The Deadly Wound
If we now continue with John’s description of the rise of this final world power, the Empire-Beast, we see that his vision continues to parallel Daniel’s almost exactly. John, however adds the additional detail concerning a deadly wound to the Beast that would be healed.
“And I saw one of his heads as though it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed, and all the world wondered after the beast.
“And they worshiped the dragon who gave power unto the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?
“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.
“And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.”
Before we can fully interpret this passage we must remember from the prophecy of Revelation chapter seventeen that the seven heads of the vision correspond to the seven empires of Biblical history. John now tells us that he sees one of these heads endure a deadly wound and then subsequently be healed. He further says that after the healing of this “head” takes place, the entire world will begin to “wonder after” or literally worship the Empire-Beast. It also is no small coincidence that concurrent with these events John sees within the image of the beast, “a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies”. This entire scenario correlates very well with the previous interpretation of Daniel’s vision of the fourth beast. Daniel had originally said that the fourth beast would manifest itself at the end as a group of ten nations (ten horns). He also said that at some point in its brief history, a leader would come out of the ten and uproot a portion of the empire in his rise to absolute power. The Apostle John subsequently predicts that this “uprooting” process of three of the first ten nations will be so devastating for the empire that the confederation will appear to suffer a fatal blow. According to the symbolism within the book of Revelation, this wound will fall upon the seventh “head” of world political history, or in other words, upon the ten-horned confederated form of the fourth world empire. John tells us that it will not only survive the wound but become more powerful than anyone ever dreamed possible. What will seem to be at first a “partly strong and partly broken”, loose association of ten nations will, after being wounded and healed, become a unified empire with the Antichrist himself at its helm. This is exactly what the Lord goes on to tell us in Revelation chapter seventeen. After he provides John with the interpretation for the seven heads upon the Empire-Beast, saying that “five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come”, he continues the prophecy in this manner…
“And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.”
Since we have previously identified all the kingdoms corresponding to the seven “heads” of Biblical history, how is it that suddenly this prophecy now mentions an “eighth head”? What could the eighth head possibly signify if the seven heads on the beast supposedly represent all the empires that were to exist from Egypt’s time all the way up to the time of the end? The answer to this question can be found in the above interpretation of the “death” and “resurrection” of the Empire-Beast. When the final ten-horned beast rises to power, that initial form of the empire will completely fulfill John’s prophecy in Revelation 13:1-2. In its own right, it will be both the fulfillment of the final form of the fourth world empire as described by Daniel’s vision and at the same time it will fulfill the symbolism of the seventh head of John’s prophecy. In reality, then, this evil empire is seen to arise even before the advent of the Antichrist. This is important to understand, because as this Empire-Beast arises out of the raging sea it has 7 heads and 10 horns, but the little horn has not yet come. However, sometime after the beast’s rise, the empire will undergo a radical change. With the revealing of the Antichrist, it actually will be considered a separate kingdom. Instead of a partly strong and partly broken alliance of nations, it will then become a unified monster that will devour the entire earth. In this respect, the final form of the fourth beast (or the seventh head) will actually exist in two very different states—the second stage coming forth out of the former. That is why the Lord says that the eighth “head” (or kingdom) is to be “of the seven”. The second, more powerful stage of the empire will come forth out of the partly strong/partly broken and “wounded” first stage. The seventh head, therefore, represents the ten-horned empire before the Antichrist arrives, and the eighth head is the unified kingdom that results after he comes on the scene. This is a critical aspect of this prophecy to understand because it relates to the transition of the kingdom as it moves to world prominence. The “death” and “resurrection” of the empire will ultimately help pave the way to establishing the absolute dictatorship of the Antichrist. The lack of unity that is predicted to be present in the empire before the Antichrist comes on the scene will suddenly be replaced by a true world-devouring beast after he appears. The next two verses confirm this concept:
“And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, who have received no kingdom as yet, but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
“These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.”
The transformation that occurs among the ten nations after the coming of the Antichrist will be the key to establishing the Empire-Beast as a power to be reckoned with on a world scale. Some commentators who have incorrectly identified the first beast of Revelation 13 as the Antichrist have also wrongly concluded that the prophecy of its mortal wounding somehow indicates that the leader himself will die and subsequently rise from the dead. However, it is the empire which receives the deadly wound, not the man. Conversely, it is the Antichrist who succeeds in “healing” the empire and molding it into one political unit. His seemingly miraculous leadership will be the greatest single force in causing the entire world to “wonder” after the Empire-Beast and swear allegiance to it when it finally arises in new-found unity.
The Duration of the Beast’s Reign
The Bible also is very specific as to how long the Empire-Beast will be allowed to continue after the Antichrist comes on the scene. In Revelation 13:5, John says that the empire will be able to reign supreme and unabated in its power for a period of only 3.5 years (“…and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months”). For those who think the Bible is not specific about anything, you will soon see that the predictions concerning the last seven years of this age are extremely precise. Forty-two months is exactly how long God is going to permit the evil of this blasphemous empire to continue before he does something about it. In the book of Daniel there is even a reference which also hints at this same time period for the life expectancy of the empire. However, in that early prophecy God had him use such figurative language that it would have been difficult if not impossible to interpret it without John’s explanation in the book of Revelation. Daniel had simply said,
“…they shall be given into his hand [i.e. the Antichrist’s] until a time and times and the dividing of time”
One can interpret that statement as meaning that there will be a period of three and one-half “times” representing the reigning history of this last empire. In other words, one “time”, two “times”, and one-half “time” (or the “dividing of time” in the language used here; Daniel however does say “half” a time in Dan. 12:7). Now, from the discussion of Daniel’s prophecy of the “seventieth week” (see Israel Tomorrow) we know that the final seven years of history are often presented as being divided into two equal halves consisting of three and one-half years each (the years being 360 days long to match the Jewish calendar). The three and one-half “times” that Daniel saw as governing the lifespan of the fourth Empire-Beast was therefore a symbolic description for three and one-half years. In this respect, exactly half of the final “seventieth week” correlates perfectly with the 42-month period given by John as well as the three and one-half years given by Daniel. It is amazing how these prophecies fit together so precisely even though they were written down hundreds of years apart. One should be careful to keep in mind that up to this point in John’s prophecy, chapter thirteen of Revelation has primarily focused upon the empire as a whole. The Antichrist has appeared in these passages (and similarly in Daniel’s vision) as merely a significant personage within the Empire-Beast itself (i.e., Rev. 13:1-10). This aspect of the interpretation is important, because many people have incorrectly tried to apply the first ten verses of this chapter specifically to the Antichrist. When this approach is used, the prophecy quickly becomes confusing and the last half of the chapter barely makes any sense. On the other hand, when the beast arising out of the sea in verse one is properly recognized to be an empire appearing after the manner of Daniel’s prophecies, then everything in this prediction begins to fall into place perfectly.
Next: The Empire-Beast Today