Rev. 13:3 – One of his heads appeared to be fatally wounded, but his fatal wound was healed. The whole earth was amazed and followed the beast. (HCSB)
One of his heads appeared to be fatally wounded
John writes of the beast, “One of his heads appeared to be fatally wounded, but his fatal wound was healed. The whole earth was amazed and followed the beast” (v. 3). Commentators offer numerous explanations as to who or what the “head” is and the nature of the deadly wound. Here are two widely accepted possibilities:
Some see the deadly wound as the destruction of the “pagan” Roman Empire by the “Christian” Roman Empire, thus making this a prophecy now fulfilled in history. The “healing” of the pagan empire would either be the emergence of a corrupt form of Christianity in the papal church or the actual revival of the Roman Empire in the last days.
Others view this passage as a yet-future event in which the Antichrist receives an apparently fatal wound that Satan miraculously heals. It does not appear that Satan has the power to raise the dead – although God could permit it – but he may very well be granted the power to heal a serious wound. “The important point is that the final world ruler comes into power obviously supported by a supernatural and miraculous deliverance by Satan himself” (J.F. Walvoord and R.B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Rev. 13:3).
Rev. 13:1 – And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. He had 10 horns and seven heads. On his horns were 10 diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. 2The beast I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like a bear’s, and his mouth was like a lion’s mouth. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. 3One of his heads appeared to be fatally wounded, but his fatal wound was healed. The whole earth was amazed and followed the beast. 4They worshiped the dragon because he gave authority to the beast. And they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to wage war against him?”
5A mouth was given to him to speak boasts and blasphemies. He was also given authority to act for 42 months. 6He began to speak blasphemies against God: to blaspheme His name and His dwelling – those who dwell in heaven. 7And he was permitted to wage war against the saints and to conquer them. He was also given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. 8All those who live on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered. 9If anyone has an ear, he should listen: 10If anyone is destined for captivity, into captivity he goes. If anyone is to be killed with a sword, with a sword he will be killed. Here is the endurance and the faith of the saints. (HCSB)
We are introduced to the first of two beasts in this passage: the beast from the sea. In verses 11-18 we will meet the beast from the earth. The dragon empowers both beasts; this is explicitly stated of the first beast and implied with respect to the second. The first beast is described in similar terms as the dragon, with 10 horns and seven heads, although unlike the dragon the beast wears his crowns on his horns and displays blasphemous names on his heads. He is likened to a leopard, a bear and a lion – ferocious and terrifying animals. The dragon gives him his power, his throne, and great authority to act for 42 months. He also grants the beast a mouth to speak haughty and blasphemous words.
The beast miraculously recovers from an apparently fatal head wound, causing the “whole earth” to worship him, perhaps out of fear rather than love, for they declare, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to wage war against him?” The dragon empowers (and the Lord permits) the beast to wage war successfully against the saints and to gain authority over all people. Those faithful to Christ suffer persecution and death, while unbelievers – “everyone whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered” – survive only by worshiping the beast.
Who is this beast? Are we to take his description literally? Why does the dragon empower the beast rather than rule the earth himself? What is the apparently fatal head wound the beast receives? And how does he recover? When do these terrible 42 months take place? Finally, do verses 8-10 teach hard determinism, or even fatalism?