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Several books of the Bible, especially Daniel and Revelation, refer to beasts, heads, and horns. In general these refer to kings and kingdoms with lots of weaving in and out between meanings, sometimes in the same sentence.

I prefer a strictly literal interpretationso here's what the Bible point-blank states in a few instances...

Beast = kingdomas collection of kings+ king+ Satan

Head = kingdom (from another kingdom)+ king

7 heads are 7 mountains= Rome

Horn = king

Beasts come from the abyssand are, therefore, spiritual creatures, not physical: the spiritual powers behind the goings-on of earth.

There is no mention that the horns are on the heads; they are on the beasts.


These images are all tangled-up together but 3 distinct topics...

  1. Christian persecution under Nero, Domitian, and subsequent future Roman emperors. The book of Revelation was written in part to encourage Christians who would be persecuted and martyred.
  2. Events leading up to the phases of the 2nd coming of Christ.
  3. Final judgment against evil leading to eternity in the new heavens and new earthfor the redeemed.

The characters...

  1. Satan, the dragon. The evil power behind it all.
  2. 1st beast.Roman emperors, especially Nero and Domitian, who persecuted and martyred Christians. Satan.
  3. 2nd beast = false prophet.Exercises the power of the 1st beast but also is the power behind the 1st beast.
  4. 3rd beast.Roman Emperors after Domitian who persecuted and martyred Christians.
  5. Great Harlotcalled Babylon,referring to Nebuchadnezzar's statue in honor of himself.This seems to refer to Satan energizing kings to exalt themselves and to incur God's judgment.

Just as John the Baptist came in the spirit of Elijah (who was taken up to heaven) so also, the from-that-time yet-future Roman emperors who persecuted and martyred Christians come from the "resurrected" Nero.

The Beasts (and other images in the Bible) are not symbolic, rather, they are tags to hang ideas and images on. We should not look to discover what the beasts are (are they furry? do they have legs?) but should content ourselves with considering the associated images. The beasts are...

  1. References to kings and kingdoms (ala Daniel).
  2. Powers in the spiritual realm energizing the various actors in these kingdoms.
  3. The "spirit" of a civilization; a living entity in the spiritual realm guiding events,often opposing God.
  4. Generally they are of interest due to their persecution and martyrdom of Christians, and their efforts to stamp out the gospel.

Nero Redivivus Myth

This myth or legend appears to be in mind as the basis for references to from-that-time yet-future Roman emperors who persecuted and martyred Christians.

The Nero Redivivus mythwas that Nero would return to Rome with an army of Parthians to conquer Rome and again become emperor. This was well-known in Domitian's day when the book of Revelation was written. Two variations: (1) Nero escaped to the Parthians, (2) Nero died but would be resurrected. The Parthians were mounted archers beyond the Euphrates River, to the north.

Notice the aspects of this in the prophecies of Revelation...

  1. Nero appears as emperor again after Domitian.
  2. He comes to Rome from the north and crosses the Euphrates River.
  3. This event is always future; it never actually occurs since Nero had actually died and would not be revived in this manner.
  4. Nero would come as a savior (for some who wished he were emperor again) or a mortal enemy (for those who feared his future coming for whatever reason).
  5. There were several historical imposters claiming to be this returning Nero.

A few verses refer to this future Nero.Some are linked with judgment after a final war.Some seem to occur just before the second coming of Christ, a yet-future event.


Antichrist 

There will be no yet-future Antichrist.

Antichrist denies Jesus Christ as deity and as Trinity.This spirit of Antichrist operates in various people and institutions of all time periods since Christ.

The key question: is there a from-that-time yet-future Antichrist? Heads and horns refer to actual kings and there are a few verses stating there will be a king we might call the Antichrist— but this king is a Roman Emperor and so can't be the Antichrist. Why you might ask? Simply because the Roman Empire is long fallen and it is certainly not possible for it to revive (contrary to common teaching). Those who teach of an Antichrist often pretend the Roman Empire still exists in our modern day. Nonsense!

There is not a single verse indicating the Antichrist or one of the beasts is the Catholic Church or the papacy. The Roman Empire did not pass to the Catholic Church nor to the Holy Roman Empire (nor to Hitler's 1,000-year Reich for that matter).

