Revelation 13 describes how the church will be persecuted by
“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” (Revelation 13:1-2).
“A beast rising up out of the sea” is
However, after the Jewish persecution of the church began to wind down, Satan moved Nero to persecute the church, beginning in AD 64. Nero blamed the burning of
This imagery of the beast should remind us of Daniel 7. Remember, that God gave Daniel a vision of four animals that would be the caretakers of
These four caretakers of
4. Greek Egypt (king of the South from Daniel 11)
5. Greek Syria (king of the North from Daniel 11)
Just as in Daniel 7, the ten horns are the ten rulers of
“And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’” (Revelation 13:3-4).
This describes the transition from the sixth head to the seventh head. Under Nero, Hellenistic Rome suffers a “mortal wound” and is “healed” when she becomes imperialistic and persecutes the church.
“And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If anyone has an ear, let him hear. He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:5-10).
Nero is given forty-two months (3½ years) to persecute the church. He forces all inhabitants of the
“Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed” (Revelation 13:11-12).
John now sees a second beast. This beast comes not out of the sea (Gentiles), but out of the earth (geo =
He speaks like a dragon, that is, like Satan. He has all the authority of Nero, and forces those in the
“He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Revelation 13:13-15).
This may be referring to the completion of the Herod’s temple, which was completed in AD 64, the same year that Nero began to persecute the church. The newly built temple emboldened the Jewish leaders to persecute. The fire from heaven may be a reference to the animal sacrifices.
An image of Nero is set up, and worship is commanded under the penalty of death.
“He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666” (Revelation 13:16-18).
This is one of the most well-known and least-understood parts of Revelation. The “mark of the beast” is not a literal mark on the forehead or hand. This is not a tattoo or a computer chip. This is classic Old Testament language to describe one’s thoughts (forehead) and deeds (hands). To receive the mark of the beast was to worship the beast, which is the sea beast (Nero).
The “number of the beast” is 666. This is not three sixes in a row, but a number, six hundred and sixty-six. This appears in 1 Kings 10:14 to describe how the weight in talents of the gold Solomon took in annually.
“The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold” (1 Kings 10:14).
Israelite kings were forbidden to multiply gold, women, and horses. Solomon did all three. He collected an “evil” amount of gold, and thus the kingdom was taken from him.
The first century Jewish leaders were thoroughly evil, and so their kingdom was taken from them in AD 70 when
The number 666 corresponds with the Hebrew (Aramaic script) of Nero’s full name, Nero Caesar. The Hebrew language did not have a separate alphabet and separate numerals. Alphabetic letter also represented numerals, similar to how Roman “numerals” (I, V, X, L, M, etc.) are actually from the Roman alphabet.
In Hebrew, Nero Caesar would have been written: “NRWN QSR.”
N = 50
R = 200
W = 6
N = 50
Q = 100
S = 60
R = 200
John was given a clue to identify the beast. The sum of his name is going to be 666, according to the Hebrew alphabet. This was a message for Jewish believers.
Thus, non-Jewish readers of Revelation would have been confused because in Greek, Nero Caesar adds up to 616. Interestingly, one ancient manuscript lists the number of the beast as 616. Some enlightened scribe changed this so that Gentile readers would understand.