Babylon Rides the Beast

End-Time “Babylon” sits on the same beastly entity that John saw “ascending from the Sea” in Chapter 13, but it combines the four “Beasts” of Daniel into one final malignant creature bent on destroying the saints. In Chapter 17, its “lineage” and inevitable destruction are described with language from Daniel’s vision of the “Little Horn” and the “Fourth Beast.”

The final incarnation of the Beast evolved over a long history of imperial regimes. It is an entity that transcends human history, beginning with the Tower of Babel incident “in the land of Shinar - (Genesis 11:1-9, Daniel 7:1-8, 15-26, Revelation 13:1-3).

Babylonian Lion - Photo by Corbin Mathias on Unsplash
[Photo by Corbin Mathias on Unsplash]

  • (Revelation 17:7-8) – “And the angel said to me: Why were you astonished? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carries her, which has seven heads and ten horns. The beast which you saw was and is not, and is going to ascend from the abyss, and into destruction, it goes. And the inhabitants of the earth, whose name is not written upon the book of life from the foundation of the world, will be astonished when they see the beast because it was and is not, and will be present.”

The English term “astonished” translates the Greek verb thaumazō, meaning “wonder, marvel; to be astonished.” It echoes Daniel’s reaction to his visions of the “fourth beast” and the “king of fierce countenance” - (Daniel 7:28, 8:27 – “As for me, Daniel, my thoughts much ASTONISHED me, and my countenance was changed in me.

This understanding is confirmed by the angel’s reaction to John’s astonishment: “I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the Beast that carries her.” So, also, Daniel was troubled by his visions, not simply by their content, but because he did not understand their significance.

The mystery” of “Babylon the Great” is the mystery of the Harlot AND the “Beast on which she sits.” Their activities and fates are inextricably linked. The Beast has “Seven Heads and Ten Horns.” It is the same creature seen in Chapter 13, only now it is described as one that “was and is not and is going to ascend from the Abyss.”

The description of its ascent from the “Abyss” verbally links it to the “Two Witnesses” who were killed by the “Beast from the Abyss.” That same reality is in view in Chapter 17. When the final incarnation of the “Beast” appears, it will wage war on the witnesses of the “Lamb.”

The description recalls the “head” of the “Beast” that received the death blow but was “healed.” Just as the “Inhabitants of the Earth wondered after the Beast” when its wound was healed, they will wonder “because it was and is not and will be present.”

The Beast is “not” but then “present,” alluding to Daniel’s vision of the “fourth beast” and its predicted fate. Despite their demise, the “four beasts” of Daniel continued to exist in some fashion for a designated “season”:

  • (Daniel 7:11-12) – “I beheld even till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed, and it was given to be burned with fire. And as for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away: YET THEIR LIVES WERE PROLONGED for a season and a time.”

This is the beastly parody of the declaration that God is the one “who is and who was and is coming.” The “Beast” claims divine prerogatives, but unlike the “coming” of God, its “arrival” will mean its destruction - (Revelation 1:4, 11:15-19).

Moreover, the term translated as “present” is pareimi. It is related to the noun ‘Parousia’ applied by the New Testament to the “arrival” of Jesus. The “arrival” of the “Beast” is compared to that of Jesus. One ends in glory, but the other, in destruction - (2 Thessalonians 2:8-9).

  • (Revelation 17:9-13) – “Here is the mind that has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, upon which the woman sits; and they are seven kings: the five have fallen, the one is, the other has not yet come; and, whenever he comes, a little while must he remain, and the beast that was and is not, and he is an eighth and is of the seven, and into destruction, it goes. And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, who, indeed, have not received sovereignty as of yet but will receive authority as kings for one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and their power and authority they give to the beast.”


“The mind that has wisdom” is a clause paralleling the earlier call to understand the “Number of the Beast.” It also recalls the prediction given to Daniel at the end of his final vision - (Revelation 13:18, Daniel 12:10- “None of the wicked will understand, but the wise will understand”).

Next, the angel provided John with the interpretation of the vision. The “Seven Heads” of the Beast represented “mountains,” which, in turn, represented “kings” or kingdoms. From John’s perspective, five had “fallen” already, one existed at his time, and the seventh was yet to come.

The regime that existed for John could only be the Roman Empire. Again, the “Beast” is a transhistorical reality, just as the single “Beast from the Sea,” and the last “kingdom” was in John’s future. When it does arrive, it will remain for “a little while.” This translates the Greek term oligos, the same one used when the Devil was expelled to Earth for a “short while - (Revelation 13:1).

Likewise, at the end of the “Thousand Years,” the Devil was released from the “Abyss” for “a little while.” The same “short” period is in view in all three passages. The arrival of the final incarnation of the “Beast,” singular, will coincide with Satan’s release from the “Abyss” - (Revelation 12:12, 20:3).

Roman Ruins B&W - Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash
[Photo by Stefan Cosma on Unsplash]

This final kingdom “
was and is not.” This describes the same reality as the Beast’s “head” that received the “death stroke that was healed.” It will be one of the “seven,” but it will also be an “eighth.” The final “Beast” will be of the same lineage as its predecessors, but it will also be something beyond them - (Revelation 16:16).

The “Ten Horns are ten kings” who did not receive their sovereignty until the “Hour of Trial” of the “whole habitable Earth.” These kings gave their allegiance to the “Beast from the Sea.” The group is identical to the “kings of the Earth” allied with the “Beast,” and they subjugate themselves to “Babylon.”

The number “ten” symbolizes an entire series in Revelation. All the “Kings of the Earth” along with the nations from the “four corners of the Earth” will join the “Beast” from the Sea/Abyss in its final assault against the “Lamb” and his “saints” on behalf of the “Dragon.”

  • Babel Lives! - (In the Bible, Babylon becomes a symbol of the recurring rise of empires and self-appointed world leaders)
  • Empires Rise and Fall - (Imperial hubris is the legacy of the Tower of Babel, humanity’s first but certainly not attempt to establish the World Empire)
  • God Grants Sovereignty - (God gave the kingdom of Judah into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, but He also equipped Daniel and his companions for service in the court of Babylon)



Silence in Heaven

Sorrow Not