We have, in this chapter, a further discovery and description of the
church's enemies: not other enemies than are mentioned before, but
described after another manner, that the methods of their enmity may
more fully appear. They are represented as two beasts; the first you
have an account of
&c. By the first some understand Rome pagan, and by the second Rome
papal; but others understand Rome papal to be represented by both these
beasts, by the first in its secular power, by the second in its
The First Beast.
A. D. 95.
1 And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up
out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his
horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.
2 And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his
feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of
a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and
3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and
his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the
4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the
beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto
the beast? who is able to make war with him?
5 And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things
and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty
and two months.
6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to
blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in
7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to
overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and
tongues, and nations.
8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose
names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from
the foundation of the world.
9 If any man have an ear, let him hear.
10 He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he
that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here
is the patience and the faith of the saints.
We have here an account of the rise, figure, and progress of the first
beast; and observe,
1. From what situation the apostle saw this monster. He seemed to
himself to stand upon the sea-shore, though it is probable he
was still in a rapture; but he took himself to be in the island
Patmos, but whether in the body or out of the body he could not
2. Whence this beast came--out of the sea; and yet, by the
description of it, it would seem more likely to be a land-monster; but
the more monstrous every thing about it was the more proper an emblem
it would be to set forth the mystery of iniquity and tyranny.
3. What was the form and shape of this beast. It was for the most part
like a leopard, but its feet were like the feet of a bear and
its mouth as the mouth of a lion; it had seven heads, and ten
horns, and upon its heads the name of blasphemy: the most horrid
and hideous monster! In some part of this description here seems to be
an allusion to Daniel's vision of the four beasts, which represented
the four monarchies,
&c. One of these beasts was like a lion, another like a bear, and
another like a leopard; this beast was a sort of composition of those
three, with the fierceness, strength, and swiftness, of them all; the
seven heads and the ten horns seem to design its several powers; the
ten crowns, its tributary princes; the word blasphemy on its forehead
proclaims its direct enmity and opposition to the glory of God, by
4. The source and spring of his authority--the dragon; he gave him
his power, and seat, and great authority. He was set up by the
devil, and supported by him to do his work and promote his interest;
and the devil lent him all the assistance he could.
5. A dangerous wound given him, and yet unexpectedly healed,
Some think that by this wounded head we are to understand the
abolishing of pagan idolatry; and by the healing of the wound the
introducing of the popish idolatry, the same in substance with the
former, only in a new dress, and which as effectually answers the
devil's design as that did.
6. The honour and worship paid to this infernal monster: All the
world wondered after the beast; they all admired his power, and
policy, and success, and they worshipped the dragon that gave
power to the beast, and they worshipped the beast; they paid
honour and subjection to the devil and his instruments, and thought
there was no power able to withstand them: so great were the darkness,
degeneracy, and madness of the world!
7. How he exercised his infernal power and policy: He had a mouth,
speaking great things, and blasphemies; he blasphemed God, the name of
God, the tabernacle of God, and all those that dwell in heaven; and he
made war with the saints, and overcame them, and gained a sort of
universal empire in the world. His malice was principally levelled at
the God of heaven, and his heavenly attendants--at God, in making
images of him that is invisible, and in worshipping them;--at the
tabernacle of God, that is, say some, at the human nature of the Lord
Jesus Christ, in which God dwells as in a tabernacle; this is
dishonoured by their doctrine of transubstantiation, which will not
suffer his body to be a true body, and will put it into the power of
every priest to prepare a body for Christ;--and against those that
dwell in heaven, the glorified saints, by putting them into the
place of the pagan demons, and praying to them, which they are so far
from being pleased with that they truly judge themselves wronged and
dishonoured by it. Thus the malice of the devil shows itself against
heaven and the blessed inhabitants of heaven. These are above the reach
of his power. All he can do is to blaspheme them; but the saints on
earth are more exposed to his cruelty, and he sometimes is permitted to
triumph over them and trample upon them.
8. The limitation of the devil's power and success, and that both as to
time and persons. He is limited in point of time; his reign is to
continue forty-and-two months
suitable to the other prophetical characters of the reign of
antichrist. He is also limited as to the persons and people that he
shall entirely subject his will and power; it will be only those
whose names are not written in the Lamb's book of life. Christ
had a chosen remnant, redeemed by his blood, recorded in his book,
sealed by his Spirit; and though the devil and antichrist might
overcome their bodily strength, and take away their natural life, they
could never conquer their souls, nor prevail with them to forsake their
Saviour and revolt to his enemies.
