(Rev 17:7) And the angel said unto me, ‘Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.
“…And the angel said unto me…”
The angel is going to tell John what it is he has been seeing so far. There are many examples in Scripture of a prophet seeing a vision that they did not fully understand until an angel interpreted it for them. We find examples of this in Daniel, Zechariah, and several times in the book of Revelation.
“…I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.’”
It is so important to keep in mind that there are two distinct characters in this vision: the woman, known as Mystery Babylon, and the seven-headed, ten-horned beast, which she rides.
Mystery Babylon, which the angel will later say is a city, is riding the seven-headed, ten-horned beast, which is the antichrist. This seven-headed, ten-horned beast will later turn on her and kill her (Rev 17:12-16). I emphasize that these two are distinct because some folks, when studying these passages, forget this distinction, and failing to see it can cause an incorrect understanding of this prophecy.
(Rev 17:8) The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
So the angel begins to talk to John about the seven-headed, ten-horned beast that it mentioned in the previous verse.
Let’s also go back to the beginning of this particular vision in Rev 17 so we can see the full description John gives to this seven-headed, ten-horned beast:
“…scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.” – Rev 17:3b
Here we also pick up the additional information that this seven-headed, ten-horned beast was also scarlet and was “full of names of blasphemy.”
This is the same description given to the beast four chapters earlier in Revelation chapter 13, which is about the antichrist. The beast in that chapter also has seven heads, ten horns and has “names of blasphemy.” This is not coincidental, nor is it the only time in our verse, Revelation 17:8, that there is an explicit reference to Revelation 13 about the antichrist beast.
In fact, I intend to show that the angel gives almost no new information in this verse. The new information from the angel about this beast will come after this verse, but verse 8 here almost serves as a very long re-introduction to the antichrist beast of Revelation 13, using titles and descriptions of him already clearly established.
For example, consider the part of this verse that says “they that dwell on the earth,” or the earth dwellers, which is kind of a technical term for those that are unsaved, as it clarifies here by adding that “their names are not written in the book of life.” These earth dwellers will worship the beast that “was and is not and yet is.”
This was not new information to John in Revelation 17 because he wrote the same description of the beast in Revelation 13 using identical language.
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” – Rev 13:8
The angel back in our verse is calling to remembrance the beast that John has already seen with these exact phrases and descriptions. We will see that even the little things are important – for example the earth dwellers “wondering“ in this verse is a reference to their “wondering” at the beast in chapter 13.
“Was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition…”
This phrase gives people a great deal of difficulty, and so we will spend a bit of time on it. I intend to show that this idea of “was, and is not, and coming out of the bottomless pit” is a title referring to the antichrist having been miraculously healed, or resurrected from the dead.
The last phrase in this verse, “…the beast that was, and is not, and yet is…” being another way to say the same thing – that is he lives, he dies, and he seems to rise again, and will ultimately go to destruction or perdition. It’s sort of a chronology of his entire career on earth, and it functions as a title on several occasions in the book of Revelation.
Before I begin to explain the details of this, we need to refresh our memories to the significance that the Bible puts on the seeming resurrection of the antichrist from the dead.
Let’s review Revelation 13, which is primarily about the antichrist, to make sure we understand this preliminary idea. In the relatively short chapter of Revelation 13, it mentions the antichrist’s fatal wound that was healed three times. The first instance is in verse 3:
“And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshiped the dragon, which gave power unto the beast: and they worshiped the beast, saying, ‘Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?’” – Rev 13:3-4
Here it seems to imply that the world’s worship of the beast is directly connected to his deadly wound being healed. It says that they “wondered after him saying “Who can make war with him?” This is the exact same word used in or current verse: “wondered.” It is also in the exact same context, i.e., wonder from the earth dwellers, associated with worship, and the antichrist’s apparent resurrection from the dead.
This is one of the first descriptions of the antichrist we are given in Revelation 13, right after the symbolic imagery of verses 1 and 2. This is the first thing that we are told about the beast – that he has a deadly wound that is healed. The Bible, as we will see, considers this event very important.
By the second reference to this event in verse 12, the idea of a healed deadly wound has become a title or an identifying description of the beast. Here it distinguishes the first beast from the second by adding the clarification: “whose deadly wound was healed.”
