In Rev. 12:3 we see the crowns on the 'Heads', in Rev. 13:1 we see the crowns on the 'Horns'. Since this 'Beast' is Figurative-as those in the 'literalist' camp(J.N. Darby, John Walvoord) would concur, as any other translation would do 'violence' to the text, how do you explain the difference of where the crowns are?
Awesome question! After a bit of research, I've found Leon Morris' answer to be best:
Context is the Key
From the question, and by reading the text, it is apparent that the Context is Figurative; therefore it is not the reality in itself but representative of that reality.
Rev. 12:3 says,
Rev. 13:1 says,
Since it's clear that no such animal exists in nature, nor does the author intend for us to understand this passage in a 'natural'(historical/grammatical) context, we can therefore determine that this passage is to be interpreted "Figuratively", which means that this image is communicating "Truth" in which one must accurately interpret the symbols to arrive at the correct meaning.
Meaning of the Symbols
A Rule of Thumb for interpreting symbolism in Scripture is that if the meaning of the symbol is revealed in Scripture, it maintains that same meaning unless a different meaning is communicated in the same passage.
One such example exists in the Book of Daniel. The "little horn" of Dan. 7:8 has eyes of man, and a mouth that speaks great boasts. This horn arose after 10 horns, and 'pushed' 3 horns away.
However, in the next chapter(Dan. 8:9) a "little horn" arose out of one of the 4 Horns(not 10), and there are no eyes, neither is there a mouth that speaks great boasts. This "little horn" has been identified as Antiochus Epiphanes, who did arise out of the Seleucid Dynasty; stopped the Temple sacrifices, and set up the Abomination that Desolates in 167BC. But the "little horn" of Dan. 7 cannot be confused with the "little horn" of Daniel 8; they are 2 separate horns, which arose out of 2 different sets of horns(10 vs 4). These are 2 separate images in which the Context of the passage is spelled out to determine their meaning.
The Red/Scarlet Dragon is the Beast, or Antichrist. It is also representative of Satan; Rev. 12:9 says,
It is important to understand the Context of the Heads and Horns as they relate to the dragon; in Rev. 17:7, the angel tells John,
What we are seeing is Satan, "The Scarlet Dragon", manifesting himself through earthly kingdoms. "Kings" in this passage must be rightly interpreted as "kingdoms", since the "one is", could not have been Domitian, who "was" the Roman Emperor when John was exiled on Patmos, and yet there were many more 'emperors' than Domitian. Yet the "Beast" was, and is not; meaning "Rome" was not the future "Antichrist" or "Beast" that we are seeing.
The 10 Horns are(vs 12)
Again, we see that "kingdoms" is the more appropriate interpretation; the likelyhood of 10 'kings' all affecting the world in 1 literal 'hour' is beyond comprehension; also, in Dan. 7:4 we see the same picture of
which means these "kingdoms" had time to 'arise', certainly longer than a literal hour.
What about the Crowns?
The "crowns" determine who was reigning at the time. In Rev. 12:3, the "Beast" is seen with "crowns" on the Heads because in vs 5,
This is obviously a picture of Christ: Ps. 2:9 talks about how the "Son" will break the nations with a rod of iron. Also, Christ appears during the time of the Roman Empire, the "Head" that is during the Time of John. There is another "Head" nation to come(The Holy Roman Empire), before the crowns appear on the 10 Horns in Rev. 13:1. The 8th "Head" of Rev. 17:11 is
But since it is a "Beast with 7 Heads and 10 Horns", and not a 'Beast with 8 Heads and 10 Horns', the "Beast" is representative of the 10 Horns, even as he is a 'composite' of the 7 Heads. Therefore, the "Beast" rules with the 10 Horn Kingdoms, which emerge out of the 4th Beast of Daniel(Rome), and rule in their own right after Rome, and the Holy Roman Empire falls.
The Crowns on the Heads of Rev. 12:3 signify that the "Head" kingdoms(of which Rome was one) were in power. The crowns on the "Horns" signify that the Horn kingdoms which arose out of the ashes of Rome and became kingdoms in their own right are in power. The "Beast" which one was, and is not also rules at this time with them.
Rev. 12:3 describes a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.
Rev. 13:1 describes '...a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns and upon his horns ten crowns and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.'
The beast described in the first instance appears to have undergone a metamorphosis when described in the second instance. The crowns have been removed from the heads and now sit on the horns.
We should not miss the significance of this change.
The beast is both spiritual and political. I say this because I note that it has the name of blasphemy on its heads - hence it is spiritual, and it is political because it is able to usurp the power/authority i.e.crown of a sovereign country and give it to political dissidents i.e.horns which are using violent methods to gain power.
Now where are we seeing exactly this happen in the world today? Could it be Syria, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Afghanistan, Lebanon? (I'm Sorry but I can't predict the seventh) NB Lebanon and Syria have competing horns - Hezbollah and Hamas.