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.

Who are the woman, the dragon, the child and what is the war in heaven?

Revelation 12 describes a war in heaven between two groups of angels. What did they fight about and what weapons did they use?  

Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from the book of Revelation and from the NASB translation.

SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE

Male Child – The “male child” (Rev 12:5) is Jesus. He was “caught up to God and to His throne.”  This is His ascension. This verse covers the entire time from Christ’s birth to His ascension to heaven.

The woman, who is “clothed with the sun” (Rev 12:1), symbolizes God’s people on earth. At first, she is presented as pregnant; expecting the Messiah (Rev 12:2). In this phase, she represents all believers in the time before Christ that were looking forward to God’s Messiah. After Jesus was “caught up to God,” she remains on earth (Rev 12:6). Now she represents God’s New Testament people.

The dragon is “the devil and Satan” (Rev 12:9). It “stood before the woman … so that when she gave birth he might devour her child” (Rev 12:4). Ever since God told the serpent that the seed of the woman “shall bruise you on the head” (Gen 3:15) Satan stood ready to thwart Christ’s mission. But Jesus was “caught up to God and to His throne” (Rev 12:5). This means that Satan failed in his purpose.

The dragon has heads and horns (Rev 12:3) which symbolize kingdoms (Rev 17:9-10, 12). The dragon, therefore, also represents the earthly kingdoms through which Satan persecutes God’s people. For a more specific identification of the dragon, see The seven-headed beasts of Revelation.

War in Heaven – The leader of God’s angels is the archangel Michael.  His enemy is Satan and his angels, for Satan has deceived a large number of God’s beautiful angels to side with him. Satan’s weapons are deception (Rev 12:9) and accusations (Rev 12:10). He deceives angels and people into sin and then accuses them before God.

This crisis in heaven, described as a “war in heaven” (Rev 12:7), is described by Rev 5 as “a book … sealed up with seven seals” (Rev 5:1) which “no one in heaven … was able to open” (Rev 5:3). In both these chapters, Christ’s death solved the crisis in heaven. See The seven seals verse of Revelation for a discussion.

 – END OF SUMMARY – 

THE MALE CHILD (REV 12:5)

This verse is a useful place to start this discussion of this chapter because it points to a specific point in history:

She gave birth to a son, a male child,
who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron;
and her child was caught up to God and to His throne

(Rev 12:5).

THE ROD OF IRON

Revelation 19:11-21, describing Christ’s return, presents Jesus as the One using the rod of iron. He sits on “a white horse” (Rev 19:11).  “The armies which are in heaven … were following Him on white horses” (Rev 19:14). “He will rule them (the nations) with a rod of iron” (Rev 19:15).  “His name is called The Word of God” (Rev 19:13).  John—the author of Revelation—also wrote the gospel of John, and in it He refers to Jesus as “the Word” (John 1:1). Since the male child will “rule all the nations with a rod of iron,” He is Jesus Christ.

He will use the rod of iron when He returns. Then “the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him (Jesus) … and all the birds were filled with their flesh” (Rev 19:20).  It will be a time of extreme sorrow for believers. They have been praying so much for their loved ones. Now their loved ones are killed. But the pain of the believers will be nothing compared to the sorrow in God’s heart.

HE WAS CAUGHT UP TO GOD.

The male child “was caught up to God and to His throne” (Rev 12:5).  This is His ascension to heaven.  Mark 16:19 reads, “the Lord Jesus … was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.”  Verse 5, therefore, covers the entire period from Christ’s birth to His ascension.

THE WOMAN (REV 12:1-2)

Woman, clothed with the sunWe are now able to identify the woman of verses 1 and 2:

A great sign appeared in heaven:
a woman clothed with the sun,
and the moon under her feet,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars;
and she was with child;
and she cried out,
being in labor and in pain to give birth.
” (Rev 12:1-2)

THE WOMAN BEFORE CHRIST

Since the child she carries is Jesus Christ, she is a symbol of all people in the time before Christ expected the Messiah. She is beautiful in God’s sight, for she is “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Because she is beautiful, and because literal Israel was not always that beautiful, we should not identify her as literal Israel, but as all believers in the time before Christ, both inside and outside Israel, and also prior to the time of Israel.

THE WOMAN AFTER CHRIST

After Jesus was “caught up to God and to His throne,” His mother remains on earth and flees to the wilderness (Rev 12:6, 13-14). “The rest of her children” (children other than Christ) “keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev 12:17).  Now she represents God’s New Testament people. 

BOTH ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH

The mother, therefore, represents God’s people of all ages. She is later associated with the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:9-10), which has “the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel” on its “gates twelve” (Rev 21:14) and the names of “the twelve apostles of the Lamb” on its “twelve foundation stones” (Rev 21:14). See the discussion of the 24 elders for how Revelation merges the church into the things of Israel.