“And he [false prophet] exerciseth all the power of the first beast [antichrist] before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.” – Rev: 13:12
And in the third reference in Rev: 13:14, we see that the healed deadly wound is used again as a title or distinguishing characteristic of the antichrist beast. Here it says:
“And [the false prophet] deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.” - Rev 13:14
So we see again this idea of a resurrection being used as a type of title and to distinguish which beast is in view. Therefore, this phrase “was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit” is basically just another way of saying the same thing. It is an identifier as to which beast we are talking about, the one that was (lived), is not (died), and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit (come back from the dead).
Arthur Pink, an early English Bible scholar who wrote extensively on the antichrist, agrees. He said the following:
“A further reference to the resurrection of the Antichrist, his coming forth from the Bottomless Pit, is found in Rev. 17:8…. It is to be noted that the earth-dwellers wonder when they behold the Beast that was (alive), and is not (now alive), and yet is (raised again). The world will then be presented with the spectacle of a man raised from the dead.” – Pink1
Pink, as well as many other people, associate the phrase “coming out of the bottomless pit” in Revelation 17:8 with the apparent resurrection of the antichrist in Revelation 13. We will see explicit biblical proof of this interpretation in just a moment.
The Bible uses the word “abyss,” which is here translated as “bottomless pit” in many different ways: it is a prison for spirits in Mark 5 and it is almost synonymous with the abode of the dead.
This word, “abyss,” is also the same word that the apostle Paul uses to describe where Jesus went during at least part of the three days in which He was dead before He resurrected.
“But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, ‘Say not in thine heart, “Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:) Or, “Who shall descend into the deep? [abyss] (that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.)” - Rom 10:6-7
So this same word for “bottomless pit” or “abyss” is also the place where Christ came out of when He resurrected.
We find more detail on this event in Acts 2:27-32 where Peter starts off by quoting from the Old Testament:
“Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [hades], neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou shalt make me full of joy with thy countenance. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch, David – that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell [hades], neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. - Act 2:27-32
Now this is interesting because the word “hades” here was mentioned by Peter as the place where Jesus’ soul went when He died, when Paul says that it was the abyss. But we can see that contextually they are both talking about the place where Jesus’ soul went during His death.
My point is not to do an exhaustive study on this subject, but only to show that Jesus went to the abyss at some point during His death. He may have also gone to other locations in hades such as paradise and even “Tatarus.”
There are more references to this event which I will leave for you to study further:
Eph. 4:8-10, 1 Pet. 3:18-20, 2 Pet. 2:4-5, Mat. 12:38-45 and Luke 23:43.
My only point is that coming up from the “abyss” can be shown from Scripture to mean resurrection from the dead.
So these phrases are used like a title referring to the antichrist’s apparent resurrection from the dead. It is as if it is a chronology of his career and a title all at the same time. He is the beast that lives, dies, resurrects, and ultimately meets his doom in perdition or the lake of fire in Revelation 19:20.
I would suggest that the following phrases are all referring not only to the same person – the antichrist, but also the same identifying event in that person’s life – his apparent resurrection.
So back in Revelation 17:8, the angel is about to explain some very interesting details to John about the seven-headed beast that John saw, but this entire verse is basically preliminary. It is simply the restating of the characteristics of the beast of Revelation 13, to clarify that the beast he saw is the same one he saw in a previous vision.
But before we get to new information about the beast, there is one more aspect of this verse that must be covered. There are a lot of interpretations that, even while understanding that the phrases like “the beast that was and is not and yet is…” are referring to the antichrist’s resurrection, which will say that the tense of some of the words in these verses makes it necessary for the antichrist to have lived before the time of John. They will say that since John wrote in the late 1st century, the past tense of the word “was” in the first part of the phrase, i.e., “the beast that was,” means that the beast that will come to life in the future as antichrist must have lived some time before the time of John.
Common candidates for the antichrist proposed in this scenario are Hitler, Judas, or even Nimrod. Again, they are saying that the beast that is “yet to come” must have been dead already when John was writing. This view can lead to any number of wrong conclusions about the identity of the antichrist in my opinion.
