Saturday, March 14, 2020

REVELATION 17, PART I

SURVEY OF COMMENTATORS:  MORRIS (202-213)
    Morris divides Revelation into 9 sections, as follows.
  1. Prologue:  1:1-20
  2. The Letters to the Churches: 2:1-3:22
  3. The Vision of Heaven:  4:1-11
  4. The Seven Seals:  5:1-8:5
  5. The Seven Trumpets:  9:6-11:19
  6. Seven Significant Signs:  12:1-14:20
  7. The Last Plagues:  15:1-16:21
  8. The Triumph of Almighty God:  17:1-20:15
  9. A New Heaven and a New Earth:  21:1-22:5
  10. Epilogue:  22:6-21
Thus, chapter 17 is the beginning of the section, “The Triumph of Almighty God.”  Furthermore, he sets this chapter into a subsection, “The judgment of the great whore.”  He divides the chapter into the following parts:
i. The woman seated on the beast, 17:1-6
ii. The significance of the woman and the beast, 17:7-14
iii. The punishment of the whore, 17:15-18
i. The Woman
Morris interprets the woman, or Babylon, as:  “civilized man apart from God, man in organized but godless community.”   He notes that she is “plainly” contrasted “to the woman of chapter xii and the ‘bride’ of chapters xxi, xxii.”  He notes the “connection” between the angel who shows John the woman and the seven bowls of wrath:  God, in judgment, destroys the evil and reveals the New Jerusalem of the righteous.
As do other commentators, Morris relates the “sexual looseness” to Old Testament references to the unfaithfulness of Israel and the “insolent and idolatrous world powers.”  He believes that John is taken to the wilderness to see the whore because the wilderness affords a “detachment from the great city…[so that] God’s people can see her as she really is.”  
The abominations in the woman’s cup “is especially associated with idolatry.”  He considers that the word “mystery,” that introduces her name, is a description and not part of the name.  He believes that the description of the woman as a harlot is consistent with other ancient descriptions of Rome--so, in this sense, he is equating Babylon with ancient Rome, for he understands that the city has a two-fold meaning--contemporary with John and also applicable to the last days.
He notes that the reference in verse 17:6 to persecution of martyrs is a reference to “witnesses.”  So, this woman’s guilt is magnified because:  “She was not ignorant of the issues.  Witness had been borne.”  In other words, the Christians were being killed because of their witness to truth.
ii.The Significance of the Woman and the Beast
For Morris,in the description of the Beast, the main point of the “was, is not…” is that the “evil in mankind may seem to disappear, but... [it] always returns again.”  He says the Nero redivivus myth  is an illustration of this but “does not exhaust [John’s] meaning.”  The beast’s ascension from the Abyss “identifies him with the forces of evil.”  
In verse 17:9 is the “clue, the word to the wise.”  The seven mountains “identifies her [the woman] with Rome…”  But Rome does not exhaust the meaning.  Then he repeats his definition:  “civilized man, organized apart from God.  It has its embodiment in every age.”  This Babylon “always opposed the bride, new Jerusalem…”  
I have given the information on the seven kings that Morris relays in my commentary in a previous post.  He considers trying to identify the seven emperors to be without merit, and he favors Hendriksen’s view of seven empires.  This list of empires goes back to the “old Babylonian,” but it omits Egypt.  It includes Rome as the sixth, which Morris connects to the seventh.  The seventh, he quotes Hendriksen to be, “all antichristian governments between Rome and the final empire of the Antichrist.”  The eighth is the Antichrist empire, which “may well arise in one of the ancient seats of the empire.”  
Strangely, Morris then reverts to numbering emperors and considers Domitian as the eighth king, who many of John’s day considered to be like Nero.  Morris goes on to struggle with the wording “was and is not.”  He suggests that “in one sense he [Domitian] was, and in another, he was not Nero.”  
