(17.9)         And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.


1. Folks, it seems that John has now given us a key to the woman’s identity. Read verse 3 again to see just which woman we are talking about: “So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.”


2. Is John revealing the woman’s identity by giving us her geographical location? Does she sit on seven mountains? You do know which city of this world is the city of the seven hills, or the seven mountains, do you not? In my Roman Catholic Bible, the commentary on verse 9 says, “Seven hills: of Rome.”[1]


3. They admit that the location is Rome because this location seems to be undeniable. The Roman Catholic Church is very pleased that the vast majority of her adherents do not read the Bible, or else verses like this one would put her out of business. People would conclude that this woman who is shown by John to be a spiritual harlot is actually that one world church which Rome is presently trying to build.


4. By the way, is Rome succeeding? You had better believe it. Protestantism is running back to Rome, with such notable Christian writers as Geisler and J. I. Packer, such well-known personalities as Pat Robertson, Charles Colson, and such movements as Promise Keepers, Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement, leading the way.


5. Verse 9 begins with these words:  And here is the mind which hath wisdom.” This phrase provides indication that what we are about to read will be most challenging, requiring wisdom to get our arms around.


6. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.


a. Here is the great difficulty that needs to be addressed when seeking the correct understanding of this and the following verses; the statement I have just read very obviously employs symbolism. No one suggests that the woman who is riding the beast is not a symbolic representation of something.


b. The problem that is created by recognizing this has to do with the “seven heads” and the “seven mountains.” If the symbolic woman is sitting on the seven heads, which are seven mountains, how can the heads and the mountains be literal? A symbolic figure cannot sit upon a literal one. Either they are all literal, the heads, the mountains and the woman, or they are all symbolic.


(17.10)       And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.


1. Again, there is much disagreement about the proper interpretation of this verse.


2. The Geneva Bible notes indicates that Roman emperors are referred to here.


3. Spurgeon thought this might refer to “the kingdoms which arose at the breaking up of the old Roman empire, and all became vassals of the Papal power.”[2]


4. Sale-Harrison was convinced that this refers to the different forms of the Roman government. He writes, “The ‘seven Kings’ refer to the seven distinct forms of government which characterised the Roman Empire from 32 B. C. to 476 A. D., namely, Kings, Consuls, Dictators, Decemvirs, Military Tribunes, and Imperial.”[3]


5. Most dispensationalists these days are of the opinion that it is world empires that John means here, beginning with the Egyptian and ending with the antichrist’s world empire in the second half of the Great Tribulation.


(17.11)       And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.


1. This verse, too, is interpreted according to how verse 10 is understood.


2. Notice that we find the word “perdition” again. This word comes from the same root word as “Apollyon” does and refers to destruction.


3. Revelation 17.9-11 is admittedly very difficult to decipher, but there are two commentators who have spent a large part of their lives studying this book of the Bible, Bob Kollin, and John Walvoord. I will read Kollin’s summary of Revelation 17.9-11 and then a paragraph from Walvoord’s book:


The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. From this passage, many commentators believe Rome to be the seat of the Antichrist, rather than Babylon or Jerusalem. Rome is identified because it sits on seven hills. However, the context of these verses is kings and kingdoms. Also, other scriptures refer to mountains as kingdoms. Five kingdoms and their corresponding kings have fallen: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. The ruling government of John’s day was Rome and is the kingdom that “is.” The kingdom that “is to come” will be the seventh kingdom or the Reconstituted Roman Empire. When the Antichrist appears, he will be on the scene for a short time, which is 3 1/2 years or the last half of the Tribulation Period. The beast kingdom that “was” stands for one of the five fallen kingdoms identified above. The kingdom that “is not” clarifies that it is not Rome, the kingdom in John’s time, but is an eighth empire. This means that ten kings rule the seventh empire independently for the first half of the seven-year Tribulation. Then the Antichrist conquers three of these ten kings (kingdoms), with the other seven giving him their power and authority, and he alone rules this new eighth empire, which is a product of the seven prior kingdoms represented by the seven heads.[4]


The final form of world government, symbolized by the eighth beast itself, is the world empire of the great tribulation time. The revived Roman Empire which will be in sway immediately after the rapture of the church is apparently indicated by the seventh head, while the beast, described in verse 11 as the eighth, is the world empire, which is destroyed by Jesus Christ at His second coming. In summation, what is described in verses 8 through 11 is the final form of Gentile world power in alliance with apostate religion symbolized by the harlot.[5]


4. Needless to say, “we see through a glass, darkly.” There will come a day when passages such as this will be so much easier to understand, as the Spirit of God provides greater illumination and as these prophecies unfold.

[1] See footnote for Revelation 17.9 from The New American Bible, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1971), page 1393.

[2] Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon Devotional Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[3] L. Sale-Harrison, The Remarkable Revelation, (New York: Sale-Harrison Publications, 1930), page 172.

[4] Kollin, page 169.

[5] Walvoord, page 254.

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