Tuesday, October 22, 2019


Most Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version. 
Abbreviations:  ESV = English Standard Version; NIVSB = New International Version Study Bible

I confess that chapter 17 has been a hard row to hoe.  I have struggled personally with finding time and energy to work on it.  I also find that there is so much compacted into these 18 verses, that I get overwhelmed.  I would appreciate it if those of you who read this prayed for me.  Thank you for attending my pity party.  
VERSE 17:11:  This verse is in the context of enumerating “kings.”  The following is a description of eight kings in 17:10-11:
  • There are seven kings represented by the seven heads of the Beast.  
  • Five of these kings have already fallen (before John’s vision).
  • The sixth king is described as follows:  “One is.”  That seems to imply that this king exists contemporaneously with John’s vision.  
  • The seventh king “has not yet come” and will only remain “a little while.”
  • There is an eighth king, who is described in 17:11.  He is described in the same way as the Beast is described in verse 17:8:  The wording in 17:8 is as follows: it “was, and is not , and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction.”  In 17:11, the same pattern is used, only there is wording added within the formula:  “As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.”  The phrase, “and is about to rise from the bottomless pit,” is omitted.  
I want to establish five ideas, which are closely related.
  1. The eighth king of 17:11 is identified with the Beast of 17:8.
  2. The historical time period for the eighth king is removed from the time period of the first seven kings.
  3. The relationship between the eighth king and the first seven kings is spiritual and not physical.
  4. The eighth king is the re-emergence of the spirit of the seven kings from the Abyss.
  5. The exact identity of the seven kings of 17:9-10 is not of vital importance to the interpretation of verse 17:11

The eighth king is described in the same way as the Beast is described in verse 17:8:  The wording in 17:8 is as follows: it “was, and is not , and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction.”  In 17:11, the same pattern is used, only there is wording added within the formula:  “As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.”  The phrase, “and is about to rise from the bottomless pit,” is omitted in the latter verse.  The time-line is unique for the Beast.  It is alluded to in the second part of verse 17:8:  The earth-dwellers “will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.”  On the basis of this unique time-line, which is applied to the Beast and to the eighth king, it seems reasonable to understand that the eighth king and the Beast are the same entities.
This conclusion does not rest on the contents of chapter 17 except that there are some allusions to other material.  The following are my reasons for placing the eighth king in a different time period than the seven kings.
  • I have already indicated that the eighth king is very likely the Beast of 17:8.  
  • I also consider that this Beast and the first Beast described in chapter 13 (13:1-8) are one and the same.  
  • I believe that this Beast is a person or an empire, or both, that will exist in the last days shortly before the Second Coming of Christ.  I base this on the “end of the story,” in Revelation 19:11-21.  In that description, the Beast is conquered by a rider on a white horse.  This rider is Jesus Christ at His Second Coming.  The Beast is, then, operating in the time period leading up to the Second Coming.
  • Moreover, various allusions to the book of Daniel are found throughout Revelation.  Especially, there are allusions to one-half of a seven-year time span that appears to correspond to the “seventieth week of Daniel.”  That period is understood by many to occur at the end of the present age.  These allusions indicate that events that are depicted in Revelation--including the career of the Beast--take place during the seventieth week of Daniel.

