Thursday, January 30, 2020


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.  
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 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 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.  

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.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


Bible quotations are from English Standard Version unless another version is referred to.
Crossway.  The Holy Bible English Standard Version.  Wheaton, IL:  Crossway, 2001.

Revelation 17, starting at 17:15:
John has been experiencing a vision, accompanied by an angel.  The vision focuses on a unit of rider and mount.  The rider is a Great Prostitute, who is described in 17:1-6a.  The mount is a Beast, with seven heads and ten horns, which is described in 17:7b-14.  Verses 17:15-18 continue this description.  The description in these verses is more dynamic than some of the foregoing verses.  Whereas much of the earlier verses focus on the “who” by giving hints as to the identity of the various characters, the final verses in the chapter focus more on “what happens” to these characters.  The cast of characters has been completed (but not quite).  They are, as follows.
  • The Prostitute
  • The Beast
  • The 10 Kings
  • The Lamb
Verse 17:15 reverts back to the description in verse 17:1.  The first mention of the Prostitute is that she is “seated on many waters.”  Revelation is noteworthy for what seems to be dream-like inconsistencies.  So, in verse 17:1, the Prostitute is seated on waters, but in 17:3 she is seated on the Beast.  Now, in 17:15, the waters are mentioned again.  In this case, the waters are described as WHERE the Prostitute is seated.  So, one could parse out the three verses, 17:1, 17:3, 17:15, as follows.  The Prostitute is seated on the Beast.  The location of the Beast and Prostitute is in, and on, many waters.  So, in a sense, the Beast is also in the midst of these waters.
The angel (literally, “he”) explains that these waters are “peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.”  I think, although at first glance this wording seems like “overkill,” it is a rich expression that describes the people of the world.  The expression embraces people in their ethnicity (“peoples”), their associations (“multitudes”), their political identity (“nations”), and their language-groups (“languages,” literally, “tongues”).  
The position of the Prostitute in relation to the people of the world is two-fold.  She is sitting “on” them (verse 17:1), and she is sitting among them (“where [she] is seated,” verse 17:15).  This ascribes to her dominance (see 17:18), but it also connects her spiritually with the people:  their spiritual condition and her spiritual condition are identical.
Because verse 17:3 also states that the Prostitute is seated ON the Beast, we can infer the Beast has similar relationships to those we have inferred for the Prostitute.  First, the woman is riding on the Beast, which implies dominance.  This is going to change, but at the outset of the drama, that is the condition.  The Beast, by implication, is on or in or among the people of the world.  This implies potential dominance over the people as well as spiritual kinship with the people of the world.  
Verse 17:15 seems to imply an equilibrium.  However, it is a temporary equilibrium that will be disrupted in the action in verse 17:16.  This disintegration of stability is a reflection of the spiritual condition of all of the parties involved.  When the devil is involved, things become unraveled sooner or later.
VERSE 17:16:  The narrative refers back to verse 17:12, which begins an explanation of the ten horns on the Beast.  These represent 10 kings.  The kings, within the timeline, await reception of “authority as kings.”   In verse 17:16, it is evident that they have received that authority.  Although verse 17:13 states that they will “hand over their power and authority to the [B]east,” in 17:16 they are the actors.  There is a justifying of these two accounts, I believe, in 17:17, so that there is not a contradiction.  Though the kings are at the disposal of the Beast, this does not prevent their being involved in events.  
Note that both the kings, who are referred to as “horns,” and the Beast “hate the [Prostitute].”  Remember that the Prostitute is rides the Beast (17:3), sits on the waters that represent the people of the world (17:1 and 17:15), and governs the kings of the earth (17:18).  This reign is not the reign of a good shepherdess, but a reign of dominance and power that engenders rebellion.  Combine this with the nature of godless humanity--a natural tendency to rebellion and instability--and it is no great wonder that the kings and the Beast turn on the Prostitute.
Their revolt is successful, for they destroy the Prostitute.  The warfare of the kings and the Beast is fourfold.  They will make her “desolate.”  It is interesting that Jesus uses this word in His answer to the accusation that He cast out demons by the power of the prince of demons:  “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste [same word that is translated “desolate” in Revelation 17:16], and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” (Matthew 12:25)  So, the league of the Beast, the 10 kings, and the Prostitute was doomed to fall apart and to wind up a wasteland.  This destruction of the Prostitute is only the beginning.
