Wednesday, January 15, 2020
REVELATION 17, PART E
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
REVELATION 17, BEGINNING AT VERSE 12
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.
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.
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.