PMW 2018-005 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
The beast of Revelation is a favorite theme of “prophecy experts.” Unfortunately, they generally do not allow John to establish the principles for the beast’s interpretation in Revelation, preferring instead the news media and radio evangelists. In this article I will mention four key principles that must be kept in mind to reduce the field to biblical proportions, you might say. As is evident from the history of the interpretation of 666, we certainly need something to confine our thinking to the realm of the reasonable.
The necessary limiting principles for analyzing the identity of John’s beast are:
1. The Beast’s number is that of a man.
According to John, the name-number 666 must be “that of a man” (Rev. 13:18b).1 Beckwith argues not only grammatically but logically that the number must be that of “a man” in that any other denotation “would not aid the solution of the problem, for the Beast’s name could be anything, the sum of whose letters amounts to 666, however unlike names known to men. . . . It means then the number denoting a man.”2 Below I will also note that in antiquity the names of men are frequently reduced to numbers. This human designate excludes any interpretation involving demonic beings, philosophical ideas, political movements, or anything other than an individual human person. In fact, the Beast eventually is cast into hell (Rev. 19:20), denoting his personal existence (though this evidence does not exclude his being a supernatural demon).
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by Ken Gentry
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2. The Beast is an evil man of debased character.
Indeed, he must be someone of an evil, idolatrous, and blasphemous nature. His character traits and evil activities outlined in Revelation 13 (particularly verses 4-7) clearly portray him thus. He not only appears under the grotesque imagery of a compound of three wild carnivores (Rev. 13:2) and wages war against the saints (13:7), but demands worship for himself (13:8, 12, 15) while arrogantly blaspheming God (13:5-6). Furthermore, he somehow carries about with him a despicable harlot (17:3-4) drunk on the blood of the saints (17:6; 18:24).
3. The Beast possesses “great authority” (Rev. 13:2, 7).
This certainly demands that he be a political figure, particularly in that upon his heads are “ten diadems” (13:1b) and he posses a “throne” (13:2b). Indeed, his great authority is “over every tribe and people and tongue and nation” (13:7).
These first three principles are fairly widely held among evangelical Revelation commentators. The two remaining ones are largely overlooked, which is almost certainly causes a radical mis-identification of the Beast and his mission. These will be simply listed and stated here. In another article I will establish their veracity.
4. The Beast is one of John’s contemporaries.
John’s temporal expectation clearly requires his contemporary presence. The events of Revelation must occur “shortly” (Rev. 1:1; 22:6); John insists that “the time is at hand” (1:3; 22:10). Numerous other temporal indicators appear within (as I will show in a future article) and fit perfectly with John’s first century imagery. This principle alone will eliminate 99.9% of the suggestions by both prophecy populists and even competent commentators. (Unfortunately, it also eliminates the same percentage of market-share for evangelical publications defending the proper view.)
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A biblical and historical argument for Nero being the beast of Revelation. Professionally recorded and edited with Question and Answers session.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
5. The Beast is relevant to the first century Christians.
John writes to Christians in seven historical churches (Rev. 1:4, 11). He expects them to heed what he writes (1:3) and to calculate the Beast’s number (13:18). They are under serious trials (1:9; 2:3, 9-10, 13; 3:10; 6:10-11; 14:13) and would surely be unconcerned with events thousands of years in the future. How could they give heed to John and calculate the identity of the Beast if it were some shadowy figure far removed from their own situation? Sadly, most “interpreters have been concerned to show that the beast has finally arisen in their own day.”3 We should, however, be “suspicious of interpretations that are blatantly narcissistic; this way of understanding the book maintains that the entire course of human history has now culminated in us!”4 Revelation is not, as Thompson warns, “a floating specter”5; rather we must understand him as a figure securely rooted in the first century.
The early establishment of Principles 4 and 5 is essential to the correct understanding of the identity of the Beast. With these in mind, you can forget Bill Gates or any other contemporary Pin-the-Horns-on-the-Beast game attempt.
1. NRSV, NKJV, NASB. See arguments in: Isbon T. Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John: Studies in Introduction with a Critical and Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker, rep. 1979 ), 642-43. R. H. Charles, The Revelation of St. John (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1920), 1:364-65. David E. Aune, Revelation 6-16 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 769-70. Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (2d. ed.: Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 261. A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman, 1930), 6:406.
2. Beckwith, Apocalypse of John, 642.
3. Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (New York: Oxford, 2000), 436
4. Ehrman, New Testament, 434.
5. Leonard L. Thompson, The Book of Revelation: Apocalypse and Empire (New York: Oxford, 1990), 11.
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