The Beast Revealed: Is it a Person, System, or Something Else Entirely?

I had a course on the Book of Revelation while in seminary. My professor who wrote a commentary on Revelation told us that he had read over 30 books on the subject and none of them agreed on the interpretation.

Just like my professor’s experience with books on Revelation, the same is true of the identity of the beast. I thought it might help our understanding to briefly consider some opinions about the beast.

(1) Antichrist: In some interpretations, the beast is believed to represent the Antichrist, a figure associated with evil and opposition to Christ. This view sees the beast as a symbolic representation of a future individual or system that will rise to power and deceive many.

(2) Symbolic representation: Others view the beast as a symbolic representation of oppressive political systems or ideologies that rise to power and exert control over people. It could represent tyrannical governments, dictators, or ideologies that oppose religious freedom and persecute believers.

(3) Historical figures: Throughout history, various individuals have been proposed as potential candidates for the identity of the beast, such as emperors, rulers, or influential leaders who demonstrated similar characteristics and exerted authority over large populations.

(4) Institutional or religious entities: Some interpretations associate the beast with specific religious or institutional entities that are seen as opposing God and misleading people. These interpretations may vary depending on the specific religious context and beliefs.

(5) Symbolic representation of oppressive political or religious systems: Some interpretations view the beast as a symbol of oppressive political or religious systems that exert control and persecute believers. This can include totalitarian regimes, dictators, or ideologies that oppose religious freedom and promote blasphemy.

(6) Metaphorical representation of evil and temptation: The beast can be seen as a metaphorical representation of the pervasive influence of evil and temptation in the world. It symbolizes the allure and power that draws people away from God and towards wickedness.

(This list was provided by ChatGPT.)

When I read through this list, I see a composite picture of evil that has one central purpose – to steal, kill, and destroy human life (John 10.10).

The beast is a person who is anti-Christ. There will come a time when a single Antichrist will appear, but the spirit of anti-Christ has been present in every generation.

He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God (2 Thessalonians 2:4).

I’m convinced that the first-century church identified the beast with Domitian, the Roman Emperor who was ravaging the people of God.

At the same time, the beast is symbolic of all tyrants who have oppressed and persecuted the people they were supposed to serve.

Various religious institutions have been identified with the beast by some interpreters. It is important to recognize that tyrants and strongmen often use religious language and institutions to justify their oppression.

The beast perverts religion for its own end and we should be careful when religious institutions engage in political propaganda for a strongman or tyrant.

Characteristics of the Beast

The beast has a particular character that is highlighted by his behavior.

The beast was given a mouth speaking arrogant and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months.

It opened its mouth to speak blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven (Revelation 13.5-6).

The beast is proud and his speech reveals his arrogance.

The Roman Emperor Caligula is a good example of boastful blasphemy. He was so proud that he wanted a statue of himself crafted and placed in the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem temple.

His advisors counseled him that such an act would certainly cause a riot, but Caligula insisted that they follow his desires.

Only Caligula’s death prevented the desecration of the temple with a pagan idol.

The spirit of the Antichrist will always be one of pride and blasphemy. Followers of the Antichrist will never pray, “Hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6.9).

Instead, they promote an arrogant impostor, who deceives others to give him service and worship.

The Book of Revelation was written to warn God’s people to not be deceived by the schemes of the beast.

War Against God’s People

Jesus gave his disciples this warning: “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and produce great signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).

The beast’s war against God’s people has deception at its foundation. We need to be aware of the schemes of the evil one, so we are not seduced into worshiping the beast.

We can be certain that the beast will not appear as a horrific creature. Instead, the beast will present to humans what is attractive and desirable. An abiding relationship with Jesus is an excellent protection against the schemes of the enemy of our soul.

When deception does not work, the beast will turn to raw power.

Also, it was allowed to wage war on the saints and to conquer them. It was given authority over every tribe and people and language and nation,

And all the inhabitants of the earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slaughtered (Revelation 13.7-8).

The beast has the authority to make war against the saints and to demand universal worship.

The worship of a satanically inspired perversion of secular authority (the beast) is the ultimate offense against the one true God.

We’ve already seen the key to this victory, but it is good to review how God’s people overcome.

But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony,
for they did not cling to life even in the face of death.
(Revelation 12:11)

Calling for Endurance

It takes enormous faith and courage to hold on to our testimony in the face of death.

Endurance is remaining faithful to Christ while being under a load of persecution and oppression.

The vision given to John pulls no punches. Persecution is always difficult.

Let anyone who has an ear listen:

If you are to be taken captive,
into captivity you go;
if you kill with the sword,
with the sword you must be killed.

Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints. (Revelation 13.9-10)

When the persecution breaks upon the church, believers will need to meet it with steadfast endurance and unwavering faith.

William Barclay captures the way Christians will testify to God’s love and saving grace. He argues from the negative to make a positive point,

“It is an intolerable paradox to defend the gospel of the love of God by using the violence of man.”

Application for Today

In light of the vision about the beast here are decisions we can and should make.

(1) Let the message about the beast remind us to be vigilant against the forces of evil in the world.

(2) Ask God to give us discernment when it comes to political and religious institutions.

(3) Let’s emphasize the importance of upholding love, compassion, and justice in our interactions with others.

(4) Cultivate a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus as a protection against the schemes of the enemy.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I discuss this passage on YouTube today. It is on the Bob Spradling channel.

2 Comments

  1. Thank you both for working, and serving the body, by studying and explaining what you have learned with us! Bless you both and thank you for making this post! It is a helpful reminder for me.

    Liked by 1 person

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