One of the questions we all seem to want an answer to is, who is this great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads?
Since we know that Ezekiel 28 addresses him as the king of Tyre and places him in the garden of Eden, and, that he awaits throughout all time as we know it, for a chance to catch and kill this promised savior of the world, that we are dealing with Satan when we think about the main body of the dragon.
Remember the old East Indian saying, how does one eat an elephant? A little bit at a time. With that in mind let's take this a little bit at a time.
- ten horns
Revelation 12:3 KJV And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
Where else do I get ten horns? Daniel chapter 7.
Daniel 7:1-7 ESV In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. (2) Daniel declared, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. (3) And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. (4) The first was like a lion and had eagles' wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. (5) And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, 'Arise, devour much flesh.' (6) After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. (7) After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.
Continuing to focus on the number ten.
Daniel 2:30-44 ESV But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind. (31) "You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. (32) The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, (33) its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. (34) As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. (35) Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. (36) "This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. (37) You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, (38) and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all--you are the head of gold. (39) Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. (40) And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. (41) And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. (42) And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. (43) As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. (44) And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,
You cannot separate the toes from the feet as they are an integral part of the balance system, and most people have ten. So, here, in a most subtle way, we have the number ten again. Look up the word mixed and you will find something very revealing, the Chaldean word ar-ab', meaning: to commingle: - mingle (self), mix. Contrast what little we know and understand about the Middle Eastern nations and scripture, because God had already told us what we would find there. God, in speaking about Ishmael, said,
Genesis 16:12 AMP And he [Ishmael] will be as a wild ass among men; his hand will be against every man and every man's hand against him, and he will live to the east and on the borders of all his kinsmen.
Ten nations, mixed in so many ways, with one main purpose, struggle and warfare.
Daniel explained to Nebuchadnezzar that he was the head of gold. The Babylonian empire was the head of gold – an empire. So let's follow the logic. Since we know that the Babylonians were overthrown by the Medo-Persian empire (Assyrians), we now have the chest and shoulders of the statue that Daniel was describing. Carrying on. We can ascertain from history the Medo-Persian empire was replaced by the Grecian empire, but more importantly, the Grecian empire came to an end under the control of two Alexandrian generals: Seleucid and Ptolemy.
As a former pastor loved to say, stay with me here.
Since the statue we see in Daniel is following a comparable pattern to the red dragon and the beasts, then it safe to say that what we are looking at when we try to define what the dragon is, is a succession of Satanically motivated and even possessed empires.
Is there anything in Daniel that explicitly explains who some of these are?
The first one is plainly laid out.
Daniel 2:37-38 ESV You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, (38) and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all--you are the head of gold.
Without a doubt, the first empire we are considering was the Babylonian. The revelation of the second kingdom is a little more subtle.
As you read Daniel chapter four, you find Nebuchadnezzar on all fours grazing with the cattle. In time his mind is restored and he honors God. That is a plus, but we have little to tell us about his end and chapter five opens with one of his sons, Belshazzar, now leading the kingdom. I suggest you read Daniel 5:1-31 yourself to get the feel of what was going on and why. Here is the direct passage that explains who we are looking for.
Daniel 5:24-28 ESV "Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. (25) And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. (26) This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; (27) TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; (28) PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."
Daniel 5:30-31 ESV That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. (31) And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.
This is now the third head of state Daniel has served under and the potential for radical change in leadership is often the order of the day, but God has his hand on Daniel.
Daniel 6:1-3 ESV It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; (2) and over them three high officials, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. (3) Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other high officials and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
Daniel 6:28 ESV So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
Did you notice this? Two different kings but the empire did not change focus or direction, and Daniel served well in both of them. The domain was Persian, which happens to have what affiliation? Assyrian and the Assyrians were the ruling bodies in Nineveh when Jonah was told to deliver the message – repent or be destroyed.
While this is all good stuff to take note of, we still have not migrated to the third empire as yet.
In Daniel chapter, seven we step back in time as Daniel tells us about a dream he had during the first year of Belshazzar's reign.
Daniel describes the four great beasts rising out of the sea that was in the dream.
Daniel 7:2-4 ESV Daniel declared, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. (3) And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. (4) The first was like a lion and had eagles' wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it.
- “The first was like a lion and had eagles' wings”
Sounds regal enough but you seldom find someone of such stature crawling around on the ground like a mad man.
“then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it.”
This is the description we have of Nebuchadnezzar that we find that in Daniel chapter four before his mind was restored to him. So, once again, we have a description of the Babylonian empire.
Because we have a clear definition of who the second empire is – the Medo-Persian. Keep that in mind as you read about the second beast Daniel sees.
Daniel 7:5-6 ESV And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, 'Arise, devour much flesh.' (6) After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it.
Here is a peculiarity. Even though all these sound very deadly, did they have that effect on Daniel, or on Israel in general? The answer is no. If you read through Daniel you find the king setting up a large, grotesque statue of himself. Where Daniel was when this happened we are not told, but to not worship the image meant death. Daniel's Jewish brethren refused to bow and were thrown into the fire - if you know the story then you know they were not burned or even touched by the smell of smoke. Now, the question is, did these kingdoms have an evil and deadly side to them? Certainly.