As he goes back to generalities, in interpreting the seven heads, he seems to be more confident:  “So John is telling us that the beast, the basic source of evil, finds a kind of incarnation in each of the seven.  In a way, he is each of them.  And he is especially the eighth.”  He goes on to say:  “John is not concerned with the beast’s career...He does not say enough for us to make a firm identification.  His interest is not in what the beast does…[it] is in his destruction:  he goeth into perdition.  So ultimately perishes all evil.”  I do not fully agree with Morris in this conclusion.  He recognizes that chapter 17 is really a continuation of chapter 13, and that chapter gives quite a bit of detail about the “career” of the Beast and of his false prophet as well as details about his power.  
Morris relays ideas from others about the 10 kings of verse 17:12.  First is the idea that the 10 kings are emperors, but this idea ignores the statement that they had not yet received a kingdom.  Then, he seems to sink into confusion as he discusses the notion that the 10 kings reflect the Nero myth, which sometimes predicted that Nero would have the support of Parthian leaders.  In a strange amalgam, he states that at “the End the beast will give rise not only to the eight [of verse 17:11]...but also to ten others…[who] may be earthly kings…[or] demonic figures.”  He concludes that the 10 kings are “antichrist’s helpers, to be raised up in the last days.”  He says 10 may be symbolic of completeness.  He notes two points that can be concluded about these kings:  Their time will be short (“one hour”), and they reign not on their own but in conjunction with the beast.
    In verses 17:13-14, Morris sees how the 10 kings are characterized and how the followers of the lamb are also characterized.  The kings are not “independent thinkers,” but willing collaborators with the Beast.  The followers of the Lamb are His “retinue, not His resources...for He needs none.”
    iii.The punishment of the whore, 17:15-18
Verses 17:15-17 show “the disunity of the forces of evil, and the certainty that God’s words will be fulfilled.”  The whore sits on waters that represent a “great empire” of a multitude of people.  This all comes to an end when the Beast and kings rebel.  Morris notes that “there is no cohesion in evil.  Wicked men are not just one happy band of brothers.  Being wicked, they give way to jealousy and hatred.”  The result is the destruction of the whore.  “The basic reason for all this” is the will of God, who puts rebellion into the kings’ hearts.  
    Finally, in verse 17:18, the “woman’s identity is now revealed…”  She is the great city that rules.  “In John’s own day this stands for Rome.  But in the end-time it is man in organized community…”
Summary
    The woman:  Morris interprets the woman as ancient Rome, but also as representing the end-time condition of humanity:  “civilized man apart from God, man in organized but godless community.” 
    The Beast with seven heads:  He favors Hendriksen’s interpretation that the seven heads represent ancient anti-God or anti-Christ empires and the eighth to be the final empire of the Antichrist.
The 10 kings:  He believes these are “antichrist’s helpers, to be raised up in the last days.”     
REFERENCE:  
Morris, Leon. The Revelation of St. John.  Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, vol. 20.  R. V. G. Tasker, Gen. Ed. Grand Rapids:  William B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1980.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

REVELATION 17, PART H

SURVEY OF COMMENTARIES:  G. E. LADD (220-234)
Ladd understands Revelation to consist of four “visions”:  
The resurrected Christ and His letters to the churches 
The seven seals, trumpets, and bowls
The consummation
Heavenly Jerusalem.
He describes chapter 17 as the “mystery of Babylon,” and 18:1-19:5 as the “judgment” of Babylon.
Harlot 
He notes that Israel was accused in the Old Testament of adultery, since it was the “wife” of the Lord and had become faithless.  This was not descriptive of the other nations.  Israel at times was also accused of harlotry because she sold herself to foreign gods.  Other nations or cities were accused of harlotry, especially Tyre and Nineveh, because they enticed people and nations into idolatry through their commerce or military power.  Thus, the “Babylon” of chapter 17 is the harlot who entices people and nations to sin “with all its pomp and circumstance organized in its opposition to God.”  