They fail to see that John consistently uses these phrases like “the beast that was, and is not, and yet is,“ as a title for the beast of his visions – visions in which he sees all the way to the end of knowable time in some cases. Yet he never ceases to refer to everything he sees as having happened in the past. For instance, even the New Jerusalem’s descent in Revelation 21, which is almost universally considered to be a future event, must have already descended in the first century if this was the correct way to view the text. Because John said, “And I John saw [past tense] the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down…“.
More to this specific point about the phrases like ”was and is not and yet is,” if you applied it consistently to the other titles that refer to the antichrist’s resurrection, the theory that the beast must have already existed like Judas or Nimrod would quickly break down.
So if we applied this 1st century tense idea to these other passages, we must also conclude that the antichrist not only has lived and died by the time of John, but also that his wound had to have already been healed in the 1st century as well because John also refers to it in the past tense!
This would, of course, not be agreed upon by those making this claim. They would not say that this pre- John character has risen from the dead yet; they would only say that he would have already died before John’s time.
The answer here is to realize that phrases like “the beast that was, and is not, and yet is,” “The beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live,” or “The first beast, whose deadly wound was healed” have the same function as being a way to refer to the antichrist. They can even be used to refer to the defining event of his life and also the entire end times course of events. The tense being used is the exact tense you would expect from someone who was trying to refer back to an event he saw in a vision that consisted of future events. In theology it is called the “Prophetic perfect tense.”2
It is also notable that the words in the phrase are in the exact order one would expect to see if this was true. For instance, “coming out of the abyss” would seem to be the first thing mentioned in this phrase if it was in fact referring to where he initially comes from; but instead we see it being consistently placed precisely after he was “not” or after he dies, exactly where you would expect to see a reference to his resurrection.
I will show what I believe to be proof of this when we get to verse 11.
(Rev 17:9-10) And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
This is when the angel begins to tell us more about the seven-headed, ten-horned beast.
“Here is the mind which hath wisdom…”
It says the same thing earlier when it is talking about the mark of the beast:
“Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” – Rev 13:18
I think it may have something to do with how the next idea should be viewed.
“The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. And there are seven kings…”
Now we come to one of the most misunderstood passages in this chapter. You know how I said I have found ninety-plus characteristics of Mystery Babylon so far? Well, most commentators seem to think there is only one, and that is that the city of Mystery Babylon sits on “seven hills,” which they derive from their interpretation of this verse. Often they will say that this city on seven hills is Rome, which is famous for its seven hills, but it doesn’t stop those who think Mystery Babylon is Mecca or even Jerusalem from claiming that their city also sits on seven hills. The only problem is that this is not what this verse is talking about at all.
There are many ways to show this is true, grammatically, contextually, logically, and by comparing Scripture with other Scripture.
Let’s start with the grammar.
The key is in this phrase: “…And there are seven kings.” This is how it reads in the KJV, which I have been doing this study in. Other versions render this with a very important distinction. They say that the seven heads of the beast are seven mountains; the angel then further defines these mountains as being seven kings.
Such as the ESV which says:
(ESV) “…they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come…”
You can see the difference. The King James gives us the idea that the angel begins to talk about a totally separate thing when it talks about the kings, whereas the ESV defines the seven mountains as seven kings and then begins to give further info about these kings. Well…which one is right?
You should know that this difference in translation is not an issue with the Greek texts, like the Textus Receptus or the Wescott and Hort. The Greek texts say the exact same thing here, so it’s not one of those issues. This is simply a matter of translator error.
There is near universal agreement among Bible translators that the grammar is saying that the seven mountains are in fact seven kings. Here we see this is the way it is translated in almost every major English Bible.
When describing the ten horns a few verses later, a similar phrase occurs: [deka basileis eisin]. There, the KJV and NKJV translate the phrase correctly, without substituting there for they as is done in verse 10.
I am not a Greek scholar and I would not want anyone to believe me based on my explaining this to you grammatically, so let’s move to showing that the angel is telling us that the seven heads are seven kings by the context of the passage and by comparing Scripture with other Scripture.
I want to start by reiterating that all the other times in chapter 17 that the seven-headed beast with ten horns is mentioned, it seems to go out of its way to use phrases that are used back in Revelation 13.
