Revelation has three beasts that each has seven heads and ten horns:
- “a great red dragon” (12:3);
- “a beast coming up out of the sea” (13:1); and
- “a scarlet beast” on which Babylon sits (17:3).
These beasts are identified in the article: The Seven-Headed Beasts. Revelation 17 explains these heads as follows:
“The seven heads are seven mountains
on which the woman sits,
and they are seven kings;
five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come;
and when he comes, he must remain a little while”
(Rev 17:9-10 NASB).
The seven heads, therefore, are seven kings that reign one after the other.
These are not literal beasts or literal heads. Neither is the sea, out of which the second beast comes, literal. These are all symbols. The woman—Babylon—that sits on the third beast is also not a literal woman.
Both the heads and horns of the beasts are explained as “kings” (17:10-12). That does not mean that there are 21 different head-kings or 30 different horn-kings. Since the three beasts each has exactly seven heads and ten horns, it is concluded that the seven heads point to the same seven “kings.” And the ten horns of the three beasts are the same ten “kings.” In other words, it is actually one beast with seven different heads and three different bodies.
The purpose of the current article series is to identify the seven heads. The purpose of this first article in the series is to show that the three seven-headed beasts are three different manifestations of the beast-power, using the term ‘beast-power’ to refer to the entire beast with his three bodies, seven kings as heads and ten kings as horns. In fact, the purpose of this article is to show that each of the seven-headed beasts is one of the seven heads.
The great harlot “sits on many waters” but she also sits on the scarlet beast. The beast and the “many waters” are therefore symbols for different perspectives on the same reality.
“The waters” symbolize humanity. The beast is, therefore, a certain perspective on the peoples of the world. Since its heads and horns are “kings,” and since, in Daniel, and therefore in Revelation, each king represents a kingdom, the beast gives us a picture of humanity as divided into kingdoms.
ONE OF THE SEVEN HEADS
The seven heads are seven consecutive phases of the beast-power’s oppressive rule. “The beast … is one of the seven” heads. This is said of the scarlet beast specifically, but applies to all three beasts. Each of the three beasts is one of the seven heads and therefore ONE SPECIFIC MANIFESTATION of the beast-power, existing during one specific period of time:
- The Dragon represents the Roman Empire.
- The Sea Beast is a specific organization that follows in time after the Dragon.
- The Scarlet beast is the sixth head.
The following confirms that each beast is a head:
First, the harlot sits on (which means reign over) BOTH the beast and on the heads. The heads (beasts) follow one another over time, but Babylon reigns over each successive head (beast).
The beast received the fatal wound but it is one of the heads that is wounded (13:3, 14).
THE MAN IN DANIEL 2
The relationship between the beasts and the heads may be compared to the image of a man in Daniel 2. That image consists of four metal-kingdoms. Each metal-kingdom and each seven-headed beast in Revelation is ONE SPECIFIC MANIFESTATION of humanity, existing at one specific period of time.
The angel explains that the beast is himself also the eighth head. The ten horns are the last part of the seventh head. They will “receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour” and “give their power and authority to the beast.” This final part of the seventh head in the eighth head. In this time the beast will prepare the world “to make war against Him who sat on the horse,” which refers to Christ’s return.
These principles will now be explained in more detail
The book of Revelation explains beast and its seven heads particularly in chapter 17.
John HEARS that the great harlot “sits on many waters” (17:1), but when he looks, he SEES a woman sitting on a scarlet beast (17:3). This is one of the hear/see combinations in Revelation. Another example is in Revelation 5:
John hears of the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (5:5), but when he looks, he sees a “Lamb as if he had been slain” (5:6). These are not literal animals. The Lion and the Lamb are different perspectives of the same Reality:
– As Lion, Christ is invincible, but
– As Lamb, He was slaughtered for us.
In the same way, the beast and the “many waters” symbolize different perspectives of the same reality.
The angel explains that “the waters … where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” (17:15).
Revelation here uses four words to describe humanity because the number four in Revelation symbolizes the ‘whole world’ (e.g. 7:1, 9; 10:11; 11:9). The waters, therefore, symbolize total humanity. The relationship between the waters and the beast means that the scarlet beast is also a certain perspective on the peoples of the world:
The waters represent humanity as one continuous mass over time and geography, while the scarlet beast has heads and horns; both explained as “kings” (17:9-12).
In prophetic symbolism, the term “king,” referring to a person, represents “kingdom,” just as a leader represents his people. For example, Daniel referred to Nebuchadnezzar as the “head of gold” but explains that another “kingdom” would follow (Dan 2:37ff). Similarly, in Daniel 7:17 and 23, the four beasts are first explained as “kings” but later as “kingdoms”. Most non-Preterist interpreters, therefore, take the seven kings to be world empires, but they disagree on which.
The scarlet beast, therefore, gives us a picture of humanity as divided between kingdoms.
