The Herald

Revelation Chapter 17, Two Views

Approaching a Culmination

“And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition” (Revelation 17:11).

by Bill Dutka

Listen to audio 

Mystery, symbols, codes, these are the elements that make up this sought after book — the book of Revelation. Christians throughout millennia have endeavored to unlock its mysteries which have remained locked away, hidden, until our day, “the time of the end.” The purpose of this article is to consider two well thought out views on Revelation 17.

The first point of view is from the Apostle John’s perspective. This view explains events that occurred during the Apostle John’s day while the second view records events occurring during the Seventh Angel’s day. This Angel explains to John (representing the John Class) the meaning of the vision.

The intention of this study is not to persuade you of a particular point of view, but to stir up your pure minds as Peter states in 2 Peter 3:1, “This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the  commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles” (New Revised Standard Version).

The John Class

With this in mind, let us look at Revelation 17 from two perspectives: from John’s Day and from the time period of the seventh messenger. “John” represents a class of spirit-begotten
saints who live during the harvest period of the Gospel Age. The “John Class” is identified in this study of the Book of Revelation. In Revelation 1:1-3, we think that John means not just the apostle that an angel dialogues with, but that John represents spirit-begotten saints, you and me, who live during the harvest of this age. This “class” of brethren has been given a dispensational message from an angel, or messenger, Charles T. Russell, for a reason: because “the time is at hand.”

Just as the Patriarch Jacob wrestled for a blessing from the Angel, so as we spend our time and energy investigating the Book of Revelation, we are promised a blessing. “Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein: for the time is at hand” (Revelation 1:3, ASV). We are further encouraged by the Apostle John in Revelation 22:10. “He saith unto me, Seal not up the words of the prophecy of this book; for the time is at hand” (ASV). Yes, dear brethren, the time is at hand to understand the prophecies long hidden but made known to us — the John Class.

First Option

With each viewpoint of Revelation 17, we seek an explanation of the five heads past, one present, and a seventh future (Revelation 17:10). These heads are governments that have
ruled the people (the body of the beast), controlled by Papacy, the harlot rider.

For the first view we have a list from the 2009 Dawn booklet, How To Study Daniel, Zechariah, and Revelation. (See that list on the previous page.) These kingdoms include gentile kingdoms that reigned over the land of Israel for 2520 years.

First Option
1 Babylon (607-539 BC), 68 years
2 Medo-Persia (539-313 BC), 226 years
3 Macedonia, Alex. the Great, Greeks (334-303 BC), 31 years
4 Egypt, Ptolemy (303-190 BC), 113 years
5 Syria, Seleucus, Seleucid line (190-64 BC), 126 years
6 Rome, Pagan (64 BC – 313 AD), 375 years
7 Constantinople, Thrace, Constantine (313-539), 226 years
8 Papal Rome (539-1799 or present), 1260 years

Second Option

Now let us look at the heads as they would be if the five heads fallen are counted from the time period of the seventh messenger.

Second Option
1 Justinian (527-565)
2 Charlemagne (768-814)
3 The Holy Roman Empire (962-1806)
4 The New Holy Rom. Emp. (1346-1806)
5 Napoleonic France (1799-1815)
6 Victor Emmanuel Dynasty (1861-1946)
7 The Italian-Fascist Empire (1922-1943)
8 Future (“republic or anarchy”)

The Great Whore and the Beast

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great whore who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the inhabitants of the earth have become drunk.’ So he carried me away in the spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication; and on her forehead was written a name, a mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth’s abominations.’ And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus” (Revelation 17:1-6, NRSV).

Revelation 17:1 specifies “one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls.” This reveals who is represented by this angel. It is one who would eventually pour out one of the seven bowls. This angel represents a messenger that is in the flesh when ddressing the John Class.

The Great Harlot represents Papacy and is judged because of her immoralities, fornication, and abominations committed with the kings of the earth. In Revelation 17:3 the expression “into a wilderness” draws our attention to the only other place this phrase is used. Revelation 12:6 speaks of the saints in the wilderness for 1260 years. In Revelation 12:6 the focus is on the persecution of the true church, while in Revelation 17:3 the focus is on the false or apostate church, identifying the organization that persecuted the true church for the 1260 years.

“When I saw her, I was greatly amazed. But the angel said to me, ‘Why are you so amazed? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the inhabitants of the earth, whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will be amazed when they see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come’ ” (Revelation 17:6-8, NRSV).

John was greatly amazed at the past 1260 years. The angel asked, “Why are you so amazed?” The angel is indicating that if we have been amazed at the past, then wait, for I am about to tell you about the future. If you think the past was amazing, the future is more amazing.

“I will tell you the mystery of the woman, [not just her past but more her future] and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her.” The reference to seven heads and ten horns draws our thoughts back to Revelation 13:1. This passage shows who gave the illicit woman the support and encouragement she needed to continue. “The beast that you saw [referring back to Revelation 17:3-5, the wilderness period from 539-1799] was, and is not, and is about to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to destruction” (Revelation 17:8, NRSV).

This beast, in Revelation 17, that rises for a brief time, is just a body and represents the people. It is a people’s form of government. A common definition of “republic” (American Heritage Dictionary) is, “a political order in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who are entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them” (Volokh, Eugene, The Washington Post, May 2015).

The only time this form of government occurred in the past was during the French Revolution, the French Republic. At that time the body of the beast rose up against the head, horns, and the woman and 1/10 of the city fell (Revelation 11:13). In the last form, “the eighth,” people will rise again. This time the entire city will fall (Revelation 16:19).

Revelation 17:9 and Forward

“This calls for a mind that has wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; also, they are seven kings, of whom five have fallen, one is living, and the
other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction” (Revelation 17:9-11 NRSV).

“And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are united in yielding their power and authority to the beast; they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:12-14, NRSV).

Revelation 17:1-10, when referring to the heads, refers to the past from our time. Revelation 17:8 and forward, when referring to the rise of the body of the beast, refers to the future.

Revelation 17:9 — “the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; also, they are seven kings” — is an explanation. Revelation is full of explanations that assist us in unlocking its mysteries. The “seven heads are seven mountains” and “they are,” or correspond to, “seven kings.” In this story “the woman is seated” on these mountains, representing her collaboration with, or adultery with, the kings of the earth.

Respecting “the beast with seven heads and ten horns” (verse 7, NRSV), the “seven heads” are seven forms of government. The “ten horns” are ten supporting powers or nations. Verse 10 says that “five have fallen.” In other words, five preceded this Harvest Period, one is present or ruling as the harvest opens, when the “angel” explains this vision to John, and the seventh head would come later, and remain only a brief time. This seventh head is future, relative to the opening of the harvest. That head is fascism. That form of government ended with the close of World War II.

Revelation 17:15-18

These verses give us additional explanations of the vision that has been described. “The waters that you saw, where the whore is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the whore; they will make her desolate and naked; they will devour her flesh and burn her up with fire.

“For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by agreeing to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 17:15-18, NRSV).

Here again is a summary listing of the heads as this we understand them.

(1) Justinian
(2) Charlemagne
(3) The Holy Roman Empire
(4) The New Holy Roman Empire
(5) Napoleonic France
(6) Victor Emmanuel Dynasty (“point of view”)
(7) The Italian-Fascist Empire
(8) Future