Once we know the identity of the apostate system, we can go back and take another look at Revelation 13 with more understanding. The beast of the sea represents a later development of the Roman Empire after the Dragon of chapter 12. At the end of the fifth century the western section of the Roman Empire began breaking up and was divided into 10 barbaric nations (the 10 horns of v. 1). The seven heads (v.l) represent seven forms of government1 which ruled the empire throughout its existence. The sixth form of government (the sixth head), which was Roman Imperialism, was wounded (v.3) when the Gothic people captured and ruled the empire from about 490-530 AD. This ''mortal wound'' was healed when the Goths were overthrown and a Roman Emperor again took the throne. At that time, the military power of the empire (the dragon), which was centered in Constantinople, gave its authority (v.4) to the new Roman Emperor.
The comparison of parts of this beast to a leopard, bear and lion (v.2) indicate that the influences of these previous human empires would be found in this Roman dominion and that it would encompass the geographical areas of the former empires. The mouth which was given to the beast (v.5) represents the Papacy (the line of Popes) which did the official speaking for the empire. By command of the Papacy, the Catholic Church persecuted everyone who would not join, especially those who protested against its false teachings. The Papacy had this authority over the Roman world for 42 months, which is the same period as 1260 days. Using the principle that one day represents one year, the 1260 days equal 1260 years, beginning about 606 AD when the Papacy first received world political power, until 1866 when it lost that power.
1. Horae Apocalypticae, Vol. III, pp. 106-107.