We know from the vision of John in Rev. 17 that the Beast “was, is not, and will be.” So … did the Beast of Revelation live and die before?
This is a very interesting question. Let’s examine John’s statement to find an answer.
The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth,whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. (Rev. 17:8)
John’s statement implies or even demands that the Beast existed previously in history. He uses the phrase “was and is not and will come” which is a corrupted description of what Jesus will do that he “was, is, and will come again.” We can speculate when this beast may have been and even whether a former earthly figure may have been possessed by this demon beast.
There have been multiple theories about who or what the Beast was. The primary theory of Roman Antichrist supporters is that he was Nero or another Roman emperor. Some say Abbadon, the destroyer (Rev. 9:11). Some say Antiochus IV of the Seleucid Empire. In fact, the list of candidates is very diverse.
We need to begin by learning as much as we can about the Beast, then perhaps, we can gain clues about his previous identity, the time when “he was.”
The Beast’s Description
The first aspect of the Beast that we need to understand is that he has 3 natures: a demon, a man, and an empire; all in one Beast. We discussed this very confusing 3 part nature in THIS ARTICLE. I recommend starting there if you are not familiar with the Beast’s 3 part nature.
We need to keep this 3 part nature in mind at all times because sometimes the Bible is discussing one nature, sometimes two aspects of his nature, and sometimes all three. This makes for very confusing analysis.
John begins describing the Beast this way:
And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness (desert); and I saw a woman (the Harlot) sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. (Rev. 17:3)
This is actually a very informative verse of scripture. Let’s look at what is revealed:
- First, it is part of a vision. The vision is not necessarily happening at the time of John wrote Revelation (AD 95). It could be a vision of the future or past. The timing of the events in this chapter are key and we will follow them carefully as they reveal much.
- The Beast is in the wilderness or desert. Now the desert has always been symbolic of “sin” and it is where Jesus encountered Satan. The desert is also literal IMO. If the Beast was in Rome, this would make no sense. However, if the Beast was in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, this description would fit perfectly.
- The Beast is scarlet and has Seven Heads and Ten horns. In this way the Beast is the mirror image of the Dragon who is Satan described in Rev. 12 which is red and has 7 heads and 10 horns.
In Rev. 13 we are given more facts about the Beast and his description:
And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. (Rev. 13:1-2)
Again we see the same 7 heads and 10 horns but we learn a little bit more about the Beast.
- It comes out of the sea
- the crowns are on the horns (the dragon’s crowns are on his heads)
- the blasphemous names are on the heads
- the beast is a composite of the Lion, Bear, and Leopard from Dan. 7
The Seven Heads of the Beast
We need to stop here and discuss the seven heads in more detail. The Beast of Revelation is a composite of the Lion, Bear, and Leopard of Daniel 7. Between them these 3 Beast animals have 6 heads which are representative of ancient kingdoms:
Lion = has one head, Babylon
Bear = has one head, Persia
Leopard = had four heads which represent the four kingdoms it was divided into after the death of Alexander the Great: Macedonia (Greece), Asia Minor (Turkey) , Assyria, and Egypt
In Daniel 7, the fourth terrifying Beast has one head which makes the Seventh.
The Blasphemous names on the heads are indicative of how these empires blasphemed God and attempted to defeat God’s plan and God’s people. These seven empires then represent the seven world empires that attempted to thwart God’s plan of redemption and EXACTLY MATCH the heads found in Daniel 7:
- Hellenistic (Greece)
- Roman (Eastern Roman Empire – Asia Minor)
- Islamic Caliphate
These are the seven heads of Satan and of the Beast confirmed by Daniel 7 and by history (the historic empires). Because Dan. 7 exactly matches history this is a very strong confirmation that this interpretation of the 7 heads is correct.
There is a subtle difference between the Dragon (Satan) and the Beast. The crowns are are the Dragon’s heads; all the power and authority rests in the Empires. The crowns are on the Beast’s horns; all the authority rests on the 10 horns in the Beast. In the Beast which is modern, the historic empires are just that: historic. They no longer carry any power.
