Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Revelation
Book: Revelation
Chapter: 13

A wild Beast rises out of The Sea, to whom the Dragon gives
his power. (1-10) Another Beast, which has two horns like a
Lamb, but speaks as a Dragon. (11-15) It obliges all to Worship
its image, and receive its Mark, as persons devoted to it.

1-10 The Apostle, standing On the shore, saw a savage Beast
rise out of The Sea; a tyrannical, idolatrous, persecuting
power, springing up out of the troubles which took place. It was
a frightful monster! It appears to mean that worldly, oppressing
dominion, which for many ages, even from the times of the
Babylonish Captivity, had been hostile to the Church. The first
Beast then began to oppress and persecute the righteous for
Righteousness' sake, but they suffered most under the fourth
Beast of Daniel, (the Roman empire,) which has afflicted the
saints with many cruel persecutions. The source of its power was
the Dragon. It was set up By the Devil, and supported By him.
The wounding the head may be the abolishing pagan Idolatry; and
the healing of the wound, introducing popish Idolatry, the same
in substance, only in a new Dress, but which as effectually
answers the Devil's design. The world admired its power, policy
and success. They paid honour and subjection to the Devil and
his instruments. It exercised infernal power and policy,
requiring men to render that honour to creatures which belongs
to God alone. Yet the Devil's power and success are limited.
Christ has a Chosen remnant, redeemed By his Blood, recorded in
his Book, sealed By his Spirit; and though the Devil and
Antichrist may overcome the body, and take away the natural
Life, they cannot conquer the soul, nor prevail with true
believers to forsake their Saviour, and join his enemies.
Perseverance in the Faith of the Gospel and true Worship of God,
in this great Hour of trial and Temptation, which would deceive
all but the elect, is the character of those registered in the
Book of Life. This powerful motive and encouragement to
constancy, is the great design of the whole Revelation.

11-18 Those who understand the first Beast to denote a worldly
power, take the second to be also a persecuting and assumed
power, which Acts under the disguise of religion, and of Charity
to the souls of men. It is a spiritual dominion, professing to
be derived from Christ, and exercised at first in a gentle
manner, but soon spake like the Dragon. Its speech betrayed it;
for it gives forth those false doctrines and cruel decrees,
which show it to belong to the Dragon, and not to the Lamb. It
exercised all the power of the former Beast. It pursues the same
design, to draw men from worshipping the true God, and to
subject the souls of men to the will and control of men. The
second Beast has carried On its designs, By methods whereby men
should be deceived to Worship the former Beast, in the new
shape, or likeness made for it. By lying wonders, pretended
miracles. And By severe censures. Also By allowing none to enjoy
natural or civil rights, who will not Worship that Beast which
is the image of the pagan Beast. It is made a qualification for
buying and selling, as Well as for places of profit and trust,
that they oblige themselves to use all their interest, power,
and endeavour, to forward the dominion of the Beast, which is
meant By receiving his Mark. To make an image to the Beast,
whose deadly wound was healed, would be to give form and power
to his Worship, or to require obedience to his commands. To
Worship the image of the Beast, implies being subject to those
things which stamp the character of the picture, and render it
the image of the Beast. The number of the Beast is given, So as
to show the infinite Wisdom of God, and to Exercise the Wisdom
of men. The number is the number of a Man, computed after the
usual manner among men, and it is 666. What or who is intended
By this, remains a Mystery. To almost every religious dispute
this number has yet been applied, and it may reasonably be
doubted whether the meaning has yet been discovered. But he who
has Wisdom and understanding, will see that all the enemies of
God are numbered and marked out for Destruction; that the term
of their power will soon expire, and that all nations shall
submit to our King of Righteousness and peace.