SHE IS ON EARTH AND IN HEAVEN.

In Rev 12:1, John saw her in heaven. Later the woman flees to the wilderness (Rev 12:14). Here she is presented as on earth. In other words, she is literally on earth, but in a sense, she (God’s people) is also in heaven. Compare with Rev 15:2, where “those who had been victorious over the beast” are represented as “standing on the sea of glass,” which is before God’s throne (Rev 4:6).

THE DRAGON (REV 12:3-4)

Great Red DragonThen another sign appeared in heaven:
and behold, a great red dragon
having seven heads and ten horns
His tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.
The dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth,
so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.

(Rev
 12:3-4)

THE DRAGON IS SATAN.

Rev 12:9 identifies the dragon as “the devil and Satan.” It “stood before the woman … so that when she gave birth he might devour her child” (Rev 12:4). Ever since God told the serpent that the seed of the woman “shall bruise you on the head” (Gen 3:15), Satan has been watching, expecting the Messiah, and standing ready to thwart His mission.

THE DRAGON’S SEVEN HEADS AND TEN HORNS

But the dragon has seven heads and ten horns, just like the beast from the sea in Rev 13:1 and the scarlet beast in Rev 17:3. “The seven heads are … seven kings” (Rev 17:9-10) and “the ten horns which you saw are ten kings” (Rev 17:12). The dragon, therefore, also represents the earthly kingdoms through which Satan persecutes God’s people. (For specific identification, see The Seven-Headed Beasts of Revelation.)

JESUS WAS CAUGHT UP TO GOD.

Satan stood ready to devour her child as soon as He was born (Rev 12:4), but Jesus was “caught up to God and to His throne” (Rev 12:5).  This means that Satan was defeated and that Christ won the victory when He came to this earth.

WAR IN HEAVEN

Rev 12:7 mentions the war in heaven briefly:

And there was war in heaven,
Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon.
The dragon and his angels waged war

MICHAEL; THE ARCHANGEL

It is a war between two groups of angels. The name of the leader of God’s angels is “Michael” (Rev 12:7). This name means “who is like God.”  He is mentioned four times in the Bible; mostly resisting evil angels, for example:

Michael is “the archangel” and he argues with the devil “about the body of Moses” (Jude 1:9).

Daniel wrote that, when he saw the angel whom God sent to him with a message, “no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength” (Dan 10:8).  This, therefore, was a mighty angel, but he was delayed for three weeks by “these forces” (Dan 10:13). “These forces,” therefore, are powerful supernatural forces. And the angel said that Michael is the only one “who stands firmly with me against these forces” (Dan 10:13; cf. 12:1).

SATAN AND HIS ANGELS

Michael and his angels wage war against Satan and his angels.  This means that Satan has deceived a large number of God’s beautiful angels to his side.

MICHAEL’S VICTORY

While Rev 12:7 mentions the war in heaven, verses 8 to 12 describe Michael’s victory.

SATANS’ WEAPONS

With what weapons are the war in heaven waged?  The dragon is identified as:

the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan,
who deceives the whole world
” (Rev 12:9)

the accuser of our brethren …
he who accuses them before our God day and night
” (Rev 12:10).

Serpent – “The serpent … said to the woman” (Gen 3:1). The “serpent,” therefore, refers to Satan’s deception of Eve.

Satan – The name Satan means adversary (opponent). He is God’s adversary, but also of all angels and people who side with God.

Deceives – He “deceives the whole world” (Rev 12:9). Deception is one of his key strategies. In other words, he tells lies to get people and angels to do and say the things he wants them to do and say. Jesus said of him, “Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

AccuserHe is “the accuser of our brethren:” He “accuses them before our God day and night.”  Zechariah 3 shows Satan accusing Joshua the high priest of iniquity. Another example is when Satan said that Job fears God only because God protects him (Job) on all sides, but if all of Job’s possessions are taken away, then Job would curse God (Job 1:10-11).

Devil – His role as the accuser is also reflected in the name “devil” (diabolos). This Greek word means “slanderer; false accuser; unjustly criticizing to hurt (malign) and condemn.” The NASB, in a few places, also translates this word as “malicious gossips.”

Satan’s weapons are therefore not physical in nature. He deceives and accuses. See The seven seals verse of Revelation for a discussion.

ARTICLES IN THE SERIES ON REVELATION 12 

    1. Who are the woman, the dragon, the child?
      What is the war in heaven?
    2. When did the war begin and when was Satan thrown out of heaven?
    3. How Christ’s death won the victory in the war in heaven?
    4. They overcame Satan by the word of their testimony (Rev 12:11).
    5. Why did God not make an end of evil immediately after the Cross?

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