3.2.12. Terrible Beast

This beast appears to correspond to the legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. Dan. 2:33, Dan. 2:40-43). The beast is said to be uniquely dreadful and terrible (Dan. Dan. 7:7, Dan. 7:19, Dan. 7:23). It is said to have iron teeth (the fourth metal in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was iron ) and great emphasis is placed upon its trampling and breaking to pieces—corresponding to the feet in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. Dan. 7:7, Dan. 7:19). The beast is said to have ten horns, which correspond to the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream [#12-#22] (Dan. Dan. 7:7, Dan. 7:20). At the demise of this beast, when its dominion is taken away and its body is destroyed and burned (Dan. Dan. 7:11, Dan. 7:26), the saints will possess the kingdom [#12-#14] (Dan. Dan. 7:18). This kingdom devours the whole earth [#12-#1] (Dan. Dan. 7:23). Although some interpreters take this beast to be Greece (the kingdom of Alexander the Great), most conservative scholars (who believe in the inspiration of Daniel) identify the fourth beast as Rome:

Probably the most decisive argument in favor of interpreting the fourth empire as Roman is the fact . . . that the New Testament seems to follow this interpretation. Christ, in His reference to the “abomination of desolation” (Mtt. Mat. 24:15) clearly pictures the desecration of the temple, here prophesied as a future event. . . . the Grecian view would require fulfillment in the second century B.C. The New Testament also seems to employ the symbolism of Daniel in the book of Revelation, presented as future even after the destruction of the temple.1

From the standpoint of history the identification of the fourth empire as Rome can be traced to early times: Josephus (The Antiquities of the Jews 11:7); 4 Ezra 12:10-12 in A.D. 80-120; the Assumption of Moses, chapters 8-9 in A.D. 7-30; 2 Baruch 39:3-4 before A.D. 70; and later Jewish writings cited in the Jewish Encyclopedia, 10.394.2

A problem arises in relation to the ten kings and the description of how the fourth beast is overthrown as this does not correspond with the demise of the Roman empire. This difference explains why we are discussing the beasts of Daniel in our treatment of the book of Revelation. Aspects of the prophetic passages both in Daniel and Revelation suggest that this fourth beast continues beyond its initial appearance, but in a fragmented form:

Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided, yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will setup a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. (Dan. Dan. 2:41-44). [emphasis added]

For an unspecified period of time after the breakup of the fourth kingdom, it continues in a distributed form until the time of the end when God establishes his kingdom on earth—when the stone smashes the feet of the image, including its ten toes (Dan. Dan. 2:34-35, Dan. 2:44-45). “The destruction of the fourth beast here described refers to a time yet future in connection with the second advent of Christ.”3 The kingdom represented by the terrible beast follows upon the demise of the leopard beast: when the Roman empire obtained control of the areas previously under the control of Alexander and the four kings who arose after his death [#11-#12] . John was told that the seven heads of the beast of Revelation Rev. 17:1+ were seven mountains and seven kings: “They are seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come” [emphasis added] (Rev. Rev. 17:10+).4 As we discussed above, the five that have fallen are five kings representing five kingdoms prior to Rome. The king that “is” probably represents the form of the Roman empire which existed at the time of John’s vision. The terrible beast is the sixth of seven kingdoms which oppressed God’s people through history and follows upon the five kings who had fallen prior to John’s vision (Rev. Rev. 17:10+). This final beast Daniel sees is the same beast which John sees rising from the sea in Revelation Rev. 13:1+:

Preterists are correct in relating the beast of Revelation Rev. 13:1+ with the fourth beast of Daniel Dan. 7:1. Many interesting parallels exist between the two. For example, both have a worldwide empire (Daniel Dan. 7:7, Dan. 7:23; Revelation Rev. 13:8+), both rule for three-and-one-half years (Daniel Dan. 7:25; Revelation Rev. 13:5+), both dominate the saints for three-and-one-half years (Daniel Dan. 7:25; Revelation Rev. 12:14+; Rev. 13:7+), and both are characterized by their arrogant and blasphemous words (Daniel Dan. 7:8, Dan. 7:11, Dan. 7:20, Dan. 7:25; Revelation Rev. 13:5+). Because of these parallels, many scholars have concluded that both beasts are one and the same.5

They both will come out of the sea (Dan. Dan. 7:3; Rev. Rev. 13:1+), both will have ten horns (Dan. Dan. 7:7, Dan. 7:20; Rev. Rev. 13:1+), and both will be succeeded by the kingdom of Christ (Dan. Dan. 7:11, Dan. 7:26, Dan. 7:27; Rev. Rev. 17:14+; Rev. 19:20+; Rev. 20:4-6+). . . . the symbolism of the lion, the bear, and the leopard (Dan. Dan. 7:4-6) is evident in the beast in Revelation Rev. 13:2+.6

See Symbols of Kingdoms.


1 John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago, IL: Moody Bible Institute, 1971), Rev. 7:7-8.

2 Daniel K. Wong, “The Beast From The Sea in Revelation 13,” in Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 160 no. 639 (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, July-September 2003), 341.

3 Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation, Dan. 7:11-12.

4 Concerning inaccuracies in the KJV and NKJV, see commentary on Revelation 17:10.

5 Andy Woods, “Revelation 13 and the First Beast,” in Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, eds., The End Times Controversy (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2003), 238.

6 Wong, “The Beast From The Sea in Revelation 13,” 339.