The seven-headed beasts in Revelation are three of the seven heads.

PURPOSE

DragonIn Revelation, there are three beasts that each has seven heads and ten horns. They are identified in the article titled, The Seven-Headed Beasts (the reader is advised to read that article before this one):

The Great Red Dragon that stands before the woman, ready to devour Christ as soon as He was born (Rev. 12:3-4), symbolizes the Roman Empire.

The beast that comes up out of the sea (Rev. 13:1)—referred to in this article as the Sea Beast, is another symbol for the 11th horn that grows out of the Roman Empire. It suffers a deadly wound, but recovers (13:3) to become Satan’s mastermind in the end-time. It is this beast whose mark the people receive in the end-time (13:17).

The Scarlet Beast, on which the harlot sits, symbolizes the political systems of the world that always are controlled by false religion (Rev. 17:3).

The purpose of the current article is to show that the seven heads are seven phases of man’s existence on earth and that each seven-headed beast is one of the heads and, therefore, one of the seven phases.

SUMMARY

SEVEN KINGS

The seven heads are explained as “seven kings” that reign one after the other. But a “king,” in prophetic symbolism, represents a “kingdom,” consisting of a series of kings.  Furthermore, Daniel 7 also refers to four “kings,” but they are interpreted as four empires, such as the Roman Empire, each consisting of a large number of kingdoms. The heads, therefore, are seven successive world empires

Since the three beasts all have exactly seven heads, they have the same seven heads. One might picture the beasts as a single beast with seven different heads and three different bodies.

Each beast, actually, is one of the heads. This statement is justified as follows:

Firstly, 17:11 explicitly states that “the beast … is one of the seven” heads. This refers specifically to the Scarlet Beast but, by implication, this principle also applies to the other beasts. 17:10 identifies the scarlet beast as the sixth head. 

Secondly, the seven heads represent different phases of human history. But the seven-headed beasts are also different phases of human history.

Thirdly, when one of the heads receives a fatal wound, we are told that one of the beasts receives the wound.  This also implies that this beast is one of the heads.

Fourthly, the various body parts of the image in the prophecy in Daniel 2 are equivalent to the seven heads because they symbolize world empires that exist one after the other. But these body parts also symbolize different beasts in Revelation.

 – END OF SUMMARY –

REVELATION 17

Revelation 17 explains the heads:

Here is the mind which has wisdom.
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 words, “Here is the mind which has wisdom” warn us that these verses are difficult to understand. When asked about this, Jesus explained that He spoke in parables so that those who do not want to believe, will not understand (Mark 4:10-12). Nevertheless, to understand this article will require some serious concentration.

SEVEN SUCCESSIVE WORLD EMPIRES

The seven heads are explained in 17:9-10 as “seven kings.” From the time perspective of Revelation 17, “five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come” (17:9-10). They reign, therefore, one after the other. 

In normal usage, the term “king,” refers to one person but in prophetic symbolism, a king represents a “kingdom,” consisting of a series of kings,” for example:

Daniel referred to the person Nebuchadnezzar as the “head of gold” but explained that another “kingdom” would follow after him (Dan 2:37ff).  In other words, Nebuchadnezzar stood for his entire empire.

In Daniel 7:17 and 23, the four beasts are first identified as “kings” but later explained as “kingdoms.” 

Furthermore, Daniel 7 interprets the four “kings” as four empires, such as the Roman Empire, each consisting of a large number of kingdoms that are ruled over by a single emperor. The heads, therefore, are seven successive world empires.

SHARE THE SAME SEVEN HEADS

Since each of the three beasts has exactly seven heads and ten horns, the heads of the three beasts symbolize the same seven “kings” or kingdoms. The beasts share the same seven heads. Similarly, the ten horns of the three beasts are the same ten “kings.”  There are not 3×7 different head-kings or 3×10 different horn-kings.

The head is the main body part of an animal.  If you have an animal with two heads, is it not really two animals? Think about the two-headed giant in Jack and the Beanstalk. It has two different personalities. In Revelation, the beasts each have seven heads. They are, therefore, really seven different beasts with seven different personalities. What really matters are the heads; not the beasts. 

One might, therefore, symbolically, visualize the beasts as a single beast with seven different heads and three different bodies.

In the article The Seven-Headed Beasts, this similarity is explained as that the three beasts belong to the same species, particularly the same species as the beasts of Daniel 7. However, the seven heads and ten horns have specific meanings, as are explained in this article series.

EACH BEAST IS ONE HEAD.

As already noted, there are three beasts in Revelation that each has exactly seven heads and that these heads represent seven successive phases of human history.  In this section, we motivate that each beast is, actually, one of the heads. This is based on the following observations:

      1. Firstly, 17:11 explicitly states that “the beast … is one of the seven” heads.
      2. Secondly, both the seven heads and the seven-headed beasts represent different phases of human history.
      3. Thirdly, when one of the heads receives a fatal wound, we are told that one of the beasts receives the wound.
      4. Fourthly, the different body parts (metal kingdoms) in the Daniel 2 vision are both the heads of Revelation’s beasts and different beasts in Revelation.

