An image is set up of the beast, and the whole world is commanded to worship it. How can one set up an image of an empire or a government? This hasn’t been done in the past, but men have often bowed down to an image of a political ruler.
“This Beast also has a proper name - a name expressive of a particular number, and that number ‘a number of a man;’ which cannot be conceived except on the idea of an individual person.” (Seiss)
With all this in mind, I have to agree with Seiss:
“We would therefore greatly err from the Scriptures, as well as from the unanimous conviction and teaching of the early Church, were we to fail to recognize this Beast as a real person, though one in whom the political power of the world is finally concentrated and represented.”
So this beast is a real man of flesh and blood, probably a leader of a world power. He is empowered and supported by Satan. Through this man, Satan will express his own desires. So the beast is a man, but he is no ordinary man. He is called “the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit” (Revelation 11:7, 17:8), and ordinary men do not come from there.
“One who hails from that place must either be a dead man brought up again from the dead, or some evil spirit which takes possession of a living man. In either case, the Beast, as a person, is an extraordinary and supernatural being.” (Seiss)
It may be that Satan himself takes possession of this man, and this is what makes him exceptional. This was the case with Judas, who was possessed by Satan (John 13:27). So the beast is not merely ‘demon’ possessed – he is Satan possessed.
One of the heads on the beast receives a moral wound. This is a head wound. It is certain death – but the wound heals and the beast lives. Consequently, the world marvels and follows the beast. He seems to have great power and the world is in awe. They say, “Who is like him? Who can make war against HIM?” He seems to be a winner – and the world wants to follow a winner. He boldly mocks God. He blasphemes. For 42 months, the first half of the final seven years, he is given authority. He is even given power over the Christians. The government of the beast will persecute and kill all those who do not bow in worship to the beast. He overcomes them. Overcome does not mean that the beast can overcome the faith of the saints, but that he can destroy their physical lives, and by all appearances he defeats God’s people on this earth.
But who are these saints who are overcome by the beast? Your view of the timing of the rapture determines the opinion of who you think these persecuted ones are. Those who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture believe that these saints are God’s people who come to Christ after the church has been raptured. Those who believe in a post-tribulation rapture believe that these saints are God’s people who are on the earth before the final rapture or second coming of Christ. Personally, I lean toward the latter view. I think Christians WILL go through the tribulation – but that God will protect them from the wrath of God that will be poured out on the world. Last week we read: