Saturday, 13 March 2021
Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. Revelation 13:2
John now takes time to further describe the beast that has risen out of the sea. He does so using apocalyptic imagery seen especially in the book of Daniel. He begins with, “Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard.”
In Daniel 7, a succession of beasts was viewed, representing a succession of world empires that would arise. The third of those beasts, one like a leopard and representing the Greek empire, partially matches these words of Revelation –
“After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.” Daniel 7:6
John next continues with his description, saying, “his feet were like the feet of a bear.” This somewhat matches the second beast, one like a bear and representing the Medo-Persian empire, in Daniel 7 –
“And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’” Daniel 7:5
John’s vision continues with, “and his mouth like the mouth of a lion.” And, again, this partially corresponds to the first beast, one like a lion and representing Babylon, of Daniel 7 –
“The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.” Daniel 7:4
In Daniel’s vision, after these three beasts, there came a fourth terrifying beast which represented the Roman Empire. What is possible is that this future beast being described by John will be a conglomeration of all of these previous empires – a world power which will unite into one terrible whole, centered in Rome.
Or, possibly, the various descriptions of the beast match what this future empire will be like. It will be fast and efficient like a leopard. The empire will be firm and strong like a bear, and it will be boisterous in its attitude like a lion. As it is future, it is hard to be dogmatic. But the symbolism will be perfectly understood once the beast arises. Something similar to what is seen here is described in the book of Hosea –
“So I will be to them like a lion;
Like a leopard by the road I will lurk;
8 I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs;
I will tear open their rib cage,
And there I will devour them like a lion.
The wild beast shall tear them.” Hosea 13:7, 8
The Lord, who is speaking here, may be describing an enemy that he uses to refine and judge Israel. If this is so, Hosea is describing a time of war against the disobedient in Israel. When this period is over, the Lord will have purged them of their wicked ways and will have refined them in the fire of the tribulation. Only after this time of great turmoil and anguish will the Lord return and bring peace to the earth.
This beast then is not an individual, but it will certainly be led by an individual – the antichrist. This is reflected in the next words from John. He says, “The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.” The dragon is Satan, and the beast will be ruled by a leader filled with the power of Satan. He is the lawless one spoken of by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:9. This wicked ruler will be filled with all of the power of Satan and he will unleash immense destruction upon the world. His seat of power will be one of terror and brutality.
Life application: There is enough information about the beast being described by John to give us clues into what it will be like, or of whom it will be comprised, but not enough to definitively reveal everything about it. Once the beast comes on the scene, however, it will be evident to those who are attentive to the prophecy.
One of the constant worries of people concerning these visions is that they will have to endure through the tribulation, and they will have to face what is being described here. For the believer in Christ, this is incorrect. The timeline of the events concerning the church is clear. Those who have put their faith in Christ will be taken at the rapture of the church, prior to the events now being described. Have faith. Trust the word as it is given, and hold fast to the promises of God which come because of the wonderful work of JESUS.
Lord God, when we as humans don’t bend our knee to You, the only other place for us to turn to is wickedness and destruction. Help us to continually keep our eyes, our hearts, and our thoughts on You. Help us to bring others to a saving knowledge of You and Your great deeds. There is a day coming when this won’t be possible, so stir our hearts now. Amen.