From the time perspective of Revelation 17, five of the head-kings are in the past, one is now and one is in the future (17:10). The scarlet beast, therefore, presents humanity from the perspective of a specific point in time. The other two seven-headed beasts reflect different time perspectives, as discussed below.
EACH BEAST IS ONE OF THE SEVEN HEADS.
There are three beasts in Revelation that each has exactly seven heads. These heads follow one another over time. They represent the different phases into which human history is divided. But then we read in 17:11:
“The beast … is one of the seven” heads.
This refers specifically to the scarlet beast of Revelation 17. It has seven heads, but, at the same time, it is one of the seven heads. This principle also applies to the other two seven-headed beasts in Revelation. Each of them exists only at one specific point in time:
The dragon represents Satan (12:9), but since it also has seven heads and ten horns, which are “kings,” it also represents human government. When it stands before the woman, ready to devour Jesus as soon as He is born, it specifically symbolizes the Roman Empire, for that empire reigned when Jesus walked the earth.
The Sea Beast follows in time after the dragon, for the dragon (Roman Empire) waits on the sand of the sea for the sea beast to come out of the sea (13:1 – The many waters of the sea represents humanity). The sea beast, therefore, exists LATER than the dragon and therefore represents A SPECIFIC ENTITY existing at a specific point in time.
The scarlet beast is identified as the sixth head, for, when John sees this beast, “five (heads) have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come” (17:10). Again, it is a specific entity existing at a specific point in time.
Each of the three seven-headed beasts of Revelation is, therefore, actually one of the heads. This principle is confirmed by Revelation 13, which states that one of the heads receives a fatal wound, but then adds that the sea beast receives the wound:
“One of his heads as if it had been slain” (13:3).
“The beast who had the WOUND” (13:14).
Further support for the conclusion that the beasts are heads is that the harlot (Babylon) sits on BOTH the Beast and on its seven heads (17:3, 9).
The harlot sits on the heads. The heads are kings (v10). But Babylon “reigns over the kings of the earth” (17:18). This means that ‘sit on’ means to ‘reign over’. The heads, and therefore the beasts, are therefore successive kingdoms over which Babylon reigns.
IMAGE OF A MAN
The seven heads may be compared to the image of a man in Daniel 2 and the four metals of which the image consists:
Both the metals of the image in Daniel 2 and the heads of the beast in Revelation represent kingdoms or phases in human history that exist one after the other. (Daniel 7 represents the four metal-kingdoms in Daniel 2 as four beasts.)
Each of the metal-kingdoms in Daniel 2 and each of the beast-kingdoms in Revelation is one specific manifestation of the image of the man, existing at one specific period of time.
“The beast … is himself also an eighth” head (17:11).
Since the eighth head is also a head, this is also discussed in this article.
Revelation uses the number seven to symbolize a completed period of time or for a completed process. This symbol is derived from the seven days of the week. The seventh is always the last; for example, the seventh seal, the seventh trumpet and the seventh plague. The same applies to the seven heads. The eighth head would, therefore, exist after the seventh; beyond the last.
According to 17:10 to 17:12, the sixth head is the ‘current’ head, but both the seventh head and the ten horn-kings will reign in the ‘future’. Horns grow out of heads; they do exist on their own. There is, therefore a relationship between the seventh head and the ten horns. In Daniel 7:24 we see that horns are later extensions of the beast. This means that all ten horns will grow out of the seventh head. In other words, the ten horns are an extension of the seventh heads. They are the last part of the seventh head.
Revelation 17:12 to 14 describes the reign of the ten horns. The ten horns:
“Receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour” (17:12).
“Give their power and authority to the beast” (17:13).
This the eighth head when “the beast … is himself also an eighth” head. In other words, the beast will rule directly. It will be a short period of time—perhaps months—as symbolized by the “one hour.” This will be discussed further in the article on the Ten Horns. But in brief:
The ten horns “give their power and authority to the beast” (17:13). We also read of this in the sixth plague, when the demon spirits “go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God” (16:14). They are gathered for Armageddon (16:16).
The ten horns “will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings” (17:14). This corresponds to the description of the Return of Christ:
|TEN HORNS (17:14)||RETURN OF CHRIST|
|will wage war against the Lamb||The beast and the kings of the earth … assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse (19:19)|
|the Lamb will overcome them||The rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse (19:21).|
|because He is Lord of lords and King of kings||Jesus Christ comes as “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (19:16).|
There are three beasts that each has seven heads and ten horns; a red dragon, a sea beast and a scarlet beast on which Babylon sits. The three beasts have the same seven heads. It, therefore, is actually one beast with three different bodies and seven different heads.
The heads are seven kings that reign one after the other.
The beasts symbolize the population of the world, divided between kingdoms.
“The beast … is one of the seven” heads. This is said of the scarlet beast specifically but applies all three beasts. In other words, each of them in one of the seven heads. These and the other four heads are identified in the next article.
The beast himself is the eighth head. This is the last part of the seventh head when the ten horns “give their power and authority to the beast.” This is when demon spirits “go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God;” Armageddon.