The Wild Beast Out of the Sea
REGARDING the wild beast out of the sea the apostle John wrote: “I saw a wild beast ascending out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, and upon its horns ten diadems, but upon its heads blasphemous names. Now the wild beast that I saw was like a leopard, but its feet were as those of a bear, and its mouth was as a lion’s mouth. And the dragon gave the beast its power and its throne and great authority. And I saw one of its heads as though slaughtered to death, but its deathstroke got healed, and all the earth followed the wild beast with admiration.”—Rev. 13:1-3.
The Greek word for beast here is theríon, meaning a dangerous wild animal. Interestingly one of the definitions for “beast” is “a wild mammal, fierce by nature.” The description of this wild beast calls to mind Daniel’s prophecy about certain wild beasts, one like a lion, another like a bear, a third like a leopard, and so forth, which he himself later identifies as representing certain world powers, governments such as those of Medo-Persia and Greece. This wild beast coming out of the sea or the abyss is in keeping with this, for the sea is used to represent “peoples and crowds and nations and tongues.”—Rev. 17:15; Dan. 7:1-8; 8:1-22.
Obviously, this wild beast would represent earthly, human, visible governments. Its having seven heads and ten horns, symbols of completeness, would therefore well picture that all the nations of the world have been under Satan’s control, especially the seven world governments that have exercised complete power from Egypt until today. These have been and are beastly from God’s standpoint, regardless of how they may appear to themselves or their peoples. In fact, it might be said that they tacitly admit they are beastly by choosing such symbols as the Russian bear, the British lion and the American eagle.
Note that the dragon Satan is said to have given this beast its power, throne and authority. It therefore must belong to him and do his bidding. This is in keeping with Satan’s offering Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if he would fall down and worship Satan. That is why Jesus referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world”; why Paul termed him “the god of this system of things,” “the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience”; and why John said that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” It being Satan’s visible organization, his instrument or tool, we can well understand why its seven heads are said to contain blasphemies or blasphemous names.—John 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2; 1 John 5:19.
What about the head that received the death-stroke and yet was healed? This head was the sixth, represented in modern times by Germany as the successor to Rome, the sixth world power, which was gradually transformed from pagan Rome to the Holy Roman Empire of the Germanic Nation. It received a deathstroke during World War I, from which it was healed; it has been only partially healed from the wound it received during World War II.
To have the mark of this beast upon one’s forehead or hands means that one is giving support to Satan’s organization, mentally or physically, thereby violating the command to “keep oneself without spot from the world.” (Jas. 1:27) Such friendship with the world, however, means enmity with God.
This beast is said to have a number, 666. In the Scriptures the number six is a symbol of imperfection or incompleteness. (1 Sam. 17:4; 2 Sam. 21:20; Dan. 3:1) Satan’s visible organization is composed of three basic ruling elements, false religion, greedy commerce and worldly politics. These three would well be pictured by the imperfect number 666; false religion by 600, greedy commerce by 60 and worldly politics by 6, the larger the number the greater the degree of reprehensibility connected with it. At Armageddon this wild beast, Satan’s visible organization, is lined up with Satan and his demon hordes in their fight against Christ, the King of kings, and in that war this beast and its cohorts will suffer total defeat.—Rev. 13:18; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:19, 20.