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10 October 2019

The Beast that carries the Harlot – (Revelation 17:7-13)

Daniel's vision of four beast from the sea
This next paragraph describes the Beast on which the Great Harlot Babylon sits. It is the same Beast that John saw ascending from the sea, a creature that was an amalgamation of all four of the beasts that Daniel saw ascending from the sea. The book of Revelation now presents the “lineage” of the Beast and its destiny, with imagery from the fourth beast of Daniel’s vision, especially that latter’s “little horn.” The last incarnation of the Beast comes from a long history of beastly powers, a creature that transcends human history, though this will be the last of the line (Daniel 7:1-8, 15-26Revelation 13:1-3).
(Revelation 17:7-13) – “And the messenger said unto me — Wherefore wast thou astonished? I will tell thee the secret of the woman, and of the wild-beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and the ten horns. The wild-beast which thou sawest, was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss, and into destruction goeth away. And they who are dwelling upon 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 wild-beast, because it was, and is not, and shall be present. Here is the mind that hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, whereupon the woman sitteth; and they are seven kings: the five have fallen, the one is, the other hath not yet come; and, whensoever he shall come, a little while must he remain, and the wild-beast which was and is not. And he is an eighth, and is of the seven, — and into destruction goeth away. And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, — who, indeed, have not received sovereignty as yet, but authority as kings for one hour shall receive, with the wild-beast. These have one mind, and their power and authority unto the wild-beast they give.” [Source:  The Emphasized Bible].
Wherefore were you astonished?” “Astonished” translates the Greek verb thaumazō, meaning, “to wonder, marvel, be astonished.” It can refer to astonishment from a negative or positive reaction to something. While John may have been overwhelmed by the appearance of the Harlot, the term echoes the reaction of Daniel to his visions of the fourth beast and its “little horn.” Note the following parallels:
(Daniel 7:15) – “As for me, Daniel, my spirit was grieved in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head alarmed me.”
(Daniel 7:28) – “Here is the end of the matter. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts much alarmed me, and my countenance was changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart.”
(Daniel 8:27) – “And I, Daniel, fainted, and was sick certain days; then I rose up, and did the king’s business: and I was astonished [thaumazō - Septuagint] at the vision, but none understood it.”
This understanding is confirmed by the reaction of the angel to John’s astonishment (“I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her”). Daniel was troubled by his visions, not only by their content but because he did not understand their full significance. Unlike Daniel, the meaning of his vision is revealed to John by the angel.
The mystery.” The angel had just referred to the name written on the woman’s forehead, “Mystery, Babylon the Great” (verse 5). That “mystery” or “secret” is now revealed, but it is the mystery of the Harlot and the Beast on which she sits. The activities and the fates of the two are inextricably linked.
This Beast has “seven heads and the ten horns”; it is the same beast John saw ascending from the sea. Likewise, the fourth beast of Daniel had ten horns though nothing was said of seven heads (Daniel 7:7-8, Revelation 13:1).
The Beast “was and is not and is going to ascend out of the Abyss.” This description recalls one of the heads of the Beast that received a deathblow, “and his death-stroke was healed.”  Just as the “inhabitants of the earth wondered [thaumazō] after the beast” when his deathblow was healed, so the “inhabitants of the earth will wonder [thaumazō]” at the Beast, “because it was and is not, and shall be present” (Revelation 13:3-4). This last description alludes to Daniel’s vision of the fourth beast and its fate:
(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.”
The ascent of the Beast from the “Abyss” was described earlier when the “two witnesses had finished their testimony.” Then the beast that “ascends out of the abyss shall make war with them, and overcome them, and kill them.” The phrase, “make war with them and overcome them” echoes the interpretation of Daniel’s vision in which the “little horn” would make war with the “saints and prevail over them,” a verse also alluded to when the Beast from the sea was authorized to make war with the saints (Daniel 7:21, Revelation 11:7, 12:17, 13:7).
The description, “was and is not, and will be present,” is a parody of the declared attribution of God, the one “who is and who was, and is coming.” The Beast will lay claim to divine prerogatives. However, unlike God’s “coming” which results in absolute victory, the “arrival” of the Beast will mean, ultimately, its destruction (Revelation 1:4, 11:15-19).
Shall be present.” The Greek verb used is pareimi, “to arrive; to be present.” It is related to the noun parousia, which is often used for the “arrival” of Jesus at the end of the age (e.g., 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The use of it here may be intended to compare the Beast’s “arrival” with that of Jesus, though neither the verb nor the noun form is applied to the coming of Jesus in the book of Revelation. The Apostle Paul did use parousia for both the “arrival” of Jesus and of the “Man of Lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:8-9).
