top of page

Revelation: Its Ongoing
Relevancy and Fulfillment

Chapter Six

Portentous Drama
of Two Great Apocalyptic Beasts

Chapter 13 of Revelation

Act 1  |  Scene 2

The First Beast Has Seven Heads

Revelation 13:1; 17:3, 9

B. The first beast “…had seven heads.” Revelation 13:1; 17:3, 9

"Seven heads you say? PREPOSTEROUS! Disgustingly abnormal and ugly! So the author
of your Revelation is just using the same old  pagan language and art forms current in his time. And you pretend I take seriously that book and your explanations?"

1. The identity of the “seven heads. 

We find a very important clue for the correct identification of the “seven heads” in Revelation 17:9, where we are informed that “the seven heads are seven mountains.” This is the first explanation of the “seven heads” given by God through the angel that spoke with the apostle John.

Respectfully, dear Professor, my opinion is that, potentially, it could actually be positive for some of the governments and peoples of our modern world if professionals of your caliber would be less dismissive of "that book," taking time for a more professional and unbiased look at its content. For perhaps you would see that "governments and peoples," even of our times, are one of its great subjects, including their trajectories and the outcomes thereof. Then, you could include such information in a relevant lecture or course.

You may find much of the imagery of Revelation mystical, mythical, antiquated, at the least, curious, unreal. Whatever your evaluation, the imagery is not the message of the book! Rather, the intricately conceived and masterfully employed instrument used to transmit a tremendous amount of information, almost at a glance, via an audio-video-text format. A case in point is the "great beast" before us. Remarkedly concise explanations quickly dispel the mysterious, even repulsive, aura of that seven-headed "beast."

Regarding its "seven heads,"  a competent and conscientious professor of literature, of history, of religion, would read Revelation, searching for light. In a few minutes, he comes upon the text in 17:9-10 where it is explained that the "seven  heads" are "seven mountains" and "seven kings." 

Now, "mountains" may need some study, but "kings" is easy. For "kings" have "kingdoms, thrones, and crowns." And suddenly he understands the "seven heads" of the "beast" are seven kingdoms

He also learns in verse 10 that, when John received the audio-visual transmissions in 95 a.d., five of those kingdoms had fallen, one was in power in that time, and one was yet to come. Just as quickly he understands those seven heads-mountains-kings-kingdoms are not contemporaneous with regard to supremacy and rule but arise one after the other.

In verse 12, he learns the "ten horns" are also "ten kings" and are, therefore, ten kingdoms, or nationsthat would arise from the 6th king-kingdom! The very same  explanation is given even more clearly in Daniel 7:15-27.

Having arrived at this understanding, should anyone suggest to him that the "seven heads" are the seven hills of Rome, seven Roman emperors, or seven forms of Roman government, he can clarify that they are, in reality, seven kings-kingdoms that come into power consecutively and not contemporaneously.

Awesome! It does not take a DD (Doctor of Divinity) or PhD to identify the "seven heads" of the First Beast of Revelation. Just attentive reading of the relevant texts and a general knowledge of world history.

This a very short commentary on the "seven heads." The detailed one begins on the left, above, with the letter "B."

a) Not a few commentators maintain that the “seven mountains” are the seven hills on which the city of Rome was built, but we respectfully differ for the following reasons.

(1) First reason. One of the “seven heads,” synonymous with “seven mountains,” was “mortally wounded.

“And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded..." Revelation 13:3

Now then, if the “seven mountains” were the seven material hills on which the city of Rome was built, then it would be necessary to apply “mortally wounded" to one of them

These simple observations bring to light some of the problematical factors arising when it is postulated that the “seven mountains” are the seven geographical hills where the city of Rome was constructed.  

(2) Second reason. Is there any difference at all between “mountains” and “hills?” Certainly, the two nouns are not precisely synonymous, for “mountain” identifies a higher, more voluminous mass than “hill.”

Mountain. A landmass that projects conspicuously above its surroundings and is higher than a hill.”

Hill. A usually rounded natural elevation of land lower than a mountain.” 

Both definitions from the Mirriam-Webster online dictionary.

Painting of the First Beast of Revelation coming up out of the sea, for the Commentary on the Seven Heads of the First Beast of Revelation by Dewayne Shappley.

The First Beast

Right. The district of Aventine, the name of one of the seven legendary hills of Rome.

Though “mons” (mountain) is applied in certain ancient writings to one or another of the seven hills of Rome, the truth is that the seven hills were comparatively low geographical formations. Today, they are no more than about 40 or 50 meters high [130 to 165 feet].