In 17:11, the wording is similar to 17:8, but it replaces the clause about ascending from the Abyss with the following:  “...it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven...”  This wording is odd enough to draw our attention.  If the purpose were simply to continue the enumeration of kings, one would expect something like the following for verse 17:11:  The eighth king was and is not and it will ascend from the Abyss and go to destruction.”  This would signal to the reader:  “OK, we have discussed kings 1 through 7, now let’s go on to king number 8.”  However, verse 17:11 does three things:
  • First, it draws attention to the subject of the verse by referring back to verse 17:8.  It is, as I have already asserted, an identification of the subject of the verse with the Beast of 17:8.
  • Second, it identifies this Beast as an eighth king, but not necessarily the eighth consecutive king.  It simply is the eighth of kings that are being discussed.  An analogy might be a group of floats in a parade.  One might name float number 1--the float from Wisconsin, float number 2--the float that has a bubble machine, and so forth, until one comes to the seventh float that has passed by--it is the float with the members of a brass band riding on it.  One might remark, “All of those floats were horse-drawn.”  Then, one might say, “Oh, by the way, there was another float in the parade that caught my eye.  It was the eighth float that was drawn by horses.”  Note, that the person is NOT saying this eighth float is the eighth consecutive float in the parade.  It might be the 16th of all the floats, but it is the eighth float that the narrator is discussing, and the eighth float that was drawn by horses.  In the same way, the king of verse 11 is the eighth king that is being discussed, not necessarily the eighth consecutive king.  In fact, the construction of verse 17:11 make it unlikely that the eighth consecutive king is in mind.
  • Third, the king of verse 11 is said to have both a relationship with the first seven kings and to be distinct from them.  “It is an eighth but it belongs to the seven.”  “It is an eighth” establishes this king as a separate entity.  Nevertheless it is “belongs to the seven.” This phrase is translated more literally:  “it is of the seven” or “it is from the seven.”  The grammar of this is that “seven” is genitive or ablative that, with the preposition “of” (ek), denotes a source (Brooks and Winbery, 24) or the preposition is used with the genitive to “denote origin...as to family, race, city, people, district, etc.” (Arndt and Gingrich, 234).  I believe that the “origin” is spiritual rather than physical.  I base this on the evidence that I have presented that this eighth king will exist in an historical time period far removed from the period when the first seven kings existed.  

Verses 17:8a and 17:11 are similar in their construction, sufficiently similar to persuade one that they are about the same entity.  They are as follows (ESV):
17:8a “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction.”
17:11 “As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.” 
I have, I think, established that the eighth king is the beast that is described in 17:8.  Moreover, I think I have presented evidence that the eighth king has a spiritual relationship with the seven kings, not necessarily a physical relationship.  And I have made a case that the eighth king will live in a historical period far removed from the period of the seven kings.  If one compares the 17:8a to 17:11, the following constructions are the only essential differences:    
“[A]nd is about to rise from the bottomless pit” is replaced by: “it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven…”  The expression in verse 17:8 describes the ascension of the Beast from the bottomless pit (Abyss).  The expression in 17:11 posits a relationship (which I maintain is spiritual) between the seven kings and the eighth.  It seems reasonable to conclude that the ASCENSION OF THE BEAST FROM THE ABYSS IS A RE-EMERGENCE OF THE SPIRITUAL NATURE OF THE SEVEN KINGS IN THE PERSON OF THE BEAST.  Note that this conclusion ties in well with the time-line of the Beast:
  1.  He was:  He was manifested in the spiritual evil of the seven kings.
  2. He was not:  He “went underground” in the sense that his spiritual nature was held captive in the underworld or Abyss.
  3. He ascended from the Abyss:  He came forth in the person of the Beast.
  4. He will go to perdition:  He will be defeated by Christ at His coming and cast into the Lake of Fire.  (Revelation 19:20)

I might note that Paul’s description of the Man of Lawlessness in II Thessalonians 2 seems to parallel this scenario (references to II Thessalonians 2):
  •  A “Man of Lawlessness” is revealed. (2:3)
  • This person is termed “the son of destruction [perdition--same word that is used to describe the fate of the Beast in 17:8 and 11].” (2:3) 
  • Something or someone is “restraining” this Man until he can be revealed at the proper time.  (2:6)
  • The mystery of lawlessness is already at work [at the time of the writing II Thessalonians--during the Roman Empire]. (2:7)

I have made the point that the eighth king of 17:11 is of the same spirit as the seven kings of 17:9-10.  I believe that the seven kings need not be identified with precision.  The key entity in the passage is the eighth king, who is also termed the Beast in 17:8 and 17:11.  That Beast’s relationship to the seven kings is spiritual.  That is not a trivial relationship.  The seven kings represent the ancient Roman Empire in all of its history.  That Empire set a spiritual precedent, a depository of evil--which was carried out in persecution, blasphemy that is linked to God-defying pride, filthy immorality, cruelty, military aggression, slavery, pagan religiosity.  That spiritual deposit, in some spiritual netherworld called the Abyss, will someday emerge and manifest itself again in the person of the Antichrist/Beast and his empire.
  1. Arndt, William F. and F. Wilbur Gingrich.  A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.  Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
  2. Brooks, James A. and Carlton L. Winbery.  Syntax of New Testament Greek.  Lanham, MD:  University Press of America, 1979.
  3. Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09).  ESV Study Bible.  Good News Publishers.  Kindle Edition.
  4. Zondervan NIV Study Bible.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publ., 2002.

