It's important to remember where we are in our study of the book of Revelation. Chapter thirteen continues the interlude between the sounding of the seventh trumpet and the pouring out of the seven bowls of God's wrath. In this interlude, John has seen visions describing the events of the very end times.
That's why you find that repeated time notification, which comes in slightly different forms - 1260 days, forty-two months, time-times and a half a time. All of these symbolic references draw our attention to the fact that we are coming now to the very end. The events of the final phase of what is called the Great Tribulation are coming about in rapid, sudden succession. Another way of saying it is these interlude chapters unfold the events of the "days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel "(10:7).
Now we come to the first ten verses of chapter thirteen. And here we learn something else - something very important. We learn that Satan, while behind many of the events of the last days, does not do most of his work openly. He works through means. He exercises direct control over other agencies and personalities. You and I will never actually see a great big red dragon. That was just a picture in John's vision. We will never see the kinds of strange beasts John describes in this thirteenth chapter. These are merely symbolic pictures of other forces and personalities the Devil will work through during the last days.