Summary: The angel explains the meaning of the beast and the prostitute. The Antichrist empowered by Satan, controls human society, using his power to fight against the authority of God. His attacks on God’s people may die down for a period, but after he . . . .
Book of Revelation
By: Tom Lowe Date: 6/20/17
Lesson: IV.C.2: The Mystery of the Woman and Beast Explained
Revelation 17:7-18 (KJV)
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.
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.
9 And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
10 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.
11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
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.
13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
14 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.
15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
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.
17 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.
18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
Introduction to Chapter 17:7-18
The angel now explains the meaning of the beast and the prostitute. The antichrist empowered by Satan, controls human society, using his power to fight against the authority of God. His attacks on God’s people may die down for a period, but after he gains fresh life and strength, the attacks will be renewed. In the end God will destroy him (vs.7-8; 13:3-4). (For believers of John’s time this illustration was full of meaning. The calm that followed Nero's death was not permanent. Persecution was renewed under the Emperor Domitian, who appeared to the Christians to be a second Nero?Nero come back to life, so to speak.
First century Rome, with its advanced civilization and organized opposition to God, was a clear expression of the anti-God spirit symbolized by the beast, the prostitute and Babylon. The seven heads of the beast, explained as representing both seven hills and seven rulers, symbolize the strength and stability of Rome. But in any age or society, as people’s sense of collective self-sufficiency increases, they inevitably set themselves against God (v. 9).
Interpreting the vision becomes more difficult when the angel gives further details of the seven rulers. Most of them already belong to the past. Only one is yet to appear, though he will be replaced by an eighth, who will display even greater satanic power than the previous seven. But God will destroy him. Again, events of the first century may have given this vision special meaning for Christians who experienced persecution under several emperors. No doubt the climax of evil at the end of the age will give the vision much fuller meaning. However, in any era Christians can look back on a line of ungodly rulers and look for relief in the future, even though the final ruler may embody the antichrist more than all who have gone before him. Rulers who become too harsh in their exercise of power usually bring about their own destruction (v. 10-11).
There will always be rulers and nations who want to join forces with the antichrist. They see benefits for themselves in being part of the ungodly power system. They give wholehearted support to the antichrist, but their apparent success is brief (v. 12-13). In deciding to attack Christ, they guarantee their own destruction. Real power in the kingdoms of the world rests not with the beast (the antichrist) but with the Lamb (the true Christ) (v. 14).
In their pursuit of power and prosperity, people may develop international cooperation (v. 15), but hatred and jealousy eventually bring disunity and conflict (see James 4:1-2). As the prostitute has relied on the beast to carry her, so the human race has relied on the forces of Satan to achieve stability, growth, wealth and power. But as the prostitute is killed by the beast that supported her, so the human race is destroyed by the very forces it has used to advance itself (v. 16). People have a desire to build a society that is independent of God, and in the end God uses that desire to bring about their punishment (vs. 17-18).