The two beasts are introduced in chapter 13. The beast that rises out of the sea is first and is accorded the greatest detail. He is described with seven heads and ten horns, with ten crowns and has “on his heads a blasphemous name.” The beast coming up out of the earth, with two horns like a lamb’s follows him, of whom it was said, he “spoke like a dragon.” The first of these beasts is the more powerful and obviously is the one of prominence as he leads the second. While the second derives its authority from the first (this is often overlooked but is critically important as it is clearly noted in verse 14 and elsewhere).
Many commentaries attribute the identity of the beasts to the Roman Empire, though they vary widely in interpretation of the details. But the details do not require an explanation. It is instrumental to be familiar with Daniel 7 and Revelation 17 to get a picture as to why the interpretation of the Roman Empire is appropriate. In Daniel the four beasts arise from the sea as the first beast does here. The significance is that the beast comes from somewhere else, over or across the sea — indicating a water borne aspect to a foreign power. From “somewhere else” means it is not local. This leads to the conclusion that as the second beast derives its power from the first and is also foreign but land based as a point of origin. Think warships with seamen and legions marching with all their equipment and siege machines behind Vespasian and Titus for the two beasts.
A.) The beast from the sea is described as having seven heads and ten horns, identical to the description of the fourth beast in Daniel 7. This beast is like a leopard, with feet like a bear, and mouth like a lion (the descriptions of this beast borrow upon the descriptions of all the beasts from Daniel). He has no authority that he has not received from the dragon. The beast is worshipped, as is the dragon from whom he derives authority (verse 4). It is symbolized as having great strength. (Hmm: I’m still thinking Emperors, Legions, Vespasian and Titus.)
B.) As with the other signs in this portion, the length of time of his authority is forty-two months. This is the same time that the woman is to be nourished, the two witnesses were to prophecy; and the holy city to be trodden under foot (and it is the same time given for the beast in Daniel 7:25 to persecute the saints). That makes it easy for us groundlings to sort out. Again, the numerology and time markers inform us that these visions are happening in parallel. This sign is not to be strictly interpreted in a figure of years, months, days, and identical in every point and case. But, rather it serves to indicate a defined time set and cast as part of the plan of God: a full period that cannot be changed. We may grow tired of hearing that – but it remains the only reasonable answer. Whether we choose to hear it or not, the 42 months, 1,260 days, times, time and half a time – all lead to a single number figure: the length of the siege of Jerusalem. Supposing we are not both blind and deaf – the length of time of the siege against Judaea and Jerusalem was the seminal point for the Jews and for the spread of Christianity out of the region of Judaea.
Some offer an argument that these signs, as discussed complete themselves within the alliance between the Holy Roman Empire and the Roman Catholic Church beginning when Charles the 1st (Charlemagne), was crowned its first Emperor by Pope Leo III, on December 25th 800. This solidified the merger of the apostate church to the corrupt gilded feudal state, which had its birth in the mid-fourth century. This was the finalized alignment of Popes and Kings, and sealed the world away from the true church by removing the Bible out of the hands of people. (Professional thieves always dress and walk about so nicely.) That had been preceded about 150 years earlier with the conquering of Judaea and Jerusalem under Islam, by the end of the first quarter of the seventh century. I personally would not stretch this string out this tight, as it looks well beyond “things that must shortly come to pass;” but you may draw a line from that point to its completion in full blown apostasy with the feudal state and the corrupted “church” both united in the money making and soul stealing business along with the complete removal of God from the picture for the next full thousand years. Yet, I list that as being too nearsighted in our view. Look at the numbers and the history.