As we have seen, Revelation 13 starts out depicting a hybrid beast power, based on the prophecy of Daniel 7, that symbolises papal Rome. What else could it be? Daniel 7 showed four great empires through history – Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Rome was the final power to exist before a judgment in heaven that leads to the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom. See Daniel 7:23-27. Pagan Rome vanished long ago, but papal Rome – the little horn power (the latter phase of the fourth beast) – exists today. After all, what power other than Rome arose after ancient Greece and is still in existence? As we can see, too, many characteristics of that little horn power are repeated in the description of this apocalyptic power in Revelation 13.
It is, unquestionably, the Papacy.
In fact, many Bible interpreters use the date A.D. 538, when the Roman Catholic church, through a decree of Emperor Justinian, secured both political and religious control in the West, as the start. Then, 1260 years later would be 1798, the exact year when French General Berthier invaded Rome and took the Pope captive. There were Bible students, even before 1798, who predicted something drastic would happen to Rome around that time. Though the Papacy itself didn’t end then, the 1260 years in which the saints shall be given into his hand (Daniel 7:25, and see also Revelation 13:7), certainly did.
After Revelation 13:1-2 describes the beast, another element is added.
In what many Bible students believe is a direct reference to that 1798 captivity, which ended the 1260 years of the specific period of persecution, Revelation 13:3 reads: And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marvelled and followed the beast.
In other words, though something terrible happened to the beast, a deadly wound that was to kill it – after all, what else is a deadly wound – was healed, and the beast power was revived. Though the Papacy has had ups and downs since 1798, it’s hard to imagine – given its stature in many parts of the world – anything like what happened in 1798 happening to it again.
The point is – though the 1260 years of persecution ended, and though Rome itself had a deadly wound, Rome today has regained a lot of stature and wields massive influence through the devotion of millions and millions of dedicated members all over the world. Also it is widely believed that in conjunction with the United States of America she engineered the demise of the European communist bloc.
Hence, its depiction in prophecy as this beast power in Revelation 13.