Politics and the sword go hand in hand. Jewish history is marked with the blood from that sword. First, as slaves in Egypt with the Pharaoh’s infanticide. Then, the judge period with the Philistines. Again with the split between Judah and Israel. Then Israel going into captivity, Judah following them a few generations later. Babylon being captured by the Medo-Persians. All these events having their own blood baths. Some people of Judah were allowed to go back only to be held in captivity to the Greek and Roman empires. Oppression seems to be never ending. Daniel was told to write about these things before hand but, in a very apocalyptic(yet self-explanatory) way. He sees a vision of 4 succeeding beasts, then the ancient of days takes his place as king, then the beast is allowed to go a little longer until a court day, that is when the kingdom will be granted to the holy ones. John is, in this vision, explaining how all this will happen. He first sees a creature coming from the sea that represents a composite of all the beasts in Daniel. This is the spirit behind them, the spirit of empire. He has seven heads but one appears to be wounded. The fatal wound was healed and he made all worship him. This is deeply historical, no doubt pointing to Rome. Yet, also pointing to a much bigger reality than Rome. That is to say, Rome was a big part of the imagery. It had been wounded when Nero killed himself and other times before that. Yet it always seems to come back. This is the meaning, empire will seem to die and come back. In the process, killing saints and destroying the earth. He is said to be given authority to speak blasphemies for 42 months, this points back to the outer court being trampled 42 months. The idea is simple persecution without, peace within. All are made to worship him and any who don’t are murdered. It then tells us this requires the patience of the saints, meaning we will need to be ready to die. This ultimately is pointing to the outward persecution some churches would face. The next beast comes from the earth, that is from within. He looks like a lamb, but speaks like a dragon. This is the false religions, especially the Nicolaitans and Jezebel spoken of in the letters. Even though it looks like the true way, it’s not. It makes all receive the mark of the beast, which can be taken as spiritual or physical. During those days if you pledged your allegiance to Caesar you would get a small stone that would allow you to go to the market and such. The number is 666, no doubt referring to Nero, but John says let him who is wise discern what it means. Nero was the pawn behind the spiritual reality that still repeats today and will one day have a full-scale fulfillment. The ideal behind these two beasts though, is that the enemy will attack from within and without. He will do anything he can to steal kill and destroy the work of God. Thanks be to God he has already lost. In fact, his attacking us is a large part of his defeat.