Friday, September 6, 2019


Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (ESV) unless I state otherwise.
    The table below is an attempt to clarify some of the material in Revelation 17:8-18 by presenting a timeline of events or of the appearance of persons or entities.  Further explanation is given after the table.

Person or entity
Before “John’s present”
porary with John
Future to John
Ultimate future
The Beast of 17:8
Is not
Is going to rise from Abyss
Go to perdition
Dwellers, 17:8

Will marvel

Seven Heads/Kings of 17:9-10
Five have fallen
One is
Other has not yet come, will only remain a little while

Beast of 17:11
Is not
8th King belonging to seven
Will go to perdition
10 Horns/
Kings of 

Have not yet received royal power
Are to receive royal authority with the Beast;
Will hand over their auth to Beast;
Will burn the
Will make war on the Lamb; He will conquer them

If one studies this chart, one notices a time-sequence of events and developments from left to right.  
  • There are events before “John’s present”:  they occurred before John lived or at least before the visions that he had that resulted in the book.
  • There are events “contemporary with John”--at the time of his visions.
  • There are events in the future.  I have made the assumption that all of these events will take place in a fairly short period.  My thinking is that the period is the “Tribulation” period of seven years before the Second Coming.  Within that period, of course, there will be a sequence of events, so that one should not conclude that all of the events in the column “Future to John” will take place at the same time.
  • There are events that are in the “ultimate future.”  These are the events that are the final outcome for certain persons and entities.  This ultimate future most likely will take place at the Second Coming.  There will be a sequence of events tied to the Second Coming.  For example, probably the defeat of the 10 Kings in the last row and last column probably will take place before the Beast goes to perdition.

VERSE 17:9-10:  We assume that the material from 17:7b to 17:18 all is a speech from the angel who is first introduced in 17:1.  He tells John that he--and we--are going to have to be wise to understand what he says next.  One could throw in some sarcasm and say, “So, what’s new?  Everything in the book calls for wisdom beyond any of us!”  Wisdom is listed as one of the attributes of which the Lamb is worthy in 5:12 and as an attribute of God in 7:12.  In 13:18, wisdom is called for in calculating the number of the Beast, 666.  Now, in 17:9, wisdom is called for in understanding the seven heads of the Beast.  

