angel] carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns" (Revelation 17:3).

What do these heads and horns mean? What does the woman represent? People like to speculate, but we do not have to be in the dark about John's meaning. The Bible interprets the Bible, as we will see.

In the Bible, a woman can symbolize a church. Sometimes, a woman represents the true Church (Ephesians 5:25, 32). Christ loves His Church, just as husbands are to love their wives. However, a fallen woman represents a false church, or a false religious system. Notice John's description as it continues: "The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement" (Revelation 17:4–6).

Here is a great persecuting church, a religious system that has persecuted true Christians over the ages. John continues his description: "Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time. The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition" (Revelation 17:9–11).

Here we see that the seven heads represent a series of seven kings, or kingdoms, following an original kingdom. So the eighth will be the final revival of this kingdom. As we will see, this is a revived Roman Empire.

John goes on to describe an unusual feature of the Beast: "The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful" (Revelation 17:12–14). These horns are a military alliance that will make war with Jesus Christ, the Lamb.

The Beast at Armageddon

The Bible describes a terrifying end-time battle, popularly known as the "Battle of Armageddon." At this battle, forces loyal to the Beast will take part in a final battle between good and evil, for control of the earth. What will happen at this battle? "Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared" (Revelation 16:12).

Notice the location of this battle! An eastern military alliance, here called "the kings from the east," will move westward across the Euphrates River. Look at a world map, and you will see that the Euphrates River begins in Turkey, then passes through Syria and Iraq before reaching the Persian Gulf. Which nations are to the east of the Euphrates River? Nations including Iran, India and China.

The Bible describes that kings "from the east" will move westward to join other forces. Why will they be on the march? "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (Revelation 16:13–14). The Beast, with the false prophet, will gather these kings to fight against Jesus Christ—the Messiah—at His coming. Notice that although this battle is often called the "Battle of Armageddon," your Bible gives it a different name—"the battle of that great day of God Almighty" (v. 14).

Can Christians afford to ignore this pivotal event? Jesus Christ Himself gives the answer, warning us: "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame" (v. 15).

Where will the Beast gather the world's armies? "And they gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon" (v. 16). The word "Armageddon" is a transliteration of the Hebrew har Megiddo, meaning "the hill of Megiddo" or "the mountain of Megiddo." Megiddo is located about 55 miles north of Jerusalem, in Israel. In ancient times, Megiddo guarded the main trade route between Egypt and Damascus. It also overlooks the largest plain in Israel, called the "Valley of Jezreel" in your Bible, or the Plain of Esdraelon. The Old Testament records several major battles that took place there. Although the world's armies will use all their modern weapons of mass destruction against the returning Christ, they will utterly fail in battle against the King of kings.

The Beast in Daniel

In the book of Daniel, we read that God inspired His prophet Daniel to see an amazing vision of four great beasts: "Daniel spoke, saying, 'I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion, and had eagle's wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man's heart was given to it. And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: 'Arise, devour much flesh!'" (Daniel 7:2–5).

Daniel then described a beast like a leopard, and another beast with ten horns, before explaining: "Those great beasts, which are four, are four kings which arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever" (vv. 17–18).

Just as in Revelation, we find a beast with ten horns! This beast, too, represents the end-time revival of a great empire—a coming superpower. Daniel goes on to explain: "The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; he shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings" (vv. 23–24).

The horns represent successive kings. They will be judged, and the final "Beast power" will be overthrown (v. 26). Then God's Kingdom will be established on earth: "Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him" (v. 27).

We have seen that both Revelation and Daniel include prophecies about ten horns, representing kingdoms. Both prophecies converge on the world's final superpower state, which rises in opposition to Jesus Christ. Can we identify this superpower—this final Beast? A dream given to King Nebuchadnezzar can help us understand both biblical and historical evidence regarding the four world-ruling empires, and the identity of the Beast that will rule before Jesus Christ returns.

Daniel and his three friends had been taken into Babylonian captivity, where they were trained and educated to serve the King of Babylon, in whose service they excelled. Why did they excel? "As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams" (Daniel 1:17). They excelled in service because God had given them wisdom.

Prophetic "Babylon"—The Successive Reigns of Gentile

Click On Image To Enlarge

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

When King Nebuchadnezzar had a troubling dream, his Babylonian advisors could not interpret it. So Nebuchadnezzar called upon Daniel, whose wisdom he respected. Unlike Nebuchadnezzar's advisors, Daniel knew the king's dream, and described the great image the king had seen: "You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image's head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces" (Daniel 2:31–34).

Not only did Daniel know the king's dream; he interpreted its meaning: "You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all; you are this head of gold" (Daniel 2:37–38).

Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that the head of gold represented him and his empire, the Babylonian empire. But what world-ruling empires did the rest of the image represent? Bible scholars and historians widely agree that the head of gold represents the Babylonian Empire from 625BC to 539BC. This empire was replaced by the Medo-Persian Empire from 558BC to 330BC, represented by the chest and arms of silver. The belly and thighs of bronze represent the Greco-Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great from 333BC to 31BC. The two legs of iron represent the Roman Empire from 31BC to 476AD. Finally, the ten toes—on two feet of iron mixed with clay—represent a yet-future revival of the Roman Empire.

Notice that all the kingdoms represented in Nebuchadnezzar's dream image will come to an end. What will come after them? The Kingdom of God! As Daniel explained to Nebuchadnezzar: "You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (Daniel 2:34–35).

Daniel went on to describe the meaning of the stone: "And in the days of these kings [symbolized by the ten toes] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Daniel 2:44).

God's Kingdom Replaces the Beast!

The Kingdom of God will replace the Beast power. As we have seen, Daniel's prophecies predicted the empires to succeed Babylon. The last empire with its revivals was the Roman Empire. There were six revivals, including the Imperial Restoration under Justinian in 544AD, and another revival led by Charlemagne in 800AD. The end-time Beast power of Revelation will be a final revival of the ancient Roman Empire that first reigned from about 31BC to 476AD.

The end-time revival of this ancient empire is also pictured in Revelation 13. John wrote what he saw in vision: "Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority" (vv. 1–2).

Other commentators have also identified the Beast of Revelation as the Roman Empire. This includes the Douay-Rheims edition of the Bible, translated from the Latin Vulgate by Roman Catholic authorities. In its notes, the Douay-Rheims makes this comment concerning Revelation 13: "The picture of the first beast is based on Daniel 7. This beast is the figure of kingdoms of the world, kingdoms founded on passion and selfishness, which in every age are antagonistic to Christ and seek to oppress the servants of God. Imperial Rome represents this power." Even this Roman Catholic source acknowledges the Roman Empire's identity as the Beast power! Additionally, in its notes on Revelation 17:11, the Douay-Rheims comments: "The beast spoken of here seems to be the Roman Empire, as in chapter 13." Not surprisingly, the Douay-Rheims makes no connection between the Roman Empire and the "woman"—the false church—that "rides" (controls) that empire. But even serious Roman Catholic scholars here do not deny the identity of the Beast!

Even today, many Europeans already envision the European Union as a new Roman Empire. As Tomorrow's World writer and telecast presenter John Ogwyn reported on the Tomorrow's World telecast: "In the fall of 2004, a remarkable exhibition opened in a circus tent pitched right across from the European Union Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. The theme of the exhibit was best captured by a banner that proclaimed 'The New Roman Empire.' This exhibition narrated 50 years of European Union history, and in the words of one prominent British newspaper, 'projects events into the future in an unusually frank display of European ambition'" ("The New Roman Empire," January 20–26, 2005 ).

Will the European Union become a new Roman Empire? Last year, Tomorrow's World European regional editor Douglas Winnail wrote: "Europe's modern leaders are still trying to unite Europe on a Roman model. When the Treaty of Rome was signed in 1957, laying the foundation of European unity, the participants stated that 'we felt like Romans that day…we were consciously recreating the Roman Empire once more'" ("Shadows Over Europe," January-February 2005, p. 13).

Bible prophecy reveals that a great superpower will rise in Europe. And it will be a revival of the Roman Empire. This great power will be political, military and economic. You can read about its economic power in Revelation 18. The current European Union is headed toward completing all three dimensions of that power. Germany is presently the leading nation of the European Union. As we have pointed out in previous articles in this magazine, Bible prophecy shows that in the endtime, God will use the biblical nation of Assyria to punish His people, as He has done before. As regular readers of this magazine know, modern Germany is the descendant of ancient Assyria, which God will use to punish the modern descendants of the ancient house of Israel—the peoples of the United States and British-descended countries. For more information on this vital topic, please request your free copy of our informative booklet, The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy.

Bible prophecy also reveals that this European superpower—the Beast power—will invade the Middle East. The prophet Daniel foretold that the end-time king of the north would enter the "glorious land" (Daniel 11:41). And do you remember what Jesus said about this? "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near" (Luke 21:20).

Watch developments in Europe and the Middle East! As we have seen, the Beast power will even fight against Christ when He returns to Jerusalem. But Christ will conquer all who oppose Him. The Apostle John writes in Revelation 19:19, "And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh" (Revelation 19:19–21).

The returning Messiah, Jesus Christ, will conquer Satan—the power behind the Beast and all its allies. Satan will be thrown into the "bottomless pit" (Revelation 20:3). Christ will then establish the Kingdom of God on earth, ushering in a "Millennium" of peace and preparing billions of human beings for eternity as members of His Family. May God help you to love, obey and serve Him so that you, too, may be a part of that ruling and serving Family under your Savior, Jesus Christ, forever!

OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS ISSUE

View All