And we saw that the beast in our chapter (17) has many of the same characteristics as the one we looked at in Revelation 13. They both had seven heads, ten horns, they both had names of blasphemy on their heads, they both were referred to by their having been killed yet living, they both have the earth dwellers wonder at them when they see their apparent resurrection, and they both have people whose names were not written in the book of life worship them. I know this seems almost obvious, but you should know that the view that the seven mountains are seven hills of a city prevents people from seeing this most basic point.
Our passage goes on to say that one of these heads, which are kings, is the same “was and is not” king talked about in Revelation 13 who gets the mortal wound. Let’s flip back to Revelation 13:3 and check it out:
“One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.” – Rev 13:3
So you see here that one of the beast’s seven heads is referred to as having a mortal wound. This is an exact match with our verse if you are willing to admit that Revelation 17:9 has nothing to do with physical hills in Rome, Mecca, Jerusalem or anywhere else. I mean, do you really think that one of the hills in Rome is going to be mortally wounded and then come back to life? Or that everyone marvels at and begins to worship a hill?
“Five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come…”
This will explain how this seven-headed beast and its heads work. The question I always had was this: if the seven-headed, ten-horned beast was supposed to be the antichrist, how come only one of the heads of this antichrist appears to be in view?
The Bible unapologetically disregards the other 6 heads of this beast as basically unimportant and really only tells us about one of these heads; and somehow both the entire beast and this one specific head are called the antichrist.
Well, this verse will explain that issue.
“Five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come…”
It says five of these kings have fallen. Fallen, among other things, is a biblical term for having died (Exodus 32:28, I Samuel 4:10, 2 Samuel 1:19, 1 Chronicles 5:10). “One is,” presumably means one was currently living in John’s day, and “one is yet to come.”
The beast, as the spirit of the antichrist, has manifested itself in the form of particularly antichrist-like kings throughout history. In 1 John 2:18 it says the following:
“Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. –1Jn 2:18
I believe these five fallen antichrist kings can be determined using no other tool than the Bible: These would be kings that are biblically obvious types of the antichrist. For example Pharaoh during the time of the Exodus is probably one of them, Antiochus Epiphanes who Daniel spent so much time describing, is clearly a type of antichrist, with his setting himself in the temple and declaring himself to be god. Sennacherib, the King of Tyre, Nimrod, and Nero have all been proposed as types of antichrist in the past.
I am not going to attempt to give you a perfect list of these five fallen kings, but I will say that I think they can be determined using the Bible alone.
Some people would say that these heads are not physical kings at all but rather kingdoms. They do this by adding a step to the angel’s interpretation of the seven heads of the beast. The angel says the seven heads are seven mountains, which are seven kings, but they will add a step to this and say the seven kings are seven kingdoms.
They rationalize this by pointing out that in the book of Daniel, kings and kingdoms are pretty much interchangeable terms. Often, before they will take you to this verse in Revelation 17, they will have you agree to the condition that kings mean kingdoms. If you agree, then they will have you flip to Revelation 17 and say, “Well then, we know that these kings are not kings, but actually seven kingdoms.”
I don’t believe this is a good way to interpret the Bible, especially because John is a different writer than Daniel, and he uses the word king several times to refer to an obvious individual king. In Rev 10:11, he even seems to contrast the kings with kingdoms or nations:
“And he said unto me, ‘Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.” – Rev. 10:11
But I think the obvious thing is that the antichrist in Daniel, Matthew 24 and parallel passages, 2 Thessalonians and Revelation is always referred to as a man. He does things that only a man can do. He sits in a temple in Jerusalem and declares himself to be god. He is called a man on several occasions. It says he won’t regard the “God of his fathers.” I could go on, but my point is that it takes twice as much work to make the antichrist be a kingdom rather than a king.
I would say that the antichrist will be a part of and control specific kingdoms, which is important to the book of Daniel and Revelation, but the fact that there is a man that moves and rules those kingdoms is attested to over and over again in Scripture.
I will not speculate as to which king was the manifestation of the antichrist in John’s day either, as I honestly don’t know myself. Some speculate Nero, but I have not decided what my view is on this point.
“The other has not yet come…”
This is one that I think we can have more explicit biblical information about.