Identity of Babylon
Ladd wavers somewhat in his identification of Babylon.  First of all, he believes that it is “eschatological” and not “historical.”  So, he does not believe it is the Rome of John’s day.  He sometimes refers to it as a symbolic representation of godless civilization in the last days.  At other times he considers it to be a specific city that is the capital city of the Antichrist’s empire.  
Seduction
Babylon seduces the nations and people into fornication, the “particular form” of which, Ladd believes, is to “worship the beast.”
Two relationships
He notes that there seems to be a contradiction in verses 17:1 and 3, for the woman sits on waters in one verse and on a beast in the other.  But these are simply metaphors that describe two different relationships.  That she sits on many waters describes her relationship to many nations.  That she rides the Beast describes her relationship “to the Antichrist.”
Mystery
He explains the use of “mystery” in verse 17:5 to be an introduction to the title of the city:  the city “has a hidden meaning, viz., the capital city of the Antichrist.”
Persecution
Ladd comments on 17:6, in which Babylon is to be noted “for the persecution and martyrdom of the saints.”  He considers, up to John’s day, nothing “as far-reaching as this in scope” of persecution had occurred.  He summarizes the persecution under Nero as “one outburst of hatred.”  Also, it had “nothing to do with the cult of the emperor.”  Moreover, the later persecution under Domitian was “of a minor sort.”  He believes that the picture in Revelation 17 is of horrific persecution in “eschatological Babylon.”
The Beast and the Woman
In verse 17:7, the angel focuses on the Beast even when he is explaining the mystery of the woman.  Ladd says this is because of the “inseparable relationship” between the woman and the Beast:  “The last center of civilization will derive its character altogether from the one fact that it is supported by the beast.” (226)
The Timeline of the Beast
As he unwraps the four-step timeline in verse 17:8, Ladd refers to 13:3 as saying the same thing.  He notes that the Beast is “identified with its heads.”  “The slaying of one of the heads means the slaying of the beast.”  He goes on to state that the “three stages” (was, is not, is to come) relate to the heads:  one head was killed meant the Beast “ceased to exist.”  “The healing of the head will involve a satanic embodiment…”  But it is destined for perdition.  

His understanding of chapter 13 and 17 are somewhat different than the impression I had in reading chapter 13.  In that chapter, when one of the heads was mortally wounded, I consider this to be an event that was in the future manifestation of the Beast--that is, during the last days.  Ladd seems to understand that the mortal wound was at some time in history (possibly the first century).  The mortal wound killed the Beast and sent it to the Abyss.  Its healing (13:3) would result in its ascent from the Abyss and its Satanic endowment with power (13:2, 17:8).  
Seven Hills and Seven Kings
Ladd rejects the idea that the reference to seven hills in 17:9 is inescapable evidence that the city is Rome.  He rejects the idea because in 17:10 the seven heads are seven kings.  If these are Roman emperors, he says, he cannot see “any connection between the seven hills of Rome and seven of its emperors.”  That argument does not seem very definitive to me, since Ladd himself recognizes the “fluid” nature of the visions in Revelation.  At any rate, Ladd considers that the hills/mountains refer to “power or rule.”  Thus, the seven hills stand for seven “empires and the rulers who headed them.”  So, the “great harlot sits upon a succession of empires.”  These include ancient Babylon and first century Rome as well as “eschatological [last-day] Babylon.”  
Matching Emperors
He states that Preterist interpretation considers verse 17:10 to apply to seven Roman emperors.  He believes that “this apparently simple solution” has a problem:  “the dates simply do not work out.”  I have gone through this problem in my own analysis.  One method of interpretation is to ignore the three emperors with short reigns and to consider Vespasian the sixth king.  But “nothing happened in the reign of Vespacian” to bring about a fear of persecution and the eschatological views of Revelation.  He goes on to mention other solutions (some were mentioned by Rist, as I discussed in the previous post).  However, no “method of calculation satisfactorily leads to Domitian as the reigning emperor…”  Therefore, “some...find in the number seven the ideal number that represents the completeness of the imperial power.”
