Dragon – civil power, Pagan Rome; Heavens – the higher or ruling powers; Earth – the people under, or obedient to the ruling powers (under the heavens); Sea – the general masses of mankind, not under religious restraint.
Revelation 13:1,2. The Dragon, symbolizing the Roman Empire, is the fourth beast of Daniel 7:7, “fourth beast dreadful and terrible”. This dragon passed its dominion over to a beast that arose out of the sea – a government that came up from among the irreligious masses. In other words, the Roman Empire passed under a new rulership – The Leopard Beast – whose mouth was lion-like, its body leopard-like, and its feet bear-like. This beast which took the Dragon’s seat and power is Papacy.
Papacy had the mouth of a lion, meaning it claimed to be the kingdom over all kingdoms by divine right. As God’s supposed kingdom, it was to break in pieces and consume all others – a strong mouth. Daniel 7:25, “And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and think to change times and laws…”
The bear’s feet suggest another of Papacy’s peculiarities as an empire – namely persistency. So Papacy moves cautiously and gets possession of kingdoms rather by strategy than by battle. This same quality is illustrated in the bear; it hugs its prey to death with its paws.
The body of the Papal beast was like a Leopard. The Leopard was the third beast seen by Daniel – which is Greece. Greece was noted as the center of learning, piety, and wisdom (Acts 17:23). Therefore, Papacy’s chief claim, to be the ruler of all kingdoms, is based on the claim that it is the center of wisdom, learning, and piety. Other peculiarities of the Leopard are its activity, vigilance, and secretiveness; so with Papacy. Again, a Leopard is spotted irregularly, so too Papacy’s policy varies in various parts of the earth. In enlightened liberal countries, it is liberal, in other places it varies in its rulings to suit the circumstances.
This Leopard beast (Ecclesiastical Empire) is given the power, seat, and great authority of the (Dragon) Pagan Roman Empire. For a time, it becomes the only representative of that dominion – the various horns (kingdoms) rendering allegiance and support to it.*
(*It should be remembered that the church of Rome consists only of the clergy – the Pope, the “Father” and all Bishops, Priests, Monks, etc., “brothers.”)
“And the whole world wondered, after the beast, and they worshiped the Dragon because he gave the authority to the BEAST, saying, “Who is like unto the BEAST, and who is able to make war with him?” (Vs. 3,4.)
The people respected this BEAST because of its peculiarities – leopard body and lion mouth – and they respected the civil power all the more, because it honored ecclesiastical authority. The various kingdoms (horns) soon learned that their hold of power over the people was strengthened, rather than weakened by allegiance to Papacy, for Papacy, in turn, recognized them and commanded the people to recognize those despots as of divine appointment.