“But the angel said to me, ‘Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.” Revelation 17:7
The apostle John is so astonished by the wilderness vision he just received involving “a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy” (17:3-6), that the angel said to him, “Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.” (Revelation 17:7). The angel promises to explain the interpretation about “the mystery” of “the woman” (17:15-18)and “the beast” (17:8-14) she rides upon “which has the seven heads and the ten horns.”
First, he begins by sharing many details about “the beast” or Man of Sin. “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and shall be present.” (Revelation 17:8). When the angel says, “the beast” John “saw was, and is not,” he is referring to when the beast will be assassinated near the mid-point of the Tribulation period (17:8a; cf. 13:1-3). When the angel says the beast “will ascend out of the bottomless pit” where Satan currently lives (11:7), he is referring to a demon that will be released from the Abyss to resurrect and inhabit the beast (17:8b). 1 The phrase “will… go to destruction,” does not mean the beast will go back to the bottomless pit, but to eternal “destruction” (apōleian) in the lake of fire at the end of the Tribulation period (Revelation 19:20). 2
When the unsaved people of the world (“whose names are not written in the Book of Life”) see “the beast that was” alive and had conquered several countries such as Egypt, Libya, and Ethiopia (cf. Daniel 11:26-45) while the Two Witnesses strike the rest of the earth with plagues during the first half of the Tribulation (11:3-6), and then is assassinated (“and is not”) near the mid-point of the Tribulation (13:3-4), and only to “be present” through the resurrection by a demonic spirit (17:8) to kill the Two Witnesses in Jerusalem near the midpoint of the Tribulation (11:7-10), these unsaved people “will marvel,” realizing this is no ordinary human being. It is at this point that the beast will take his place in the rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem where he will declare himself to be God (cf. Matthew 24:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Daniel 7:25). 3
John is now given insight from the angel. “Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.” (Revelation 17:9). The “seven heads” of the beast “are seven mountains” or hills 4in the city of Rome 5 “on which the woman sits.” In the context of the first century, this could only refer to Rome which was known as “the city of the seven hills.” 6 In Revelation 17:18, John refers to Babylon as “that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” In the first century context when John wrote the book of Revelation, this could only refer to the city of Rome which ruled the world at that time. 7
“There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.” (Revelation 17:10). The “seven heads” of the beast also represent “seven kings” or kingdoms. At the time of John’s writing, “five” of these kingdoms have already “fallen,” including Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. 8 And “one is” currently in power (the Roman Empire) at the time of John’s writing, “and the other” kingdom, the revived Roman Empire (cf. Daniel 2:41-42; 7:7-8, 19-25) under the reign of the beast during the Tribulation (Revelation 13:1-10; 17:13), 9 “has not yet come.” This final kingdom will only last “a short time” – the last three and a half years of the Tribulation (cf. 12:13-14; 13:5). All these kingdoms either have persecuted or will persecute God’s people (cf. Ezekiel 29-30; Nahum 3:1-19; Isaiah 21:9; Jeremiah 50-51; Daniel 10:13; 11:2-4). 10
The final kingdom mentioned will be led by one of the seven kings. “The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to destruction.” (Revelation 17:11). As one “of the seven” kings, “the beast” or Man of Sin represents a kingdom. But as “the eighth,” he is viewed as the king of the revived Roman Empire – a king who is killed (“that was, and is not”) and comes back to life because of Satan’s work (cf. 13:3; 17:9). 11
Vacendak describes how this scene might unfold: “During the first three-and-a-half years of the seven-year Tribulation Period, a Middle-Eastern ruler whom Daniel calls ‘the king of the North’ (Daniel 11:36-45) will overthrow many countries including Egypt, Libya, and Ethiopia. As he does this, the two witnesses in Jerusalem (cf. Revelation 11:3-12) will be striking the earth with troubles and plagues ‘as often as they desire’ (11:6). Near the mid-point of the Tribulation, the king of the North is assassinated… (13:3-4). This tyrant, whose kingdom and army had made some significant gains, is dead. Then the unimaginable occurs. A demonic spirit ‘will ascend out of the bottomless pit’ (17:8) and resurrect the king of the North’s dead body!