Seven Kingdoms
Ladd believes the problem is avoided by considering the seven “kings” are “a succession of kingdoms.”  “The great harlot who seduces the nations...finds her support from the beast who appears...in a succession of secular, godless kingdoms…”  The sixth is Rome.  The seventh will be the Antichrist kingdom.  Verse 17:11 explains that the beast who is manifested in the ancient empires, including Rome, will come up out of the Abyss.  
Ladd gets into the detail of the “eighth head” of verse 17:11 in such a way as to bring more confusion than explanation.  He concludes that the Beast is the “Antichrist, and yet he is not the Antichrist; he is the Antichrist in two of his heads only.”  “In one of the heads, the beast had himself appeared in history…”  He will be revived “in a final appearance.”  This seems a little unnecessary detail.  
He makes more sense in a broad sweep:  “The heads are successive manifestations of the worldly kingdoms at enmity with God through all the changes of history.”  However, he maintains the detail (which may be necessary):  The Beast is “broadly...the anti-God worldly power; narrowly, it is one particular kingdom which has a two-fold manifestation.”  
He brings in Daniel for more explanation.  He considers that Daniel depicts Antiochus Epiphanes as a manifestation of Antichrist.  It is this Antichrist figure that “was” in Revelation 17:8.  He disappeared but will ascend out of the Abyss as the Antichrist in the last days.  This interpretation creates problems because Antiochus Epiphanes did not head up a world empire.  He certainly was a manifestation of the Antichrist spirit, but so was Egypt, Babylon, and Rome, among others.  
Ladd considers that the eighth king of 17:11 is the “seventh [king] in his full antichristian manifestation...the full satanic embodiment of the beast.”
The 10 Kings
Ladd rejects the idea of commentators who believe the 10 kings of 17:12ff represent Persian satraps who will be allied with Nero as well as the idea that they are “ten European kingdoms of a revived Roman empire.”  He believes both interpretations ignore the point that these kings have not yet received their power.  He refers to Daniel 7:7 and 7:24.  In that Scripture, the Antichrist actually begins as one of the 10 kings.  Ladd believes that the number 10 is symbolic of the “fullness of Antichrist’s power.”  He also interprets the 10 kings to represent “the totality of the powers of all nations...made subservient to Antichrist.”  Note that this contradicts his emphasis that the 10 kings will receive their power when Antichrist/Beast comes.  
Civil War
He comments on verse 17:15 that this depicts the “woman” as “the capital city of a complex civilization consisting of many nations…”
Ladd considers that verse 17:16 seems to go against the earlier parts of the chapter that depict the woman and the Beast as allies.  But, “for reasons which are not explained, a sort of civil war arises within the camp of the beast.”  He notes that the “prophets sometimes foresaw an eschatological state of chaos…(Ezek. 38:21; Hag. 2:22; Zech. 14:13).”  
Ezekiel 38:21b:  “Every man’s sword will be against his brother.”
Haggai 2:22c:  And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother.”
Zechariah 14:13:  “And on that day a great panic from the Lord shall fall on them, so that each will seize the hand of another, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other.”
These verses do not seem to depict the rebellion against the Harlot Babylon, but rather a general chaos among allied troops.  They may be more applicable to the Battle of Armageddon.
Nero
Ladd rebuts the commentators who believe that the destruction of the city is consistent with the myth of Nero redivivus.  He quotes a passage from the Sibylline Oracles that seems to depict Nero destroying Rome.  Ladd, however, seems to believe that the myth--contrary to the Oracles--depicts Nero as making Rome his capital.  He is not very clear on this point.  He also asserts that Nero is not an Antichrist figure because he “did not promote the emperor cult, and his role in the Sibylline Oracles lost the religious note that is the most important characteristic of the beast in Revelation.”