9. Here is a demand of attention to what is here discovered of the
great sufferings and troubles of the church, and an assurance given
that when God has accomplished his work on mount Zion, his refining
work, then he will turn his hand against the enemies of his people, and
those who have killed with the sword shall themselves fall by the sword
and those who led the people of God into captivity shall themselves be
made captives. Here now is that which will be proper exercise for
the patience and faith of the saints--patience under the prospect
of such great sufferings, and faith in the prospect of so glorious a
The Second Beast.
A. D. 95.
11 And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and
he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.
12 And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before
him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to
worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.
13 And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down
from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,
14 And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of
those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the
beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should
make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and
15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast,
that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as
many as would not worship the image of the beast should be
16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor,
free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their
17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the
mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the
number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his
number is Six hundred threescore and six.
Those who think the first beast signifies Rome pagan by this second
beast would understand Rome papal, which promotes idolatry and tyranny,
but in a more soft and lamb-like manner: those that understand the
first beast of the secular power of the papacy take the second to
intend its spiritual and ecclesiastical powers, which act under the
disguise of religion and charity to the souls of men. Here observe,
I. The form and shape of this second beast: He had two horns like a
lamb, but a mouth that spoke like the dragon. All agree that
this must be some great impostor, who, under a pretence of religion,
shall deceive the souls of men. The papists would have it to be
Apollonius Tyranæus; but Dr. More has rejected that opinion, and fixes
it upon the ecclesiastical powers of the papacy. The pope shows the
horns of a lamb, pretends to be the vicar of Christ upon earth, and so
to be vested with his power and authority; but his speech betrays him,
for he gives forth those false doctrines and cruel decrees which show
him to belong to the dragon, and not to the Lamb.
II. The power which he exercises: All the power of the former
he promotes the same interest, pursues the same design in substance,
which is, to draw men off from worshipping the true God to worshipping
those who by nature are no gods, and subject the souls and consciences
of men to the will and authority of men, in opposition to the will of
God. This design is promoted by the popery as well as by paganism, and
by the crafty arts of popery as well as by the secular arm, both
serving the interests of the devil, though in a different manner.
III. The methods by which this second beast carried on his interests
and designs; they are of three sorts:--
1. Lying wonders, pretended miracles, by which they should be deceived,
and prevailed with to worship the former beast in this new image or
shape that was now made for him; they would pretend to bring down fire
from heaven, as Elias did, and God sometimes permits his enemies, as he
did the magicians of Egypt, to do things that seem very wonderful, and
by which unwary persons may be deluded. It is well known that the papal
kingdom has been long supported by pretended miracles.
2. Excommunications, anathemas, severe censures, by which they pretend
to cut men off from Christ, and cast them into the power of the devil,
but do indeed deliver them over to the secular power, that they may be
put to death; and thus, notwithstanding their vile hypocrisy, they are
justly charged with killing those whom they cannot corrupt.
3. By disfranchisement, allowing none to enjoy natural, civil, or
municipal rights, who will not worship that papal beast, that is, the
image of the pagan beast. It is made a qualification for buying and
selling the rights of nature, as well as for places of profit and
trust, that they have the mark of the beast in their forehead
and in their right hand, and that they have the name of the
beast and the number of his name. It is probable that the
mark, the name, and the number of the beast, may all signify
the same thing--that they make an open profession of their subjection
and obedience to the papacy, which is receiving the mark in their
forehead, and that they oblige themselves to use all their interest,
power, and endeavour, to promote the papal authority, which is
receiving the mark in their right hands. We are told that pope
Martin V. in his bull, added to the council of Constance, prohibits Roman
catholics from suffering any heretics to dwell in their countries, or
to make any bargains, use any trades, or bear any civil offices, which
is a very clear interpretation of this prophecy.
IV. We have here the number of the beast, given in such a manner
as shows the infinite wisdom of God, and will sufficiently exercise all
the wisdom and accuracy of men: The number is the number of a
man, computed after the usual manner among men, and it is 666.
Whether this be the number of the errors and heresies that are
contained in popery, or rather, as others, the number of the years from
its rise to its fall, is not certain, much less what that period is
which is described by these prophetic numbers. The most admired
dissertation on this intricate subject is that of Dr. Potter, where the
curious may find sufficient entertainment. It seems to me to be one of
those seasons which God has reserved in his own power; only this we
know, God has written Mene Tekel upon all his enemies; he has
numbered their days, and they shall be finished, but his own kingdom
shall endure for ever.
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'Revelation' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".