Who or What Is the PROPHETIC BEAST?
prophecy reveals events of our time and world-shaking events soon to
change your life. A major world-shaking event is foretold in the
symbolic language of a mysterious, world-dominating, wild beast.
this issue, The Good News is publishing, serially, Editor-in-Chief
Herbert W. Armstrong's newest booklet Who or What Is the Prophetic
or what is the wild "beast" of the Apocalypse, or book of Revelation,
chapters 13 and 17? What does Bible prophecy reveal about world events
now leading to Armageddon and the end of this age?
This series of articles deals with governments and wars that will bring this world to its final end.
Bible is God's book of history, prophecy and revealed knowledge of
God's purpose and master plan for humanity from its beginning on into
the Bible is primarily a book about the chosen nation of Israel, and
other nations that have come into direct contact with Israel.
know little concerning nations, or whether there were nations on earth,
prior to the great Flood. But soon after the Flood, Nimrod founded the
city-states of Babylon, Nineveh and others. In due time such nations as
Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, the Aramean states, Israel, Phoenicia and
others developed in the Middle East, By the end of the seventh century
B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar had founded the first world empire or union of
Bible does reveal the history, and prophecy from now of the system of
gentile world empires starting with Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon on to the
Second Coming of Christ, as well as the history and yet future prophecy
concerning Israel. This series of articles will cover the true
significance of these two systems of nations, and what it means to us
today, as well as what is prophesied for the imminent future.
then, who or what is the mysterious wild beast of Revelation 13 and 17?
If you have his mark, you must suffer the seven last PLAGUES! Is he a
mysterious superman world dictator yet to appear? Is he the
antichrist—or a government—or a church?
MOST important question of the hour is, What, or who, is the BEAST, the
IMAGE of the beast and the MARK of the beast spoken of in the
Apocalypse, or book of Revelation? Whatever this weird beast —whatever
the baffling image—whatever the mysterious mark—it behooves you to find
it is those of this very present generation who shall be worshiping
this beast or his image, or shall have received his mark, who will
suffer the unspeakable torture of the seven last plagues!
will not excuse! "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge," says
the Eternal, in Hosea 4:6. And the illustration of Ezekiel's watchman
shows that those who are unaware because they are not warned will
suffer just the same (Ezekiel 33:6, 3:18). God expects the spiritual
leader of His people to be His "watchman" (Ezekiel 33:7) and to warn
time is at hand! The plagues of God's wrath will soon be poured out,
unmixed and undiluted—full strength— upon a heedless, God-defying
world, and a careless, lukewarm, indifferent Christianity!
Who shall suffer the PLAGUES?
John in the Apocalypse, or book of Revelation, describes the last
warning message: "If any man worship the beast and his image, and
receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink
of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture"
amazing prophecy is most significant, because it is revealing in
advance events immediately ahead of us at this present time.
again! John, carried forward in vision into the terrible "day of the
Lord," sees these plagues beginning to fall! "And the seven angels came
out of the temple, having the seven last plagues . . . and the first
went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome
and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and
upon them which worshipped his image" (Revelation 15:6, 16:2)!
sign tells us these things will happen, plunging the world into the
most frantic, frenzied state of anguish ever known, almost certainly
within a matter of the next several years!
Those who suffer the wrath of almighty God are described as those who worship the beast or his image, or have his mark.
It is futile to try to imagine, as so many are doing, what the mark of the beast may be.
prophecies are real. They are imminent. Because these and other
prophecies have never been understood until now, even churches,
theologians, evangelists have been ignoring prophecies in general and
these imminent prophecies in particular. Too many are trying to
speculate in their imaginations. But God says, "My thoughts are not
your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8).
can't work this out in our minds. We are face to face with a stern
reality, not an imaginary fairy tale! There is only one way to learn
the truth. That is to study carefully, cautiously, prayerfully, with an
open mind yielded to and guided by the Holy Spirit, all the testimony
of all the scriptures that bear on this question.
We cannot determine what the mark of the beast may be, until we have learned what, or who, the beast is!
For, of course, the mark is the beast's mark. Who, what then, is the beast?
