Speculation has never been something we like to engage in on this site or in our walk with Christ. Throughout the Bible, we are warned about participating in falsehoods, changing the Word, or leading people astray which is why we try to stay within the realm of the certain. Thankfully, there is certainty in the majority of the Bible, so we rarely have to venture too far from it.
The Book of Revelation is different. With so many interpretations and understandings that have been proposed over the centuries, it’s hard to avoid speculation. As long as it’s done with a spirit of discernment and with open discussions at heart, we feel it’s good to speculate if only to open up further discussion. From Islam to the Roman Catholic Church to America to the European Union to aliens, the identity of the first beast in Revelation 13 has been the topic of many viable theories. Of particular note is the vision that a deadly wound was inflicted on one of the heads of the beast, then the wound was healed.
And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.
2 And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.
3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.
4 And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?Revelation 13:1-4
It’s always imperative to read exactly what was said in scripture. Human nature gives us the tendency to read things into the text; we extrapolate what we can conceive into things we don’t understand. For example, some of the most prolific Bible scholars would tell you that the head was killed and revived. The text does not say that explicitly. It says that the head was wounded to death and healed. This could mean that it was killed and revived. It could also mean that it received a wound that should have killed it and was miraculously healed before death. As we see later in the same chapter, the latter is the case as it refers to the beast “which had the wound by a sword, and did live,” yet some scholars still refer to the incident as death and revival.
Another example of reading facts into the text based upon our assumptions, an act known as eisegesis, is that most assume the dragon healed the wound. A careful reading shows that the deadly wound was healed and that the dragon gave power unto the beast, but it doesn’t explicitly say that the dragon healed the wound. Some may say we’re splitting hairs or we’re getting too literal with our exegesis. I would warn that frivolous assumptions are much more dangerous than treading too carefully when reading the Bible.
One final assumption that is often made: the heads of the beast are heads of state. There are books written about how the head of the beast that is wounded is the antichrist, but again the text does not say this explicitly. We are often told that any mention of someone or something that is bad in books of prophecy must be referring to the antichrist, but there are reasons that this and other books are so nebulous in their portrayal of the various characters involved in the last days. While it’s very possible, perhaps likely, that the heads of the beast are heads of state and that one or all of them are representations of the antichrist, we are compelled to offer a less popular alternative for the sake of discernment. If we are, indeed, in the last days, then it will be extremely important for believers to remain diligent in their watching of world events in order to recognize when things spoken of in the Bible are coming to pass.
The theory I’m about to touch on is one that we don’t fully embrace. In fact, we choose to not fully embrace any of the theories until facts or further understanding gives us reason to do so. It’s best to know what options to consider and to keep our eyes watchful of all realistic potentials rather than focus on one that may or may not be real. I say that we’ll touch on it only because this could very easily be an exhaustive study and we’re only wanting to plant the seed so that others may do further investigating.
If the beast in Revelation 13 is Islam, then it’s possible that the head that is given the deadly wound is the Islamic State. Currently, Islam is broken up into various warring factions which could represent the various heads of the beast. Because the beasts are personified, it’s easy to assume that they refer to individuals, but that’s often not the case in the Bible. Individual entities are often used to represent nations and people groups. Throughout this chapter, some portions seem to indicate that the beasts are men and other portions indicate that they’re groups.
We’ll leave that debate for others. Again, we are only pointing to possibilities. The concept that the Islamic State could be this beast with a deadly wound makes sense as we look at current events. We’re witnessing ISIS being driven back from lands that they’ve held for months. We’re seeing them getting bombed by Russian jets, American drones, and now Turkish tanks. Over the coming weeks, we will likely hear of more wounds to this beast that could culminate in a massive blow that many would consider them being wiped out.
Watch for this. If it happens, then we may also see the rise of the Islamic State through its other component: terrorism. While the military operations are faltering, they have infiltrated the west through Europe as well as into the United States through various means. They are also indoctrinating “homegrown” radicals throughout the world. As ISIS suffers a grave military wound, it will be time to watch for a miraculous “revival” that happens through the devastation of terrorism.
We’ll leave it there. Again, we’re not point to what will be, but rather what to look for if it does come to pass. We’ll leave the rest of the investigating and speculation to you.