Ladd considers 17:17 as an explanation for the “surprising turn of events” in which the city is destroyed by the 10 kings:  “divine sovereignty...has motivated the ten kings…”
Eschatological Babylon
On 17:18, he comments that in “the first century this [the city’s dominion over the kings of the earth] stood for Rome; but in the end time, it will stand for eschatological Babylon.”  Thus, Ladd consistently maintains a futurist interpretation of Revelation.
REFERENCES:
Crossway.  The Holy Bible English Standard Version.  Wheaton, IL:  Crossway, 2001.
Ladd, George Eldon.  A Commentary on the Revelation of John.  Grand Rapids:  William B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1972.


Thursday, January 30, 2020

REVELATION 17, PART G

NOTE: I HAVE REVISED SLIGHTLY MY ORIGINAL POST. I MISTAKENLY PUT RIST IN THE "HISTORICIST" CATEGORY. I REVISED THIS BY LABELING HIM A "PRETERIST" TOWARD THE END OF THE POST. This post begins a survey of the commentaries on Revelation 17.  The first is Martin Rist in The Interpreter’s Bible, a 12-volume set of commentaries published in 1957 by Abingdon Press (a Methodist publisher).  It is what I would call moderately liberal.  It used the “higher criticism” techniques of that day and relied on the critics who have dominated Biblical interpretation in the 20th century.  
COMMENTARY FROM RIST:
Organization of his comments:  Rist inserts into his commentary a title at the beginning of chapter 17.  It is his Roman numeral 9 (IX) in his breakdown of the book.  The title for IX is “Seven Visions of the Fall of ‘Babylon’ or Rome (17:1-19:10).” (Rist, 488)  This organization I would tend to agree with except for the extent.  Chapter 17 is definitely a new topic after the description of the seven bowls of wrath in chapters 15 and 16.  Chapter 18 is obviously a look at the judgment of the great Prostitute (see 17:1) from another perspective than the perspective of chapter 17.  Chapter 19:1-5 continues the account but from a heavenly perspective.  However, 19:6-10, it seems to me, begins a new subject and really is a preface to the following passage, 19:10-21.  
The second criticism that I would make is that Rist backs himself into a corner by entitling the material “seven visions.”  This forces him to cut up the material arbitrarily.  Moreover, it does not reflect the organization of the text, which does not present a series of seven visions.  Chapter 17 is presented as a single vision, which is followed by the vision of chapter 18, and that is followed by the vision of 19:1-5.  
Rist’s first subdivision:  “A.  First Vision:  The Harlot, Babylon the Great (17:1-6a)” (Rist, 488).
His introduction (Rist, 488-489):  He goes into a brief history of the “cult of Roma.”  Roma is “the deified personification of Rome.”  This cult began in Italian and Greek cities who were allied with Rome.  “The citizens of these [cities] recognized a divine element in the increasingly significant city of Rome, which they...worshiped as the goddess Roma.”  This cult became associated with the emperors, and temples were found throughout the Empire to the emperors as well as to Roma.  He speculates that such a temple in Pergamum was the “Satan’s throne” that is referred to in Revelation 2:13.  One of the doctrines of this religion was the concept eternal Rome (Roma aeterna).  Rist believes that this “political dogma,” of worship of Roma and the emperors and belief in the eternity of Rome is significant in interpretation of chapter 17.  “Evidently,” he writes, “the harlot is not only Rome and the empire, but Dea Roma herself, who with the emperors, the seven-headed beast, is accorded divine worship.  Moreover, although she is considered eternal by her deluded subjects and their leaders, actually like the beast she is temporal and is soon to be destroyed.”  
