1. Today we may have one of the most difficult passages in the book of Revelation. We can read it over and over and still not grasp what it is that we are reading. I hope to offer you an explanation that will not only be clear but help us to understand more fully how God is working throughout history and at the consummation of this age. How all of history has a purpose and how that purpose is fulfilled.
2. Last week we looked at the woman on the beast. We described her as a harlot and a city. We saw how she probably represents the false church throughout the ages. As we continue on today we will see how her identity is closely tied in with the beast. We will look at who the beast is in greater detail. And we will see the beast turn against the woman and destroy her.
3. After calling the woman a mystery in vs. 5.we would expect the angel to further describe her. In vs. 7 the angel says that he will show the mystery of the woman and the beast. However he goes on to describe the beast. This is because the mystery or identity of the woman is found in the identity of the beast. There is one mystery that includes both of them.
4. We have already met the beast in chapters 11 and 13. We have already identified him as the antichrist, as the antichristian world-powers, especially from a political perspective.
5. Previously the beast arose out of the waters - from out of the people and nations of the earth. T- this time we read that he comes up out of the abyss. Both of these are correct. The beast finds it origin in the abyss, the kingdom of darkness or the mind of Satan. But the devil realizes his kingdom by using men top raise up this beast in the course of history. And as we read again in vs. 8, people are led to worship the beast, at least all but the saints.
6. As we consider the beast we are looking at him historically. This is not just an event at the end of time but a historical progression or development. And we are told some interesting things about the history of the beast.
7. Three times we are told that the beast once was, is not and yet will come- vs. 8, 9, 11. Since we are told this three times this must be very important. Remember the beast represents political power throughout history, in its various forms. And in its development it becomes a unified political power were all are of one mind. Hoeksema gives a reasonable explanation. He says that there was only one time that the peoples of the earth were unified. And at that time they were challenging God. That happened at Babel when they built a tower which they thought would reach to heaven. This joint effort was a manifestation of the anti-Christ or antichristian power (the beast). But God stopped this by giving them different languages and by scattering them. And so in it ultimate or highest form, the beast was and no longer is. At the time of John writing this, there was the Roman Empire, but that was a empire formed by power not by all being of one mind. And yet this unified political power will come again at the end. When the nations of the world are unified together under the reign of the beast whose image they worship. And of course, the woman, or false church, directs people to worship the beast.
8. We are also told more about the seven heads that the beast has. Some have said these heads are the hills of Rome, but that is highly unlikely. Hills or mountains are symbolic of kingdoms. And in vs. 10 we are told they are seven kings. But rather than individuals the term kings probably refers to kingdoms. The four beasts of Daniel 7 were also said to represent 4 kings although we know they were kingdoms. We are told that five of these heads, these kings or kingdoms have fallen, one is and the other has not yet come. We must remember that God institutes the governments of the world. But these governments seek absolute control and want to rule the whole world. And so these 5 kingdoms that were are manifestations of the beast seeking to set up his world government. They probably are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece. The kingdom that is would be the kingdom that existed at the time John saw the revelation and that would be the Roman empire.
9. There is one kingdom that remains to come. And when it comes that kingdom will remain for a little while. This kingdom will show its power as separate from the other kingdoms of the earth, as did the first six. This kingdom will exist near the end time. As the kingdoms are seduced by the beast and the woman, they all become of one mind. They become a world power. But in this process, this one nation, the seventh head will dominate and be more powerful. In fact that kingdom will be used by the beast as the instrument by which he forms the world confederacy.