The Beast and the Kings
Revelation 17:8-11
r17c
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17:8a
The elusive beast

     "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." (Rev. 17:8)

   "And the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil. . . ." (Rev. 12:9).  Is the beast here the dragon?  Yes, as we will see in verses which follow, but not in a simple way.  Satan wears different costumes.
   "Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent. . . . But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it . . . lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:" (Gen. 3:1-4)

Was, is not, and will ascend
   As we continue, we get more information to help clarify this strange situation. Here we see that the beast which John saw was, at the time pictured, in a state of not being.  The end of this verse says that he "yet is."  So we may assume that in one way he was there and in another he was not there. We may understand Satan's "was," or directly-involved, mode to be the time of the rebellion in heaven.  All during the time of this earth he has worked behind other organizations. Before being cast out of heaven with a third of the angels, Satan wore the crowns taking direct authority.  See on "seven heads..." at verse 3 1703cr
   The sea beast had crowns on its horns.  The beast of this chapter has no crowns at all.  Under the symbolism of Chapter 13, he gave his power and authority to the sea beast (vs. 2) which then passed the power on through the earth beast to the image.

Will ascend out of the bottomless pit
   When we consider the next words of the current verse, "go to perdition," we may immediately recognize events connected with the millennium:
   "And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison [the bottomless pit (20:1-3)], And shall go out to deceive the nations . . . to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. . . ." (Rev. 20:7-10)
   At verse 11, we find that the beast will become the 8th king.  Seeing the kings in succession this points to the future to a time after the fall of the last of the seven kings.

And go to his destruction
   While the woman is drunk with the blood of saints and martyrs, the assurance is given that God understands and will make all things right. To prepare His disciples for the disappointment and grief of Calvary, Christ comforted them with this promise: John 14:1-3.
   Satan's work of deception may be traced through the book of Revelation (and indeed the whole Bible). Before Satan goes to perdition, as stated in the present verse,  the great mystery of iniquity 2th0207 will be made clear to every being and the work of darkness will finally come to an end.
   Incidentally, Satan will be "devoured" as the text says 1411d.

 

17:8b
They shall wonder whose names were not written
     "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." (Rev. 17:8)

   This reminds us about a description of the beast from the sea:
   "And they [all the world] worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast [from the sea]: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? . . . 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. 14:4, 8)
   So is our beast of chapter 17, the sea beast? Not quite. Those not written in the book worship in both cases. The concept of not being in the book is worth looking at (Rev. 13:8). We are interested here in why worshippers of the sea beast and of the dragon (the devil) are described in such similar terms. 13:4 quoted above may be our answer: They worshipped the dragon and the sea beast at the same time. Later in chapter 13, the lamb-like beast speaks like a dragon and sets up the image to the beast (13:11-15).
   The dragon appears three times: first in chapter 12 in collaboration with the pagan Roman government 1203, then through the medium of the fallen church in chapter 13 1301c, and here supporting the woman.
   May your name and mine be written in the Lamb's book of life. The false religionists will tell people their names are there. It's up to us to make our calling and election sure by a personal faith relationship with the Lamb Himself.

What happens to these whose names are missing?
   "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God [at the end of the thousand years]; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." (Rev. 20:12-15)

The absent, present beast
   ". . . the beast . . . was, and is not, and yet is." (Rev. 17:8). Indeed he exists at the time John was shown in vision. We saw him carrying the woman. As we have already suggested, Satan often works indirectly.

17:9
Seven mountains
    "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." (Rev. 17:9, 10)

Hills?
   Some translations read "hills" instead of "mountains," drawing our attention to the city of Rome which is said to be on seven hills.  The Greek word, however, is oros and is correctly translated, "mountains." See hb0306. In Habakkuk the mountains may be seen as the nations God scattered. The "hills" could be understood as smaller nations.  But Rome wasn't small and, if considered as a union of states, it would have been ten, not seven (Dan. 7:7).
   Another example of the Bible's use of "mountain" as a symbol is shown under the second trumpet call 0808 where Babylon, as a mountain was thrown into the sea.  Also see Dan. 2:34, 35 and Isa. 2:2.
   In distinguishing between horns and heads on the beast, the heads would reasonably be seen as the basis of the false doctrine or the administrative mind makeup while the horns would represent its military power. Reference to kings would emphasize the political power. For reasons beyond the immediate text, I'm considering that the seven kings correspond to the seven heads.