The meaning of the 7 heads in modern terms is the geography of the Beast Empire. It will include all of those ancient empires. This then equates with the EMPIRE aspect of the Beast.
The Leviathan = the Beast
Isaiah tells us more about this creature or a similar one:
In that day (the Day of the Lord) the Lord will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, with His fierce and great and mighty sword, Even Leviathan the twisted serpent; and He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea. (Isa. 27:1)
We have a match. We know from Rev. 13:1 and Dan. 7:1-2 that the Beast comes out of the sea, and from this passage in Isaiah we see that Leviathan is punished on the Day of the Lord. This can be the demonic beast of Revelation and might be Satan as well. Satan is imprisoned for a thousand years (not immediately killed). But if the the Day of the Lord is 1000 years long, this could be Satan as well.
And according to Psalms, Leviathan has multiple heads!
You crushed the heads of Leviathan; You gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness . . . Do not deliver the soul of Your turtledove to the wild beast.(Psalm 74:14, 19)
Ugaritic (nation near ancient Israel) legends state Leviathan had 7 heads. Again this is a match with the Beast with 7 heads found in Revelation. Both the multiple heads and the use of the term “Beast” is found here in Psalms. I believe this is the first use of “beast” in scripture in reference to the enemy of God’s people who arises in the 70th Week.
In a future article, we will discuss more about what we learn about the Leviathan and how it relates to the Beast. Obviously this is the DEMON aspect of the Beast.
Did the Beast of Revelation live and die before?
Now that we have analyzed the Beast and his description, we are ready to begin to answer this question.
In 2 Thessalonians, Paul makes this very interesting statement:
And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he will be revealed. (2 Thess. 2:6)
Paul was observing that the Antichrist was being restrained at the time he wrote 2 Thessalonians! Rome was in power at that time (around AD 50) and from Paul’s writing we know the Beast was already in the Abyss being restrained. Obviously it was not the Antichrist, the man, being restrained, but the DEMON being restrained.
This is what John speaks of in Revelation:
They (the Beast’s seven heads) are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. (Rev. 17: 10-11)
This is one of the strangest verses in scripture. Part of the problem is the definition of “beast.” Using the three component theory of the Beast’s make-up this means the EMPIRE, the MAN, or the DEMON (or a combination) have been on this earth before and return as the final beast.
If we combine this with Paul’s statement in 2 Thess. 2:6 it appears this Beast was already being restrained in AD 50 (forty years prior to the writing of Revelation.) What does this tell us?
- It tells us the Beast probably cannot be Roman!
- The sixth head of the Beast is the Roman head. This is the head John tells us “one is” as of AD 96. Yet the Beast was being restrained in AD 50! And as of John’s writing in AD 96 the Beast “is not.” It cannot be both “is” and “is not” thus it can’t be the Roman head.
- At least with absolute certainty we can say the Beast was on the earth prior to AD 50. (The only dead Roman Emperors prior to this date were Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and possibly Julius).
This means the Beast “was” prior to the majority of the Roman Empire. Revelation tells us the Beast was one of the first seven kings (“The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven”) and will be the eighth king (the Antichrist) as well. This means the Beast possessed one of the five kings prior to the Romans: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, or Hellenistic. It literally could be any of these kings/kingdoms:
Hellenistic: Antiochus IV
In scripture, Cyrus gave the original command for the Temple to be rebuilt (a righteous act). Isaiah 45 attributes some factors to Cyrus that are usually attributed to Jesus. For this reason (since we are “surmising” or guessing), I think we should eliminated Cyrus as being the possessed King.
Elsewhere in scripture, the AC is called “The Assyrian” and “The King of Babylon.” Additionally “Antiochus IV” is the most direct foreshadow of Antichrist we are given. For these reasons, I think Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, and Antiochus IV are all possibilities. In my mind, however, Antiochus IV is the best guess.
Antiochus and the Antichrist
Antiochus IV was one of the “Kings of the North” mentioned in Dan. 11; a king of the Seleucid Empire. Many commentators consider him to be the “little horn” of Dan. 7 and Dan. 8 as well as the subject of Dan. 11:21-35. Many other commentators believe these passages are foreshadowed by Antiochus but only receive their final fulfillment in the career of Antichrist.