These points will now be explained in more detail:

THE BEAST IS ONE OF THE SEVEN.

The beast … is one of the seven” heads (17:11).

This refers specifically to the Scarlet Beast.  It both has seven heads and is one of the heads.  By implication, the same principle applies to the other beasts.

The previous verse stated, concerning the seven heads, that “five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come” (17:10). The implication is that the scarlet beast is the sixth head. That would mean that the Dragon and Sea Beast are some of the other heads.

PHASES OF HUMAN HISTORY

Each head represents a phase of human history. The same can be said of the seven-headed beasts:

The Dragon is identified as Satan (12:9), but when it stands ready to devour Christ as soon as He is born, the Dragon also has seven heads and ten horns (12:3). The Dragon, therefore, also represents the human governments that Satan uses to do his work.  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 represent humanity (17:15)).  The Sea Beast, therefore, also describes a specific phase of human existence.  The article on the Seven-Headed Beasts identifies the Sea Beast as the 11th horn that, according to Daniel 7, grows out of the Roman Empire.

As shown, the Scarlet Beast is the sixth head.  Again, John looks at this beast from the perspective of a specific point or period of time.

In conclusion, each of the seven-headed beasts, just like the seven heads, describes ONE PHASE OF HUMAN HISTORY. This supports the notion that each beast represents one head.

DEADLY WOUND

Revelation 13 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).

This also implies that this beast is one of the seven heads.

IMAGE OF A MAN

The prophecy in Daniel 2 is the foundation from which the symbols of the seven-headed beasts are derived. This prophecy clarifies the relationship between the beasts and the heads. That prophecy symbolizes the history of mankind by an image of a metal man consisting of various metal body parts (head, shoulders, etc.). Each body part symbolizes an empire; a different phase of human history from the time of Nebuchadnezzar to the Return of Christ.

In Daniel 2, the image consists of the metal kingdoms.  Apart from the metal kingdoms, nothing exists.  In the same way, Revelation’s beast consists of the seven heads. The beast is simply the sum of the heads.  Conversely, the seven heads are the seven consecutive phases of the Beast.  Apart from the seven heads, there is no beast.  Everywhere that Revelation says that the beast does something, it is actually one of the heads (kings) that does it. 

Evidence from Daniel 2 that the seven-headed beasts are three of the seven heads is that the different body parts of the Daniel 2 image are both the seven heads and the beasts in Revelation:

Both the body parts of the image in Daniel 2 and the seven heads are kingdoms that exist one after the other. For that reason, Revelation’s heads are equivalent to the body parts in Daniel 2.

But the different body parts in Daniel 2 are also different beasts in Revelation, for it has already been shown that the iron legs of the image are equivalent to the fourth beast in Daniel 7 with its “large iron teeth” (7:7) and that this symbolizes the Roman Empire, which, in Revelation, is symbolized by the seven-headed Dragon in 12:3-4.  

What we see in Revelation, therefore, is not a single beast with three bodies and seven heads; but only seven heads with the three beasts being three of those heads.

SEVEN WORLD EMPIRES

It has been concluded above, from the book of Daniel, that the seven heads are seven world empires that exist one after another. This conclusion can now be confirmed from Revelation: The article – The Seven-Headed Beasts – has identified the Revelation’s Dragon as the Roman Empire. It would then follow that the other seven-headed beasts also are empires.  And since we have now concluded that Revelation’s beasts are three of the seen heads, it follows that all seven heads are not only kingdoms but world empires. These seven world empires are identified in the next article – Seven Heads Identified.

The Seven Heads are Daniel’s 4 beasts plus the 3 phases of the 11th horn.

PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE

There are three beasts in Revelation that each has seven heads, namely the Dragon (12:3), the Sea Beast (13:1), and the Scarlet Beast (17:3).  The article – The Seven-Headed Beasts – identifies:
– the Dragon as the Roman Empire,
– the Sea Beast as the 11th horn that grows out of the Roman Empire and
– the Scarlet Beast, on which the harlot sits, as the political governments of the world that are always dominated by false religion.

The previous article showed that these three beasts are three of the seven heads. These two articles should be read before the current one. The purpose of the current article is to identify the seven heads. 

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).

SUMMARY

GENERAL PRINCIPLES

The previous articles in this series have shown the following:

The verses quoted above explain the seven heads as seven “kings” that reign one after the other. However, in Daniel, and therefore in Revelation, a king represents a kingdom or even an entire empire, . 

Since the three beasts each has exactly seven heads and ten horns, the three beasts share the same seven heads. 

