3 And one of his heads was like [it was] wounded unto death, but the mortal wound was healed. And the whole land marveled before the beast. 4 And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given the authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast saying, “Who is like the beast? And who is able to wage war against him?” 5 And a mouth was given to him speaking great and blasphemous things, and authority was given to him to act for forty-two months.
Last time, we read John’s account of the beast he saw rising up from the sea, and his description of this beast. He said the beast had ten horns and seven heads–we presume the ten horns were on the seven heads in some configuration. Exactly what that configuration might be is not at all relevant since this is a vision, so what the horns and heads symbolize is more important.
John goes on to tell us that one of the beast’s heads had a wound “unto death,” or a mortal wound. Some translations say the beast had “what seemed to be” a mortal wound. The Greek is a little awkward to render literally into English: “And one of his heads was like it was wounded unto death.” He uses the same particle for “like” that he uses when he says the beast had feet “like” a bear, and a mouth “like” a lion. I think the reason why that “like” is there is because the wound was healed, so while it looked to all intents and purposes as if the wound was fatal, it turned out not to be. I think we have to appreciate that John was not mistaking a mere flesh wound for something more serious. To John’s eyes, this wound ought to have killed the beast, but it didn’t–the wound healed. And the reason for this lies in the purpose of even mentioning this wound, which I think is twofold. First, it calls to mind Genesis 3:15, after the Fall, when God curses the serpent. He tells Satan’s representative that He will put enmity between the serpent and the woman, and their offspring too. The Lord tells the serpent that the woman’s offspring shall bruise his head, and the serpent will bruise his heel. Satan received a mortal blow on the cross, when Jesus defeated him through his death and resurrection. But, as we’ve already seen in the imagery between the woman and the dragon, while Satan is defeated, he is not done for yet. He will continue to be active, attempting to undermine the work of God and rob God of the worship and glory He is due, until the Lord returns. Second, the beast’s head receiving a fatal wound that is then healed parallels Christ’s death and resurrection. As we will see, this beast wants to be seen as a replacement for Christ, and so we will see him attempt to mirror the Lord in a number of ways, this being one of them.
All the earth marvels and wonders at this beast, and there is a sense of worship here that is made explicit in verse 4. They worship the dragon, because he’s the one who gives the beast his authority and power. But they also worship the beast himself, proclaiming, “Who is like the beast?” We recalled that the name Michael, the name of the heavenly being who fought the dragon in chapter 12, means “Who is like God?” This sounds like an attempt to draw attention away from God, and give His glory to the beast. The exclamation continues: “Who will wage war against him?” Michael waged war against the dragon, and the dragon was unable to defeat Michael. Again, the beast is stealing glory from the Lord.
It’s worth noting that while John says “the whole land” engages in this adoration of the beast, the coming verses indicate that not everyone was party to this. By “the whole land,” John means all those on earth who are not believers; those who are truly of the world, and not of the Lord. This distinction will be more explicit as we read on.
The beast is given a mouth to speak “great and blasphemous” things. Also authority is given to the beast to “act.” Some translations render the Greek here “haughty” or “boastful and blasphemous,” which, in context, is an appropriate translation of the rather broad word megas. The interesting point here is the use of the passive voice: a mouth was given, and authority was given. By whom? There are two possibilities:
- By the dragon/Satan. The dragon gave the beast its power, throne, and great authority, so it’s possible the dragon is now giving the beast the ability to speak boastful and blasphemous things, as well as the authority to act in some way (possibly to make war) for forty-two months. One has to wonder, however, why the dragon would limit the time frame of the beast’s power. Indeed, considering the time frame stated (forty-two months = 1,260 days = time, times, and half a time), it seems the beast’s activity is to last only until the Lord’s return. Which leads to the second possibility…
- The Lord. Since the dragon is not mentioned here as the one giving (as he was in 13:2), it’s likely this is a “divine passive.” This kind of passive is common throughout Scripture, where God’s activity is spoken in the passive voice (e.g., “And this was done…” “This was given to him…”). If God is the one giving voice and power to the beast, then this verse emphasizes God’s sovereign control over all things, including the persecution of His people. But it also reminds us that the beast’s time is limited, a fact the dragon knows all too well (12:12). Who is it that sets the times, and is the only one who knows when the end will come? Surely the precise duration of the “forty-two months” is God’s and God’s alone to determine.
The “great and blasphemous things” puts us in mind of Daniel 7, verses 8 and 25, where one of the fourth beast’s horns had a mouth that spoke “great things,” and that same beast “will speak words against the Most High… for a time, times, and half a time.” Again, there a strong fulfillment connection between John’s beast and the four beasts of Daniel.
Verse 5 raises the subject of blasphemy, which we’ve encountered before already in 13:1, speaking of the “blasphemous names” on the heads of the beast. I wanted to spend a little time exploring what the Bible says about blasphemy: what is it, and what does it mean in the context of the beast and Revelation? However, we ran out of time, so that discussion will have to wait until next time.