Verses 1–10

We have here an account of the rise, figure, and progress of the first beast; and observe, 1. From what situation the apostle saw this monster. He seemed to himself to stand upon the sea-shore, though it is probable he was still in a rapture; but he took himself to be in the island Patmos, but whether in the body or out of the body he could not tell. 2. Whence this beast came—out of the sea; and yet, by the description of it, it would seem more likely to be a land-monster; but the more monstrous every thing about it was the more proper an emblem it would be to set forth the mystery of iniquity and tyranny. 3. What was the form and shape of this beast. It was for the most part like a leopard, but its feet were like the feet of a bear and its mouth as the mouth of a lion; it had seven heads, and ten horns, and upon its heads the name of blasphemy: the most horrid and hideous monster! In some part of this description here seems to be an allusion to Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, which represented the four monarchies, Dan. 7:1-3 One of these beasts was like a lion, another like a bear, and another like a leopard; this beast was a sort of composition of those three, with the fierceness, strength, and swiftness, of them all; the seven heads and the ten horns seem to design its several powers; the ten crowns, its tributary princes; the word blasphemy on its forehead proclaims its direct enmity and opposition to the glory of God, by promoting idolatry. 4. The source and spring of his authority—the dragon; he gave him his power, and seat, and great authority. He was set up by the devil, and supported by him to do his work and promote his interest; and the devil lent him all the assistance he could. 5. A dangerous wound given him, and yet unexpectedly healed, Rev. 13:3. Some think that by this wounded head we are to understand the abolishing of pagan idolatry; and by the healing of the wound the introducing of the popish idolatry, the same in substance with the former, only in a new dress, and which as effectually answers the devil’s design as that did. 6. The honour and worship paid to this infernal monster: All the world wondered after the beast; they all admired his power, and policy, and success, and they worshipped the dragon that gave power to the beast, and they worshipped the beast; they paid honour and subjection to the devil and his instruments, and thought there was no power able to withstand them: so great were the darkness, degeneracy, and madness of the world! 7. How he exercised his infernal power and policy: He had a mouth, speaking great things, and blasphemies; he blasphemed God, the name of God, the tabernacle of God, and all those that dwell in heaven; and he made war with the saints, and overcame them, and gained a sort of universal empire in the world. His malice was principally levelled at the God of heaven, and his heavenly attendants—at God, in making images of him that is invisible, and in worshipping them;--at the tabernacle of God, that is, say some, at the human nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, in which God dwells as in a tabernacle; this is dishonoured by their doctrine of transubstantiation, which will not suffer his body to be a true body, and will put it into the power of every priest to prepare a body for Christ;--and against those that dwell in heaven, the glorified saints, by putting them into the place of the pagan demons, and praying to them, which they are so far from being pleased with that they truly judge themselves wronged and dishonoured by it. Thus the malice of the devil shows itself against heaven and the blessed inhabitants of heaven. These are above the reach of his power. All he can do is to blaspheme them; but the saints on earth are more exposed to his cruelty, and he sometimes is permitted to triumph over them and trample upon them. 8. The limitation of the devil’s power and success, and that both as to time and persons. He is limited in point of time; his reign is to continue forty-and-two months (Rev. 13:5), suitable to the other prophetical characters of the reign of antichrist. He is also limited as to the persons and people that he shall entirely subject his will and power; it will be only those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life. Christ had a chosen remnant, redeemed by his blood, recorded in his book, sealed by his Spirit; and though the devil and antichrist might overcome their bodily strength, and take away their natural life, they could never conquer their souls, nor prevail with them to forsake their Saviour and revolt to his enemies. 9. Here is a demand of attention to what is here discovered of the great sufferings and troubles of the church, and an assurance given that when God has accomplished his work on mount Zion, his refining work, then he will turn his hand against the enemies of his people, and those who have killed with the sword shall themselves fall by the sword (Rev. 13:10), and those who led the people of God into captivity shall themselves be made captives. Here now is that which will be proper exercise for the patience and faith of the saints—patience under the prospect of such great sufferings, and faith in the prospect of so glorious a deliverance.