There is, actually, no Beast.  It is only the heads that exist.  The Beast is simply the sum of the heads.  The seven heads are seven consecutive phases of Satan’s oppressive rule.

An important principle argued below is that the heads of the beast in Revelation must be limited to the beasts in Daniel.  The first kingdom must, therefore, be the ancient Babylonian Empire, and not Assyria, as some interpreters suggest. 

FIRST FIVE HEADS

The first four heads are the four beasts of beasts in Daniel 7:

      • Babylonian Empire
      • Mede-Persian Empire
      • Greece
      • Roman Empire

Great Red DragonThe proposal that Revelation’s dragon is one of the heads, can be confirmed from the previous articles in this series. The first article identified the Dragon, when it stands before the woman, ready to kill Jesus as soon as He is born, as the Roman Empire in that context.  The second article concluded that the beasts of Revelation are three of the seven heads. It follows that the Roman Empire is one of the heads.

The first article identified the Sea Beast as the 11th horn that grows out of Daniel’s fourth kingdom (the Roman Empire).  It is the main anti-God power in both Daniel and Revelation. For that reason, we count it as a separate kingdom. On that basis, the eleventh horn is the fifth head.

LAST TWO HEADS

According to Revelation 13, the fifth kingdom (the 11th horn) goes through three phases :

1. ALIVE – It exists for a time.
2. DEAD – After receiving a deadly wound.
3. ALIVE – It recovers from the fatal wound).

Revelation 17 identifies that the DEAD period as the sixth head.  We, therefore, have the following seven heads/kingdoms:

      1. Babylonian Empires;
      2. Mede-Persian Empire;
      3. Greece;
      4. Roman Empire;
      5. 11th horn that arose from the Roman Empire;
      6. 11th horn mortally wounded (13:3) / In the abyss (17:8);
      7. 11th horn resurrected (13:4); This is when the False Prophet arises “out of the earth” (13:11).

 – END OF SUMMARY – 

SEVEN HILLS OF ROME

In the NASB translation quoted above, the seven heads are explained as seven mountains and as seven kings.  In the popular Preterist interpretation—generally the view of academics:

The seven heads are seven mountains, which are the Seven Hills of Rome.

The seven kings are not related to the seven mountains but symbolize seven literal Roman emperors. 

The KJV and NKJV translations do give the impression that the kings in verse 10 are different from the heads or mountains in verse 9, upon which the woman sits:

AND THERE are seven kings” (KJV);
THERE are ALSO seven kings” (NKJV).

However, the words “there” and “also” in the KJV and NKJV translations do not exist in the Greek.  The NASB translation is, therefore, to be preferred. In the NASB the heads do not exist simultaneously, like the seven hills of Rome, but one after the other. 

MOUNTAINS ARE KINGDOMS

This conclusion can be supported by noting that mountains, in the Bible, are often used as symbols for kingdoms:

Mountains represent the power of kingdoms and their kings (Isaiah 2:2-3; Jeremiah 17:3; 31:23; 51:24, 25; Ezekiel 17:22-23; Zech. 4:7). 

In Habakkuk 3:6, the mountains may be seen as the nations which God scattered. 

The stone (Dan 2:34) becomes a great mountain (Dan 2:35).  This is explained as “a kingdom which will never be destroyed” (Dan 2:44). 

In the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills, And all the nations will stream to it” (Isa 2:2 NASB). 

The seven heads, seven mountains, and seven kings, therefore, refer to the same seven things.

PRINCIPLES TO IDENTIFY THE SEVEN HEADS

KINGS ARE EMPIRES.

As discussed in the previous article, in prophetic symbolism, the term “king” represents a “kingdom” or even a world empire, each consisting of many kingdoms.

ONE AFTER THE OTHER

Revelation 17:10 (quoted above) explains the seven heads as seven kings (kingdoms) that reign one after the other.

THE SAME SEVEN EMPIRES

Since the three beasts each has exactly seven heads and ten horns, the three beasts share the same seven heads, pointing to the same seven world empires

THE BEAST IS THE SUM OF THE SEVEN HEADS.

As also discussed in the previous article, there is no Beast.  It is only the heads that exist.  The Beast is simply the sum of the headsApart from the seven heads, there is no beast.  Conversely, the seven heads are seven consecutive phases of Satan’s oppressive rule. Everywhere that Revelation says that the beast does something, it is one of the heads (kings) that are doing it.   

ONLY FROM DANIEL

Many interpreters find heads by looking at empires that precede the ancient Babylonian Empire.  It is proposed here that such a procedure is inconsistent with the principle that Revelation is built on Daniel.  According to this principle, ONE SHOULD NOT LOOK OUTSIDE DANIEL for the interpretation of the heads. 

This approach is confirmed by the fact that the beasts of Revelation all have 7 heads and 10 horns, while the beasts in Daniel 7 also have, IN TOTAL, 7 heads and 10 horns. This implies a close relationship between the beasts of Daniel and Revelation.