The second aspect of their revolt is to make her naked.  Her pride is to be “arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls.”  (17:4)  Although people, in brazen disregard for dignity, may at times expose themselves and run around naked, they are not behaving as rational humans, who cover themselves.  To be naked is to be utterly exposed and humiliated.
The third step in the revolt of the Beast and the 10 kings is to “devour her [the Prostitute’s] flesh.”  It is likely that this expression means that they will steal her goods.  Plundering accompanied ancient warfare.  Not only did it enrich the conquerors, but also it undercut any hope of recovery by the ones who were conquered.  So, the Prostitute is to experience utter devastation.
Finally, the 10 kings and the Beast will burn the Prostitute.  This also is a standard procedure of ancient warfare.  Very possibly, the Hebrews who read this would remember the destruction and burning of Jerusalem twice in history.  In each case, the dominant empire of the time was responsible--Babylon in 586/587 BC and Rome in AD 70.  Some believe that this burning of the Prostitute is, in fact, a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  (Hanegraaf, 233-235, also Russell)  I do not believe that this is a correct understanding.  However, certainly there are echoes of that event in this passage (and Revelation 18).  
Thus, the rebellion of the Beast and the 10 kings will destroy the Prostitute.  Whatever role she has played on the world stage and, especially, in regard to the people of God will be put to an end.  She no longer will be a player.
VERSE 17:17:  This verse explains that the overthrow of the Prostitute will be an act of God.  We might reverse the order of the sentence:
  1.  “Until the words of God are fulfilled”:  The ultimate verdict is that God’s word will not fail.  What particular words is this clause referring to?  We could include the very words that we are reading--the Book of Revelation is “God-breathed” (II Timothy 3:16-17), and it is the consensus of the church that Revelation is included in the canon of Scripture.  Possibly, also, there is a hidden word from God to set in motion events that will lead to the destruction of the Prostitute.  This hidden word is implied by the entire thrust of the sentence.
  2. “[Handing] over their royal power to the beast”:  This phrase gathers up the thoughts and ideas of previous verses.  In verse 17:12, we learn that the 10 kings have not yet received “royal power.”  This could be translated “not yet received a kingdom.”  The verse goes on to say that they will receive “authority as kings.”  This will be a very brief (“one hour”) endowment with power and authority, and it will be in association with the Beast.  It is possible that their association with the Beast is instrumental in receiving this power.  Verse 13 states that, having received their royal authority and power, they put themselves and that royal authority and power at the disposal of the Beast.  Verse 17 reminds us that this is the situation.  They are in league with the Beast, to do his bidding.  And this is the purpose of God:  by following the Beast, the 10 kings carry out the plan of God, which is to destroy the Prostitute.
  3. “[For] God has put it into their hearts to carry out His purpose by being of one mind”:  The verse starts and ends with the will of God.  God is opposed to the Beast.  In a sense, God reacts to human attitudes, thoughts, and actions.  So, in response to the unmixed evil in the heart of the Beast, God reacts in opposition to him.  The Beast is an enemy of God and God’s people.  He blasphemes God (13:6).  He makes war on the saints (13:7).  And so God opposes the Beast.  But He also opposes the Prostitute, who encourages immorality (17:2, 4).  She persecutes the saints (17:6).  So, as is often the case, the alliance between two evil instigators leads to a struggle for dominance.  The Beast, with his 10 co-conspirators, wins out and destroys the Prostitute.  Unknown to them, God has used them to destroy a very evil entity.  So, the will and work of God are carried out through the alliance of the 10 kings with the Beast.  They follow his lead by developing a hatred for the Prostitute.  Their leader then incites them to rebellion and the outcome is the utter destruction of the Prostitute.  They believe that they have thrown off an unwanted yoke, but they have also furthered God’s purpose.