The Bible DESCRIPTION of the BEAST
The beast, the image of the beast and the mark of the beast are all described primarily in the 13th chapter of Revelation.
carefully this Bible description. The apostle John was being given this
message for you and me of this day. In the vision he saw "a beast rise
up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns
ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast
which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a
bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his
power, and his seat, and great authority" (Revelation 13:1-2).
most of those who are teaching and preaching to others on these
subjects overlook entirely this description. For this description will
IDENTIFY the beast.
the beast is some mysterious superman, or antichrist, soon to appear as
world dictator, he will be a peculiar-looking individual indeed, for he
will have seven heads, and ten horns! Have you ever seen a man with
seven heads, and 10 horns growing out of one of his heads? And did you
ever see a man who was like a leopard, and can you imagine a superman
coming who will have the feet of a bear, and the mouth of a lion? And
will he appear by coming up out of some ocean?
these, of course, are all symbols. The very word beast is a symbol. And
our problem is to interpret the symbols, for they stand for real,
literal things. But man cannot interpret biblical symbols. And when we
know what the heads and the horns are, what the feet of the bear, the
mouth of the lion and likeness to a leopard all mean, then we can know
what, or who, the beast really is!
The point we want to stress is that the Bible interprets its own symbols!
If we want the truth, we must be guided solely by the Bible interpretation, not man's interpretations and imaginations.
And the Bible itself tells us what they represent!
the seventh chapter of Daniel, we find exactly these same symbols
described. Here again are the beasts, the seven heads, the 10 horns,
and here also is the lion, the bear and the leopard. And here the Bible
tells us what these symbols represent.
had given Daniel understanding in dreams and visions (Daniel 1:17). And
Daniel had a dream and a vision (Daniel 7:1) in which he saw four great
beasts (verse 3). And notice, as in Revelation, the beasts came up out
of the sea.
first was like a "lion" (verse 4), the second was like a "bear" (verse
5), the third like a "leopard" (verse 6) and the fourth was so dreadful
and terrible it could not be compared to any wild beast known to
inhabit the earth (verse 7)!
there was only one head described on the lion, one for the bear, one
for the fourth beast—but the third beast, the leopard, had four
heads—thus making seven heads in all! And out of this great and
dreadful fourth beast grew 10 horns!
notice verse 16, latter part. Here comes the interpretation of the
things! The question is, Will we accept this Bible interpretation of
the seven heads, the 10 horns, the lion, the bear and the leopard?
"These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth," is the interpretation of verse 17.
the word king is synonymous with kingdom, and used only in the sense
that the king represents the kingdom over which he rules, for in verse
23 we read, "The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth."
Notice also the word kingdom is used to explain the beasts in verses
18, 22, 24 and 27.
Now what do the 10 "horns" represent?
Notice verse 24: "And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise."
the 10 horns, or 10 succeeding kingdoms or governments, come OUT OF A
KINGDOM, not out of a man, or a superman. This alone makes plain that
the beast is not some mysterious personal superman yet to come. Also
that the beast is not a church as some claim, for no 10 kingdoms ever
did, or will, come out of a church.
since "king" in these prophecies only stands for the kingdom he
represents, and since the words are used interchangeably, it follows
that these 10 horns are 10 succeeding kingdoms growing out of the
fourth kingdom, which was to rule the earth!
Identification of the kingdoms
same four world-ruling gentile kingdoms are described in the second
chapter of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar of the Chaldean Empire, who had
taken the Jews captive, had a dream, the meaning of which God revealed
dream is described in verses 31-35. The king saw a great image. Its
head was of gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs
of brass, its legs of iron and its feet and toes were part iron and
part clay. Finally, a stone, not in men's hands, but supernaturally,
smote the image upon his feet and toes. It was broken in pieces and was
blown away like chaff. Then the stone that smashed it became a great
mountain and filled the earth.
Daniel says, beginning verse 36, "is the dream; and we will tell the
interpretation thereof before the king. . . . Thou art this head of
gold. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and
another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the
earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as
iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that
breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise" (verses 36-40).
interpretation of the stone smashing the image at its toes is found in
the 44th verse: "And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven
set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall
not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume
all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever."
stone is Christ and His world-ruling Kingdom. The interpretation of the
stone is given many places in the Bible. "Jesus Christ of Nazareth . .