Commentary on 17:1-6a (489-492):  
Rist’s interpretation of the Prostitute (which he calls “harlot”) flows out of the background that he lays in the history of the cult of Roma.  Rome, the city and its empire as well as the goddess together constitute the harlot because they have enticed the nations into idolatry, which Rist believes is what is meant by “fornication” (“sexual immorality” in ESV).  He cites, among other references, Nahum 3:4, which describes Nineveh as a prostitute, and Isaiah 1:21, which calls Jerusalem a whore.  He notes that the Prostitute sits on many waters, which was true of Babylon (but not Rome), “the prototype of Rome.”
Rist considers that John is building a dramatic contrast as he describes the wicked city of Rome and later, Revelation 21:9ff, describes the bride of Christ as a beautiful city, the New Jerusalem.
In these pictures of the Beast and the Prostitute, John is preaching a “compelling message...dramatically warning those who might be seduced into worshiping the state and its ruler.”
Commentary on 17:6b-18:  Rist includes all of this material as the “second vision.”  Since it covers a great deal of material, I shall divide it up.  My divisions may be arbitrary in some cases.  


VERSES 17:6b-8:  
He believes that the “Nero redivivus expectation” is an important reference point for understanding the Beast.  [“Redivivus” is a Latin word that means “brought to life again.”  Thus the myth or expectation was that Nero would be brought to life again.]  The description--“was and is not, and is to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to perdition”--refers to “Nero redivivus.”  The “beast like the demonic Nero had died, but is to return to life.”  But Rist is ambiguous about whether, indeed, Nero was to be the Beast or Antichrist.
He is, however, convinced that the “Nero redivivus myth” is an important background to Revelation.  He mentions the “mortal wound that has been healed” as a “definite reference” to this myth. (Rist, 363)  
VERSE 17:9:  
As he deals with 17:9a, Rist considers that verse 17:8 is “clear” and corresponds to 13:1-10.  He indicates that he is somewhat puzzled by what follows.  The fact that he devotes a great deal of space to verse 17:10-11 reflects his wrestling with that material.  He quickly deals with 17:9b:  the seven hills “clearly [mean] Rome.”  
VERSE 17:10-11:  
“These two verses are among the most obscure in Revelation.”  The “general sense” is that the seven heads refer to Roman emperors.  “The difficulty centers...in discovering which seven emperors are meant, and the precise relationship of Nero redivivus to the group.”
He believes that the “four-headed leopard of Dan. 7:6” helps in understanding the seven-headed beast.  Rist believes the leopard represent Persia and the heads represents certain kings of Persia.  He then interprets Daniel 7:7-8 as representing the “Greco-Syrian kingdom, one of the divisions of Alexander’s empire…”  The ten horns represent kings, which he finds difficult to identify.
These interpretations of Daniel by Rist are contradicted by other interpreters.  ESVSB and NIVSB both identify the leopard of Daniel 7:6 as Alexander’s empire and the four heads as the divisions that came out of that empire.  The fourth beast of Daniel 7:7-8 is identified as the Roman Empire by the study Bibles, and the “little horn” is said by ESVSB possiby to refer to the Antichrist.  
Rist’s interpretation of these passages in Daniel, I believe, partly come from his concurrence with many scholars that Daniel was written long after the time of Babylonian captivity and the ascendance of the Persian empire, contrary to the internal evidence.  But, because the interpreters refuse to ascribe any prophetic power to the book, they refuse to see a prediction of the rise of the Roman Empire in these passages of Daniel.  
Rist also cites an apocryphal work, II Esdras.  It contains a vision of an eagle with three heads and twelve wings along with eight smaller wings.  These various components are interpreted as representing Roman emperors and other leaders.  
Rist believes that these precedents are a “background”  that make interpretation of the present passage easier.  (How these make it any easier for him is not clear.)  He believes Revelation 17:11 is easier than the preceding verse, because, for him, it identifies “the beast with the emperor Nero, who had died and yet was expected to return to life.”  However, Rist sees a “discrepancy” because, he says, the seventh emperor of verse 10 is also the beast of verse 11, but that there is to be a delay in the appearance of this “beast.”  This, he believes contradicts the “assurances” in Revelation that the end is “to come very soon.”  His reasoning and comments on these verses are not very clear and seem to reveal Rist’s confusion on the whole matter.  