Where does the woman sit?
   This verse is clear. "The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits." But she is also sitting on "many waters" (verse 1), and on a "scarlet colored beast," (verse 3). The mountains are the nations she has dominated over a long period of time. It seems that she sits on the beast in a different sense.

17:10
Seven kings
     "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. (Rev. 17:10)

   The term "king" represents "kingdom" in prophetic symbols, just as a leader represents his people. For example, Daniel called Nebuchadnezzar that "head of gold" but explained that another "kingdom" would follow da0237ff.  Here "head," "mountain," and "king" all mean a nation.
   Daniel saw the progression of kingdoms several times in different symbols.  Nebuchadnezzar, representing his kingdom of Babylon, was the first one revealed in the book of Daniel. Two more are named in Dan. 8:19-21.  A fourth beast (kingdom) was to arise, and a fifth to grow out of it as a new horn. da0707f. In comparing with Rev. 13 we find the horn power of Daniel as the sea beast which rises again with the support of the new beast from the earth. re1311ff.
   The earth beast then sets up an image to the beast which is or develops as a three-part religious coalition of sea beast, false prophet and dragon. Evil spirits come out of these three performing miracles to induce the political powers of earth to threaten God's people with the battle of Armageddon. We may identify this three-fold power as the seventh "king."

Why these seven?
   This is not the list I started with as I began to study this puzzle. In our interpretation, every piece must fit. There have been kings and kingdoms throughout history. We may see these "kings" as the heads or religious doctrine creators. In choosing these seven we think of our whole picture. The woman on the beast is drunk with the blood of God's people 1706. Although God has always had people true to Him who didn't know Him ro0120f, He has also had special people charged with sharing truth that helps others know Him. So we look for kings or nations that have dominated or persecuted God's people.
   Egypt and Assyria would qualify in this sense so why begin with Babylon? For several reasons. First, the imagery of Babylon and Jerusalem dominates our text. Then, in the great statue of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, we find him represented by the head of gold. God recognized him and his kingdom as "king of kings" (Dan. 2:37). Finally, in studying the beast from the sea 1302, an earlier incarnation of our present beast, we discovered it to have developed from the beasts which also described the kingdoms in Daniel 7. That line of beasts went back to the lion which was Babylon.
   The horn power of Daniel 7 we recognized in Revelation as the beast from the sea 1301c. It followed pagan Rome. In the latter part of chapter 13, a lamb-like beast from the earth follows the beast from the sea, and that power sets up the image to the beast, the final persecuting power which will be the same as the three-part coalition or an earlier phase of it.

The one to come lasts a short space
   This power develops after the beast from the earth arises. 1315. In chapter 16 we see it as the coalition of dragon, beast, and false prophet (or earth beast). Let's read again the text describing this coalition's narrow niche on the shelf of persecuting powers. See the summary table. 

And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates. . . . And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. . . . And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air. . . ." (Rev. 16:12-17)
   We may thank God that this blasphemous power will last only a short time. Then Jesus will come to save us.

 

17:11
The beast becomes a king

    "And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition."

   So in one way of counting there are seven kings and in another way, eight. Notice the rest of the sentence. ". . . and goeth into perdition." Perhaps the beast is the eighth king just before going into perdition. The Greek for "perdition" is apoleia and means total destruction. Let's look at Revelation 20 to see if this describes what we see there.
   "And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them." (Rev. 20:7-9)
   Although the destruction is described again in a little different terms r20t, this is his "perdition." We may see him as the eighth "king" to oppose God's people. Before he worked behind the beast powers. Here, at the end of the thousand years, he takes charge himself. Thus he was "of the seven" but is now the eighth. The seven complete the kingdoms before the coming of Christ the "first resurrection" mentioned in 20:5. They are earthly kingdoms.
   As you can see from the summary table r17t, Satan was "king" at the time of the rebellion in heaven, but this does not count among either the 7 or the 8 because he was not then harassing God's human people (Rev. 12:7-12).

But won't Satan burn throughout eternity?
   Although the Bible doesn't teach this, the belief is so common that the word "perdition" is often taken to mean this. We answer this in discussing how Satan gets thrown into the fire at the end of the thousand years. 2010ho.

   What a blessing it is to know that God has a plan for bringing an end to evil.

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