Revelation’s Dragon is the Roman Empire.

OVERVIEW

In the Book of Revelation, there are three beasts that each have seven heads and ten horns. One of them is the Beast that comes out of the Sea, called the Sea Beast in this article. It is the mark of this Beast that people will receive on their foreheads in the end-time. This article identifies the Sea Beast as the fourth kingdom in Daniel 7, which a previous article identified as the Roman Empire.

Daniel 7 presents world history, from the time of ancient Babylon until Christ’s return, by symbolizing four empires as four animals. The fourth has, at first, 10 horns, symbolizing the nations into which the Roman Empire fragmented. Then an 11th horn arises that dominates the other nations, blasphemes God, and persecutes God’s people. It continues until it is destroyed when Christ returns.

To identify the Dragon, this article first shows that Revelation’s beasts are part of the kingdoms in Daniel 7 and that Revelation’s beasts add detail to what we see in Daniel 7. Indications of this include that the Revelation’s beasts have the same number of heads and horns as Daniel’s animals and that both Revelation’s beasts and Daniel’s animals cover the time from before Christ’s birth until His return.

This article then continues to identify the Dragon as the Roman Empire. The Dragon is first mentioned in the context of Christ’s life on earth, where He was put to death by the Roman Empire. Then, by comparing Revelation 13:1-2, which describes the birth of the Sea Beast, to Daniel 7, this article shows that the Dragon is the fourth animal of Daniel 7.

PURPOSE

In the Book of Revelation, there are three beasts that each have seven heads and ten horns:

      • The Great Red Dragon (Rev 12:3);
      • The Sea Beast, whose mark is put on the foreheads of his followers (Rev 13:1, 16-17); and
      • The Scarlet Beast, on which the harlot sits (Rev 17:3).

Given their strange appearances, they cannot be literal beasts. Since all three have seven heads and ten horns, they must be related. Since they are different beasts, they represent different things. This article series explains what these beasts are and how they relate. The purpose of the current article is to identify the Dragon.

DANIEL 7

The Dragon is identified from Daniel 7.

This article series argues that Revelation’s seven-headed beasts are part of the series of animals in Daniel 7 and that Revelation’s beasts explain Daniel’s animals in more detail. The articles on Daniel 7, therefore, form the foundation for these interpretations of the seven-headed beasts. The following is a brief overview of the conclusions of articles on Daniel 7:

The Animals of Daniel 7

Daniel 7 uses four ferocious beasts as symbols for four empires that will arise one after the other:

      • The Lion (Dan 7:4) = Babylonian;
      • The Bear (Dan 7:5) = Medo-Persian;
      • The Leopard with four heads (Dan 7:6) = Grecian (Macedonian) Empire of Alexander the Great;
      • A fourth animal that is described as “dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong” (Dan 7:7) = Roman Empire

The main conclusion is that the fourth animal symbolizes the Roman Empire.

Heads and Horns

While the animals in Daniel 7 in TOTAL have 7 heads and 10 horns, the beasts in Revelation EACH have the same number of heads and horns.

The Ten Horns

While the first three animals have none, Daniel’s fourth animal “had ten horns” (Dan 7:7). This is explained as that, “out of this kingdom (the Roman Empire) ten kings will arise” (Dan 7:24). In other words, while each of the first three kingdoms will be replaced by one single kingdom, the fourth kingdom will fragment into “ten kings” (kingdoms). The number “ten” is probably not literal but signifies “many” (e.g., Dan 1:20).

The Seven Heads

While the other three animals have one head each, Daniel’s third animal, the Leopard, has four heads (Dan 7:6), giving seven in total.

Heads also symbolize kingdoms. For example, the four heads of the Leopard are the four parts of Alexander’s Greek Empire. But heads and horns are different:

      • Heads are the parts of the kingdom, like the parts of the Greek kingdom.
      • Horns are the fragments of a kingdom AFTER it has disintegrated.

One question, answered below, is whether the heads and horns in Revelation are the same as the heads and horns in Daniel.

The Eleventh Horn is the main character.

But the main character and purpose of Daniel 7 is not one of these four empires or one of the ten horns. Most of Daniel 7 describes another power, namely the 11th horn that grows out of the fourth beast (Dan 7:8). Daniel 7 allocates more space to this 11th horn than perhaps to all four animals and ten horns put together. The only reason that Daniel 7 describes the preceding four animals and ten horns is so that the reader can identify that 11th horn.

Initially, 10 horns grew out of Daniel’s fourth beast. The Roman Empire came to its end over hundreds of years as ‘barbarian tribes” assumed control of more and more of its territory. (See, The Fall of Rome.) The ten horns symbolize the nations that were formed in the process.

At the end of that process, an 11th horn grew out of the Roman Empire. It dominates the other kingdoms (Dan 7:20, 24), blasphemes God, and persecutes His people (Dan 7:25). It will be the main enemy of God and of His people of all time. It will become so important that a court will sit in heaven to judge between it and God’s people (Dan 7:26, 9-11, and 14). At the return of Christ, this 11th horn will be destroyed (Dan 7:26, 11), and the everlasting kingdom will be given to the saints (Dan 7:27) and to the Son of man (Dan 7:13-14). This 11th horn will, therefore, be a continuation of the Roman Empire in some way and will exist until the return of Christ. 

