Is it possible to understand the mark of the beast?
Without fail, we can know and must know. But first we must understand the identity of the prophetic beast itself. Let us establish that this strange, composite animal is not to be taken literally. No one ever saw a creature with the body of a leopard, the mouth of a lion, and the feet of a bear. The prophetic books of the Bible usually deal in types and symbols. This beast represents something. But what does it symbolize? There must be no guessing here. The Bible does not leave any room for doubt. It serves as its own divine commentary and provides the key for understanding the prophecies.
Everything in the Bible description of the beast is symbolic. Consider the water, for example, out of which the animal arises. What does it represent? Read the answer in Revelation 17:15, "And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest... are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." There can be no quibbling over this point. God clearly explained the meaning of water in prophecy. Once the symbol is interpreted in any prophecy, the rule will apply in every other prophecy. Water will always symbolize people in biblical prophetic imagery.
Now, what about the other parts of the strange, apocalyptic beast? What do they represent? In order to understand the beast we must go back to the Old Testament book of Daniel and compare Scripture with Scripture. The books of Daniel and Revelation explain each other. They fit together like a hand and glove. Please notice that Daniel had a vision very similar to that of lohn. It is described in Daniel 7:2, 3: "Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another." He saw the prophetic water just as lohn did, but Daniel saw four beasts arising instead of only one.
We have already found out that water symbolizes peoples or multitudes, but what do the animals represent? The answer is found in verse 17, "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth." There it is. So plainly worded that no one can question or doubt! God says that animals in prophecy represent nations. lust as we have the American eagle and the Russian bear in our modem political vocabulary, God used animals long, long ago to represent countries also. Then, to be more explicit, God added this in verse 23, "The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth." If the fourth animal represented the fourth empire of history, then the first three would have to represent the first three empires.
This explanation becomes more simple and clear when we remember that there have only been four world empires in the earth since the days of Daniel. These kingdoms are referred to often in Bible prophecy and are called by name in some related prophecies of Daniel. Refer to Daniel 8:20,21 and Daniel 11:2 for examples of this. In the second chapter of Daniel the same four world kingdoms are symbolized by four metals in the great statue of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Those four empires are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome.
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