Let's ponder the third beast for a moment.
(6) "After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it."
Is it possible that verse six is speaking of the Grecian empire when it speaks of the beast having four heads? Historically, we know that this was the Grecian empire. We also know that after Alexander's death the Grecian empire was controlled by four generals. However, there was no end to struggle and eventually two generals controlled all the northern and southern regions. The general that ruled the northern empire was Seleucus and Ptolemy to the south. The fact that the empire ends up under the control of two generals either eliminates them as a possibility or, it explains the legs of the statue.
Let me burst your theological bubble just a bit more.
While we have some definition to the first three: a lion; a bear, and a leopard. Just the species alone does not give you a solid link to particular empires. The problem is that there is a fourth.
Daniel 7:7 ESV After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.
When we compare what Daniel tells us in chapter seven against the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's statue dream, we are now down to the undefined legs.
The fourth beast is given no animal counterpart, but it does have iron teeth. There is nothing on earth, outside of mythical creatures, that has iron teeth with the exception of one thing, man and his weapons of war.
- “ it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet.”
There is an entity active on the earth presently that is devouring and breaking in pieces everything they come in contact with. All you have to do is look at pictures coming out of the Middle East to see how devastated and broken those nations are now. They are currently called ISIS. What is the root of ISIS? Islam in its most vile form; and, those associated with ISIS are holding fast to every brutal command contained within the Qu'ran.
Take note of where these four came from.
Daniel 7:3 ESV And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.
I have heard it said that the sea represents the sea of people, and I do not have a problem with that. But in truth, we are looking at something very spiritual/devilish/demonic = fallen angels, and their original attempts to wipe out anything that looked like it could be the Messiah? Clearly the attack plan shifted once the Messiah came, paid the price, and freed the world from the bondage of servant-hood to sin. So, then the demonic plan must be focused on deception and prevention of anyone joining ranks with God and his plan.
I am jumping ahead with this example but it corroborates what Daniel saw, and this repetition is a vital aspect of prophecy.
Revelation 13:1-2 ESV And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. (2) And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.
It is no longer four beasts, but one. And yet, we still have the identities of the lion, the bear, and the leopard. It too is coming out of the sea and has ten horns and seven heads. This is the same thing that Daniel has been seeing, even if the format looks different. John here sees one other aspect that we do not see in Daniel:
“And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.””
Since Daniel alerted us that we should be looking for empires or authoritative bodies, we know that what we see in Revelation 13:1-2 is also representative of the same thing. There is, however, a subtle word in Revelation 13:2 that we need to pay attention to, and it is the word “it.” It is singular but can comprise a unity of power under one motive and action. We often refer to a corporation as it, but what if “it” is a demonic/fallen angel. The dragon, which we have established as representative of Satan, is the one doing the giving. Would he give all that power to a man? Maybe, but clearly this is not just one man and has not been in any of the examples we have looked at as evidence so far.
One of the horrendous problems we have had in understanding Revelation and end times events is the conjecture as to who the fourth beast, the waist, thighs and legs of the statue are. Still, to this day, I hear prophecy teachers saying that we should be looking to Rome. Although the Pope does and says things associated with apostasy, while leading a group of people that are awaiting alien leadership, that does not make him the Antichrist. It does, however, cause us to not look anywhere else, pursue logical options, and it distracts us from real possibilities, that are happening all around us.
A huge clue comes out of Daniel 7:7 when it says,
“It was different from all the beasts that were before it,”
Alright then, let's consider this. Since God is focused on the Babylonian empire as the initiating point. What is it that is significant?
- Babylon, under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, takes Israel captive.What was the purpose of Israel's captivity? To punish them for forsaking the Shemittah, the period of rest.Even though, as we discussed, Nebuchadnezzar had the potential for great harm, he also had a preservative effect on Israel. People continued to live there, carrying on with their lives, and someone actually preserved the oral history and traditions.Daniel, a Jew, excelled under Nebuchadnezzar, as did Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael, his Jewish brethren.
- Babylon was overtaken by Darius the Mede.How did Daniel fare through this? He was placed in the kingdom as one of the three highest-ranking officials.And, Daniel even rises to the top when Cyrus, the Persian takes the reigns of the former Babylonian empire.
So far, it is not an entirely destructive pattern we see. Since we love to assign the hips and legs of the statue to the Roman empire, let's consider them for a moment. Rome was not an entirely destructive force upon the earth, as they made roads, built aqueducts, and established a rule of law. While it is obvious that their initial greetings may have been at the point of a spear, this was common with any invaded nation. Historically, Rome never held any ground over Babylon proper, for any period of time, and, therefore, cannot be deemed to have held the same land masses that others conquerors held.
If we are looking at invading powers as solely destructive, this was not the case. And yet, this power, which may not be as global as we think, and because of this statement - “It was different from all the beasts that were before it,” it may prove to be one of the most destructive plagues upon man.
I never end one of these without pointing out that you too can have a confidence in your relationship with the Messiah. Admit you are broken with Him and invite this Jesus into your life. He will come and make himself real to you, live in you, and give you a hope in an eternal home with the Father, God.