Crowns on the Dragon's Heads and the Leopard Beast's Horns - What are they and why are they on both beasts?
Many explanations have been offered to explain the crowns on the dragon's heads of Revelation 12 and the leopard beast's horns of Revelation 13, but most of them have failed to correctly identify their purpose or the proper explanation of the placement of them on 2 different beasts. The author will here give the reader an explanation that makes excellent sense and should answer most questions about them.
The crowns themselves symbolize kingly power. That much is usually not in dispute. The problem comes when identifying to whom they apply and why they are on 2 different beasts.
In order to answer the question of to whom they apply, the reader needs to understand the identification of the dragon's heads and horns, so please read the explanation of that issue here. Once the reader understands that the dragon's heads and horns are the same as the heads and horns on both the leopard beast of Revelation 13 and the scarlet beast of Revelation 17, the next step is obvious: If the heads and horns are identical for all 3 beasts of Revelation 12, 13 and 17, then why have the crowns upon the dragon's heads and the leopard's horns? Does this question seem logical to the reader? Yet they are upon 2 beasts. Why? If the heads and horns are identical, it would make sense that the crowns should be upon the heads and horns of the same beast.
But it turns out that there is a reason they are upon the heads of the dragon AND upon the horns of the leopard beast of Revelation 13. The heads and horns of the dragon are credited to it from the activities of the leopard beast of Revelation 13. This indicates also that the beast the heads and horns are upon are under the control of that beast. So, the crowns upon the heads of the dragon are telling you that during the time of the heads, those kings whom the crowns symbolize are under the control of the dragon, while the crowns upon the horns of the leopard beast of Revelation 13 tell you that during the time of the 10 horns (10 kings), they will be under the control of the leopard beast of Revelation 13 (which is also the scarlet beast of Revelation 17).
The key ideas here are
(a) the body part the crowns are upon tells you the applicable time period (head time vs horn time),
(b) the crowns represent kingly power,
(c) the body on which the crowns are upon (dragon of Revelation 12 or leopard beast of Revelation 13) indicates which power is directly in control of those crowns during the applicable time period.
Part (a) may not seem intuitive, but consider that in Daniel 2, 7, and 8, body parts indicate succeeding time periods. The body indicates the beginning time period of a kingdom, the heads the next time period, and the horns symbolize the final time period.
The crowns themselves probably indicate the behavior of the heads or horns they are placed upon. To understand this better, think of the wings on the back of the leopard of Daniel 7. These wings were applicable to the time of the body of the leopard, not the heads, so they indicated rapid conquest by Alexander the Great, but not by his successors. Like the leopard, the crowns of Revelation 12 and 13 fall under the Characteristics Principle, so they tell you about the behavior of the part of the beast the crowns are upon (in the case of the dragon, it tells you about the behavior of the heads) and when it does this behavior (the time represented by the heads of the dragon). Crowns are an attached item on the beasts in the vision shown to John, and are not a beast's body, heads, or horns, so they must fall under the Characteristics Principle for interpretation, and may also tell you something about how the heads will do something, or in what way they will do something. The crowns being upon the heads of the dragon indicates the heads will behave as kings during the time of the heads.
Part (c) of the key ideas above, that the beast the crowns are upon are in control during the time period represented by the body part the crowns are on (time of the heads or time of the horns), must be true because the heads and horns are the same across all 3 beasts in Revelation which have 7 heads and 10 horns. If there is no difference in meaning by having them on different beasts, then part (c) is not true. But that would not make any sense. Why would God show them on different beasts and different locations on the same heads and horns if there is no difference in meaning? It seems unreasonable that God would do that, so there must be a difference in meaning by having them on different body parts and different beasts. The only explanation that the author has been able to deduce from having crowns upon the heads of one beast and the horns of the other when the heads and horns are the same across all three beasts, is that the beast they are on must be in control of them. But there is scriptural authority of a limited nature for this interpretation. It is found with the 10 horns.
In the case of the leopard beast of Revelation 13, the leopard beast body is in control of them during the time of the horns because the leopard beast will return someday. Right now (April of 2004), the leopard beast, which is also the scarlet beast, is under restraint and as the angel said in Revelation 17, it "is not" right now. But when it comes back, the 10 horns will be under it's control. This is explained by Revelation 17:13, where the 10 kings (10 horns) give their power and authority to the returned beast, which makes the returned beast ruler over the 10 horns. This means the beast ultimately gets control over the 10 horns. The leopard beast's body cannot be in control of the heads because it is never coexistant with them (it "is not" during the time of the heads). Yet, because the power represented by the body of the beast returns (this occurs under the Exception Principle) during the time of the horns, it will be coexistant with its own horns. So, it is consistent with the idea that the horns are controlled by the beast they are on.
And just as the 10 horns are eventually controlled by the beast they are on, so it is with the 7 heads. They are under the control of the dragon.
In summary, this means that during the time of the 7 heads, the powers represented by the 7 heads have kingly power and are the dominant power coming out of the beast after the beast went into restraint in 1798. Further, during this time they are under the control of the dragon. Don't confuse the dragon and the beast because of this, however. They ARE different powers because the Bible shows them as separate powers! Control is NOT identity!
During the time of the 10 horns, the powers represented by the 10 horns have kingly power and are the dominant power coming out of the 7 heads after the 7 heads are gone. Yet, as explained in the section on the identity of the10 horns, these 10 horns are the Protestant Religions and they will hand their power over to the beast (the papacy, which is said to ascend out of the abyss and return) for accomplishment of a common purpose. So, in the end, the beast does become dominant over the 10 horns and directly controls them during this the time of the 10 horns.
Note that the 7 heads in Revelation 17 are said to be 7 kings, while the 10 horns are also said to be 10 kings. This means that as kings, it is probably implicit that crowns could exist for them, though they are not shown in that chapter. We don't want to put something there that is not there, but if the heads and horns are the same across all 3 beasts, then the Bible already shows the crowns elsewhere for us. In Revelation 12 and 13, crowns are present, which implies that these are kings. Revelation 17 calls them kings without showing crowns. Thus, saying they are kings in Revelation 17 is equivalent to showing the crowns in Revelation 12 and 13 without calling them kings verbally in those chapters.
Hopefully, this helps the reader understand the crowns upon the heads of the dragon of Revelation 12 and the horns of the leopard beast of Revelation 13.