We left off last time while conducting a scriptural test about the possibility of America (the superpower) fitting as the Beast of Revelation 13. (If you missed the Test #1, please read the previous BLOG).
Test #2: “coming out of the sea.” This phrase also appears in Daniel. So the angel’s interpretation of Daniel’s vision can also be used to understand John’s vision. Daniel writes, “Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea” (7:3). Daniel’s four beasts (Daniel 1:1-7) refer to a succession of world powers that shaped Israel’s history before the time of Christ. The lion represents Babylon, which conquered Egypt in 606 B.C. and achieved political prominence in the Middle East. The bear is the Media-Persian Empire. They conquered the Babylonians in about 539 B.C. and ruled until 331 B.C., when Alexander the Great defeated them (Daniel 8:21). The leopard represents the Greek Empire under Alexander, which splintered into four separate kingdoms as Daniel prophesied it would (Daniel 8:8, 8:22). The last of these four kingdoms continued until 31 B.C., when, as Daniel prophesied (8:9-12, 23-25), the Roman Empire rose to power.
In Daniel’s account, a succession of peoples from different geographic bases conquered one another, bringing together people from Africa, Asia and Europe in a mixture of customs, cultures and languages. From this historical review, we can infer that “coming out of the sea” involves a culturally and ethnically diverse empire or nation. This fits with Revelation 17:15, which reads, “‘The waters you saw … are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.’” As a nation of immigrants, the United States fits this description. Europeans and Africans joined indigenous peoples of North America during the Colonial Period, followed by waves of immigrants from all parts of the Earth in the 19th and 20th centuries. Together, these people make up America, which is often called a “nation of nations.”
The peopling of America is one of the great dramas in history. Over the years a stream of humanity crossed continents and oceans to reach the United States. They came speaking many languages and representing almost every nationality, race and religion. Today, there are more people of Irish ancestry in the United States than in Ireland, more Jews than in Israel, and more blacks than in most African countries. There are more Polish people in Detroit alone than in most of Poland’s major cities, and more than twice as many people of Italian descent in New York as there are in Venice.
The setting in which the history of these people has unfolded is as impressive as the diversity of the peoples themselves. The United States is the largest cultural-linguistic unit in the world. The distance from San Francisco to Boston is the same as from Madrid to Moscow. Yet, we have one primary language, one set of federal laws and one economy. This same area in Europe is fragmented into numerous nations, languages and competing military and political blocs.
The “melting pot” was once a popular image of American assimilation. The largest single ethnic strain is of European ancestry, the region of the old Roman Empire. Daniel prophesied in chapter 7 that another power, a new country, would rise up out of the people of the old Roman Empire. It would become stronger than any of the other powers. He even states that this new power will defeat three of the powers out of the old Roman Empire, which we did: England, France and Spain.
Daniel prophesied about superpowers that affected the history of Israel. Therefore he would not have prophesied of any superpower after the Roman Empire, until Israel once again became a nation, which was soon after World War II when we gained superpower status. America fits the descriptive characteristic of the “beast” “coming out of the sea.”
Test #3: “ten horns.” Understanding the biblical use of the phrase “ten horns” requires an interpretation of both words.
Many numbers in Scripture have a symbolic meaning beyond their actual numerical value. Bible scholars have written entire books on these meanings. Such studies have deduced that “ten” stands for all-encompassing. Examples of ten in Scripture include the Ten Commandments and the ten plagues. In these examples, ten is used to mean an exact count. Numbers in prophecy, however, are often symbolic. For example, in Revelation 12:3, John uses the phrase “ten horns” when describing The Roman Empire used by the red dragon, Satan, even though Rome ruled about 27 other nations. Daniel also used the number “ten” in chapter 7 in a symbolic way to indicate might that is all-encompassing.
The second word in this descriptive phrase is “horns.” Throughout the Bible, “horns” are a common symbol of strength. In the Book of Daniel, the word represents nations. Presumably, John too is using “horns” to mean nations. These would be nations with substantial power and influence but less than that of a “beast” or superpower. The beast in Revelation 13 has “ten horns,” so this suggests that the superpower has great influence over other powerful nations.
The United States is a nation of superpower status. Of course there are other powerful nations (horns) in the world today. Japan and Germany are economic powers; Russia is still a military power. France and England are former colonial powers that still wield political influence. But only the United States can claim to be a superpower. We exercise a certain amount of economic, military, political, influence over many of the world’s lesser powers.
Another interpretation of “ten horns” says they represent the nations allied in the European Union. But the EU does not meet all of the other descriptive phrases in Revelation 13 that describe this end-time superpower. To be valid, an interpretation must fit every word and phrase the Lord has given us to identify this superpower of the last days. That is why each of these descriptions is included—so we don’t have to guess. America passes the test of having “ten horns.”
Test #4: “seven heads.” The explanation of “seven heads” is fairly simple. Seven throughout Scripture denotes completeness. God completed creation in seven days. Joshua was commanded to march around the city of Jericho for seven days. On the seventh day, the priests and the army marched around the city seven times. When this was completed, the walls fell. Elisha told the military captain Naaman to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River and he would be healed. Like the number ten, seven is symbolic when used in prophetic phrases.
The word heads simply means leadership. For John to prophesy that this “beast” or superpower would have seven heads states that its leadership would be complete in all areas of world affairs. It would dominate— be number one—in commerce, industrial output, production of goods and services, agriculture, military might, political power, economic wealth, and so on.
“Seven heads” means that this end-times superpower would enjoy superiority, or be complete, in all areas of international influence. Since World War II we have developed the position in world affairs that would allow John to make this prophecy about us.
To continue reading Test #5, watch for The Beast of Revelation 13 (Part 3) on December 20th, 2010.Tags: Africa, angel's interpretation, Asia, Babylon, bear, coming out of the sea, completeness, cultural-linguistic unit, Daniel, Egypt, ethnically diverse empire, Europe, European Union, Four great beasts, Germany, Greek Empire, international influence, Japan, leadership, leopard, lion, Media-Persian Empire, melting pot, nation of immigrants, nation of nations, Russia, seven heads, superiority, superpower, ten horns, United States, world powers