1. and he stood upon the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns, and seven heads, and on his horns ten diadems, and upon his heads names of blasphemy.
In Jewish literature of the 1st century the Roman Empire is symbolized by the sea. Thus here we have a description of the Emperor.
Blasphemy is the characterization of Rome common among Christians and Jews. As Titus stood before the altar in Jerusalem in 70 -- before he destroyed the Temple, he is recorded as saying- "wolf, wolf! (barking at God!!!)- you are a king and I am THE king -- come and fight with me!!". It is this arrogant attitude which led the Church to describe Rome as "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 throne, and great authority.
3 And I saw one of his heads as though it had been smitten unto death; and his death-stroke was healed: and the whole earth wondered after the beast;
Note -- the emperor is not dead -- he was just wounded. He is a follower of the devil.
4 and they worshipped the dragon, because he gave his authority unto the beast; and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? And who is able to war with him?
Who can fight the emperor and win? Jesus can!!!
5 and there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and there was given to him authority to continue forty and two months.
6 And he opened his mouth for blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, even them that dwell in the heaven.
7 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and there was given to him authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation.
The apparent victory of the Emperor is to be short lived. He may blaspheme and he may kill and exile some Christians, but he will ultimately lose completely.
8 And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, every one whose name hath not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain.
The book is simply the scroll of ownership. The true believer belongs to God. Those who do not belong to Him will worship anything!
cf. Luke 10:20.
9 If any man hath an ear, let him hear.
10 If any man is for captivity, into captivity he goeth: if any man shall kill with the sword, with the sword must he be killed. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.
That is, God is in charge. The saints must keep this in mind.
11. And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like unto lamb, and he spake as a dragon.
12 And he exerciseth all the authority of the first beast in his sight. And he maketh the eartrship the first beast, whose death-stroke was healed.
This is simply a description of the Emperorís legate, or representative. He travelled throughout the empire and enforced the Emperorís edict of worship.
13 And he doeth great signs, that he should even make fire to come down out of heaven upon the earth in the sight of men.
14 And he deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by reason of the signs which it was given him 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 who hath the stroke of the sword and lived.
15 And it was given unto him to give breath to it, even to the image to the breast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as should not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
16 And he causeth all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free and the bond, that there be given them a mark on their right hand, or upon their forehead;
17 and that no man should be able to buy or to sell, save he that hath the mark, even the name of the beast or the number of his name.
As the legate travelled he was authorized to punish those who refused to worship the Emperor. Those who did were given a "receipt" which validated the fact that they had indeed worshipped at the Emperorís shrine. By possessing this receipt they were allowed to conduct business in the village marketplace.
18 Here is wisdom. He that hath understanding, let him count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man: and his number is Six hundred and sixty and six.
This verse has been greatly misunderstood. One must, to correctly understand this verse, know several things. First, in Jewish writings of the 1st century numbers represented words or ideas. Second, these words or ideas were clear to the audience. John did not intend to pose those who read his book would know right away who he was referring to!! Thus, modern attempts to make the verse apply to Hitler, Kissinger, or Nixon are simply idiotic and misguided. In Pompeii there is an inscription from this era which says "I love her whose name is 545"! Numbers were used of names a great deal in the 1st century. Then whose name is 666? The verse says it is a human number. If the number 7 is the perfect number than the number 6 is the most imperfect number. Thus this man is the most imperfect of all men, in contrast to Jesus who is perfect. Thus, this cipher stands in place of Domitian -- the Roman Emperor who is evil incarnate!
The cipher was used because the Christians would understand it and the Romans, if they intercepted the book, would not. (In fact, the Romans would have misinterpreted the book as severely as many modern Christians do!!).
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