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Chapter 12

Is the First Beast of Revelation 13 the Papacy?


This chapter reads like a detective story, with clues being discovered and evaluated in order to establish beyond any reasonable doubt the identity of the first beast of Revelation 13.

Our detectives will be Scripture and history. We follow Evangelist Austin Cooke’s clues.

Clue 1 — The book of Daniel identifies beasts as kingdoms. "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings [kingdoms], which shall arise out of the earth." (Daniel 7:17) "The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth." (Daniel 7:23) Thus the first beast of Revelation 13 is undoubtedly a political entity. The Papacy is eminently political. It has the most extensive political and diplomatic ties in the world.

Clue 2 — Revelation 13:1 informs us that this first beast rose up "out of the sea." What significance does this imply? Once more, as so often happens, Scripture rescues us from our uncertainty.

And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. (Revelation 17:15)

Thus this power had to arise in a well populated part of the world. The Mediterranean region where the Papacy arose is well populated.

Clue 3 — In Revelation 17 we discover a beast which also contains seven heads.

So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. (Revelation 17:3)

This beast shares the same characteristics as the first beast of chapter 13. The beast in Revelation 17 is further elucidated.

And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. (Revelation 17:9—11)

Before we cease our search in despair, let us remember that these seven heads symbolize mighty empires which at their zeniths have led the world in opposition to the pure faith of God. Clearly one of these powers will be superseded or destroyed and will reemerge to unite with the seventh power in a terrifying coalition. Thus the eighth head will return to the world arena when the seventh will emerge, which will exert its power for a short period as compared with the preceding six. Prophecy sets forth seven prominent symbolic beasts. The first was the lion (Daniel 7:4) which symbolized Babylon. The rebellion of Babylon commenced with its founder, Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah.

And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before [against] the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babylon. (Genesis 10:8—10, margin)

Thus rebellion began shortly after the Noachian Flood, for Nimrod was Noah’s great-grandson.

As we have seen, Daniel 7 also brings to light three other beasts: the bear (Medo-Persia), the leopard (Greece) and the indescribable animal (Rome). These, with Babylon, are the first four heads.

The fifth head represents the first beast of Revelation 13 for it is synonymous with the little horn which arose in succession from Imperial Rome. It held power for 1260 years, from 538—1798.

Let us spend a little time examining the status of these first five heads. We are told that at the time referred to in the prophecy these "five are fallen" (Revelation 17:10). The verse goes on to state, "one is, and the other is not yet come."

Some careful Bible students assumed that the one that "is" must be Imperial Rome, since that power ruled when John was given this prophecy in vision. Such divide Rome into two eras—Republican Rome is cited as the fifth head then fallen, and Imperial Rome as the head that "is" and suggest that the head that "is not yet come" is Papal Rome.

This explanation suffers from a number of defects. First, Rome in Daniel 7 is represented as a single beast, not two beasts. Further, the seventh beast "must continue a short space." One thousand two hundred and sixty years could never be described as a short space.

The basic error in this interpretation is that the time that "is" is not contemporaneous with the life of the apostle John. The prophecy itself provides its own setting. It is set at the time of the judgment of the great whore.

And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters. (Revelation 17:1)

The great whore is set forth in graphic terms in chapter 17.

So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition. (Revelation 17:3—8)

Here we see the dual nature of this beast of Revelation 13 and 17. Scripture has shown that a beast represents a political power. Similarly the Bible presents ecclesiastical powers as women. Those which follow God are represented as pure women or virgins. Thus Paul in his second letter to the faithful in Corinth expresses his desire for the purity of the church in such terms.

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2, 3)

The same sentiment is portrayed in Paul’s epistle to the believers at Ephesus. Here he portrays his vision for that church as a pure wife.

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25—27)

On the other hand apostate churches are defined as harlots or whores. When the Jewish church went into apostasy and pagan worship just prior to the Babylonian captivity, Jeremiah chapter 3 described the Jewish church in such terms—"thou hast played the harlot with many lovers;" (verse 1) "thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness;" (verse 2) "thou hadst a whore’s forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed;" (verse 3) "The Lord said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot." (verse 6)

Thus the little horn of Daniel 7 and the first beast of Revelation 13 are representations of the same power. The little horn of Daniel 7 and the first beast of Revelation 13 both symbolize a mighty power which is not only political but also ecclesiastical.

As we have seen, Revelation 17:1 sets the prophecy in the days of this whore, not in the days of the apostle John. In a very real sense judgment was to come upon the great whore (the first beast, in political terms) in the year 1798 when the 1260 years of dominance was to cease. However, ultimate judgment will take place prior to Christ’s return and subsequent to the millennium. (See chapter entitled "The Final Deadly Wound.")

Thus the head that "is" was the power which rose in mighty opposition to the true faith of Christ and effectively replaced the little horn (first beast of Revelation 13) as the dominant force opposing pure Christianity. It was the sixth head that "is."

This sixth head power is also represented by a beast. For some reason this beast receives much less attention than the others, yet it is no less significant. It comes to our notice in Revelation 11:7.

But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. (Revelation 11:2, 3)

Here the 1260-day, 42-month (30 x 42 = 1260) period of rule of the first beast of Revelation 13 is mentioned twice. Only two witnesses during this long period stood against the total obliteration of God’s faith on earth. Christ Himself declared the Scriptures to be the truth which testified of Him. They are His witnesses—the Old and the New Testament.

