(1) The True Identity of the Beast
1 And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. (Revelation 13:1-2)
In order to understand this beast it is first necessary to understand what beasts represent in the Bible. For this we go to Daniel chapter 7 where Daniel saw a vision in which four beasts came up out of the sea. After Daniel describes what he saw, he asked an angel to explain it to him. The angel said:
‘The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth.’ (Dan. 7:17)
It is evident that the beasts represent great military / political kingdoms that will come upon the world, what we call empires. The first beast Daniel saw was like a lion, the second beast like a bear, the third beast like a leopard, the fourth had large iron teeth and ten horns. The beast of Revelation 13 is similar to all four beasts in that it is part lion, part bear, part leopard, and has ten horns. Therefore, the beast of Rev. 13 will be a large and powerful empire.
Empires have the power to do the most harm to the largest number of people, especially God’s people, which is why they are seen as vicious beasts in the Bible. Therefore, the beast of Rev. 13 is not an individual man, called the Antichrist, the final beast is another empire that will rise to power in the Middle East. However, an individual will be leading the empire beast who I refer to as the final Antichrist, since there have been many Antichrists. The Apostle John said the spirit of Antichrist was already in the world during the first century (1 John 4:3).
(2) The Seven Heads of The Beast
Revelation 17 gives us more details about the seven heads:
9 “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. 10 They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. (Rev. 17:9-10)
Even though it says wisdom is needed to figure out the meaning, people quickly jump to the most obvious conclusion, which is not the correct answer. The seven heads of the beast do not represent seven of Rome’s emperors; the seven heads represent empires that have ruled over the Middle East and Europe during the course of history. One of the empires will rise again, which we will learn about in the following pages.
The text says the seven heads have a double meaning; they represent seven mountains and seven kings. The fact that five kings are fallen and one is not yet come, tells us that the kings rule in succession; one after the other. The passage does not mean that five had fallen at the time that John saw this vision. This is one of the reasons why it takes wisdom to understand the meaning.
Notice that the past tense is also used in Rev. 7:14, “these are those that came out of the Great Tribulation.” Are we to believe that the Great Tribulation had already taken place when John wrote Revelation? No, likewise, this passage does not refer to five fallen emperors or even five fallen empires by the first century. Five being fallen merely brings us to the time of the 6th head, which is the head that will rise again.
If the seven heads referred to Roman Emperors of the first century, it would require that Revelation be written in 68 A.D. The five fallen emperors are supposed to be Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero who committed suicide in 68. The next emperor only ruled a few months, as did the next, both in 68. John wrote Revelation in about 96 A.D., during the rule of Domitian, who was the fourteenth emperor. Those who say it refers to Roman emperors ignore the ones who ruled only a few months, because if they count those that ruled a short time, then it messes everything up. Even though the Bible clearly states that one of the heads will rule only a short time, but the short-reigning rulers are skipped over.
All the previous heads of the beast ruled near or bordered the Mediterranean Sea, especially over Asia Minor and Israel. Even though Israel was not an official nation for almost 1900 years, there were Jews still living in the land, and it was still God’s land and his holy city Jerusalem. As far as the Bible is concerned, Jerusalem is the center of the world, which is why the majority of Bible prophecy deals with that part of the world.
If we count all the individual ruling bodies that have existed in that part of the world, there are way more than seven: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, Rome, several Arabic caliphates, Seljuk Turk, Crusader kingdoms, Kingdom of Saladin, Mongol, Ottoman Turk, British, and even more. Often more than one ruled at the same time, side by side, some with many ruling dynasties, and others that were short -lived kingdoms. So what is the answer? First, I believe to be counted as one of the heads they must have ruled over the land of Israel because Israel is the main focus of the Bible.
The Mongols did not rule Palestine or even Syria, so they did not conquer far enough into the region to be counted; likewise the U.S.S.R. did not rule within the Middle East. The Crusader kingdoms were small, mostly encompassing Palestine. But even if you don’t count these kingdoms, there are too many.
We can examine it any number of ways, to exclude one empire or another, like counting all the Islamic-based kingdoms as one, but it is still hard to come up with a definitive list that most people can feel are the right kingdoms without raising many objections. In the end I believe the number 7 gives us the answer.
In the Bible, the number 7 appears more than any other number, from Genesis to Revelation, and it carries much symbolic meaning, which boils down to fullness, completeness. Therefore, I believe the 7 heads of the beast are not to be taken as an exact number, but merely represent the total number of empires that have or will rule over the Mediterranean / Middle Eastern world. Perhaps the seven heads represent the last seven empires. The main heads of the beast are: Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, Rome, Arabic Islamic kingdoms, Ottoman Empire, and the British Empire.
(3) Seventh Head of the Beast
Because there are 7 heads on the beast, many people believe the 7th head of the beast will be the final head, but that is not the case, because Rev. 17 clearly describes an 8th head that will be explained shortly. About the 7th head, Rev. 17:10 says, “but when he does come, he must remain for a little while.”