“Now empowered by Satan (cf. 13:2), as the two witnesses ‘finish their testimony, the Beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them’ (13:7). From there, he will proceed to the temple and commit the ‘abomination of desolation’ (Matthew 24:15), declaring to the world that he is God. The revived Roman Empire and its new emperor are alive and well! The prophet Daniel states that this new world leader ‘shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished’ (Daniel 11:36). 12
The interpreting angel will now explain the ten horns on the scarlet beast. “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.” (Revelation 17:12). The “ten horns” on the seven heads of the scarlet beast (17:3, 7) represent “ten kings” who will assist the beast in his worldwide kingdom during the last half of the Tribulation (cf. Daniel 7:23-24). Before the beast appoints them as leaders in his worldwide government, they are not yet kings – “they have received no kingdom as yet” – though it is possible they hold some form of leadership position in their countries. But the beast will offer them a political promotion, for they will “receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast” during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation when he rules the world (cf. Daniel 7:23-24). 13
“These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.” (Revelation 17:13). These ten kings will all be “of one mind” with the beast during his worldwide reign and “they will give their power and authority to the beast.” There appears to be no show of force from the beast to win their loyalty. They will unite their political power to support the beast or Man of Sin.
“The original tower-of-Babel dream of a worldwide government with one ruler, one language, one religion, and one economy will finally be realized for a brief season – figuratively speaking, ‘for one hour’ (17:10, 12). We already see this desire for religious, spiritual, and political unity at work through such institutions as the United Nations, the World Bank, and the World Council of Churches. These attempts have always failed to bring about true peace and security – and until the Antichrist’s hostile takeover, their optimistic attempts will continue to fail. However, when the Antichrist takes the throne, the single world government and single world religion will finally emerge.” 14
“These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” (Revelation 17:14). At the end of the Tribulation period, “these” ten kings will be part of an international coalition united under the authority of the beast, and they “will make war with the Lamb,” Jesus Christ, at the battle of Armageddon (16:14, 16; 19:19-21). No matter how much military fire power the beast’s armies will amass, they will be no match for their Opponent, as “the Lamb will overcome them” simply because “He is Lord of lords and King of kings.” We must never forget that the humble Lamb of God is also the all-powerful King and Lord of all!
Christ will descend from heaven with His own army consisting of believers from the church age and believers who died during the Tribulation who are “are called, chosen, and faithful” (cf. Revelation 19:7-14). These descriptive terms are reminiscent of Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” Revelation 19:14 tells us that these soldiers who accompany Christ on white horses are “clothed in fine linen, white and clean,” suggesting they are overcoming believers who finished their lives on earth victoriously for Christ (cf. Revelation 3:5; 6:11). The fact that they are “faithful” also underscores their identity as overcomers. 15
During the Trump administration, the President was sharply criticized for wanting to make America great again because such an emphasis did not mesh with the movement toward globalism – the attitude or policy of placing the interests of the entire world above those of individual nations.
An example of globalism is the United Nation’s promise that if we all work together, we can turn our planet into some kind of “utopia,” but the truth is that all of this talk about “unity” masks a very insidious agenda. The following comes from a piece by Paul McGuire, the author of the book entitled “The Babylon Code: Solving the Bible’s Greatest End-Times Mysteries” (2015):
“The UN is not asking permission but issuing a command that the entire planet will commit to 17 sustainable development goals and 169 sustainable development targets designed to radically transform our world by 2030. The UN 2030 plan promoted by the Pope will advance Agenda 21 on steroids. Through a controlled media the mass populations will be told that this is all about saving the environment and ‘ending poverty.’ But that is not the true agenda of Agenda 21. The true agenda of Agenda 21 is to establish a global government, global economic system, and global religion. When UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon spoke of ‘a dream of a world of peace and dignity for all’ this is no different than when the Communists promised the people a ‘workers paradise.’”
As more and more emphasis is placed on unity at the expense of truth today in an effort to unite world religions, it is essential that Christians hold fast to the gospel of grace no matter what the cost. Why? Because Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), and his demonic armies have encouraged people to pursue the acquisition of eternal life through human effort and self-reliance down through the ages. He deceives human beings through the lie of self-reliance which says you can earn God’s forgiveness and acceptance by your own efforts. Or the Devil will encourage self-condemnation, the lie that a person’s bad works render him or her unlovable to God. Both Satanic approaches are based on the lie which says goods works are necessary for a relationship with God. 16
Contrary to Satan’s lies, the Bible tells us that God’s offer of salvation is solely by grace (undeserved favor) through faith in Jesus Christ apart from any works. “8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
To help us replace Satan’s self-reliance or self-condemnation lies with God’s truth, read the following false statements with the corresponding truth statements based on the Word of God. As you read the false statements, focus on the ones you believe are true. Then read their corresponding truth statements repeatedly until the truth statements feel true to you. 17 Ask the Holy Spirit to graciously replace these lies with God’s truth (Psalm 119:29).