So this future king, this future manifestation of the beast, has at least one specific characteristic mentioned here. He “must continue a short space.”
I believe this phrase is strong evidence that the king that is future, is the one that has the fatal wound and yet lives, the antichrist head. The head we have been discussing in Revelation 13 – the one that so much time is spent on.
This idea of a “short space” is good evidence to that effect.
By far, the most talked about time period in prophecy is the 3.5 years which the antichrist is given. It makes reference to this exact time period seven times in Scripture and talks about the detail of it in many more places. It refers to this 3.5-year period in the following ways:
It refers to this time period being a “short time” as well; in fact, using the exact words from Rev 17:10 when it says:
“Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” – Rev 12:12
The idea that he must continue a short time seems to match up well with the references about the antichrist who has the mortal wound and lives. It says in Revelation 13:5:
“And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months.” - Rev 13:5
Rarely are characteristics of the antichrist found in only one verse. This idea is backed up in several places:
“And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” – Dan 7:25
I would propose that this idea of “short space” is referring back to the short space given for the dragon to continue in Revelation 12 and the 3.5-year period given to the antichrist in Revelation 13. It also should be noted that 3.5 years is an extremely short time for a king to rule.
Other people who want to make this future king one that has already been alive in the past, like Nimrod, will propose that the yet to come king of Rev 17:10 was Hitler, but Hitler ruled about 12 years.
The reign of antichrist is short because it needs to be short. Jesus said of these 3.5 years, which start just as the antichrist declares himself to be god in the temple:
“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.” – Mat 24:21-22
(Rev. 17:11) And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
“And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition…”
This verse is where we will find confirmation of the view that the beast’s coming out of the bottomless pit in verse 8 is a reference to the antichrist’s resurrection.
Notice first the similarity to this phrase in verse 11 and the one we looked at earlier in Revelation 17:8:
Rev 17:8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition.
Rev 17:11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
The difference here is the middle of these two verses (the part about the resurrection). In 17:8, it describes the resurrection as “ascending out of the bottomless pit. “
In verse 11, the part that says “even he is the eighth and is of the seven” is not only being used to convey the same thing (that is the resurrection portion of his chronology), but as we will see, it is also giving us more information about this king.
This phrase “even he is the eighth, and is of the seven” is saying that though there are only seven kings, there will be eight reigns. That is, one of these kings will rule twice. The resurrection of antichrist explains how there can be eight reigns and only seven kings. This is almost universally considered to be speaking of a resurrection of one of the dead seven kings to rule twice. In other words, he will be the eighth king while never ceasing to be the one of the seven kings.
So this provides great credibility to the earlier interpretation that this phrase is a technical title of the beast in Revelation 13 and that the “bottomless pit” in verse 8 is a reference to the beast’s resurrection. Just as the phrase “even he is the eighth, and is of the seven” is a reference to the resurrection, and that all of it is packaged in an identical word structure, so we can be confident of our interpretation that this is a title of the antichrist that refers to his most identifiable trait, his apparent resurrection.
As a side note many people might ask, “Does Satan have the power to raise people from the dead?” I do not believe that he does, but I do think the antichrist is really raised from the dead. For more on this, I would suggest an article on this point called:
“Can Satan Raise The Dead? Toward A Biblical View of the Beast’s Wound” by Gregory H. Harris.3 He is a Professor of Bible Exposition and I would recommend this paper if you are interested. I agree with its overall premise but would probably disagree on some of the finer points.
(Rev 17:12) And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
In our verse we see that the beast has seven heads, but also ten horns. We are not told exactly how these horns are distributed on the seven heads or if they are even on the seven heads at all. We don’t know if six of the heads have one horn and the seventh has four horns or if they have some other arrangement.
I think when we consider the following passages we will find that these ten horns are working with the final head. So if I were to make a guess, these horns are either all on one head – the seventh one, or possibly not on the heads at all, but some other part of the body.
I also say this because the fourth beast of Daniel 7:7-8 also has ten horns, and that beast is widely considered to be associated with the antichrist.
Let’s consider this symbolism so we can get our bearings in this difficult passage. The seven heads of the beast are seven kings, and now we are told that the horns of this beast are also kings. So what is this talking about? Let’s read ahead so we can get the context and find the relationship of these kings to the antichrist according to the angel. This will help us make an informed decision.
