The Shepherd of Hermas (or Hermes) is a Christian literary work of the 1st or 2nd century. Origen attributed it to the biblical Hermas (Rom 16:14). Irenaeus quoted it as scripture. It is included in some copies of the New Testament (Sinaitic Codex) and is found in some early lists.
The book consists of five visions, twelve mandates, or commandments, and ten similitudes, or parables.
The first three visions do not concern the end times, but the building of the triumphant Church, and the possibility of repentance because the end is not yet. The fourth vision tells of the trial and tribulation that are to come upon men.
Hermas sees a representation of the tribulation that is to come.
>>I see the dust rising more and more, so that I imagined that it was something sent from God. But the sun now shone out a little, and, lo! I see a mighty beast like a whale, and out of its mouth fiery locusts proceeded. But the size of that beast was about a hundred feet, and it had a head like an urn."<<
The beast has some obvious similarities to beasts found elsewhere in scripture, the Book of Revelation in particular.
The obscuration of the sun - 6:12, 8:12, 9:2, 16:8
Beast from the sea - 13:1
Locusts - 9:3, 9:7
Four colored head like an urn - Dead released from the sea - Rev 20:13, Four colors of horses ch 6:2-8, gold(?) altar and saints dressed in white 6:9-11, scarlet beast ch 17
It may be that the altar in chapter six is gold because prayers are mentioned, and the golden altar in 8:3-4 is associated the prayers of saints which are like incense. The pale color is missing while black and red are reversed in order, but in Revelation the previous judgments seem to be accumulated in the fourth horseman (6:8).
He receives an interpretation of the vision from a lady representing the church.
>>I asked her about the four colours which the beast had on his head. And she answered, and said to me, "Again you are inquisitive in regard to such matters." "Yea, Lady, said I, "make known to me what they are."
"Listen," said she: "the black is the world in which we dwell: but the fiery and bloody points out that the world must perish through blood and fire: but the golden part are you who have escaped from this world. For as gold is tested by fire, and thus becomes useful, so are you tested who dwell in it. Those, therefore, who continue stedfast, and are put through the fire, will be purified by means of it. For as gold casts away its dross, so also will ye cast away all sadness and straitness, and will be made pure so as to fit into the building of the tower. But the white part is the age that is to come, in which the elect of God will dwell, since those elected by God to eternal life will be spotless and pure. Wherefore cease not speaking these things into the ears of the saints. This then is the type of the great tribulation that is to come. <<
A notable difference between Hermas and Revelation is that in Hermas the beast has one head and no horns are mentioned, whereas most of the beasts mentioned later in Revelation have seven heads and ten horns, which are said to represent mountains and/or kings 17:9-12.
Instead of a discussion of horns and heads Hermas is given a series of commandments and spiritual parables. This reminds me of the discussion of Daniel's beasts and horns in the Epistle of Barnabas (ch 4). He immediately follows with a discussion of the spiritual covenant and the decalogue (ten commandments).
In Hermas the commandments are different in number than Barnabas or the horns in Revelation, but we are told directly they are commandments. The parables remind us that Jesus taught spiritual parables about the coming kingdom. The seven reminds us of the creation, and the new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17, Gal 6:15, Eph 2:15).
My conclusion is that end time beast in scripture is primarily about a spiritual battle for the human heart (faith). This was the interpretation understood by those that followed the apostles, and it became lost somewhere along the way. Perhaps there are other levels of interpretation, but I think the spiritual one is the most important.