Daily Bible Studies & Sermon Notes

Revelation 17:7-16
Pastor Steve Schell
Revelation 17:7
Verse 7 (continued): Before we go on to examine the angel’s explanation of the beast with “seven heads and ten horns,” we should note that these same symbols appear in three other passages (Da 7:20, 24; Rev 12:3; 13:1). In Daniel, the ten horns are ten rulers who are reduced down to seven by the emergence of the antichrist (Da 7:8). In Revelation 12:3, there are seven heads, ten horns and seven diadems and, in Revelation 13:1, there are ten horns, seven heads and seven diadems. In each case, I think the same scenario is being pictured. The core of the antichrist’s empire is a ten-nation confederacy of which the antichrist himself directly rules three, with seven others pledging complete loyalty to him. However, here in chapter seventeen, we gain a historical perspective concerning the origin of this empire not found in the earlier passages. We discover here a deeper meaning behind the “seven heads.”

Revelation 17:8
Verse 8: The angel tells John that the “beast,” which in this case means the antichrist himself rather than the empire he rules, “was and is not and is about to come up out of the abyss.” Again, at the end of the verse, he is described as someone who “was and is not and will come” (vs 10, 11). The meaning of these words, while pointing to something highly unusual, is actually quite clear. The antichrist will be a “reincarnation” (in person or in spirit, see Mt 17:10-12 concerning Elijah) of a person who lived and died prior to John’s revelation. He will be someone who lived in the past (“was”), who was dead at the time John received this revelation (“is not”), but whose spirit is waiting in the “abyss” to re-emerge at an appointed time in the future (“will come”).

Revelation 17:8, 9
Verse 8 (continued): Not only will the future antichrist be the “reincarnation” of someone from the past but his origin will be common knowledge to those living in his empire. Describing the unsaved as “those who dwell on the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world” (Rev 13:8) the angel says they will “wonder” at the origin of the antichrist, meaning this fact will greatly enhance his status in their eyes. It is not stated, but is implied by this verse that those who are saved, thereby possessing the discernment given by the indwelling Holy Spirit, will not be “mislead” (Mt 24:24). For one thing, the Word of God, especially this very passage we are studying, will have warned believers about this occurrence long before it takes place. Verse 9: The angel is about to explain even deeper revelations so he says, “Here is the mind that has wisdom,” meaning only those able to receive God’s wisdom, can understand it. In Revelation 13:8, a similar statement is made, “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding....” Earlier the angel had said, “If anyone has an ear, let him hear” (Rev 13:9) which, of course, is a phrase Jesus often repeated during His teachings (Mt 13:13). By it He meant that people must listen with the right attitude and have the assistance of the Holy Spirit in order to understand what He was teaching (Mt 13:14-16). Elsewhere He said the “new birth” is necessary to “see the Kingdom of God” (Jn 3:3). So we can expect the words which follow to have the effect of a riddle. To some they will make no sense at all, while to others they will give prophetic insight into the composition and destruction of the antichrist’s empire.

Revelation 17:9, 10
Verse 9: The beast which carries the harlot has “seven heads and ten horns” (v 3). In these verses, the meaning of the seven heads is elaborated. The antichrist’s empire will be the seventh and final major manifestation of the antichrist spirit as recorded in the Bible. We are told, “The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come.” While it is certainly true that the earth has and continues to see many manifestations of the antichrist spirit, the Bible itself seems to recognize seven specific empires which in God’s eyes qualify as true “antichrists.” As I see it, these are: 1) Nimrod and the tower of Babel (Ge 10:8-11; 11:1-9); 2) Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon (Da 7:4); 3) Medo/Persia (Da 7:5); 4) Alexander the Great and Greece (Da 7:6, 8:21, 22); 5) Antiochus Epiphanes (Da 8:9-25; 11:21-45); 6) Rome (“the people of the prince who is to come” by whom the “Messiah will be cut off and have nothing” (Da 9:26); 7) the final antichrist and his worldwide empire who in Daniel is called “the prince who is to come” (Da 9:26) and whose empire is also called the “fourth beast” (Da 7:7, 19, 20).

Revelation 17:9-13
Verses 9, 10 (continued): With the above list in mind, it becomes easy to see that the first five “have fallen” (died prior to John), “one is” meaning it existed at the time John received this revelation (which was Rome) and the seventh which “has not yet come” is the empire which will arise during the last days. The statement that it “must remain a little while” points to the final seven year period. Verse 11: As a “reincarnated” man (“was and is not”), the antichrist of the future is one of the antichrists of the past. Someone from ancient history will come back to life which is why he mysteriously counts as two people in the angel’s explanation. He “is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven.” I suppose this means he will actually be a different human being but will express the same spirit as one of the past antichrists. Verses 12, 13: The image of ten horns symbolizing a ten-nation confederacy is one we saw beginning with the prophet Daniel (Da 7:7, 8, 24; Rev 12:3; 13:1). Daniel makes it clear that the antichrist will usurp the rule of three kings and then seven others will submit themselves to him (Da 7:8, 20, 24). These ten become the central core of a world-wide empire (Rev 17:1, 15).

Revelation 17:14, 15
Verse 14: The antichrist will conduct a systematic genocide against the followers of Jesus, both Jew and Gentile (Rev 12:13, 17). As we saw, he will require people to be marked on their forehead or hand in order to buy or sell. In a short period of time, those remaining unmarked will become evident to all exposing them as rebels who have refused to worship the antichrist (Rev 13:15-17). This wave of persecution will culminate with a massive, multinational force marching against Jerusalem, but as we have seen, the assault will fail due to God’s intervention (Rev 16:12-16, 19, 21; Joel 3:1-17; Zec 14:1-15). This verse looks forward to the victorious return of Jesus Christ when He will personally appear as “Lord of lords and King of kings” accompanied by His angels and resurrected followers (Rev 19:11-16). Verse 15: Here the angel explains to John that the earlier vision of the “great harlot who sits on many waters” was meant to be a pictorial representation of the “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” that will come under the control of the antichrist’s empire.

Revelation 17:16
Verse 16: In chapter 16, we watched God draw the antichrist’s armies to Israel in order to destroy them in His “winepress” (Rev 14:20). At a place called Har-Magedon (Rev 16:16) He crushed them with huge hailstones (Rev 16:21). Now we discover that the destruction of the antichrist’s kingdom is still far from complete. God has another weapon to use against them. He will cause what is left of the antichrist’s armies to mercilessly destroy the empire’s capital city. The tactic of confusing an enemy and turning combatants against one another is employed by God on several occasions recorded in the Old Testament. The prophet Zechariah said that following the assault on Jerusalem, “a great panic from the Lord will fall upon them and they will seize one another’s hand and the hand of one will be lifted against the hand of another” (Zec 14:13). So the angel is explaining that following the antichrist’s defeat in Israel, he and the other rulers in league with him will mercilessly destroy the empire’s capital city which I would suppose is the place where the antichrist’s “image” is located (Rev 13:14, 15). Horrific terms are used to picture this event: “make her desolate and naked and (they) will eat her flesh and will burn her with fire.”

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