. is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become
the head of the corner" (Acts 4:10-11).
so we see that here are portrayed, symbolically, four universal
world-ruling gentile kingdoms. They begin with the Chaldean Empire,
which took the Jews captive to Babylon.
had promised ancient Israel that if they would keep His commandments,
be His obedient nation, they would grow into a multitude of nations—or
an empire—that would dominate the entire earth. But for disobedience
they were to be taken captive by gentile nations (Leviticus 26 and
Israel had been tried through the generations and centuries. They had
disobeyed. Now they had been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, who had
raised up the world's first empire.
as God revealed through Daniel in chapter 2, it was God who had turned
this world empire over to this succession of gentile empires. They
continue through four great universal kingdoms, and out of the fourth
grow 10 succeeding governments. These carry to the time of the Second
Coming of Christ and the setting up of the Kingdom of God to fill the
whole earth and last forever.
The fourth beast
here in Daniel 2 are described the same four universal world-ruling
gentile powers that are described by Daniel's four beasts. And this
dream-image identifies who they are. The first was Nebuchadnezzar's
kingdom, the Chaldean Empire, called "Babylon" after the name of its
capital city, 625-539 B.C.
second kingdom, which followed, then, we know from history, was the
Persian Empire, 558-330 B.C., often called Medo-Persia, composed of
Medes and Persians.
ancient-history students know the third world kingdom was Greece, or
Macedonia under Alexander the Great, who conquered the great Persian
Empire 333-330 B.C. But Alexander lived only a short year after his
swift conquest, and his four generals divided his vast empire into four
regions: Macedonia and Greece, Thrace and Western Asia, Syria and
territory east to the Indus river, and Egypt. So these were the four
heads of the third beast of Daniel 7.
the FOURTH KINGDOM, which, developing from Rome, spread out and
gradually absorbed one after another of these four divisions —"dreadful
and terrible, and strong exceedingly," was the ROMAN EMPIRE (31 B.C. to
had absorbed all the others, occupied all their territory, was greater
and stronger than all. It included all the royal splendor of ancient
Babylon, thus having the head—the strongest part—of the lion. It had
all the massiveness and numerically powerful army of the Persian
Empire—symbolized by the legs, the most powerful part of the bear. It
was the greatest war-making machine the world had ever seen, and it
also possessed the swiftness, the cunning, the cruelty of Alexander's
army, symbolized by the leopard.
And thus, this fourth beast was unlike any wild beast of the earth. It was stronger, greater, more terrible, than any.
so John, in Revelation 13, sees, not four beasts, but one beast. Not a
leopard, but like a leopard—possessing all its cunning, cruelty and
speed. But it also possessed the dominant characteristics of the two
other most powerful beasts—the feet of a bear, and the mouth of a lion.
fourth beast, the Roman Empire, had absorbed and therefore it included
the three beasts before it. Thus it included all seven heads. And
John's beast also has seven heads. It was Daniel's fourth beast, only,
which had 10 horns and John's beast has 10 horns.
so, if we are willing to be guided solely by the Bible description of
this beast and to let the Bible interpret the symbols used to describe
it, we come to the inevitable conclusion that the beast of Revelation
13 is the Roman Empire, of 31 B.C. to A.D. 476!
course, many man-imagined theories, widely taught and published,
interpret this beast otherwise—some as a church, some as a mysterious,
individual superman yet to come. But these theories will not stand the
test of applying the Bible interpretation to all the symbols that
describe this beast.
image, by the two legs, describes the two divisions of the Roman Empire
after A.D. 330—West, with capital at Rome, and East, with capital at
also pictures this beast, not as a church or as an individual man, but
as a powerful government having a great army. For they worshiped the
beast by saying, "Who is able to make war with him?" (Revelation 13:4).
The symbolism of the horns
Let us now notice the symbolism of the horns of the fourth beast of Daniel 7 and of the beast of Revelation 13.
