God regards the kingdoms of men who don’t honour Him, as no better than ‘beasts’ – they are ‘kingdoms of the earth’ in contrast to ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’ –
The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. Dan 7:17
Keeping this in mind helps us understand the beast of Revelation 13:21 where we are given a riddle to solve
Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man (Footnote NIV – is humanity’s number). That number is 666.
Revelation is perhaps the most Jewish book in the Bible. Much of its imagery is found in the Old Testament.
Revelation 13 presents us with the image of a dreadful beast, resembling a leopard with 7 heads, 10 horns, the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion
I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. Rev 13:1-2
This beast with 7 heads and 10 horns morphs its way through Revelation – the horns and heads remain the same number. Chapter 17 identifies the heads in 2 ways – 7 mountains and 7 kingdoms. Of the kingdoms, 5 have fallen – one is (at the time Revelation was written) – one is yet to be, there is even an eighth which will be one of the 7 revived (latter day Assyrian?). There are also horns which receive crowns in the last days. A strange looking beast indeed.
This beast has grown out of the conglomerate of the beasts of Daniel 7 where we find a leopard, a bear and a lion having rule over Israel. It is well accepted that they were symbols for Babylon, Medo/Persia and the Greeks. There was also a 4th dreadful beast corresponding to the Romans who trampled Israel under foot – out of which 10 horns emerge and one horn which comes against Israel a final time and will also trample Israel underfoot.
The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it. Dan 2:7
And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’ Dan 7:5
There before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule.
The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings… The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time. Dan 7:23-25 This was the kingdom that scattered the Jews– and trampled them under foot. It morphs into the beast of Revelation with 10 horns. During the days of those kings Israel will again be trampled underfoot until they turn to Jesus who will return and save them.
Hadrian crushing enemy under-foot
UNDER FOREIGN RULE – The beasts of Daniel 7 correspond to the image of Daniel 2 which is about Israel under foreign rule in their own land. When they self-rule (Hasmoneans) and when they are scattered from the land & excluded from Jerusalem (by Hadrian) there are gaps in the image. The foreign rule during the days of the 10 toes IS STILL FUTURE. At present the Jews are back in their land but not yet under foreign rule (time of final punishment Ezek 35:5).
This image is not about the continuous history of the church – it’s about the Jews time in captivity – under foreign rule. It is about the curses of Deut 26 – 28 for not following God, described further in Hosea 13:7-9
I will be like a lion to them, like a leopard I will lurk by the path. Like a bear robbed of her cubs,I will attack them and rip them open; like a lion I will devour them— a wild animal will tear them apart. “You are destroyed, Israel, because you are against me, against your helper.”
After their rule by foreigners they still didn’t turn to God and were scattered a final time by Hadrian – to be re-gathered in the last days. This beast-like domination of Israel by foreigners is the context of the Beast of Revelation 13.
We are told the person with insight can calculate or ‘count’ the number of the beast
Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast Rev 13:21
Adding up the years of Israel under foreign rule gives us a possible answer to this riddle. It begins with the ’70 years for Babylon’ in 609 BCE when they defeated the Assyrians at the battle of Harran and ruled over the remnants of Israel. At the same time – 609 BCE – Egypt controlled Judah. 609 BCE was a pivotal year – Josiah, the last good king died in the valley of Megiddo, Judah joined Israel under foreign rule, Israel went from being ruled by Assyria to being ruled in captivity by Babylon.
609 – 605 BCE Egypt rules Judah 4 years
Babylon rules scattered Israel with
capture of Assyrians Jer 50:17
605 – 539 BCE Babylon rules 66 years
539 – 332 BCE Medes/Persians 207 years
332 – 140 BCE Greeks 192 years
63BCE – 135 CE Romans 197 years (Adjustment for no year zero)
TOTAL 666 years
This period of 666 brings us to the time the Jews were scattered – 666 years under foreign rule in the land of Israel.
The ‘BEAST’ morphs its way through the Bible as The Kingdoms of men – Babylon, Medes/Persians, Greeks, Romans etc. Each ‘HEAD’ of the conglomerate beast in Revelation is itself a ‘beast’ – (See Revelation – The Time is at Hand).
We are either part of God’s heavenly kingdom, or part of the earth’s beastly kingdom –
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” Rev 22:14-15
The number of the Beast is associated with those who are caught up in – or who worship – the Kingdoms of Men. Those who worshiped Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image bowed down to an idol which measured 60 x 6 – They were told to ‘worship the image or be killed’
In similar language we are told in Revelation 13 that the beast demands we worship it’s image or be killed
“The image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.” Rev 13:14
Israel spent 666 years under foreign rule until the time they were scattered. Because they ‘worshipped the nations’ – or took on their ways – God gave let them be by ruled by them.
God wants us to know the measure of the beast just as he wants us to know the measure of the bride. The ‘New Jerusalem’ comes out of heaven – described in Rev 21:16
“The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits thick.”
God is not actually concerned with literal measurements – He’s concerned with the character of people. We will be measured and judged and found to be part of the BEAST or part of the BRIDE.
“Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of humanity.” Rev 13:18
The final part of the conglomerate beast of nations who take Israel into captivity, is during the days of the 10 crowned horns of the beast. We are told this captivity will be for ‘one hour’ and we can further ‘count’ the number of the beast by discerning who these 10 crowned horns are. A good place to start is Pslam 83.