The Bible’s answer
The wild beast with seven heads introduced at Revelation 13:1 represents the worldwide political system.
It has authority, power, and a throne, which point to its being a political entity.—Revelation 13:2.
It rules over “every tribe and people and tongue and nation,” so it is greater than a single national government.—Revelation 13:7.
It combines features of the four beasts described in the prophecy at Daniel 7:2-8, including the appearance of a leopard, the feet of a bear, a lion’s mouth, and ten horns. The beasts in Daniel’s prophecy are identified as specific kings, or political kingdoms, that rule in succession over empires. (Daniel 7:17, 23) Thus, the wild beast of Revelation chapter 13 represents a composite political organization.
The Bible says that the number, or name, of the beast—666—is “a man’s number.” (Revelation 13:17, 18) That expression indicates that the beast of Revelation chapter 13 is a human entity, not a spirit or demon entity.
Even though nations may agree on few things, they unite in their determination to maintain their authority rather than submit to the rule of God’s Kingdom. (Psalm 2:2) They will also join forces to battle God’s armies commanded by Jesus Christ at Armageddon, but this war will result in the nations being destroyed.—Revelation 16:14, 16; 19:19, 20.
“Ten horns and seven heads”
Certain numbers are used symbolically in the Bible. For example, ten and seven represent completeness. The key to understanding the specific meaning of the “ten horns and seven heads” of the beast of Revelation chapter 13 is an “image of the wild beast” identified later in Revelation—a bright-red beast that has seven heads and ten horns. (Revelation 13:1, 14, 15; 17:3) The Bible says that the seven heads of this red beast mean “seven kings,” or governments.—Revelation 17:9, 10.
Likewise, the seven heads of the beast of Revelation 13:1 represent seven governments: the primary political powers that have dominated through history and have taken the lead in oppressing God’s people—Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and Anglo-America. If we conclude that the ten horns represent all sovereign states, small and large, then the diadem, or crown, on each horn shows that each nation rules concurrently with the primary political power of the time.