10 horns symbolize the same thing—the 10 stages of government
continuing out of the Roman Empire after its fall, A.D. 476. The ten
horns "out of this kingdom [the fourth—the Roman empire, 31 B.C. to
A.D. 476] are ten kings that shall arise . . . and the kingdom and
dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven [not
in heaven], shall be given to the people of the saints of the most
High" (Daniel 7:24, 27).
10 horns, then, are 10 kingdoms to arise out of the fourth kingdom, the
Roman Empire. These kings, also called kingdoms, continue from A.D. 476
until the time when the stone—Christ and His Kingdom—smashes the image
on its toes, and the kingdom is given to the saints.
since in actual history there have never been 10 contemporaneous
kingdoms that have continued out of the Roman Empire, side by side,
down to the present time—and since there have been nine successive
kingdoms ruling that territory, which we shall explain, from 476 to the
present, therefore we know that the kingdoms represented by the horns
are successive, not contemporaneous.
The deadly wound
Now let us return to our description of the beast in Revelation 13.
I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly
wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they
worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they
worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able
to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking
great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue
forty and two months" (Revelation 13:3-5).
beast here symbolized is the one that included the royal splendor and
kingly power symbolized by the mouth of the lion (Babylon); the
ponderous strength symbolized by the feet of the bear (Medo-Persia);
and the speed, cunning and cruelty of the leopard (Greece).
the interpretation of these symbols is found in Daniel 7, and since the
fourth beast had 10 horns, the Bible interpretation of the beast of
Revelation 13 is the fourth beast of Daniel 7 —the Roman Empire, of 31
B.C. to A.D. 476.
beast described by John in Revelation 13 included seven heads, but the
only head existing at the time John saw this nondescript beast (which
included the most powerful characteristics of all the beasts
symbolizing its predecessors) was that of the fourth beast of Daniel,
containing the seventh head, and also the 10 horns. So the specific
"one of its heads" that was wounded to death (Revelation 13:3) was the
seventh head of the Roman Empire —the head out of which 10 horns grew.
10 horns, as Daniel interprets, represent 10 successive governments out
of the Roman Empire, which were to continue until the setting up of the
Kingdom of God at the Second Coming of Christ.
deadly wound, then, was the one administered to the Roman Empire, when,
in its last decaying stages, the barbarians overran it, ending its
government in A.D. 476.
the dragon gave his power to the beast. Who is the dragon? Some have
said "pagan Rome." But will we be guided solely by the Bible
interpretation of its own symbols? Then, if we will, the dragon is a
symbol that means Satan the devil.
Revelation 12: "The great dragon . . . that old serpent, called the
Devil, and Satan . . . was cast out into the earth . . . the devil is
come down unto you, having great wrath . . . and when the dragon saw
that he was cast unto the earth . . ." (verses 9, 12-13).
"And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan" (Revelation 20:2).
worshiped the beast (Revelation 13:4). Therefore some conclude, from
this one statement alone, that the beast must be the papacy, not
knowing that the people worshiped the Roman Empire and its emperors!
how they worshiped the beast—saying, "Who is able to make war with
him?" The Roman Empire was the greatest war-making power the world had
ever known. This beast killed by the sword (verse 10).
is full of accounts of the worship of the Roman emperors, for paganism
was a state religion. The following is from Robinson's Medieval and
Modern Times, an older college textbook, page 7:
worship of the emperor: In a word, the Roman government was not only
wonderfully organized . . . everyone was required to join in the
worship of the emperor because he stood for the majesty and glory of
the dominion . . . all were obliged, as good citizens, to join in the
official sacrifices to the head of the state, as a god."
But when the seventh head of this great beast received its deadly wound in A.D. 476, was that the end?
the prophecy says "his deadly wound was healed . . . and power was
given unto him to continue forty and two months" (verses 3, 5).
10 horns represent 10 successive kingdoms to follow out of this
kingdom. So, through the 10 horns growing out of this head (the Roman
Empire of 31 B.C.-A.D. 476), the beast (for the 10 horns are part of
the beast) continues until the Second Coming of Christ.
text says one of his heads was wounded to death. The beast included the
seven heads and the 10 horns. John sees the beast living in the days of
its seventh head, the Roman Empire. And when that head of the beast had
its deadly wound, his—the beast's—deadly wound was healed. The horns
now reign, one by one.
