And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” (Revelation 13:1-4, ESV)
The one God we worship is three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the previous entry I mentioned how Satan counterfeits God in trying to emulate knowledge, power and authority. Satan also has fashioned a counterfeit trinity. There is Satan who counterfeits the Father, and in this passage we see Satan giving rise to the beast from the sea, the second of his perverted trinity.
At the end of chapter 12, the dragon stands on the sand of the sea. The sea, for ancient Israel, was a place of unrest and evil. The sand in the Old Testament is used to describe the descendants of Abraham. Satan is claiming lordship over all the peoples of the earth.
The beast the coming out of the sea is the image of the dragon, Satan. The sea beast (to distinguish it from the beast that comes out of the earth), has seven heads and ten horns. Instead of seven crowns that the dragon has (one for each head), the beast has ten crowns, one for each horn. The beast mimics the Son of God in that one of his heads has a fatal wound that was healed, mimicking the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The beast is an amalgam of four creatures from the book of Daniel, that represented four empires, the last being Rome. The amalgam indicates the universal nature of the sea beast. The beast has authority for 42 months, the symbolic timespan from Christ's resurrection until the time of intense evil just before Christ second coming (as seen with the two witnesses in Revelation 11). The people of the earth who do not belong to God worship the beast.
The sea beast represents oppressive power throughout the time between the two advents of Christ. At the time Revelation was written, the oppressive power was Rome. Later we will see allusions to Rome and possibly Nero. In fact, it is quote possible that one example of the fatal wound that was healed was the turmoil in Rome in the events surrounding the suicide of Emperor Nero. Rome was rife with rumors of revolution and upheaval during the years immediately after Nero's death. With Domitian, stability returned to the empire. In history, other oppressive regimes had periods of near demise followed by seemingly miraculous recovery. Examples in the twentieth century include the Soviet Union, where during the Russian revolution of 1917, the communist movement looked like it faced extermination but survived and grew, and the Communist Chinese revolution that appeared to die and then come back to life to take over China.
The sea beast can show up in many guises. There are the obvious political and military oppressive governments that persecute and suppress Christians. Islamic countries are examples of those. It can take subtler forms. It can take the form of governments usurping the authority of families in raising their children in the nurture of the Christian faith. This includes western democracies that prevent parents from homeschooling their children. Germany is one country where Christian families cannot homeschool. In the United States, various states and school districts can make homeschooling difficult and cumbersome.
Public schools are a powerful means by which the state indoctrinates its children and subjects. I am not saying Christians should not send their children to public schools. But Christian parents need to be aware that indoctrination takes place there that is not necessarily friendly to Christ.
I raise the homeschooling example not as the prime example of the beast at work today, but to get us thinking outside the usual categories concerning the beast that many Christians have. The beast is not just some outrageous power in a future seven year tribulation in The Left Behind series. The beast include powers operating today, around us, that coerce us away from Christ.
We are to watch and persevere. As we look in upcoming passages in Revelation on the earth beast and the harlot, we will see other ways in which Satan is working today. This will guide us in resisting Satan and persevering.