1 Then I saw a beast rising out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads. On its horns were ten diadems, and on its heads were blasphemous names. 2 The beast that I saw resembled a leopard, but it had feet like those of a bear, and its mouth was like the mouth of a lion. The dragon conferred on the beast his own power and his throne, as well as great authority.
3 One of his heads appeared to me to have been mortally wounded, but its mortal wound had been healed. The whole world then became fascinated with the beast, 4 and they worshiped the dragon because he had conferred authority on the beast. They also worshiped the beast, saying, “Who can compare with the beast? Who can fight against it?”
5 It was allowed to mouth its haughty and blasphemous words, and it was granted permission to exercise its authority for forty-two months.[a] 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, as well as against his name and his dwelling and all those who live in heaven.
7 The beast was also allowed to wage war on the saints and conquer them, and it was given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. 8 All the inhabitants of the earth will worship it, all those whose names have not been written from the creation of the world[b] in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was slain.
9 Whoever has ears should listen to these words:
10 “If anyone is to go into captivity,
into captivity he will go.
If anyone is destined to be slain by the sword,
by the sword he must be slain.”
This demands patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.
11 A Beast Rises from the Earth.[c] Then I saw another beast, this one rising up out of the earth. It had two horns like those of a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It wielded all the authority of the first beast on its behalf, and it forced the earth and all its inhabitants to worship the first beast, whose mortal wound had been healed. 13 It performed great signs, even making fire come down from heaven to earth in the sight of all.
14 By the signs it was allowed to perform on behalf of the beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth, persuading them to erect an image for the beast that had been wounded by the sword and yet lived. 15 It was permitted to give life to the beast’s image so that it could even speak and cause all those to be put to death who would not worship the image of the beast.
16 It also forced all the people, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be branded on the right hand or on the forehead. 17 No one could buy or sell anything except one who has been branded with the name of the beast or with the number of its name.
18 There is wisdom here. Let anyone who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. The number is six hundred and sixty-six.
- Revelation 13:5 Forty-two months: see note on Rev 11:2-3, 11.
- Revelation 13:8 Written from the creation of the world: some place these words at the very end of the sentence (after the word “slain”). Book of life belonging to the Lamb: see note on Rev 3:5.
- Revelation 13:11 The beast comes probably from Asia, because it was the East that gave rise to so many religious currents of thought that promoted emperor worship. The time has come when pressures are brought to bear and people are seduced. This picture fits in very well with the reign of Domitian, who banished Christians from the empire for refusing to practice emperor worship, the new sign of civic submission. The majority of believers resist, despite pressures and seductions of every kind.
The number of the beast has always been a snare for those who seek, by way of abstruse calculations, to identify the Antichrist with some figure of their own time. The number probably conceals the name of some personage known to readers of that time; the letters of the Greek alphabet and those of the Hebrew alphabet also stood for numbers, as is still the case with the Roman alphabet to some extent. Using gematria, a procedure for interpreting numbers, it was certainly possible to discern in the number 666 the words “Emperor Nero” in Hebrew. If we read “616” instead of “666,” as some manuscripts do, it could be “Emperor Nero” in Greek.