What if these two men will actually be possessed by the same demon: the Beast? This would explain why Daniel’s prophecies seem to apply to both equally. Larry Cockerham has written a wonderful article explaining this in detail saying there are 8 similarities between their careers:
- Both involve times prior to one of the Comings of Jesus
- Both begin as a little horn (a minor political figure)
- Both persecute the people of God
- Both will blaspheme God
- Both will use peace to achieve their aims
- Both will desecrate the Temple with an Abomination of Desolation
- Both will be broken without human intervention
- Both will be demon possessed
This final similarity is the one I want to focus on. If true, it is very likely that the demon that possessed Antiochus was the Beast. Antiochus was considered a “mad man” by those around him. The Jews in fact, had a nickname for him: “Madness made Manifest.” He was incredibly violent and committed horrible atrocities, especially against God’s people. He made Jewish religious customs a capital crime. And Dan. 8:23 even says he will understand “dark sentences.” In total, it is likely that he was possessed by a demonic power.
Antichrist and Mohammed
Is it possible that the DEMON that rises from the Abyss is the Leviathan and the same one that possessed Antiochus? I believe it is. This fits nicely with the scriptural account.
However, Antiochus IV is a relatively unknown character outside of Jewish and Christian circles. Yet the Bible has this to say:
Those who dwell on the earth,whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. (Rev. 17:8)
I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast. (Rev. 13:3)
First of all, this passage tells us that the unsaved will “see” the Beast. They will be able to see the EMPIRE and they will be able to see Antichrist, the MAN, but not the DEMON. So the aspect of the return of an historic empire is certainly in play here. As we discussed above, the Islamic Caliphate (Ottoman Empire), which suffered a fatal head wound in 1924 will return. But will the world wonder when they see that? Will they truly be “amazed?”
The words “wonder” and “amazed” from these two passages are actually the same Greek word THAUMAZO. It carries the meaning of astonishment or marveling. The crowds in Jerusalem “marveled” (THAUMAZO) at the disciples speaking foreign tongues. Will the re-establishment of an Islamic Caliphate “amaze” the world in this same sense? I don’t really think so. It might alarm the world, but not amaze it.
However, what about the MAN, the Antichrist? What if he appears to be healed from a fatal head wound as well? Would this “amaze” or “astonish” the world? Absolutely. This would qualify as a seemingly miraculous event. And this is the reason I think the AC may appear to be healed in this way; that it is the one aspect of “healing the wound” that will astonish the world.
This would certainly qualify as “was, is not, and will come.” At that time, might the Antichrist also claim to be a historic person? This is uncertain. Might he claim to be one of the seven previous kings? I don’t know, however, each of the other two aspects of the Beast (EMPIRE and DEMON) will demonstrate a return of one of the other seven historic empires. And the Antichrist is the most visible and dramatic aspect of the Beast.
I believe there is a very good chance that the Antichrist will claim to be the seventh King (Mohammed) after he appears to be healed. This is the only way that the Antichrist will unite Sunni and Shia. The divide between these factors began over who would be the successor of Mohammed when he died. Only the return of Mohammed himself could solve this divide. In a way this would “heal the wound” of the Beast.
Claiming to be the return of this historic figure would also give the Antichrist the “right” to claim to be a semi-divine being who is worthy of worship as we discussed in this PREVIOUS ARTICLE.
I don’t believe there is direct biblical proof that that AC will claim to be Mohammed, however this indirect proof supports that possibility and is strong enough that I think we should watch for this possibility.
In conclusion, this is one of the strangest portions of prophecy; that the Beast is a return of a previous historic person or empire. There are three aspects to the Beast (DEMON, EMPIRE and the MAN, Antichrist). In my opinion, each will arise as the “return” of a previous portion of the 7 historic empires.
DEMON – return of the demon who possessed Antiochus IV
EMPIRE – return of the Ottoman Empire
ANTICHRIST – possible return of Mohammed