The Roman Empire ended in the west in 476 A.D. and in the east (as the Byzantine Empire) in 1453 A.D. The European Union is not a revived Roman Empire; it is not even in the same geographical area.

(Revelation 11:7) And when they [2 witnesses] shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.

Some say this is the from-that-time yet-future Antichristbut how is it possible for a spirit being (in fact, Satan) to be the Antichrist or how is it possible for a man (the Antichrist) to arise out of the bottomless pit?


Roman Empire

The various beasts are all associated with the Roman Empire in some way or another.


Final War

A final war, 2 episodes, both during 2nd coming of Christ...

  1. The beast & false prophet are cast into the lake of fireimmediately after the beast, kings, and armies fight against Christ & his armies.
  2. After this, Satan is cast into the lake of fireimmediately after he orchestrates the final battle with nations against the saints and the beloved city (Jerusalem).

Notice it is the demons like frogscoming from Satan and from the 1st and 2nd beasts who gather the kings of the world and everyone else to war with God and at Armageddon.

The beast (Satan) and the kings of the earth make war with Jesus at his 2nd coming.Note that the Roman Empire does not exist at the 2nd coming of Christ; it was finally destroyed many centuries ago.


Daniel 2

The statue representing the 4 kingdoms.This chapter does not address beasts, heads, and horns but sets the stage for the other prophecies of chapters 7 and 8 of kingdoms and kings.


Daniel 7

4 beasts...

  1. Babylonian Empire: Like a lion with eagle's wings. The wings were plucked, it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man's heart was given to it.
  2. Medo-Persian Empire: Like a bear. It raised up on one side, it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth of it, they told it to arise and devour much flesh.
  3. Greek Empire: Like a leopard. It had four wings of a bird on its back, four heads, and dominion was given to it.
  4. Roman Empire: Dreadful and terrible, very strong with great iron teeth. It devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the residue with its feet. It was different than the other 3 beasts before it. It had 10 horns.

(Daniel 7:8) I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.

(Daniel 7:24) And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.

(Daniel 7:25) And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.



10 horns of 4th beast...

This 4th kingdom, the Roman Empire, had 10 rulers. The first 3 were removed by another ruler, an 11th ruler who was also the 4th ruler. The final 7 kingsand this 11th kingseem to be referred to in Revelation chapter 17.

The 10 + 1 Roman emperors starting from the Christian era (skipping Augustus)...


plucked up by the roots 

  1. Tiberius
  2. Gaius
  3. Claudius

little horn — plucked up the first 3 horns 

  1. Nero — first Christian martyrs by the Romans

ruled only a short time during civil war

  1. Galba
  2. Otho
  3. Vitellius

Flavian dynasty

  1. Vespasian — Jerusalem and the temple destroyed in 70 A.D. by Titus during his reign
  2. Titus
  3. Domitian — Emperor at the time John wrote the book of Revelation. Christian persecution and martyrdom in the Roman province of Asia. After this the era of Christian persecution begins in earnest.

little horn — another horn among the 10 horns 

  1. The from-that-time yet-future Roman Emperors as the incarnation of Nero who persecuted and martyred Christians

The significance of Nero...

  1. The first Roman emperor to persecute and martyr Christians.
  2. According to the Nero Redivivus Mytha resurrected Nero would return again to rule Rome. Thus, he provides a prophetic tool for referring to the from-that-time yet-future Roman Emperors as the incarnation of Nero who persecuted and martyred Christians.

The significance of Domitian...

  1. Persecuted and martyred Christians in the Roman province of Asia.
  2. Imprisoned John the apostle on the Island of Patmos, presumably doing hard labor — a death sentence by torture and starvation really.
  3. The age of martyrs would appear soon after and this is one of the reasons John wrote the book of Revelation; to warn and prepare the next generations of Christians.

Daniel 8

Beasts...

