During the future tribulation period, the world will be ruled by a godless man presiding over an evil governmental system. The Bible associates this end-times ruler with a terrible beast in Revelation and in Daniel.
In Revelation 13 John sees a nightmarish vision of a dragon and two beasts. The first beast comes out of the sea and receives power from the dragon, or Satan. This beast is a true monstrosity: “It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion” Revelation 13:1–2. Daniel’s vision of the beast is similar in many ways to John’s (Daniel 7:7–8, 19–27). Studying both Daniel and Revelation in tandem is profitable.
In Revelation, the term beast refers to two related entities. Sometimes “the beast” refers to the end-times’ empire. The seven heads and ten horns indicate that the beast will be a coalition of nations that rises to power to subdue the earth under Satan’s control. Later references to “the beast” in Revelation picture an individual—the man who is the political leader and head of the empire.
The beast will receive a deadly wound and be healed of it (Revelation 13:3). He will exert authority over the whole world and demand worship (verses 7–8). He will wage war against God’s people, and he will prevail against them for a time (Revelation 13:7; Daniel 7:21). However, the beast’s time is short: according to Revelation 13:5 and Daniel 7:25, he will only be permitted absolute authority for forty-two months (three-and-a-half years).
The beast in Revelation is the Antichrist, the one who will “oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). He is also called “the man of lawlessness” and “the man doomed to destruction” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). In Daniel’s vision, the Antichrist is the “little horn” that rises from the head of the beast (Daniel 7:8).
When the Lord returns in judgment, He will defeat the beast and destroy his empire (Revelation 19:19–20; cf. Daniel 7:11). The beast will be cast alive into the lake of fire. The identity of the individual who will become the beast of Revelation is not yet known. According to 2 Thessalonians 2:7, this man will be revealed only when God removes the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit from the earth.
It is interesting to compare the differing biblical visions of the kingdoms of the world. In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar dreams of the kingdoms of the world as “a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance” (Daniel 2:31). The prophet Daniel later sees a vision of the same kingdoms, except he sees them as hideous beasts (Daniel 7). In John’s vision of the final worldly kingdom, the empire is portrayed as a grotesque and misshapen beast. These passages present two very different perspectives on the kingdoms mankind builds. Man sees his creations as imposing monuments and works of art fashioned of valuable metals. However, God’s view of the same kingdoms is that they are unnatural monsters. And the beast of Revelation will be the worst of them all.