The first exercise of wisdom is to understand why the seven heads symbolize two entities or groups that are possibly related but are quite different.  In 17:9, the seven heads represent seven mountains on which the woman is seated.  Then, in 17:10, the seven heads represent seven kings.  I will surmise that, in each case, something is being communicated that is separate from the other case.  The number seven stands for seven mountains.  From a totally different perspective, the number seven stands for seven kings.  The following analogy may or may not be helpful.  I have in my room a calendar.  It is a “blank” with spaces to write in the month and each day of the month.  I use the calendar to list when bills will come due; I put those in orange.  I also use the calendar to put in appointments and events that are upcoming for myself (blue) and my wife (pink) and both of us (blue).  Those appointments are not related to the due dates for the bills except the fact that they share a calendar.  Thus, one could say the calendar is a list of due dates for bills and it is also a list of personal appointments for me and my wife.  So it is that there are seven heads and they represent the number of mountains where the woman sits as well as the number of kings to be discussed.  
    It is possible that, just as the bills due in September share the month with certain appointments, so the seven hills are a location that is pertinent to the seven kings (or perhaps one of those kings).  One way in which wisdom can be applied to 17:9-10 is to recognize that the number seven is being applied in two very different ways, but that there may be a relationship between those two applications.  To spring forward and let the cat out of the bag:  it is possible that the seven mountains are the seven hills of Rome and that the seven kings are seven rulers of Rome or that Rome is one in a sequence of seven empires.
Verse 18 states that the woman of the chapter is “the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”  In John’s day Rome certainly would be recognized as that city.  And of course Rome had seven hills.  Rome did not rule over China or India, but it did rule over the known world of John.  Possibly no other empire has been so vast and powerful in all of history.  Rome ruled England, France, Spain, Italy, Greece, what is now Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, north Africa, parts of Mesopotamia.  
There is a timeline that helps form the backbone of the latter part of chapter 17, as the table above implies.  The timeline projects into the future, beyond the time of John’s vision.  How far into the future is not immediately clear.  However, there are considerable data from other Scriptures that indicate that the set of events that these visions focus on are associated with the Second Coming of Christ and the period shortly before that event.  I assume that the “woman” of chapter 17 is an entity that is in the future from the perspective of John’s vision.  Therefore, we can tentatively conclude that the Rome of John’s day is not the same “city” that 17:18 refers to.  Rome has risen and fallen.  Today, it takes its place among the cities of Europe and is not dominant at all.  The “city” of 17:18 is an entity that will dominate during at least part of that period shortly before the Second Coming of Christ.       
I shall backtrack briefly to support my statement that the woman of chapter 17 will be in existence in the future, and, in fact, during the period shortly before the Second Coming.  I believe the evidence of the chapter, especially 17:8-17, focus around a particular set of events.  There is a Beast who, although he had previous activity, will arise from the Abyss.  There are 10 Kings who will receive their royal authority in the future and then submit to the Beast.  The Beast and the 10 Kings will overthrow the woman.  Then, the 10 Kings will be conquered by the Lamb, and the Beast will go to perdition.  Note, first, that these events do not seem to match any events of ancient or recent history, and so they seem to be events yet to come.  Second, the events of 19:11-21 seem to correspond to the demise of the 10 Kings and the Beast described in 17:8-17 AND to correspond to the Second Coming.  Although any kind of conclusion with regard to Revelation must be tentative, I conclude that very likely the scenarios in chapter 17 will take place in the short period before the Second Coming.  (That period is often referred to as the Tribulation period.)  This leads to the conclusion that the woman of chapter 17 is not ancient Rome, but is an entity yet to materialize.  
At the same time, we have the fact that the woman sits on seven mountains, and that fact makes the woman seem to be ancient Rome.  The fact that she is identified in 17:18 as “the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth” also sounds like ancient Rome.  Of course, there have been other cities that headed up empires.  Nineveh was the chief city of the Assyrian Empire.  Babylon headed its own Babylonian Empire.  The Persian Empire also used Babylon as a principal city in its empire.  Probably no empire that was led by a city matched Rome.  Because of this, many have concluded that Rome is the “great city” of 17:9 and 17:18.  
Interpreters have gone in two directions with that conclusion.  One is a Preterist interpretation, such as we find in a book by Hank Hanegraff, the “Bible Answer Man.”  (Hanegraff, 113)  He considers 17:9 to settle the question.  R. C. Sproul advocates a position similar to Hanegraff.  (Sproul, throughout his book, but see especially 153ff)  Both of these authors subscribe to what they call “Orthodox Preterism,” a position which rejects J. S. Russell’s radical views, but contends that many of the “prophetic” Scriptures in the New Testament do refer to events of the first century, especially the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  I have discussed Russell in previous posts.  I shall discuss Hanegraff and Sproul further in a post or posts in which I consider the commentators.