That, however, does not mean that the seven heads of the beast in Revelation are the same as the seven heads in Daniel 7.  Daniel’s third empire (Greece) had four heads (Dan 7:6).  If the seven heads of Revelation’s beast were the same as the seven heads of the beasts of Daniel 7, then the third to sixth heads would be the four Grecian empires, which existed simultaneously.  This would be inconsistent with Revelation, where, according to 17:10, the sixth head follows in time after the fifth.

FIRST FIVE HEADS

Based on the principle that we should identify the heads from the beasts in Daniel, the first kingdom must be the ancient Babylonian Empire and not Assyria.  The four beasts in Daniel 7 are the first four heads.  They are (See the article Daniel 7):

      • Babylonian Empire
      • Medo-Persian Empire
      • Greece
      • Roman Empire

DRAGON

Revelation 12:9 identifies the dragon, which is one of the three beasts with seven heads (Rev. 12), as Satan. However, that is in the context of the war in heaven.  When it stands before the woman, ready to devour Christ as soon as He is born, it has seven heads (12:3-4).  That means that, in that context, it is an earthly power.  It then must be the Roman Empire, for that empire ruled when Jesus was born. 

Based on the principle that the beasts of Revelation are heads, this confirms that the Roman Empire is one of the seven heads.

SEA BEAST

The beast that comes out of the sea, with its seven heads (13:1) inherits its characteristics from four other animals:

And the beast which I saw was like a leopard,
and his feet were like those of a bear,
and his mouth like the mouth of a lion.
And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.  (Rev 13:2 NASB)

The leopard, bear, and lion are the first three animals in Daniel 7 (7:3-5).  Daniel 7 does not say what kind of animal the fourth is but describes it as “dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong” (Dan 7:7).  However, since it is mentioned with the first three beasts of Daniel 7, “the dragon” is the fourth beast in Daniel 7. This is supported by the fact that the description of the fourth beast in Danie 7 sounds like a dragon. 

The Sea Beast, therefore, inherits something from each of the four beasts in Daniel.  For that reason, as argued in the article on The Seven-Headed Beasts of Revelation, the Sea Beast is the same as the 11th horn that grows out of Daniel’s fourth empire (the Roman Empire).  Since it is the main anti-God power in both Daniel and Revelation, and we must count it as a separate kingdom.  Furthermore, since the beasts of Revelation are heads of the beast, the 11th horn (the sea beast) is the fifth head.

LAST OF THE SEVEN HEADS

Revelation 13 mentions something about the Sea Beast which Daniel does not mention about the 11th horn, namely that this beast receives a DEADLY WOUND (13,3), but RECOVERS from that wound to become Saan’s primary agent on earth.  It is the mark of this beast which people will receive in the end-time (13:16).  The deadly wound implies three phases:

1. ALIVE – It exists for a time before receiving the wound.
2. DEAD – After receiving the deadly wound.
3. ALIVE – After it recovers from the fatal wound.

Revelation 17 identifies the wound-period as the sixth head:

Revelation 17:8-10 explains both the seven heads and the beast in terms of the past, the present, and the future:

PAST PRESENT FUTURE
BEAST WAS IS NOT /
IN ABYSS
COME UP FROM ABYSS
HEADS FIVE WAS ONE IS OTHER HAS NOT YET COME

The sixth head is the ‘present’ head, but at ‘present’ the beast is in the Abyss, for it is “about to come up out of the abyss” (v8).  The Abyss-period is, therefore, the 6th head.

It is quite unusual for the powers that oppose God to go through a period of incapacity.  It is therefore likely that the period of incapacity in Revelation 13 (the period of death) is the same as the period of incapacity in Revelation 17 (the “is not” or Abyss-period).

We can prove this, for the following two verses describe what will happen after the beast in Revelation 13 recovers from the deadly wound and after the beast in Revelation 17 comes out of the abyss:

All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life” (13:8).

Those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast” (17:8).

The similarity of these two verses implies that they refer to the same event, which means that the DEAD-period in Revelation 13 is the same as the Abyss-period in Revelation 17, which is the sixth head.  

CONCLUSION

The foregoing results in the following seven heads:

      1. Babylonian Empires
      2. Mede-Persian Empire
      3. Greece
      4. Roman Empire
      5. 11th horn arose from the Roman Empire
      6. 11th horn mortally wounded (13:3) / in abyss (17:8) / in wilderness (17:3)
      7. 11th horn resurrected (13:4)—Time of the False Prophet and Image of the Beast

This interpretation provides a challenge because many commentaries hold that the explanation of the vision in Revelation 17 is given relative to John’s time.  This would mean that the sixth head (17:8) is in John’s time.  Please see the discussion of Revelation 17 for a response to this challenge.