VERSE 17:18:  The last verse serves as the end-bracket to two structures.  First, it is the end-bracket of the paragraph (it is styled as a paragraph in ESV) that runs from verse 17:15 to verse 17:18.  Second, it is the end bracket of the entire chapter.  In each case, it echoes the verse that is the beginning-bracket of the structure.  So, verse 17:15 focuses on something that “you saw.”  And 17:18 focuses on something that “you saw.”  In 17:15, it is the waters on which the Prostitute sits that were seen, and, in 17:18, it is the city that was seen.  Verse 17:1 brings attention to the “judgment of the great prostitute.”  Verse 17:18 uses the term “woman” rather than “prostitute.”  The word for “prostitute” is feminine and refers to a female prostitute.  In New Testament Greek, the masculine version of the same word refers, usually, to a man who is sexually immoral, but not specifically a prostitute; however, the feminine version generally refers to a female prostitute.  So, the “woman” of 17:18 and the “prostitute” of 17:1 are parallel.  
So, we have come to the end of the story.  It begins with the promise of “judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.”  (17:1)  This prostitute has seduced the kings of the earth (17:2).  She is wealthy and luxuriously arrayed (17:4).  She has persecuted the saints (17:6).  She rides the Beast, with his 10 horns (17:3).  The 10 horns are 10 kings who are subordinate allies of the Beast (17:12-13).  The Beast and the 10 kings rebel against the Prostitute and destroy her (17:16).  
Finally, we are given one more hint of the identity of the Prostitute.  She is “the great city that has dominion [or “a kingdom”] over the kings of the earth.”  In John’s day, the city of Rome would certainly fit that description.  There was a day when Babylon was such a city.  If we continue to understand this book from a futurist standpoint, what city has replaced Rome?  We do not see such a city, though certainly a case could be made for New York City.  One commentator has made the case that the complex of cities in western Saudi Arabia serve as the 21st century Rome:  “For now, the busy coast of the Red Sea and the great harlot city of Mecca would seem to fulfill the biblical descriptions of Mystery Babylon.”  (Richardson, 254)  Another commentator understands the “city” to be symbolic of all human civilization that has gone wrong without God.  In two places he makes the point:  “The ‘great city’ is every city and no city.  It is civilized man in organized community.”  (Morris, 150)  Also, he says, referring to Revelation 17:18:  “In John’s own day this [the city referred to in 17:18] stands for Rome.  But in the end-times it is man in organized community…” (Morris, 213)
It is possible to “over-spiritualize” interpretations.  Sort of like the old saying “everyone’s responsibility is no one’s responsibility,” to spiritualize or allegorize to the point that this “city” simply stands for civilization may be too general an interpretation.  I think that we may posit that, in the end-times, there will be a particular city, but that city will be a manifestation of evil tendencies in godless civilization.  
Hanegraaff, Hank.  The Apocalypse Code.  Nashville:  Thomas Nelson, 
Morris, Leon.  The Revelation of St. John.  Tyndale New Testament 
Commentaries.  R. V. G. Tasker, Gen. Ed.  Grand Rapids:  William
B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1980.
Richardson, Joel.  Mystery Babylon.  Unlocking the Bible’s Greatest 
    Prophetic Mystery.  Washington, D.C.:  WND Books, 2017.
Russell, J. S.  A Critical Inquiry into the New Testament Doctrine of Our 
    Lord’s Second Coming.  (Google Internet Book)  London:  Daldy, 
    Isbister, & Co., 1878.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020


Scripture quotations are from English Standard Version unless they are referenced to another version.  Abbreviations include:  ESV = English Standard Version, NIV = New International Version, KJV = King James Version

This section of the chapter continues to explain the vision that has been described, especially in 17:3.  In this section, the attention is turned to the 10 horns of the Beast.  The angel, who is John’s tour guide, explains that these horns represent 10 kings.  I have spent much time and energy discussing the 7 kings and the eighth king of verses 17:10-11.  These 10 kings are obviously a different set of kings.  
The 10 kings are consistently viewed as a group, without individuality.  Moreover, they are closely related to the Beast.  From considerations that I have discussed in other posts, I consider the Beast to be a last-days entity that will have a brief career in the time just before the Second Coming of Christ.  This means that these 10 kings will have a similar time-line.  John makes the point that they have “not yet received royal power.”  One would reference this statement to John’s day:  in the time of the writing of Revelation, these kings are either not in existence, or, if they are, have no “royal power.”  The Greek dictionary published by the United Bible Societies defines the Greek word, which is most frequently translated “kingdom,” as “reign, rule, kingdom, domain…”  The KJV, NIV, New Revised Standard Version, and NIV all render the word “kingdom” in this verse.  Nevertheless, I think that the ESV has used an apt translation in this context.  The second part of the verse states that these people (men, most likely) will receive “authority as kings…”  The word “authority” is “exousia,” which is sometimes translated “power” and sometimes “authority.”  Thus, the emphasis is not so much on their having a place to reign as it is on their having the wherewithal of kingship.  Most likely a particular geographic region would go with their authority, but these men will receive the ability to make king-like decisions and give king-like commands.  This power and authority becomes important to the meaning of the next verse.  The final component of verse 12 is “together with the Beast.”  These 10 kings form a unit with the Beast and are, evidently, an important component in his power and authority.  