False Statement #1: If I am a good person, I will go to heaven when I die.
Truth Statement #1: We can have eternal life because of what Jesus did on our behalf, not because of anything we do (Romans 5:8; 6:23; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).
False Statement #2: Since Jesus did not die for my sins, I must work to get to heaven.
Truth Statement #2: I cannot earn heaven by a life of good behavior because I cannot pay a debt that is already paid in full by Jesus Christ. Since God was forever satisfied with His perfect Son’s payment for all my sins (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:2), I must also be satisfied with what satisfies God by believing in Christ alone, not my good works, to get me to heaven (John 3:15-16; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26).
False Statement #3: SinceJesus only paid for some of my sins, I must pay for the rest of my sins by doing good works.
Truth Statement #3: Since Jesus finished paying the full penalty for all my sins when He died in my place on the cross (John 19:30; Colossians 2:13-14), there is no need for me to believe in Christ plus my good works to get me to heaven. Because God was completely and forever satisfied with Jesus’ full payment for my sins (Isaiah 53:11; John 19:30; I John 2:2), I can also be satisfied with what satisfied God by believing in Christ alone, not Christ plus my good works, to get me to heaven (John 3:15-16; 6:40, 47; 11:25-26).
False Statement #4: Nobody would love me as I am.
Truth Statement #4: God loves me regardless (Romans 5:6, 8).
False Statement #5: I could never be forgiven.
Truth Statement #5: I am totally forgiven in Christ (Acts 10:43; Colossians 2:13-14).
False Statement #6: I am an unacceptable person.
Truth Statement #6: I am totally accepted in Christ (Romans 8:1a; Ephesians 1:6).
False Statement #7: I am alone and unloved.
Truth Statement #7: I am not alone or unloved. I am loved and cherished by the Creator of the Universe (Psalm 27:10).
False Statement #8: God is against me.
Truth Statement #8: God is for me and not against me. The proof? He gave me His best – Jesus – when I was at my worst – an ungodly sinner (Romans 5:6, 8; 8:31-32).
False Statement #9: When I go through painful times, it must be because of my lack of faith or my disobedience.
Truth Statement #9: Though I might experience difficult times as part of God’s loving discipline to lead me to maturity (Hebrews 12:5-11), God never condemns or punishes me for sin (Romans 8:1, 34). Because I live in a fallen world corrupted by sin (Romans 8:20-23), I will experience hardship (John 16:33), but because of Christ I will never be judged for my sins (John 5:24).
False Statement #10: I cannot trust God.
Truth Statement #10: I can trust God because He is always good and tells the truth (John 1:14; 14:6; Psalm 34:8; Titus 1:2).
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for reminding me that world events are rapidly moving toward the original tower-of-Babel dream of a worldwide government with one ruler, one language, one religion, and one economy. Amid all the chaos and confusion in this world, thank You for speaking the truth to me. I need Your help to identify the lies that keep me relying on myself and my own efforts instead of on You and Your Word. I invite You right now Lord to show me the false beliefs I have so I can rely on You to replace them with Your truth. Please make me more like Your perfect Son, Jesus Christ, who is full of truth. Use me to proclaim Christ’s truth to a lost world so many people may come to believe in Him alone for His gift of everlasting life and be set free from Satan’s lies of self-reliance and self-condemnation. In Jesus’ mighty name, I pray. Amen.
1. Bob Vacendak; Robert Wilkin; J. Bond; Gary Derickson; Brad Doskocil; Zane Hodges; Dwight Hunt; Shawn Leach; The Grace New Testament Commentary: Revised Edition (Grace Evangelical Society, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1565.
4. The Greek word for “mountains” is orē which can also mean “hills” – see Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature: Third Edition (BDAG) revised and edited by Frederick William Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000 Kindle Edition), pg. 724.
5. J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Zondervan Academic, 2010 Kindle Edition), pg. 321.
6. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman, The Tony Evans Study Commentary (B & H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition 2019), pg. 2410.
7. Vacendak, pg. 1568.
8. Constable, pg. 188.
9. Pentecost, pp. 316-320.
10.Constable, pg. 188.
11. Vacendak, pg. 1565.
12. Ibid., pg. 1566.
14. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary Book 15, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2014 Kindle Edition), pp. 313-314.
15. Vacendak, pg. 1567.
16. Swindoll, pg. 315.
17. Some of the following false versus truth statements are adapted from Swindoll, pp. 315-316.