Photograph of the Aventine district, one of the seven hills of Rome, for the Commentary on the Seven Heads of the First Beast of Revelation by Dewayne Shappley.

The “Capitolinus mons” measures 460 meters long, 180 wide and 39 high [1,500 feet long, 590 wide and 130 high] 

Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, by Samuel Ball Platner. London. Oxford University Press. Available on the Internet). 

Photograph of Colina Caelius, one of the seven hills of Rome, for the Commentary on the Seven Heads of the First Beast of Revelation by Dewayne Shappley.

“The majority of the hills are mounds formed by currents of water that flow from the highest ground to the Tiber river.” 

Left. Colina Caelius, one of the seven hills of Rome. Does it look like a true “mountain?”

The two photographs that accompany this text clearly show that Rome is built on “hills” or “mounds,” and not on true “mountains.”

While this reality is not determinative for the correct interpretation of the “seven mountains,” the distinction between “mountain” and “hill” is not, in my opinion, completely lacking in significance and weight.

The city of Rome was built on seven hills and not on seven mountains. The names of the seven hills are:

PalatinusCapitolinusQuirinalisViminalisEsuilinusCaelius and Aventinus

b) In the prophetical language of the Bible, “mountain” may signify “kingdom,” as, for example, in Isaiah 2:1-4. 

“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.”

“…the mountain of the Lord’s house” is the Kingdom of God. 

“…on the top of the mountains” signifies that the Kingdom of God is superior to any earthly kingdom, a truth also taught in Daniel 2:44-45, where it is prophetically revealed that the Kingdom of God would break into and consume all earthly kingdoms, lasting “forever.” 

So then, “mountain” and “mountains” in Isaiah 2:1-4 are clearly to be understood as “kingdoms.” 

The context of Revelation 17:9 indicates that we should interpret in just that way the noun “mountains.” That is, as “kingdoms.” 

This interpretation agrees with the second explication given by God himself regarding the meaning of the “seven heads,” which is as follows.

2. The identity of the “seven heads” as "seven kings." 

Painting of the first beast of Revelation with seven heads and seven crowns, illustration for the Commentary on the Seven Heads of the First Beast of Revelation by Dewayne Shappley.

The second explanation given by God through the angel who talked with the apostle John. The “seven heads… are seven kings.” To which is added immediately: 

The Holy Spirit has already informed us that the seven heads are “seven mountains.” 
In the very same sentence, he amplifies his explanation, also identifying them as “seven kings.” 

“Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.” Revelation 17:9-10

“The seven heads are seven mountains… and are seven kings.”

a) What are, or who are, these “seven kings?” 

Analyzing texts, contexts, and relevant facts, we determine that these “seven kings” represent seven kingdoms. The evidence for this conclusion is, we deem, overwhelming. Esteemed reader, we encourage you to objectively analyze the following argument based on the “ten horns,” a subject we explore in Chapter Seven. 

What are the “ten horns?” In Revelation 17:12 and Daniel 7:24, it is categorically stated that they are “ten kings.” 

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings…” 

Painting of the seven heads and ten horns of the first beast of Revelation 13, for the Commentary on the Seven Heads of the First Beast of Revelation by Dewayne Shappley.

Given that kings rule over kingdoms, we may reasonably say that these “ten kings" represent ten kingdoms, which we will describe here as purely secular, idolatrous, or atheistic, to distinguish them from other types of kingdoms, for it will become obvious as we continue that they are just that. 

Holding, then, the “ten kings” to be, effectively, synonymous with ten such kingdoms, it seems perfectly logical to conclude that the “seven kings,” represented by the “seven heads” of the beast that comes up out of the sea in the vision of Revelation 13, are also seven kingdoms of that same kind, and not merely:

The seven hills incorporated into the municipality of Rome.

Nor seven individual Roman emperors.

Nor seven different forms of Roman government.

These being explanations set forth by some expositors.

In my personal estimation, this argument carries great weight for the correct identification of the “seven kings,” and by inference, also for that of the “seven heads” of the beast that comes up from the sea, given that the “seven heads” are also “seven kings.”

b) We confidently affirm, then, that the “seven heads” of the beast that comes up out of the sea are, indeed, seven earthly kingdoms.

Let us consider additional convincing evidence.

According to Revelation 17:10, the “seven kings” are not contemporary. Rather, each follows the previous.

Observe, patient reader, the fascinating sequencefive have fallen [past tense], one is [present tense, in the time when John received these revelations] and the other “has not yet come” [future to the time when John lived].

Indisputably, they are not contemporary, and this is determinative for the right interpretation of relevant prophecies. We can construct from this information a very strong syllogism.