VERSE 17:13
The 10 kings are of “one mind.”  The word translated “mind” can be “will” or “purpose.”  Their minds are united in purpose.  That purpose is to surrender [literally, “give,” ESV says “hand over”] their power and authority to the beast.  What is their purpose?  Whatever it is, they seem to understand that their purpose will be accomplished through the Beast.  When they hand over their power and authority, the implication seems to be that they are putting their power and authority at the disposal of the Beast.  So, they are not just surrendering, rather, they are “joining up.”  It is the difference in a bank robber surrendering what he has stolen and a banker putting the bank’s money at the disposal of some large corporation.  The Beast is enriched, so to speak, by these 10 kings. 
VERSE 17:14
The kings continue to be the focus and the major actors in the drama in this portion of the narrative.  What role the Beast plays is not described.  Moreover, if one “skips ahead,” it appears that this verse is out of chronological order.  That is consistent with the pattern of Revelation.  It often states a final outcome and steps back and fills in events that lead up to that finality.  So, the final fate of these ten kings is defeat.  Very likely, the outcome summarized in 17:14 is a “prolepsis” (Webster:  “anticipation of a thing as done”), in the sense that the attack by the kings of the Lamb and His defeat of them is pictured as next on the agenda, even though verses 17:16-17 describe events earlier in the chronology.  
At any rate, the kings will make war on the Lamb.  The message throughout Revelation is that the “official” order of society is inimical toward Jesus and His church.  These are kings, representing whole countries.  They are the established heads of governments that have responsibility to keep order and maintain a society that upholds justice and truth.  And yet they make war on the Lamb.  
But, their war will be a failure.  The Lamb will conquer them.  There is a reason for that:  He is “Lord of lords and King of kings.”  There are five uses of this expression or similar ones.  Deuteronomy 10:17 describes the “Lord your God” as “God of gods and Lord of Lords.”  The verse is an amazing exhortation from Moses, in Deuteronomy 10:12-22, “to fear the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”  (Deuteronomy 10:12)  They are to “circumcise…[their] heart,” (Deuteronomy 10:16) because of who God is, as He is described in the next verse.  He is above all that might be called god and all human powers and authorities.
Psalm 136 is an exhortation to give thanks to the Lord.  Psalm 136:3 calls upon Israel to “Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for His steadfast love endures forever.”  I Timothy 6:15 is part of the windup of Paul’s instructions to Timothy in the first epistle.  Timothy is admonished to “keep the commandment unstained until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Timothy 6:14).  The Father will display that appearance for He is the “blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.”  (I Timothy 6:15)  In Revelation 19:11ff, the Second Coming of Christ is described as He comes in triumph.  He is riding a white horse, and His name is revealed:  “On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”  (Revelation 19:16)  The other reference is the present verse.
Thus, in His capacity as Sovereign over all other sovereigns, Jesus will counterattack the thrust of the 10 kings.  He has the legal right as King of kings.  And His authority is backed by the power of God.  Nothing and no one can oppose Him successfully.  So, the defeat of the kings is certain.  
The verse winds up with a comment on “those with Him.”  Once again, we see the “back story” of Revelation:  the people of God, the Christians, are with Jesus and He is with them.  They are persecuted and opposed by the nations of the earth.  The 10 kings not only attack the Lamb, but they also attack the church.  The people who are with Jesus have three descriptors:  they are “called and chosen and faithful.”  Notice that two of the three come from God.  The response is the third.  We are called by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We are chosen by God as the people who will do His will and represent Him in the world.  Our response is to be faithful.  Even if the kings of the earth turn on us, we have to stay the course and stay true to Jesus.