“And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. And he saith unto me, ‘The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.’” – Rev 17:12-17
So it seems what we have here is one super king – a supreme dictator – who is the final, yet future, head of the antichrist beast, and has ten other kings under his total authority. So part of the point of this symbolism of the horns on the beast is speaking of a consolidation of power of some kind. The purpose for this consolidation is very interesting and we will talk about that when we get to those verses. But the symbolism here of the ten horns on the beast is one main ruler ruling over others, who willingly give their authority to the dictator, who then uses them to do his bidding.
Before we move on, I would like to briefly talk about the book of Daniel. I take a slightly different view on Daniel 2 and Daniel 7. I think that all four of the beasts in Daniel 7 may be contemporary with the antichrist (as opposed to them lining up directly with the kingdoms of Daniel 2). I think that if this is true, there is much more detail that we can know about the end times scenario than has previously been considered. You can see the studies I did on Daniel 2 and 7 at http://bibleprophecytalk.com.
“…which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. “
First, please notice that this is making a distinction between kings and kingdoms quite boldly. It says: “ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet.” This is a strong rebuke to those who try to make the references to kings in these chapters mean kingdoms because of their various presuppositions. John demonstrates that if he or the angel who he is recording wants to say kingdoms instead of kings, they are quite willing and capable of doing so.
These kings are directly tied to the beast. It says that they only rule for “one hour with the beast.” We will talk in more detail about their kingdoms and how they give away their power to the beast as we look at the next verses where we are given more information about this.
We will take the next two verses together:
(Rev 17:13-14) These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
These shall make war with the Lamb
Here is one of the reasons these kings are given power: that is to war against the Lamb, who is of course Jesus Christ. This battle is referring to Armageddon. This may help explain the idea of them ruling for only one hour. By the time of the battle of Armageddon things are looking pretty grim for the antichrist. This would be the final attempt at preventing the return of Christ to take His throne.
“…and shall give their power and strength…”
I’m not entirely sure that these kings ever do get kingdoms, but they do have some kind of assets that are utilized by the beast. It says here that they give their power and strength to the beast for this mission of warring against the Lamb.
Revelation 19 is a picture of this battle of Armageddon:
“And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” – Rev 19:15-16
So we see here a clear reference to Armageddon again, and as we compare the different Scriptures about these kings and the final battle they are drawn to fight, my hope is that we are getting a better understanding of who these kings are.
(Rev 17:15) And he saith unto me, ‘The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
“The waters which thou sawest…”
The angel is giving the interpretation of the waters that John saw the whore on.
“… [The waters] are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.”
This idea of sitting on peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues is a way to say that the city of Mystery Babylon rules over many and has great power and authority. This is consistent with the later descriptions of her actions in the next chapter and with her relationship to the other kings of the earth and other nations.
The same language is used when Jeremiah talks about the destruction of actual Babylon in Jeremiah 51:13:
“O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness.” – Jer 51:13
You will see many similar things like this in Jeremiah 51.
In fact I think this is one of the main reasons why Mystery Babylon is called Mystery Babylon, because she shares not only the city of Babylon’s former power over nations, but also shares her worship of false gods and, ultimately, Babylon’s pattern of judgment, detailed in Jeremiah 51.
I have, of course, been detailing in our study the possibility of the last days city of Jerusalem being Mystery Babylon – the city that rules many nations in the time of the antichrist.
This is an extremely important part of this theory and so it is about time I address it.
It should be noted that Jews and Christians both believe that Jerusalem will be the capital city of the world in the messianic age. The book of Zechariah is just one of many places in the Bible where this promise is made:
“Then shall the Lord go forth ... and His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east ... and it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.” (Zech. 12:3, 4, 16, 17)
You will find that glimpses of Jerusalem’s future as world capital are sprinkled all though the Psalms and the major and minor prophets. Jewish people have been waiting for thousands of years for someone to make Jerusalem the world capital, just as their Scriptures promise will come to pass.
Here are some specific examples:
And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. - Zec 14:16
Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the LORD out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem," says the LORD, "as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD. - Isa 66:20
And it shall come to pass That from one New Moon to another, And from one Sabbath to another, All flesh shall come to worship before Me," says the LORD. - Isa 66:23
I think that our verse, Revelation 17:15, and others like it show that the antichrist will succeed in doing this to an extent, as he masquerades as their Messiah. He will try to make Jerusalem the uncontested world capital.
If you understand this point, then the next chapter about the people making pilgrimages and bringing gifts to the city of Mystery Babylon as if it were the city of the Messianic age, and as if the antichrist were the Messiah, will make a lot more sense to you.
People will try to use this verse about her sitting on waters which are nations to say that the seven- headed beast which she sits on represents kingdoms not kings.
Some are opposed to the waters being what the beast, along with the woman atop him, are sitting on. They would say, “Well, it says she sits on waters and it says she sits on a beast, so the beast and the waters must be the same.” They would say that this verse defines the beast itself, as opposed to the waters that both the woman and the beast sit on. To say it another way, they are saying that the waters here are the beast.
I think this is wrong for two reasons. One, it’s more logical to assume that she is sitting on a seven- headed beast and both of them are sitting on the waters – that is, ruling over the “peoples and nations,” etc. In other words, the city of Jerusalem (the woman) and the beast she rides (the antichrist) are both sitting on (ruling) many peoples and nations.
Not only is this consistent with what we just looked at about the ten-horned kings, who give their authority to the beast, but it also connects to Revelation chapter 13 where we see that the seven- headed, ten-horned antichrist beast comes out of the sea, a consistent idiom for peoples and nations. He is not the sea itself in Revelation 13. In fact, that chapter makes it very clear, in my opinion, that he is a human king.
(Rev 17:16) And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
This is a very interesting development. The ten kings who we saw earlier are subordinate to the antichrist and are used to go to war against God, and are also used to destroy the city of Mystery Babylon. So the antichrist here turns on the woman. We will see later that although the kings who do this are under the complete control of the antichrist, it is ultimately God who causes this to happen for the purpose of His Judgment.
Interestingly, this verse is the fulfillment of a detailed prophecy about Jerusalem in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. Let’s take a look:
“Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations…” – Eze 16:1-2
You can see from verses 1 and 2 that this prophecy is about Jerusalem. It says:
“And I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy. I will also give you into their hand, and they shall throw down your shrines and break down your high places. They shall also strip you of your clothes, take your beautiful jewelry, and leave you naked and bare. They shall also bring up an assembly against you, and they shall stone you with stones and thrust you through with their swords. They shall burn your houses with fire, and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women; and I will make you cease playing the harlot, and you shall no longer hire lovers.” - Eze 16:38-41
This is exactly fulfilled in our verse back in Revelation 17:15.
Here God says He will give Jerusalem into their hand. So even though the agent of destruction has evil intent, God will use them to carry out His righteous judgment on Jerusalem. You can see the same language being used here as in our verse. They strip her naked and burn her with fire, all because of her “playing the harlot” with false gods.
It should be noted that these earthly kings only constitute a small portion of her destructions. She is also judged by earthquakes and fire from heaven in addition to whatever these kings do. I would also submit that the ultimate judgment of Mystery Babylon and the Battle of Armageddon take place at the same time, or very close to one another. I also think they will happen at the same place, i.e., Jerusalem.
For more on this possibility, see a paper called: “A BigProblem: Where is Har Magedon? An Examination of Revelation16:16.4
But for now, all you need to know is that although the antichrist turns on the city of Mystery Babylon and uses his lackey kings to plunder her, it is by no means the only judgment she receives according to the seventh bowl judgment and parallel passages.
(Rev 17:17) For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
“…For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will…”
This shows the sovereignty of God in all this. That God is the ultimate force behind this judgment, whether these kings know it or not, is made even clearer in the next chapter which says:
“Therefore, shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.” – Rev 18:8
“…And to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled…”
Again this hearkens back to the fact that these ten kings give their power and authority to the beast. Here it says that they collectively have a kingdom, not plural kingdoms. This is interesting and may indicate that the ten kings are representatives of one collective kingdom. This may also explain why they didn’t have a kingdom “yet” in verse 12 and why they were only said to give power and authority in verse 13.