There are, therefore, actually, five main powers in Daniel 7:

      • The Babylonian Lion;
      • The Medo-Persian Bear;
      • The Macedonian Leopard;
      • The Roman Dragon; and
      • The 11th Horn of the Roman Empire

REVELATION’S BEASTS

Revelation’s beasts explain Daniel’s animals.

For the following reasons, Revelation’s seven-headed beasts explain the animals in Daniel 7 by giving more detail:

Later prophecies explain earlier ones.

It is a general principle that later prophecies explain and expand on earlier prophecies. Daniel 2 is the base prophecy. Daniel 7 and later Daniel 8 and Daniel 11 expand on that prophecy. Revelation, itself, is grounded on Daniel’s prophecies. Given this principle, Revelation’s beasts provide even further detail of the empires portrayed in Daniel.

They have the same number of heads and horns.

As already noted, while Daniel’s four animals have, in TOTAL, seven heads and ten horns, Revelation’s beasts EACH have seven heads and ten horns: 

This does not mean that the heads in Daniel are the same as the heads in Revelation. Neither are they the same horns. In fact, Daniel’s fourth animal actually has 11 horns (Dan 7:8). (See below for more detail.) But it does mean that Revelation’s beasts are related to Daniel’s animals.

It also means that Revelation’s beasts are the same types of things as Daniel’s animals, namely kingdoms or nations (cf. Rev 17:9-12).

They exist at the same time.

Daniel 7 covers the entire Christian age. The animals cover the time from the ancient Babylonian to the Roman Empires. The 11th horn, which grows out of the Roman Empire, then continues to exist until Christ returns (Dan 7:26-27).

The prophecy of Daniel 2 confirms that the 11th horn will exist until Christ returns. While Daniel 7 shows the four animal-kingdoms as four separate entities, Daniel 2 combines them into a single symbol; the image of a man. Different body parts represent the successive kingdoms. The head of the man is the first (the ancient Babylonian empire). The feet, representing a “divided kingdom” (Dan 2:41) are equivalent to the horns that grow out of Daniel’s fourth animal, including the 11th horn. Then the entire image is destroyed when Christ returns (Dan 2:44).

Revelation’s three seven-headed beasts exist at the same time as Daniel’s animals. They cover the period from before Christ’s birth (Rev 12:5) to His Return (Rev 19:11-20).

The Sea Beast looks like Daniel’s animals.

Revelation’s Sea Beast looks like the four animals of Daniel 7. It “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). These are the four beasts in Daniel 7. This description means that the Sea Beast inherits something from each of the four beasts of Daniel 7, which brings us back to the concept in Daniel 2 that these kingdoms are parts of one single thing.

Conclusion

For these reasons, Revelation’s seven-headed beasts provide more detail about the series of animals in Daniel 7. Exactly what Revelation’s beasts symbolize, and how they relate to Daniel’s animals, will now be discussed.

THE DRAGON

Revelation’s Dragon is the Roman Empire

The Dragon in Rev 12:3

Great Red Dragon

When the dragon is first introduced in Revelation 12 as standing before the woman, ready to devour her Child (that is, Jesus – see Rev 12:4) as soon as He is born, it has seven heads and ten horns (Rev 12:3). Since heads and horns represent “kings” (cf. Rev 17:9-10, 12) and since “kings” symbolize earthly kingdoms (Dan 7:17, 23), the Dragon symbolizes the earthly kingdoms through which Satan works. In the context of the birth of the Messiah (Rev 12:5), the dragon represents the specific earthly empire at the time when Jesus was born, namely the Roman Empire.

The Dragon in Rev 13:2

The context in this verse is the birth of the beast. It arises out of the sea (Rev 13:1). The sea is a symbol for the peoples of the world (Dan 7:3, 17; cf. Rev 17:15). In other words, the beast was formed out of the peoples of the world – it is a human organization.

Rev 13:2 mentions four animals from which the Sea Beast receives something. Three of them are explicitly the first three of the four animals used by Daniel 7 to symbolize a series of kingdoms, namely the lion, bear, and the leopard (Dan 7:3, 5, 6).

The fourth animal in Rev 13:2, which gave the Sea Beast “his power and his throne and great authority” (Rev 13:2), is called a “dragon.”

The Dragon is Daniel’s fourth animal.

For the following reasons, this “dragon” is the fourth animal of Daniel 7:

(a) The dragon has 7 heads and 10 horns (Rev 12:3; 13:1); the same number of heads and horns as the animals of Daniel 7 have in total. This implies that the dragon is part of the series of kingdoms in Daniel 7.

(b) The Sea Beast receives something from each of four animals (Rev 13:2). Since the first three (the lion, bear, and leopard) are the first three animals of Daniel 7, it is implied that the fourth – the Dragon – is the fourth animal in Daniel 7.

(c) Daniel 7 does not say what kind of animal the fourth animal is but describes it as “dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong, and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet” (Dan 7:7). This sounds like a dragon.

(d) Daniel’s fourth animal and Revelation’s Dragon give rise to the same world power. To explain:

Both the 11th horn of Daniel 7 and Revelation’s Sea Beast are described as God’s main enemy (Dan 7:25; Rev 13:6-8) that will only be destroyed when Christ returns (Dan 7:26-27; Rev 19:20).

They are, therefore, one and the same entity. That means that the entities that generate them, namely Daniel’s fourth animal Revelation’s Dragon, are also one and the same entity. This is discussed further in the article that identifies the Sea Beast.

Daniel’s fourth animal is the Roman Empire.

So, the “dragon” of Rev 13:2 is Daniel’s fourth beast, which has already been identified as the Roman Empire. (See – The Animals of Daniel 7) The Dragon, therefore, is a symbol for the Roman Empire,

THE DRAGON IS SATAN.

However, in the context of the war in heaven, the Dragon is explicitly identified as Satan (Rev 12:7-9; cf. 20:2). The reason is that Rev 12 describes a series of wars between God and Satan, beginning before the birth of Christ and ending with the end-time persecution of God’s people, and in every one of those wars, “dragon” is used as symbol for Satan’s forces:

(A) First, the Dragon confronts the woman who is about to give birth to Christ (Rev 12:3-4). This woman is now a symbol for God’s people before Christ’s birth.

(B) Once her Child is born, the Dragon attacks the Child but the Child is “caught up to God and to His throne” (Rev 12:5).

(C) After the Child has been caught up, war breaks out in heaven between the Dragon and Michael and their angels (Rev 12:7).

(D) After the Dragon has been defeated and thrown down to earth, it again attacks the woman (Rev 12:13-14, 6). She now represents God’s New Testament people. (To see why verses 6 and 14 describe the same event, refer to the article on Revelation 12.)

(E) After the Earth has helped the woman (Rev 12:16), the Dragon “went off to make war with the rest of her children” (Rev 12:17). This refers to the end-time war against God’s people.

So, in Revelation 12, “dragon” serves as a symbol for Satan’s forces during the “time and times and half a time” (Rev 12:14), which is the same as the 42 months during which the Sea Beast has authority (Rev 13:5). In other words, in Rev 12, “dragon” also serves as a symbol for the Sea Beast. During the “time and times and half a time,” “dragon” does not represent the Roman Empire.

But Revelation 13:1-2, which describes the birth of the Sea Beast, makes a distinction between the Dragon and the Beast so that the Dragon is the symbol for the Roman Empire and the Beast the symbol for the organization that continued the authority of the Roman Empire after it had fragmented into various nations. See – the next article.


OTHER ARTICLES

FOOTNOTES

  • 1
    The Antichrist in Daniel, which is the same as the beast in Revelation, arises out of the Roman Empire; it is not Antiochus Epiphanes.
  • 2
    Discussion of the prophecy and the four main interpretations
  • 3
    Critical scholars teach that Daniel was written after the events it claims to predict.
  • 4
    The ultimate purpose of this website is to explain the mark of the beast.
  • 5
    Does Revelation describe events chronologically? Must it be interpreted literally? The temple in heaven, Christ’s Return, Hear/See Combinations, and the Numbers in Revelation
  • 6
    There was a book in heaven that not even Christ was able to read because it was sealed up with seven seals. But, by overcoming, He became worthy to break the seven seals and open the book.
  • 7
    This is the apex of Revelation, providing an overview of history from before Christ until the end-time, with emphasis on the end-time persecution.
  • 8
    These plagues will follow after the end-time Christian persecution and will be followed by Christ’s return. What is the purpose of these?
  • 9
    Revelation has three beasts with seven heads and ten horns each; a great red dragon, the beast from the sea, and a scarlet beast.
  • 10
    Babylon is mentioned only once in the first 15 chapters but the seventh and final plague targets her specifically. Then Revelation 17 and 18 explain who and what she is.
  • 11
    The conclusion that Jesus is ‘God’ forms the basis of the Trinity Doctrine.
  • 12
    The decision to adopt the Trinity doctrine was not taken by the church.
  • 13
    Including Modalism, Eastern Orthodoxy view of the Trinity, Elohim, and Eternal Generation
  • 14
    Discussions of the Atonement – How does God do away with sin?
  • 15
    How people are put right with God
  • 16
    Must Christians observe the Law of Moses?
  • 17
    Must Christians observe the Sabbath?
  • 18
    Are the dead still alive and aware?
  • 19
    Will the lost be tormented in hell for all eternity?
  • 20
    And why does God not make an end to all evil?
  • 21
    Key events that transformed the church into an independent religion
  • 22
    When? How? Has His return been delayed?
  • 23
    I do not have any formal theological qualifications and I am not part of any religious organization. These articles are the result of my studies over many years.