Preterism and the Beast of Revelation 13

Revelation is, without doubt, the focus of most eschatological discussions. Futurists constantly claim there is no support for Covenant Eschatology in the Apocalypse, but of course this is not true at all. We will examine, in a short series of articles, one of the objections sometimes lodged against the fulfilled view; it involves Revelation 13.

A reader asks how Revelation 13 can be explained in a first century fulfilled context. Here is the question.

“Revelation 13:15 states that the beast from the earth was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast who was wounded and lived, such that the image of the beast should speak. How was this fulfilled in the first century?”

To say that Revelation 13 has perplexed Bible commentators through the centuries would be a huge understatement. There is virtually nothing about the text that is easily understood, as most scholars admit. However, there are several keys that will help us, I believe, to know a bit about what the Revelator was being told.

The first point to be noted is that Revelation– by virtual unanimous consensus– reiterates the prophecies of Daniel.

Daniel posited only four kingdoms– consummating in the days of the Roman empire– in his eschatological vision. There is no extension of his vision beyond Rome, and, in spite of the Dispensational claims of a modern revival of the Roman empire, Daniel knows of nothing of the sort. See my Seal Up Vision and Prophecy for a discussion of this.

So, if Revelation 13 is the reiteration of Daniel, and if Daniel’s vision extended no further than the days of the Roman empire, then we must find fulfillment of Revelation 13 within that historical context. This is fatal to virtually futurist eschatologies, who extrapolate not only Daniel but Revelation to a proposed “end of time.”

For instance, Wayne Jackson, a typical amillennialist / historicist, identifies the land beast of Revelation 13 as the Roman Catholic church (I once held to this position, but, it is totally untenable).

Jackson cites Burton Coffman who identified the second beast as a mixture, first of “paganism, then as apostate Christianity and the derivatives of it” (1979, 447). He contended that those who cannot see an apostate church in the imagery of the book of Revelation are afflicted with an exegetical “astigmatism.”

Jackson then points to “the Middle Ages,( and the Catholic church’s dominance in that period, DKP)  that spanned about a thousand years, beginning with the fall of Rome in A.D. 476,” (my emphasis) as the time foretold by John. You can find my response to Jackson’s theory on the Little Horn as the Catholic church on my website: The Historicist view is clearly untenable as it violates not only Daniel but Revelation.

Congruent with the first point of finding fulfillment of Revelation 13 within the days of Rome (i.e. no later than 476 AD, but clearly not that late) are the repeated and emphatic declarations that fulfillment of Revelation was near, at hand, and coming soon. Notice particularly the following.

Daniel was given the vision of the resurrection and he was told to seal the vision because fulfillment was far off (Daniel 12:2-9)..
John foresaw the resurrection– reiterating Daniel’s vision.
In stark contrast to Daniel, John was told “do not seal the vision for the time is at hand” (Revelation 22:10).
This is an inescapable temporal contrast.
So, Daniel was told to seal his vision because fulfillment was not near. In stark contrast, John repeated Daniel’s prophecy, but was told not to seal it because “the time (literally, the appointed time) is at hand.”

Note also that the judgment of Revelation was so near that Jesus said, “let the wicked remain wicked” (22:11). This hardly allows an unfolding fulfillment spanning so far 2000 years, unless one is willing to proclaim as their gospel message:  “let the wicked remain wicked!”

All of this internal evidence forces us then to look for an fulfillment of Revelation 13 within an imminent context. And an examination Revelation confirms this, and we will examine that in our next installment.