(1) First premise. The “seven kings” are not contemporary.

(2) Second premise. The “seven kings” are the “seven heads” of the beast that comes up out of the sea.

(3) Necessary conclusion. The “seven heads” are not contemporary. That is, the “seven heads” do not manifest themselves, in all their power, during the very same epoch of human history.

The key clause is: “in all their power.”

Some of them may coexist for a time, or more than one head may be visible during a particular epoch, but, nevertheless, in terms of having principal dominion, imposing their authority and governing extensive areas of planet Earth, one follows the other in a definiteserial sequence, each one strengthening itself, as if by turn, and exercising, each one, one after the other, the role of “supreme power, empire to the max.”

We emphasize once again: The sense of Revelation 17:10 is that five kingdoms have fallenone kingdom is and the other kingdom “has not yet come.” 

“KINGDOMS.” Earthly kingdoms allied with Satan against the one true God and his people are the focus of these prophecies about beasts. The “seven heads” are seven earthly kingdoms.

c) Daniel’s visions also contribute a very important detail for the correct identification of the “seven heads” of the beast John saw, to wit:

The leopard Daniel saw “had… four heads” (Daniel 7:6)

These “four heads" symbolize, indisputably, the four KINGDOMS that were formed from the territories conquered by Alexander the Great when he died in the year 323 before Christ. Ptolemaic Egypt, Seleucid Mesopotaia and Central Asia, Attalid Anatolia and Antigonid Macedon.

Painting of the four-headed leopard beast of Daniel 7, with an inset of a sculpture of Alexander the Great, for the Commentary on the Seven Heads of the First Beast of Revelation by Dewayne Shappley.

Considering, then, that the “four heads” of the leopard are four earthly kingdoms, it seems altogether logical that the “seven heads” of the beast seen by John would be seven earthly kingdoms.

The similarity between the visions of Daniel and John is quite evident and recognized; the prophetical language of both is very similar. If “head” symbolizes “earthly kingdom” in the visions of Daniel, then “head” would also symbolize “earthly kingdom” in the visions of the apostle John.

3. The identification of the “seven heads” as seven different kingdoms that do not exercise full dominion simultaneously renders totally null and void the identification of the “seven heads” as the seven hills where Rome was built.

How can “five have fallen; one is, and the other is yet to come” be applied to the seven hills? 

The seven geographical hills of Rome continue in the same place from remote times to the present

Five do not fallleaving only one in existence, with the hope that another will appear in the future

It is thus that the interpretation of the “seven heads” as an allusion to the seven hills of Rome is effectively eliminated as a credible interpretation.

4. The correct identification of the “seven heads” as seven earthly kingdoms, also means that neither do they represent seven individual kings. For example, seven individual Roman emperors.

Therefore, it would be unnecessary to present additional arguments to prove defective the thesis according to which the “seven heads” would be seven individual Roman emperors. Nevertheless, we think it well to share with the studious the following considerations.

a) Did only seven individual emperors occupy the throne of Rome?

In reality, dozens of men occupied it across twelve centuries, from the early days as a small kingdom on the Tiber in the Italian peninsula to 330 a. d., when a new capital, the “New Rome,” was established in the East, to at least 1555 a. d. when the Holy Roman Empire lost almost all power, ending officially in 1806 a. d.

New Rome soon became known as Constantinople in honor of its founder, Emperor
Constantine I. 


More forms of government were implemented and many more emperors and kings ruled either all or parts of the total Roman Empire as it continued to evolve on through the Middle Ages

The Eastern Roman Empire, called “Byzantine” only by historians from the 16th century on, but never by the Romans themselves, continued to May
29, 1453, when it was con-
quered by the Ottoman Empire.

The renowned historian Edward Gibbon sets 1555 a d. for the effective end of the Holy Roman Empire in the West.

The “Fall of the Roman Empire in 476 a. d.” and the affirmation of a “Byzantine Empire” are pure errors, perversions of history propagated by historians, commentators, professors, preachers, teachers, and writers who have not done enough homework, as I, lamentably, had not done previous to my own, much more extensive studies. For proofs that they are purely widespread, popular myths, see evidence at the beginning to the study: “The Sign of the Seventh King-Kingdom-Beast.”

b) We have already emphasized that the “seven kings” of the text follow one the other, not being contemporary. Reiterating: the revelation clearly says that five had fallen, one was, and the seventh had not yet come when John received this vision.

Keeping these truths present in our minds, certain difficulties arise when it is postulated that the “seven kings” were seven individual Roman emperors.

For example, which seven would the candidates be? The five before the time when John received the visions of Revelation, the sixth one being the emperor on the throne when John wrote the book and the seventh, well, the one that followed him?