He goes through the attempt to account for seven emperors that many interpreters do.  He asks some pertinent questions, including the following.  
  • Start with Julius or Augustus?
  • Omit the three brief reigns?
One solution is to introduce a theory that “this passage was originally a Jewish oracle written about AD 70...against Vespasian…”  Thus Titus would be the seventh king, and Nero, returned to life, would be the eighth.  He says the theory goes on to claim that John updated the Jewish oracle and made Domitian the sixth king and that Nero would replace him and be the “Neronic Antichrist.”
Another theory (which Rist indicates is his own) is that the “five kings” of 17:10-11 are only the emperors who died and were “apotheosized [elevate to the rank of god] by the [Roman] senate.”  Thus the five are Julius, Augustus, Claudius, Vespacian, and Titus.  He completes his theory as follows:  “If this is true, Domitian, who demanded worship while living, would be the sixth and ruling emperor, while the seventh and last, the Neronic Antichrist, who at the same time might be considered reincarnated in the person of Domitian, was still to come.”
He throws out one more idea, similar to my interpretation.  This is that the five unidentified emperors are simply a group of five representing all the past emperors.  The sixth is Domitian, the current emperor.  The seventh would be “the Antichrist who is to come…”  


VERSES 17:12-14:  
Rist speculates that the 10 kings are “the Parthian satraps” from the Nero redivivus myth, which Rist often refers to as though John relies heavily on it.  He also considers that the kings are “among the kings from the East” who will be gathered at Armageddon (see 16:12-16).
VERSES 17:15-17:  
Rist does not give much attention to these verses.  He explains verse 17:16, the destruction of the Prostitute, by citing the Sibylline oracle.  It describes how Nero will invade the empire and “destroy the realm he once ruled.”  
He comments on verse 17:17 that “the dualism of Revelation is toned down in this passage.”  He is referring to the fact that the kings, in their destruction of the Prostitute, “have been carrying out God’s own purpose.”  He also notes that the “Antichrist...has been the agent of God in this punishment of Rome.”  Thus, Revelation considers that God’s purposes are accomplished, even through the actions of evil people as well as the devil.  This is a different theology than a dualism that understands God and the devil in a constant battle, with the outcome uncertain.  Whether such a dualism is truly found in Revelation could be debated.  
He comments on verse 17:18:  
“The original readers...hardly needed to be told that this woman...is the...personification of Rome…”
Rist is a knowledgeable scholar who labors intensively with Revelation.  He comes from the school of higher criticism that seeks to explain Scripture totally from a rational standpoint.  By this I mean he gives no credence to inspiration, and so he must look for reference points that reflect possible precedents in other ancient literature.  Along the same lines, he uses the preterist and not the futurist interpretation, to a degree.  Many preterists simply understand New Testament prophetic scripture to be presenting events--especially the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70--as though they are future from the author’s perspective, when, in fact, the author has already witnessed these events.  This is not Rist’s approach.  He believes that John wrote in 90’s during Domitian’s reign.  He believes that John was predicting an antichrist emperor would appear in a few years and destroy Rome.  
I believe that a futurist perspective is a better approach to Revelation.  By futurist, I mean that the bulk of the predictions in Revelation are predictions of events that are yet to come.  I believe this for many reasons, which I hope to develop eventually, but not in this post.  I also believe that Revelation is reporting a series of visions that John really experienced.  He may have had considerable knowledge and background that is reflected in the book, but the visions were real for him and he faithfully wrote them down for our benefit as well as for the benefit of the church of his day.  

REFERENCES:
Barker, Kenneth L, ed. The NIV Study Bible.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2008.
Crossway.  The ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version.  Crossway, 2008. (Kindle edition)
Rist, Martin.  The Interpreter’s Bible. Nolan Harmon, ed. Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 1957.