(Rev 17:18) And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
This is a very important verse to study in the process of trying to figure out who Mystery Babylon is. We are told point blank by the angel that this woman is a city. The views that try to interpret her to mean something else, such as an allegorical source of spiritual and economic evil, are disregarding the sureness of the angel’s interpretation of John’s vision.
All through Scripture when interpretations of a vision are given, they are pretty straightforward. It is, therefore, unlikely that the angel would tell John that he was going to interpret his vision and then give him an interpretation that he was not supposed to accept. It would also be inconsistent with the angel’s other interpretations in this chapter.
The angel gets specific. He says it is “that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.”
Now we know from verse 15 that Mystery Babylon will sit over many nations and peoples and tongues. But I think the problem that many commentators have here is that they try to look around their current era and consider which city rules over the earth in their day.
This tendency to look to our surroundings as opposed to the future for fulfillment of this passage has caused a lot of poor interpretations in this writer’s opinion.
Considering the antichrist is supposed to set up a world government that most of us would agree is in the future, why would we feel the need to have the passages about his world government capital city fulfilled in the past? The temptation has been too great to resist for most commentators in my library.
I am under the impression that the Bible would not like us to speculate on this point, and one of the many ways it gives us the answer to this question is by the use of this term “great city.”
The phrase “great city” is used ten times in the book of Revelation, and every time it refers to the city of Jerusalem. Many people would violently disagree with me on that because they don’t see Mystery Babylon (which is called the great city) as Jerusalem.
Let’s set aside, for the time, the instances of the phrase “great city” used to refer to Mystery Babylon and only talk about references to the great city where it is absolutely undisputed that it is talking about Jerusalem:
“And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” - Rev 11:8
Obviously, the city where our Lord was crucified is Jerusalem. No one would deny that. Some commentators concede this point begrudgingly, knowing the problem it creates.
I would also call your attention to the definite article “ho” in the Greek here as in THE great city. This ensures we know that Jerusalem is considered by John to have a title of “the great city.”
The fact that John uses this phrase “great city,” which he uses earlier to define Jerusalem during the time of the two witnesses after they were killed by antichrist is very strong evidence in favor of the interpretation that Mystery Babylon is Jerusalem.
But these “great city” references show that Mystery Babylon is Jerusalem in another way as well. Revelation 16:19 distinguishes the “great city” from the cities of the nations.
And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. - Rev 16:19
“[This] is the second proof that ‘the great city’ refers to Jerusalem. "The cities of the nations" (Gentiles) is in contrast to ‘the great city (Jews).’”
So to clarify this part, the word Gentiles and nations are almost interchangeable. There are two types of cities in the world if you want to look at it from a Jewish perspective: Jerusalem and the Gentile cities. In this verse, Mystery Babylon is contrasted with the cities of the nations, which suggests that it is not a Gentile nation.
Some who recognize the significance of Revelation 16:19 try to make the reference to Babylon here be a third entity in the discussion.
In other words, they say that “the great city,” which they would concede is Jerusalem, is split into three parts, and the cities of the nations also fell, AND Babylon was mentioned as a third party.
Most would say that only two parties are in view here: the great city divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations. The following mention of “Great Babylon” is in reference to the “Great city” mentioned just before.
Other translations agree, especially the newer ones. They connect the great city in the first part to great Babylon.
(NET) “The60 great city was split into three parts and the cities of the nations61 collapsed.62 So63 Babylon the great was remembered before God, and was given the cup64 filled with the wine made of God's furious wrath.”65
Here 63 καί (kai)has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied result of Babylon’s misdeeds (see Rev 14:8).
Another new Bible that is set to be completed later this year says:
(ISV-v2.0) “The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. God remembered to give Babylon the Great the cup of wine filled with the fury of his wrath.”
The NET Bible renders this, “So Babylon….” The ISV renders it, “God remembered to give Babylon….” That is to say that it did not introduce a new character here but rather it gives more information about the first character mentioned.
The simple version of this is that the last verse of Revelation 17 calls Mystery Babylon the “Great city,” a term that is used to very directly identify the Jerusalem of the antichrist by the same author in the same book using a definite article to indicate a title or at least a very definite identification with the phrase.