Should it be thus, in such a scenario, where would the eighth king come in, the ten horns, the little horn, the kings of the Orient, the great harlot, the “little time,” etcetera, etcetera?

To be sure, some commentators have tried to solve this problem. Nevertheless, as we proceed with the development of these subjects, it will become clearer and clearer that the interpretation of the “seven kings” as “seven individual Roman emperors,” besides being annulled by the indisputable identification of the “seven heads” as seven earthly kingdoms, simply does not harmonize with the rest of the prophecies of Revelation on kings, kingdoms, distinct periods of time, etcetera.

5. The right identification of the “seven heads” as seven earthly kingdoms also means that neither do they symbolize “seven distinct forms of government” implemented during the course of the long existence of the Roman Empire.

A vivid painting of a meeting of senators of the Roman Empire, for the Commentary on the Seven Heads of the First Beast of Revelation by Dewayne Shappley.

Therefore, it is unnecessary to continuing discussing the point.

Nevertheless, for the studious we note the following.

Certainly, history confirms that the political organization of the Roman Empire evolved across the centuries, going from one type of government to another.

For example, as a “republic,” “triumvirate,” “dictatorship,” etc.

However, were only seven paradigms of government instituted during the two and half millenniums that the Roman kingdom-republic-dictatorship-empire existed, or is the concept of “seven forms of government” forced and arbitrary, invented to support a particular interpretation of the seven heads-mountains-kings?

Painting of a Roman emperor holding court, for the Commentary on the Seven Heads of the First Beast of Revelation by Dewayne Shappley.

Soon, we will study about how the Roman Empire was healed from a “mortal wound,” surviving during many additional centuries, adapting and sustaining itself under yet more forms of government different from those followed before the “wound.” 

When it is proposed that the “seven heads” were “seven different forms of government,” is it really sensible to obviate the forms of government the Roman Empire had after it was healed? I think not.

At any rate, we will show that this interpretation of the “seven heads-mountains-kings” as representing seven forms of Roman government does not harmonize with the prophecies about the “ten horns” and the “eighth king.”

6. The apostle John saw a beast with “seven heads.” The vision that materialized before his eyes when he stood “on the sand of the sea,” looking out to sea, is alarming, even terrifying. He sees “coming up out of the sea a beast with seven heads and ten horns,” and we also are seeing it through the eyes and the recounting of the apostle.

Painting of the ferocious first beast of Revelation coming up from the blood-colored waters of the sea, for the Commentary on the Seven Heads of the First Beast of Revelation by Dewayne Shappley.

Right there in the scenario of Scene 1!

A phantom-like creature, apocalyptic, of hair-raising nightmares.

Worse than the mythical Lock Nesh monster of Scotland; than the largest and most ferocious dinosaur.

If only one robust and aggressive beast, with only one large and menacing head, fills us with terror, how much more a gigantic fiend with seven strange heads and not two but ten horns?

A monstrous, infernal creation, to be sure.

We now understand that the “seven heads and ten horns” are earthly kingdoms. Not peaceful nor benevolent, but malevolent, violent, and destructive, sowing dread among any who oppose them and forcing them into subjection, just like an enormous, savage beast would do with his prey.

We reason, then, that the “beast,” singular in Revelation 13:1, from which seven heads and ten horns develop, effectively incarnates all the diabolical powers and effluvium that sustain the seven heads and ten horns.

In this sense, the “beast,” singular, exist from before the time of the formation of the first “head-kingdom” in the earth.

Once the first “head-kingdom” developed, yet more “heads-kingdoms” develop, as also, with time, “horns-kingdoms,” including the “little horn.”

a) It is thus that when this phantasmagoric beast seen by John takes visible form in the world, manifesting itself as some earthly kingdom, it does not present itself with sevenfully developed heads at the same time.

That is, it does not manifest itself as seven great, idolatrous, atheistic, or purely secular empires that exist on the earth simultaneously.

Rather, in each appearance of the “beast,” one of the “heads-kingdoms” predominates, standing out and imposing dominion for a determined time, each “head-kingdom” being distinct from the others, at least in some respects.

b) The visions of Daniel that he received in Babylon during the first year of the reign of Belshazzar admirably support this interpretation. 

"And four great beasts came up from the seaeach different from the other. 
Daniel 7:1-3 

“…each DIFFERENT from the other,” says Daniel. Do we take due note?

In Daniel’s visions, they appear one after another:

A lion, with “eagle’s wings.” 