  1. A ram with 2 horns; (Medo-Persia)the longer one appeared after. The ram pushed to the west, north, and south and was victorious over all others.
  2. A goat (Greece)came from the west floating above the ground having a notable horn (Alexander the Great)between his eyes. He destroyed the ram. At the height of the horn's power it was broken and 4 notable horns (4 generals and 4 kingdoms)appeared. From one of these horns (generations later)came a small horn (Antiochus Epiphanes) which became great and conquered to the south, east, and Israel.

Beasts are kings of long-running kingdoms with an emphasis on the kingdom.

A horn is a king of a kingdom.


Revelation 11

The beastthat rises out of the bottomless pitand who kills the 2 witnesses.Some say this is the from-that-time yet-future Antichristbut how is it possible for a spirit being (in fact, Satan) to be the Antichrist or how is it possible for a man (the Antichrist) to arise out of the bottomless pit?

Satan killed the 2 witnesses before 70 A.D., probably during the Jewish War of 66–70 A.D., and Satan was loosed from the abyss about 1054 A.D.Notice that the verse describing thisdoesn't link these two events chronologically, rather, it merely mentions that Satan rose from the abyss.


Revelation — Beast 1 (Roman Emperors) 

The 1st beast occurs during the 1,000 years,meaning before 1054 A.D.

The 1st beast refers to the Roman Emperors including Nero (666) and Domitian (at the time John wrote Revelation) who persecuted and martyred Christians. The heads and horns are Roman Emperors before and including Domitian, who was emperor at the time John wrote the book of Revelation.

The number of the 1st beast is 666;Nero. The 1st beast is Nero, perhaps in the form of an always yet-future Roman emperor who persecutes Christians as Nero did.

The 1st beast has a kingdomand a seat, presumably this seat refers to the imperial city, in this case Rome since Nero is the 1st beast. The 1st beast (and the 3rd beast) seem to be Roman, perhaps emphasizing the persecution and martyrdom Christians would endure under the Romans.

The 1st beast revives.But notice at the time John wrote the book of Revelation this beast "is not" but will ascend out of the bottomless pitsometime after. Satan ascended out of the bottomless pitabout 1054 A.D.,and will centuries later (or thousands or millions of years later?) in a yet-future time just before the 2nd coming of Christ gather the nations for waragainst the saints and the beloved city (Jerusalem).This whole long-running episode is parallel but independent from the activities of the beast and false prophetwho fight against Christalso during one of the phases the 2nd coming.

The reference to the beast in Revelation 17:8seems to refer to Satan's activities in the Church rather than to the Roman Empire and its kings. At Christ's resurrection Satan was bound in the bottomless pitfor 1,000 yearsthen releasedin 1054 A.D.to deceive the nations and ultimately gather them to war with Christ at his 2nd coming. At the time John wrote the book of Revelation, Satan (as "the beast") was bound; the "was not".

Has 7 heads, 10 horns with a crown on each horn.One head died then revivedlasting 3–1/3 years. Nero persecuted Christians this long;the revival is the from-that-time yet-future continuing persecution of Christians by the Romans final war with the saints,the blasphemy of God's tent, the Church.

Characteristics, going backwards in time, in reverse order: Like a leopard (Alexander the Great),his feet like a bear's (Medo-Persian Empire),and his mouth like a lion's (Babylonian Empire).In other words, the 1st beast was like other kingdoms, nothing special about it at all.

Empowered by Satan (the dragon).


Roman emperors


Starting from the Christian era (skipping Augustus)...

Can ignore these — very short reigns during civil war

People wonder at the beast,meaning, the Roman Empire. This points to the future Roman emperors who would continue the Christian persecutions into the future; this is a theme of the book of Revelation, to encourage Christians who would be persecuted.

An unclean spirit like a frog came out of the mouth of the 1st beast(as well as from the 2nd beast and the dragon [Satan]). These are demonic spiritswhich entice other kings and everyone to fight the final war against God at Armageddon.

The 1st beast and all the kings of the earth will make war with Christ.Presumably this occurs at the 2nd coming of Christ. The 1st beast and the 2nd beast lose the war and are cast into the lake of fire.Satan has a role in this— to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle.


Revelation — Beast 2 (the False Prophet)

Also called the False Prophet.

The 2nd beast seems to be in the context of the from-that-time yet-future persecution and martyrdom of Christians.

Has 2 horns,speaks as a dragon (Satan), no mention of heads. Presumably a simpler structure. Exercises the power of the 1st beastand is in his presence; a kingdom within a kingdom as it were, perhaps the power behind the kingdom. Performs miracles.

An unclean spirit like a frog came out of the mouth of the 2nd beast(as well as from the 1st beast and the dragon [Satan]). These are demonic spiritswhich make entice other kings and everyone (the same audience as the great harlot) to fight the final war against God at Armageddon.

The 1st beast and all the kings of the earth will make war with Christ.Presumably this occurs at the 2nd coming of Christ. The 1st beast and the 2nd beast lose the war and are cast into the lake of fire.


Revelation — Image of the 1st Beast

In addition to establishing the mark of the 1st beast, the 2nd beast tells people to make an image of the 1st beast.This image was alive.The 2nd beast kills people who won't worship the image.This is reminiscent of the image in Daniel 3mimicking the image in Daniel 2;of a king turning his God-given rulership into worship of himself.

Why would a ruler spend all this effort unless he was the same person? In other words, why would the 2nd beast expend all this energy on behalf of the 1st beast?


Revelation — Mark of the 1st Beast

The number of the 1st beast is 666;Nero.

In addition to creating the image of the 1st beast, the 2nd beast establishes the mark of the 1st beast.It's the mark of his name.His name is Nero.

People can't buy or sell unless they have the mark of the 1st beastor the name of the 1st beast or the number (666) of the name of the 1st beast.

Why would a ruler spend all this effort unless he was the same person? In other words, why would the 2nd beast expend all this energy on behalf of the 1st beast?

Other people having marks in the Bible...

  1. A mark on Cain— so people wouldn't kill him.
  2. Perhaps Lamech was also marked similar to Cain.
  3. A spiritual invisible mark on the forehead of those who grieve over the sin of their culture— so God will spare them from judgment.
  4. A mark on right hand or forehead of those who worship the beast.These will be judged. Those without this mark can't buy and sell.
  5. A 7-day religious festivaland sanctifying the first-born male son— like a mark on the hand and a symbol (reminder) on the forehead of those of the Exodus.
  6. The 144,000 were sealed on the forehead.
  7. The Great Harlot has the name written on her forehead — "mystery, Babylonthe great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth."

Revelation — Beast 3

The 3rd beast has the same hatred of Christianity as the Roman Emperors who persecuted and martyred Christians. The 10 horns refer to Roman Emperors after Domitian who persecuted and martyred Christians. The 7 heads are not 7 Roman Emperors as in the case of the 1st beast but, rather, the 7 hills of Rome; of the geographical area of the Roman Empire itself.

Satan is the 3rd beast.Satan continues to persecute and martyr Christians into the future.

A woman, the Great Harlotthat sits upon many waters,sits upon this 3rd beast. She influences kings and everyone (the same audience as the 2nd beast) to live lives displeasing to God,and she persecutes and martyrs Christians.

The 3rd beast has 7 heads and 10 horns(as does the 1st beast,) but the 10 horns refer to Roman Emperors after Domitian.

The 7 heads of the 3rd beast are 7 hills or mountainsreferring to Rome. (This does not mean there is an Antichrist from a revived Roman empire but, rather, that the Roman Emperors continue to persecute and martyr Christians.)


Was and is not

At the time John wrote the book of Revelation, Nero was no longer emperor. But based on the Nero Redivivus mythhe would return in the future — as Roman Emperors who would persecute and martyr Christians.

An angel reveals this info about the 3rd beast (about Nero...)

  1. was before Christ)
  2. is not (at the time of Domitian when Revelation was written, during the 1,000 years ending about 1054 A.D.)
  3. shall ascend out of the bottomless pitevidence that aspects of the 3rd beast were yet-future to John the Apostle since Satan ascended out of the abyss about 1054 A.D.This is the from-that-time yet-future Roman Emperors who would persecute and martyr Christians.
  4. will be destroyed

Nero qualifies for all of these. After his death he returnsin the form of those empowered by Satan who persecute and martyr Christians.

The beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven.Starting from the Christian era (skipping Augustus and the 3 short-lived emperors of the civil war after Nero)...

  1. Tiberius
  2. Gaius
  3. Claudius
  4. Nero — was. He is of the 7
  5. Vespasian
  6. Titus
  7. Domitian — John wrote book of Revelation during this time. Note that Nero is not
  8. Nero again (the 8th) based on the Nero Redivivus myth,not necessarily immediately after Domitian. There is a gap after Domitian.

Is yet to come

The 3rd beast has 7 kings of note...

  1. 5 have fallen
  2. 1 is (at the time of Domitian when Revelation was written)
  3. 1 is yet to come, but will continue for only a short time; the from-that-time yet-future Roman Emperors who would persecute and martyr Christians.

The 7 Roman emperors (after Nero)...

  1. Galba
  2. Otho
  3. Vitellius
  4. Vespasian — Jerusalem and the temple destroyed in 70 A.D. by Titus during his reign
  5. Titus
  6. Domitian"is"
  7. Nero — according to the Nero Redivivus Mytha resurrected Nero would return again to rule Rome. This points to the future Roman emperors who would continue the Christian persecutions into the future; this is a theme of the book of Revelation, to encourage Christians who would be persecuted.

The 10 horns are 10 kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.These will make war with Christ.

Since there is no longer a Roman Empire, what could this yet-future kingdom with its kings be? Some say the European Union, but this is not a revival of the Roman Empire at all. The Roman Empire was based around the Mediterranean Sea but Europe is north of this; the lands of some of the nations of Europe were never part of the Roman Empire at all. Some say Islam, but these Islamic kingdoms existed at the same time as the Roman Empire and, in fact, were its enemy.

In every age people try to identify these 10 kings with 10 nations of their day; this I think is unfruitful. There have been at least 10 Roman Emperors (counting Nero and Domitian) who persecuted and martyred Christians. The 3rd beast is Satan working behind the scenes and he already made war with Christ in persecuting and martyring Christians during Roman times.


Revelation — the Great Harlot

Seems to refer to Satan energizing kings to exalt themselves and to incur God's judgment.

She is named "mystery, Babylonthe great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth."There is no reason to assume the reference to Babylon is figurative.Babylon was prophesied to be permanently destroyedand this occurred shortly after Alexander the Great died. The Great Harlot is Babylon which reigns over the kings of the earth.Some claim this is a yet-future event; if so, it first needs to be rebuilt colliding with Isaiah's prophecy that it will never be rebuilt.

The images of beasts is from Daniel, so the reference to Babylonconcerns Nebuchadnezzar's statue in honor of himselfas a corruption of God's sovereignty in establishing empires in the world. Similar to the Israelites going after strange gods after entering into a covenant relationship with God.

A woman, the Great Harlot that sits upon many waters,sits upon the 3rd beast.She influences kings and everyone (the same audience as the 2nd beast)to live lives displeasing to God,and she persecutes and martyrs Christians.Only people can kill other people, therefore, the woman represents the spirit influencing people.

She sits on many watersmeaning peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.

Rides the 3rd beast but it destroys her because it hates her. The Roman Empire conquered the territory originally in the Babylonian Empire and where the city of Babylon was located about 20 years after the book of Revelation was written but it relinquished it shortly thereafter. Babylon was finally deserted just before the time of the Romans in Palestine. So therefore, the Roman Empire did not destroy Babylon.

The 10 horns of the 3rd beast hate the Great Harlot and will destroy her.The question is whether this is a yet-future event. The 10 horns wish to give their kingdom to the beastand apparently the Great Harlot interferes with that. If the 3rd beast is an Antichrist ala the revived Nero, and the Great Harlot is militant Islam, as some suggest, we have to explain how it is that this non-Islamic Antichrist destroys militant Islam. Along this line of thinking it would make more sense for militant Islam to be the Antichrist and to destroy something; but this is the reverse of the Biblical text.

Perhaps the 3rd beast indirectly destroys Satan by giving him a final chance to honor God (which he rejects) and by providing him the means to wage physical war on the returning Christ. Thus, after this, God has proven for all the world to see that Satan is worthy of eternal damnation in the lake of fire.