What Are the Two Beasts in Revelation 13?

Obama-is-the-AntChristG. R. Beasley-Murray commented that Revelation 13 is a kind of “satanic trinity” (Revelation, 207). Vern Poythress considers the language of Revelation 13 to be a “counterfeit” of the true Christ: “ kind of pseudo-incarnation of Satan, is a counterfeit unholy warrior opposed to Christ the holy warrior” (Poythress, 410). Greg Beale considers this a “Christological parody” (Revelation, 17). For Beale, the “war against the saints” is a “an ironic parody of the Son of man’s final triumph” and even the number 666 is a parody of the trinity (777) (Beale, Revelation 699).

This is a very common view, and one that is, I believe, an accurate assessment of Revelation 13. The Dragon is the father, who is the power behind an anti-Christ image (the beast from the sea). The beast from the earth is a kind of anti-holy spirit, preforming miracles which support the claims of the first beast.

The first beast has a counterfeit resurrection in the form of a mortal wound that was healed (Rev 13:3). The miraculous character of his healing creates astonishment and followers for him, just as the miracle of the resurrection creates followers of Christ. The beast has ten crowns (13:1), parallel to Christ’s many crowns (19:12).

The relationship between the dragon and the first beast is a parody of the relationship between the Father and the Son in the Gospel of John. While it is not fashionable to see Revelation and the Gospel of John as representing similar theology, it appears to me that Beasts of Revelation 13 relate to the dragon and each other in ways which resonate with the Gospel of John.

First, the dragon gives the beast “his power and his throne and great authority” (13:2). This is the same relationship which John describes in his Gospel between the Father and the Son. In John 5:22–27 the Father gives his authority to the Son in order that he execute judgment.

palin-anti-christ

Second, In addition, those who worship the beast are implicitly worshiping the dragon (Rev 13:4). Jesus states in John 5:23 that those who honor the Son, honor the Father. This is an extremely common theme in the Gospel of John.

 

Third, Both beasts speak with the voice of the dragon (13:11). So too in the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks only what he has heard from the Father (John 7:16-18). In John 5:19-24 the Son can only do what he has seen from the Father.

Fourth, the function of the second beast is to be exercise the authority of the first beast after the near-fatal wound (13:12-13). This beast is not worshiped itself, but does miracles in behalf of the first beast, causing people to worship the first beast. This is not unlike the activity of the Holy Spirit in John 16, who is sent after the resurrection in order to guide the followers of Jesus. The Advocate will not speak on his on authority, but of the one who sent him, the Father. It is perhaps significant that the second beast breathes fire to destroy, in John 20 Jesus breaths on the disciples, giving to them the Holy Spirit.

This list could be multiplied, but these few examples show that the “satanic trinity” is a parody of the relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as presented in John’s gospel. While there is little in the way of exact verbal parallels, this not a serious problem since Revelation rarely quotes any text directly, even when it is certain that the writer is alluding to a previous text. While the writer, as a resident of Asia Minor, may have known John’s theology and incorporated it into his own book, it is also possible that this is a hint that the author behind the Gospel of John also produced Revelation.

Bibliography: Vern S. Poythress, “Counterfeiting In The Book Of Revelation As A Perspective On Non-Christian Culture” JETS 40 (1997): 411-18.

5 thoughts on “What Are the Two Beasts in Revelation 13?

  1. I wrote my paper on this topic so I am pleased to see that I can expand on my analysis a bit more in this blog post and give you a sneak peak as to what I wrote. In my paper, I analyzed the two beasts as being another form of resurrection that we will see in the coming age, or the beasts could also be easily referred as fallen angels who are living in opposition to God as they were cast out of heaven into the earth (Rev. 12:4). Even though this verse comes from verse 12 and what you are speaking of arrives in the next verse I believe it serves well as a nice segway into the discussion of what these apocalyptic figures might mean for us in the coming age. In the article of Emperor worship that was read, I assumed that he was applying most of the statistics to every Roman Emperor as the author seemed to imply that each one of them seemed to carry a different trait that worked well for the points they were trying to get across to us. As we can note from the article the beasts of v. 13 cannot be associated with Rome as the author continued on to say that they believe that is closely tied with v. 17 so now we are left with the question of what is the correlation in this. I am lead to believe that the King he is talking about in v. 13 is closely tied with King Nero as he was the first king to be associated with the persecution of Christians. This is also something I talked much about in my last paper so I look forward to you reading my insights on this subject as I believe Revelation is one of my favorite books to learn about as I would like to think I had fun writing the paper. I wouldn’t want to give too much away as this is the subject for my paper so I will just end this blog post here and let you read my paper.

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  2. I would have to agree that Revelation 13 does seem to describe a kind of parody on the Trinity. Considering the evidence, the parody of a resurrection, the several crowns, and all of the similarities to John, there is little reason to doubt that logic. As for who the two beasts are specifically, there is remarkably little to go on other than mindless conjecture. There is no reason to assume the beasts are active today as any kind of literal person or organization. From an evangelical standpoint we ought to have already been raptured away before these events considering they appear after the seals of Revelation 6 and before the bowls of Revelation 16. Furthermore, if the first beast is the Antichrist, then, without ignoring any possible time lapse in the chronological order, how can he be the first horseman as commonly assumed?

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  3. Like Collin said, it does bear the resemblance of a mockery of the trinity. I have always understood the two beasts to that of the anti-christ and that of Satan. In the Bible there are not many other writings about another pair so evil as these. Like you said as well, it shares resemblance to the worshiping him is also worshiping Satan. The only other person on earth who would have that kind of position would be the anti-christ.

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  4. For years, I have read and understood the beasts of Revelation 13 to be Satan and a man of his choosing who would lead people astray during the years of tribulation. I know that this is just one of many way that this portion of Scripture has been interpreted. As Kreitzer stated, “The use of complex and unusual symbols, often involving bizarre animals and mythological beasts, is one of the most striking features of apocalyptic literature and the one that has occassioned all sorts of interpretations over the years” (Apocalypticism, 62). Reading through this chapter as a parody has been eye-opening for me, and I look forward to further study in this area.

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