Painting of a lion with eagles wings and three other beasts of the visions of Daniel, for the Commentary on the Seven Heads of the First Beast of Revelation by Dewayne Shappley.

bear“raised up on one side,” with “three ribs in its mouth between its teeth.” 

leopard, with “four wings of a bird” on its back, and also “four heads.” 

And lastly, “a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth… It was DIFFERENT from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.” Daniel 7:4-7

A very definite sequence in the appearances of the four beasts is clearly obvious in the visions of Daniel, the sequential element being even more highlighted in the explanation given by the angel of God to Daniel, beginning in Daniel 7:17.

These four beasts correspond to four of the “seven heads” seen by the apostle John in his vision as related in Revelation 13. Since they are, unquestionably, four earthly kingdoms, so are the “seven heads” of Revelation 13 seven earthly kingdoms.

7. Given this evidence and these considerations, once again, we affirm, with a high degree of confidence, that the “seven heads” are seven earthly kingdoms, each one of them as strong and fearful as a great, untamed beast. And affirm just as confident that they arise consecutively.

Interestingly, this same phenomenon is precisely what we find in the secular-religious history of that region of planet Earth where the visions of Daniel and Revelation play out.

Seven different kingdoms, governed by forces, philosophies and beliefs opposed to the Creator God, each one acting out its part in the grandiose drama of nations, like a kind of ferocious beast that Satan himself might bring into being!

a) The five kingdoms that were fallen are:

Painting of the fabulous city of Babylon in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, for the Commentary on the Seven Heads of the First Beast of Revelation by Dewayne Shappley.

(1)  Chaldea-Sumer-Babylon

(2)  Egypt

(3)  Assyria

(4)  Medo-Persia

(5)  Greece

Left. Babylon in the time of Nebuchadnezzar

With respect to their religiosity, these five great and powerful kingdoms were, essentially, idolatrous. Many of their pharaohs or kings were held to be "gods,"  projected themselves as such, and were the subjects of adoration. Without a doubt, the great “beast” gave life to those five kingdoms, sustaining them, as the body sustains the head. All that history reveals about them confirms this conclusion.

b) The sixth kingdom is represented by the king that “IS,” that is, by the one that was in power when Revelation was revealed to the apostle John toward the end of the 1st century.

What kingdom dominated in that time? The Roman Empire.

By the year 95 a. d., this head-kingdom had conquered Greece, Egypt, Israel and many countries of less renown, forming a powerful, rich empire, of impressive geographical extension, of influential arts and culture, with a highly advanced legal system.

It not only had its own gods and goddesses, including the goddess Roma, but had also freely incorporated those of other peoples.

In addition, it practiced slavery on a grand scale, as also very violent sports in huge coliseums constructed in many cities throughout the vast lands of the empire.

Surely, the sixth kingdom (sixth mountain, sixth head, sixth king) is the Roman Empire.

Let us keep in mind that we can only ascertain the correct interpretation of the verb “IS,” in the phrase “one IS,” by placing ourselves in the time of the apostle John

“…IS…,” that is, the king-kingdom-head that existed when the elderly apostle John lived on the island of Patmos close to the end of the 1st century, receiving there the visions of Revelation.

John was saying, in effect: “The sixth kingdom-king-head exist in my time, in the time when I live, in the year 95 of the 1st century of the Christian Age.”

Therefore, the verb “IS” absolutely does not refer to the present time in which we live (the first half of the 21st century) but to the time when John received the prophecies and visions of Revelation. 

Painting of senators and soldiers in a plaza of Rome, including a statue of the wolf that suckled Romulus, for the Commentary on the Seven Heads of the First Beast of Revelation by Dewayne Shappley.

The Roman Empire

At the left side of the painting, a standard with an eagle held high by Roman soldiers is seen. To the right, a group of Roman senators resplendent in white togas stand on the steps of a government building. On the large pedestal, a sculpture of the legendary wolf that suckled Romulus, the founder of Rome and its first king. 

c) And is it possible to identify the seventh king-head-mountain? In Chapter Six we present, by name, a candidate that corresponds satisfactorily to the prophetical parameters of the seventh kingdom, according to our evaluation.

C. The first beast “had… ten horns; and on his horns ten crowns” (Revelation 13:1). In Chapter Seven we thoroughly examine these “ten horns,” identifying them by name, and giving abundant evidence.

Text and Document Composition by the author Homer Dewayne Shappley. All rights reserved. The only restrictions on the use of this document are the sale of it in any format and proper identification of its origin.

CATEGORY Revelation: Its Ongoing Relevancy and Fulfillment. 21st Century commentary.

Act 1. Scene 3. A blasphemous name on the seven heads of the first beast. Revelation 13:1

bottom of page