Since the British Empire was the last empire to rule in that part of the world, and it only ruled there a short time, it must be the 7th head of the beast. The British Empire conquered the Ottoman Empire in WWI and ruled Egypt and the Middle Eastern nations after the war. It remained only a short time because it gradually gave independence to most of its subject nations during the 20th century, thereby ceasing to be a beastly empire (see BK1). At this time there are no empires in any part of the world, in the classical sense. So the beast is currently dead, but will soon come to life again.
Some people may want to argue that the British Empire existed long before it ruled over Egypt, the Middle-East, and Palestine; that is true, but not only did it rule Israel after the Ottoman Empire, it also came into being after the Ottoman Empire came into being and did not last as long as many of the previous heads of the beast.
And it ruled the nations around the Mediterranean and Israel the shortest length of time of all the previous empires. So, it stands to reason that the British Empire is the seventh head that we are told will rule only a short time. Especially since no other empire took its place. The final eighth head of the beast will be one of the former heads, which is why we only see seven heads.
What about the USSR? It came into being in 1917 and only lasted about 74 years; wouldn’t it be the seventh head of the beast? It cannot be one of the heads of the beast for the simple reason that it never ruled over the nation of Israel and never ruled over any Middle Eastern /Mediterranean or Western European nations. Though Satan has had many empires in history, they are not shown to us in Revelation, because the main focus of Rev. is the Middle Eastern / Mediterranean / European region.
Even though the beast will be among the nations that burn America with fire during WW3, the attackers will not be able to conquer and rule over the U.S.A. for centuries the way they conquered and ruled the Christians of the Eastern Roman Empire, from Egypt to the Balkans. Which is why many Christians have historically been, “out of the serpent’s reach” (Revelation 12:14, see Bk1 for a full discussion of this passage).
(4) The Final Eighth Head of the Beast
The next question becomes, what about the next head of the beast? Rev. 17, which will be discussed shortly, says the beast actually has eight heads, not seven, but it only shows seven because the eighth will be one of the previous seven, revived. All the nations that Assyria, Babylon, and Media-Persia ruled over are today Islamic. The same is true of the Ottoman Empire, which was the 6th head.
The nation of Greece is not Islamic, but Greece is today very weak, and barely able to survive as a nation because of extreme economic problems. Even though the four generals who ruled Alexander’s empire were Greek, if you look at a map of all four kingdoms, today those kingdoms are 90% Islamic.
The Roman Empire converted to Christianity in the fourth century and was so large it became divided with two capitals; the city of Rome was the western capital, and Constantinople the eastern. When the Roman Empire supposedly fell, it was actually only part of the western half that fell; the eastern capital continued to rule most of the empire but is referred to by historians as the Byzantine Empire even though it was officially known as the Roman Empire. I refer to it in this book as the Eastern Roman Empire.
(“Byzantine” was a term sometimes used to refer to the Eastern Romans because of Constantinople’s heritage, like the original British and first Americans are known as Anglo-Saxons because of their heritage. And even in the Bible, the Babylonians are called Chaldeans, which is what they were in past centuries.)
The Eastern Roman Empire successfully held back the barbarians, even the Vikings were held back. It ruled the regions of Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Syria, Greece, Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, many islands of the Mediterranean, Asia Minor (Turkey), and part of North Africa. For a time it even ruled most of Italy after the fall of the city of Rome.
The Eastern Roman Empire maintained the Justinian laws which became the basis for the laws of most European nations.
[The Eastern Roman Empire] supervised education and maintained hospitals and asylums for the old, the orphaned, the sick, and the destitute, and imperial legislation as a whole reflected the constant concern of the emperor for the welfare of his subjects. (Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclo., V.4, p.421)
With up to a million inhabitants, Constantinople was the largest and richest city during the Middle Ages and was a major center of trade. But the Eastern Roman Empire was gradually conquered by the Muslims over a period of more than 800 years.
The final Islamic empire was the Ottoman Empire that was defeated in WW I, so if one of the former heads of the beast is going to rise again, it is a virtual certainty that it will be Islamic. The chances of it rising out of Iraq are slim because Iraq is just a boiling caldron of chaos with many different tribal and Islamic factions fighting for control. In Syria, the fighters are trying to topple the ruler, Bashar al-Assad.
Many of the fighters have stated that they want to establish the caliphate. The caliphate was originally in Mecca, then moved to other cities such as Damascus, and Baghdad. So Damascus and Baghdad have long histories as the capitals of Islam. However, the most powerful country in the region is Turkey, and it was the last country to have the caliphate, so the chances are very high that it will be the principle country of the next Islamic empire. Later I will present a lot of evidence that points to Turkey.
As we learned in Book One, Revelation chapter 9 tells us that 4 angels bound at the Euphrates River will be released to kill 1/3rd of mankind. The Euphrates River begins in Turkey and flows through Syria, then through Iraq. So this tells us for a fact, that WW 3 will begin in this region, or at least be started by the people that live in this region.
So if we are talking about a revived empire that is going to wage war with a desire to destroy Jews and Christians, then the final head of the beast can only be a revived Islamic empire, most likely Ottoman. The reason it cannot be a revived British Empire is because if Britain had any interest in having an empire it would not have willingly given independence to most of its subject nations (except Northern Ireland). It is also not trying to reconstitute its empire. But most importantly, it was not killed in warfare like the Ottoman and Babylonian beast-empires were killed, Britain gave up its empire willingly.