The other direction in which Rome is identified as the city of 17:9 and 17:18 is a Futurist view of a revived Roman Empire. I generally agree with this view, which has been advocated by the Dispensationalists.  (Pentecost, 318-326)  Although I disagree with many of their ideas, I find that the main thrust of their argument for a revived Roman Empire rests on solid Scriptural ground.  They not only consider Revelation but also visions in Daniel.  Again, I shall consider this in detail in another post.  I would make one qualification to subscribing to this idea about a revived Roman Empire.  I believe that this future “city” and its empire will indeed be a successor to Rome and its spirit--a spirit that rejects Christ and persecutes Christians, that embraces harsh military conquest and rampant immorality.  However, it may not be an exact replica of ancient Rome with its headquarters in the city of Rome.       
In verse 17:10, the heads of the Beast are representative of seven kings.  It is natural for many to consider that these kings are seven emperors of Rome.  However, some interpreters understand these “kings” to represent “kingdoms.”  One finds considerable difficulty in any direction one turns.  
For the record, the following are the sequence of Roman emperors in the pertinent time period (Suetonius and with help from Wikipedia for 12 and 13):
  1. Julius Caesar (although many regard him NOT to be an emperor), 49-44 BC
  2. Augustus 31 BC-AD 14
  3. Tiberius AD 14-37
  4. Gaius (Caligula) 37-41
  5. Claudius 41-54
  6. Nero 54-68
  7. Galba June, 68-January, 69
  8. Otho January-April, 69
  9. Vitellius July-December, 69
  10. Vespasian 69-79
  11. Titus 79-81
  12. Domitian 81-96
  13. Nerva 96-98
  14. Trajan 98-117
    If we consider that John wrote Revelation in the AD 90’s, this list of emperors brings much confusion.  (Some of the following is from Morris, 209.)  Some just ignore the idea the John wrote that late and simply count emperors (ignoring Julius because he is not truly regarded to be an emperor).  This strategy runs into the difficulty that, during about 18 months from July, 68 to December, 69, three men were emperors in rapid succession.  Most prefer to ignore them and arrive at an interpretation of verse 17:10 in the following way:  
  • The five emperors who have fallen are Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.  
  • The one who “is” would be Vespasian.
  • The one to come and only remain a little while is Titus.
On the whole, trying to make the list of emperors “fit” into the scheme of verse 17:10 is difficult and confusing.  When one throws in verse 17:11, it just gets worse.  I shall deal with that at another time.
     Morris also refers to another school of thought espoused by W. Hendriksen, among others. (Morris, 210)  (The bibliographic data from Morris is as follows:  W. Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors, 1962.)  This viewpoint understands the “kings” to be empires that had ruled through the centuries in the Middle East and beyond.  Hendriksen’s empires are as follows. 
  1. Old Babylonian
  2. Assyrian
  3. New Babylonian
  4. Medo-Persian
  5. Graeco-Macedonian
  6. Roman
  7. “All anti-christian [sic] governments between the fall of Rome and the final empire of the antichrist”
  8. The eighth is “of the seven” and “may well arise in one of the ancient seats of empire”
    A similar interpretation is described by Joel Richardson.  He explains that trying to make the Roman emperors fit verses 17:10-11 is difficult, if not impossible.  (Richardson, 132-133)  Instead, he proposes the following list of empires (Richardson, 75):
  1. Egypt
  2. Assyria
  3. Babylonia (neo-Babylonian Empire)
  4. Medo-Persia
  5. Greece (Alexandrian Empire)
  6. Rome
  7. Islamic Empire
  8. Revived Islamic Empire of the Antichrist
    Although this scheme has some merit, I think that it has one possible flaw.  (I used “possible” because this material is so difficult that I sense that I am in deep water and should be cautious about commenting on another author’s theory.)  The problem that I see is that Daniel indicates that the last empire will be an outgrowth or have historical and geographical ties to the Roman Empire.  In Daniel 2:31-45, Daniel is speaking to Nebuchadnezzar and explaining the latter’s dream.  The dream is of a statue or “image” of a man which is composed of a series of metals.  Each of the metals represents one of the great empires of the Mideastern area.  The sequence is generally interpreted as Babylonia, Medes and Persians (as one empire), Alexandrian/Greek Empire, Rome, and the successor to Rome.  The part of the statue representing Rome was the pair of legs which were combined with the feet.  The legs were made of iron, which represented the military power of Rome.  The feet were made of iron and clay which were mixed together.  The toes represented a union of separate entities that had grown out of the Roman Empire.  This final form of empire is smashed by the Kingdom of God.  Thus, there seems to be a link between the final Antichrist empire and the Roman Empire.  (See Pentecost 318ff and 323ff.)  
    There is much more that I need to discuss regarding verses 17:9-10 as well verse 17:11.  I shall leave that for another post.
Crossway.  The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Wheaton: 
    Crossway Publ., 2001.
Hanegraff, Hank.  The Apocalypse Code.  Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, Inc., 
Morris, Leon.  The Revelation of St. John, vol. 20 of Tyndale New 
    Testament Commentaries.  Gen. Ed. R. V. G. Tasker.  Grand Rapids:
    William B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1980.
Pentecost, J. Dwight. Things to Come. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publ., 1958. Richardson, Joel.  Mystery Babylon.  Washington, D.C.:  WND Books, 
Sproul, R. C.  The Last Days According to Jesus. Grand Rapids:  Baker
    Books, 1998.
Suetonius.  The Twelve Emperors.  Robert Graves, trans., Revised by 
    Michael Grant.  Harmondsworth, England:  Penguin Books Ltd.,