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. (John 5:39)

A massive effort to destroy these two witnesses would signal the rise of the sixth head—the head that "is" at the time of the setting of the prophecy of Revelation 17. The beast which represents this power is graphically described in Revelation chapter 11.

And when they [the Old and New Testaments] shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. (Revelation 11:7—9)

Notice, this beast arises when the two witnesses complete the period of their testimony during the rule of the little horn—that is the year 1798. Second, an attempt lasting a period of three and one-half prophetic days (three and one-half literal years) would be made around this time to destroy Scripture by a power which the Bible describes as Egypt and Sodom—the epitome of paganism and defiance of God. Remember that the Pharaoh of Egypt had declared, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go" (Exodus 5:2). Thus this sixth head was an atheistic power.

On November 23, 1793, "The Convention [of France] . . . declared the abolition of religion." (Hultan, Age of Reason, p. 256)

The Bible was outlawed. Bonfires were erected to destroy God’s Word. Some, in contempt of the Bible, tied copies to donkeys’ tails. But on June 17, 1797, three and one-half years later, the French National Assembly, unaware that God had spoken limiting this destruction of His Word to three and one-half years, restored religious toleration and in so doing lifted its prohibition of the Bible. (See W. M. Sloan, French Revolution and Religious Reform, p. 229 and E. de Pressence, The Church and the French Revolution, Book 3, Chapter 3)

For the first time in history a nation had decreed that there was no God of any sort and deluded citizens danced in the streets of Paris for joy—what abject blindness! Men and women apparently were satisfied with a few paltry years of life on this earth—their blessed "hope" being a death of eternal oblivion, and all this in the nation that the Papacy had oft times referred to as her elder daughter!

The beast of Revelation 11:7 was not just a philosophy or a "religion" of atheism. It was a political entity as indicated by its representation as a symbolic beast.

The political arm of atheism emerged and grew, as men such as Karl Marx in the nineteenth century, and later Lenin studied the French Revolution. By 1917, Communism, political atheism, the spirit which had been troubling Europe throughout the nineteenth century, seized power in Russia. It spread rapidly to Eastern Europe, Asia, South America, the Caribbean, Central America and Africa. Communism became a mighty worldwide force against the true church of God.

But the sixth head was not to be the last. Its power was to cease, for there was to be one final head, the seventh. This seventh head will be revealed in the chapter entitled, The Second Beast of Revelation 13.

This extensive digression has served to demonstrate that the first beast of Revelation 13 ruled as the fifth head between imperial Rome and political atheism, which reached its crescendo in worldwide Communism. It was the fifth of the seven powers through the ages which powerfully opposed gospel truth.

The Papacy is the culmination of all the other six preceding powers and therefore appropriately displays all seven heads.

Clue 4 — The first beast of Revelation 13 arose among the ten horns and these horns were symbolized upon his head. Thus it was a Western European power. Significantly, the Papacy arose in Western Europe.

Clue 5 — The presence of the crowns upon the ten horns signifies that the ten Western European tribes were ruling at the time of the Papacy’s emergence. We have confirmed this fact in the previous chapter entitled, The First Beast of Revelation 13.

Clue 6 — The fact that the Papacy possessed features of the lion, bear, leopard, and the fourth undesignated beast of Daniel 7 links it in direct succession and purpose to those powers.

Clue 7

And the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. (Revelation 13:2)

As we have seen, the transfer of the imperial seat from Rome to Constantinople in 330 left a vacuum of power in Rome which was filled by the Papacy. The Roman Catholic historian Francis P. C. Hays rightly stated,

When the Roman Empire became Christian and the peace of the church was guaranteed, the Emperor left Rome to the Pope, to be the seat of authority of the Vicar of Christ, who should reign there independent of all human authority, to the consummation of ages, to the end of time. (Papal Rights and Privileges, 1889, pp. 13, 14)

Dr. Alexander C. Flick stated in confirmation,

The removal of the capital of the empire from Rome to Constantinople in 330 left the Western Church particularly free from imperial power, to develop its own form of organisation. The Bishop of Rome, in the seat of the Caesars, was now the greatest man in the West, and was soon forced to become the political as well as the spiritual head. (The Rise of the Medieval Church, page 168, emphasis added)

Clue 8 — This power certainly did become a universal power. The very name catholic means universal. The worldwide influence of the Papacy is apparent for all to see today.

Even if we ceased our examination of the criteria at this point, any fair minded individual would concede that the Papacy alone meets the criteria. But other evidence is on offer, producing further confirmation.

Such confirmation is not presented in a sense of Protestant triumphalism. Absolutely not! Roman Catholics are precious in God’s sight. As with those who are Protestants and have departed from pure Christianity, Christ died for all mankind in the act of the greatest demonstration of love in the history of the universe. His call to all of us is,

Yet return again to me, saith the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:1)

This is why God expended so much effort in ensuring that none would fail to understand His urgent plea,

Come out of her [Babylon], my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. (Revelation 18:4)

We are mindful that our ancestors, the Standishes of Lancashire in England, remained loyal to Rome at the time of the Reformation. The Lancashire town of Standish, from which our surname was derived, was a hotbed of Jacobean sympathy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when efforts were made to restore a Roman Catholic to the throne of England. All Standishes have descended from Thurston Standish, who adopted the surname in the twelfth century. One of our relatives, the Roman Catholic Bishop of St. Asaph in Wales, Henry Standish, preached in the court of King Henry VIII and was an inquisitor in the sixteenth century.

We possess Roman Catholic genes, and very zealous ones at that. But God rather calls us to zeal for His truth.


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