Roman Empire in northern Africa was overrun by the Vandals, who sacked
Rome in 455. Then in 476 Odoacer set up his government at Rome, called
the Heruli. But it did not heal the deadly wound, for this was only a
government in Rome. It was not a Roman government, but one of foreign
barbarians. Then there was the kingdom of the Ostrogoths, 493-554,
another foreign people who ruled in the territory. But they were driven
out of Italy and disappeared.
three kingdoms, sweeping into the Roman territory, filled the period
known in history as the "transition age" (see Myers' Ancient History,
page 571). That is, a TRANSITION between the wound and the healing.
Daniel saw a "little horn" coming up among these 10, before whom these
first three were "plucked up by the roots" (Daniel 7:8). That leaves 7
horns to come.
of the little horn, Daniel 7 says his "look was more stout than his
fellows" (verse 20). The papacy dominated completely all the horns to
was the fourth kingdom (symbolized by the fourth horn), succeeding the
fall of the Empire in 476, which really HEALED the deadly wound, and
restored the empire.
The deadly wound healed
A.D. 554, Justinian, emperor of the East, from Constantinople, set up
his government through an Imperial Legate at Ravenna, Italy, and
brought about what is known in history as the "Imperial Restoration" of
Now, notice verse 5 of Revelation 13. Power was given to this beast, once healed, to "CONTINUE FORTY AND TWO MONTHS."
the prophecies pertaining to the times of Israel's punishment, each day
represents a year in the fulfillment (Ezekiel 4:4-6, Numbers 14:34).
Thus, the healed beast is to continue 1,260 years.
the healing, in 554, came the Frankish kingdom (French), the Holy Roman
Empire (German, then the Austrian Habsburgs) and Napoleon's kingdom
(French). But when Napoleon was crushed in 1814, the healed beast
continued no longer. "So closed," says West's Modern History, page 337,
"a government that dated from Augustus Caesar [from 31 B.C.]." It went
And from 554 to 1814, the duration of the "healed beast," was exactly 1,260 years!
that time, eight of the horns having appeared and gone, the beast
itself went into the nonexistent condition symbolized in Revelation
17:8 as the "bottomless pit."
by the year 1870, Garibaldi had united the many little divisions in the
peninsula of Italy into one nation, and the kingdom thus established
began the ninth horn, which culminated in the Fascist rule of Mussolini.
The "heads" the woman rode
shall deal later more specifically with the 17th chapter of Revelation
in this connection. But let us note in passing that the woman mentioned
in this chapter never rode on any part of this beast of Revelation 13
except its last seven horns! She is the "little horn" of Daniel 7,
whose "look was more stout than his fellows," and who caused the first
three to be plucked up by the roots.
since, in the 17th chapter of Revelation, the woman rode on all seven
of the heads of the beast there pictured, and since she rode none of
the heads but only the last seven of the horns of the beast of
Revelation 13, it follows that the seven horns of the "healed beast" of
the 13th chapter form the seven heads of the beast of the 17th chapter!
Notice, at the time John saw the beast, five are fallen, one is and one is yet to come (Revelation 17:10).
five that are fallen are the five during the 1,260 years in which power
was given, by religious authority, for the healed beast to continue.
one that "is," is the kingdom that extended from Garibaldi to the
downfall of Mussolini. It was not in any sense the power-wielding old
Roman Empire, so during the stage of this ninth horn (Revelation 13) or
sixth head (Revelation 17) John speaks of it as the beast that was, and
is not, and shall arise once more out of the bottomless pit.
seventh head with its 10 horns, in the 17th chapter of Revelation, will
be, as the 17th chapter explains, the revival of the beast, the Roman
Empire, "out of the bottomless pit" by a "United States of Europe," or
federation of 10 European nations centered within the bounds of the old
Roman Empire (Revelation 17:12-18).
This is beginning today!
(To be continued)
by Herbert W. Armstrong Good News October/November 1985