Chapter 13 begins with a very colorful, almost overpowering, vision showing an overview of the political system that Satan works through.
There is just enough given here to connect this with the Daniel 2 and 7. What arises in Revelation 13 actually has its beginnings long before Jesus Christ, all the way back to Nimrod, showing a definite time progression. This is the system that rears its head at the end time, but the vision is given so that we will understand that this is the system that Satan has always worked through.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church
For many years, we have maintained that a great power, which the Bible calls "the Beast," will rise out of Europe as the last reincarnation of the Roman Empire (Revelation 13:1-10; 17:1-13). As described in Daniel 2:40-43, it has ten "toes," composed of iron and clay and divided on two "feet" - Eastern and Western Europe, we have interpreted - as the Roman Empire was similarly divided. This Beast power would dominate the world politically and militarily (Daniel 11:36-39), bringing on the "time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time" (Daniel 12:1).
Present-day Europe, however, appears particularly unqualified for such a role, which opens up a few possibilities:
1. The Beast is not European. Our long-held understanding is hard to toss aside because the biblical clues seem to fit the Europe-based Roman and Holy Roman Empires so squarely. If Europe or the EU is not the Beast power, then it must surely have a European component.
2. Christ's return is farther off than we think. Europe is so weak - militarily, in particular - that it could take years for its war machine to grow to world domination. In particular, Europe is in no shape to defeat the U.S., a present necessity for world hegemony.
3. Something other than Europe will destroy the U.S., and the Beast will fill the power vacuum. A few nuclear bombs or other weapons of mass destruction - possibly terrorist-related - might cut America down to size (Ezekiel 7:1-9). Europe could then appropriate NATO assets abroad and become a superpower overnight.
4. The U.S., originally colonized and founded by Europeans, will become a part of the Beast power, supplying its military might. Many have wondered if any Israelite country would join with the Beast, especially since the prophecies seem to suggest it is a Gentile empire, like Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. However, the nations of Israel today believe they are Gentiles and function as Gentiles in many respects, meaning it is not beyond the realm of possibility biblically (see Romans 9-11).
Other possibilities surely exist, and in this time of uncertainty, there is no way to determine whether any of these are real. Such is the character of prophecy. We are assured, however, that, "Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
A Growing Divide
The similarity between Revelation 13:1 and Revelation 12:3, 9, show a direct relationship between the dragon, viewed in heaven in Revelation 12, and the beast rising on earth. This relationship between these two is further confirmed in Revelation 13:4: "And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast," showing that the beast on earth receives its power from the dragon.
There is another commonality: both the dragon in heaven and the beast on earth have seven heads and ten horns. But there are two differences. One is in the number of crowns—seven on the dragon, ten on the beast. The second is that the crowns on the dragon are on the heads, while the crowns on the beast are on the horns.
It is unclear what these differences mean, but they may reveal a relationship between the beast of Revelation 13 and the beast of Daniel 7. The beast in Revelation 13 is a further illustration of the fourth beast of Daniel 7, with its ten horns—the ten horns representing ten kings who will be part of the Beast and present at Christ's return.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 1)
Revelation is largely written in symbols. When used as a metaphor in the Bible, water can represent good or bad realities. Especially in large amounts, it can represent masses of people. Thus in this verse, the Beast is understood to be rising either from a heavily populated area or from the majority of all dwelling on earth.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Flood Is Upon Us!
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Revelation 13:1:
1 Samuel 28:11-14