The inhabitants of the earth whose name is not written upon the book of life.” This description identifies this group with the earth-dwellers who rendered homage to the Beast from the sea, “whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The identification also means the men and women who comprise this group are destined for the “Lake of fire” (Daniel 12:1Revelation 13:2, 20:15).
“Here is the mind that hath wisdom.” This phrase parallels the call to understand the number of the beast and the angel’s prediction to Daniel at the end of his final vision:
(Revelation 13:18) – “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast.”
(Daniel 12:10) – “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.”
The seven heads are seven mountains.” The angel now provides an interpretation. The “seven heads” are not literal heads but represent mountains. But they also represent “seven kings” or kingdoms. From John’s perspective, five of the seven fell in the past (“five have fallen”), one is a present reality (“one is”), and the seventh is yet in the future (“the other shall arrive”).
The book of Revelation is using and adapting the vision of four beasts from the sea in which the fourth beast had ten horns. (Daniel 7:1-8). That vision did not mention seven “heads”; however, the third beast “like a leopard” had four heads. Combined with the other three beasts, this makes a total of seven heads spanning all four beast systems.
Five have fallen.” This means that five of these “kings” or “kingdoms” had already fallen by John’s time. The numbers in Revelation are generally figurative. Even if this number is literal, attempting to identify the five that had fallen by this time is not particularly relevant (e.g., Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece; or, Assyria, Babylon, the Medes, Persia and Greece?). The point is that the “Beast” is a transhistorical reality, just as the single Beast from the sea in Revelation 13:1 was comprised of characteristics from all four of Daniel’s individual beasts.
One is.” This points to a king or kingdom in power in John’s day. Whether this number is literal or figurative, it can only refer to Rome, the governmental power that was oppressing the seven churches of Asia and that, most likely, exiled John to Patmos.
The last “king” has not yet come, but when he does, he will remain for “a little while.” This translates the Greek term oligos, the same one used when the Devil was expelled to the earth, having great wrath, “because he knows that he has but a short time” (Revelation 12:12). Likewise, the Devil was bound in the Abyss until he was to be released for “a little while” (Revelation 20:3).
The final Beast “was and is not.” This refers to the same reality as the head of the Beast from the sea that received a deathblow that was healed, causing the world to wonder after it. This creature is one of the seven but is also an “eighth.” That is, it is of the same series and nature as the preceding incarnations of the “Beast,” but this one is something new; something beyond what has preceded it.
This is a key verse used by some commentators to conclude that the final beast system will be a reconstituted Roman Empire, since the seventh/eighth “king” arises after the one in John’s time. This is plausible though identifying it specifically as Rome may go beyond the evidence. The “five kings” that preceded Rome were not Roman, however one identifies them. Suffice it to say, this final kingdom will include all the worst elements of its predecessors, including Rome.
However horrible this final kingdom is, in the end, it is doomed for destruction. This is conceptually parallel to the kings of the earth being gathered to “Armageddon” so they can be destroyed; likewise, the Beast and its allies destroyed by the Rider on a white horse, and the army of “Gog and Magog” consumed by fire from heaven (Revelation 16:16, 19:17-21, 20:8-10).
The ten horns are “ten kings.” This same formula is found in Daniel 7:24 where the ten horns of the fourth beast are identified as ten kings. They will not receive power until a specific “hour.” This “hour” is the same as the “hour of trial” that will fall upon the whole habitable earth (Revelation 3:10. Cp. 9:15, 11:13, 18:10-19).
These kings give their allegiance to the Beast. This group is identical with the “kings of the earth” that ally with the Beast and subjugate themselves to the Great Harlot, but they are destroyed by the Lamb in the final “battle” (Revelation 6:15, 16:12-14, 17:2, 17:18, 18:9, 19:17-21). Elsewhere, the number ten is used for the sense of a complete or full series, such as, ten days of tribulation, ten thousand times ten thousand voices praising the Lamb, and ten thousand times ten thousand horsemen of the army unleashed from the Abyss (cp Revelation 2:10, 5:11, 9:16).
It must be borne in mind that the book of Revelation is not explaining Daniel’s vision of the fourth beast or ignoring that vision’s historical fulfillments. Rather, Revelation is using the language and imagery from Daniel to construct its own portrait of the final Beast system to arise before the end of the age, though it is most definitely related to the vision of Daniel 7:1-8.

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