See the bottom of this post for notes and appendixes.
Rev 17:12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
Let’s first back and read up to this point so we can refresh our memories, and get the context for our current passage.
The angel in the section we studied last time had been giving the interpretation john’s vision of the beast that the the woman is riding, We know from Revelation 13 as well as other verses in this chapter that the beast she is riding is the antichrist.
This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come 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. – Rev 17:9-11
We talked about the description of the antichrist here which has seven heads; John says that the seven heads are seven kings. In the last study we talked about why it’s more likely that John means what he says here, that is that these heads are different kings and not kingdoms as some suppose.
So we talked about how 5 times this spirit of antichrist had manifested itself in the form of a king in John’s past, one king currently was living at the time, and one future manifestation of the antichrist was yet to come, this is the one that we believe will have the mortal wound and yet live.
Speaking of that idea of a resurrection of the antichrist, many people asked me about that last time, Does Satan have the power to raise people from the dead?, I do not believe that he does, but I do think the antichrist is really raised from the deas. For more on this question I will put together an appendix audio on this question very question and you can find it in the notes, there is also a scholarly article on this point called:
Can Satan Raise The Dead? Toward A Biblical View Of The Beast’s Wound by Gregory H. Harris, a Professor of Bible Exposition that I recommend if you are interested, I agree with its overall premise but would probably disagree on some of the finer points.
So in our verse we see the beast has seven heads, but also 10 horns, we are not told exactly how theses horns are distributed on the seven heads or if they are even on the seven heads at all. We don’t know if 6 of the heads have 1 horn and the seventh has 4 horns or if they have some other arrangement.
I think when we consider the following passages we will find that these 10 horns have a job working with the final head, so if I were to make a guess these horns are either all on one head, the seventh one, or not on the heads at all but some other part of the body.
I also say that because the fourth beast of Daniel 7 7-8 also has ten horns, that beast is widely considered to be associated with the antichrist.
So let’s consider this symbolism so we can get our bearings in this difficult passage. The seven heads of the beast are seven kings. And now we are told that the horns of this beast are also kings. So what is this talking about. Lets read ahead so we can get the context and find the relationship of these kings to the antichrist according to the angel, this will help us make an informed decision about this.
And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. – Rev 17:12-17
So it seems what we have here is one super king, a supreme dictator, which is the final yet future head of the antichrist beast, that has 10 other kings under his total authority. So part of the point of this symbol of the horns on the beast is speaking of a consolidation of power of some kind. The purpose for this consolidation is very interesting and we will talk about that when we get to those verses. But the symbolism here of the 10 horns on the beast is one main ruler ruling over other rulers Which willingly give their authority to the dictator, who then uses them to do his bidding.
But before we move on I would like to briefly talk about the book of Daniel. I take a slightly different view on the beasts of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7. I think that all four of the beasts in Daniel 7 may be contemporary with the antichrist. I think that if this is true there is much more detail that we can know about the end times scenario than has previously been considered.
I am still trying to figure this out for myself, and so I will leave it for your study. But I will direct you to a 4 part paper called Daniel 2 and Daniel 7: Equal or Not Equal by Charles Cooper former professor of Hermeneutics at Moody.
which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
First please notice that this is making a distinction between kings and kingdoms here quite boldly, it says: “ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet” This is a strong rebuke to those that continually try to make the references to kings in these chapters mean kingdoms because of their various presuppositions. John here demonstrates that if he or the angel who he is recording wants to say kingdoms instead of kings they are quite willing and capable of doing so.
These kings are directly tied to the beast, it says that they only rule for “one hour with the beast” We will talk in more detail about their kingdoms and how they give away their power to the beast as we look at the next verses where we get more detail about this.
We will take the next two verses together:
These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. – Rev 17:13-14
So we see one of the reasons these kings are given power, that is to war against the the Lamb, who is of course Jesus Christ, this battle is referring to Armageddon. This may help explain the idea of them ruling for only one hour. By the battle of Armageddon things are looking pretty grim for the antichrist, this would be the final attempt at preventing the return of Christ to take His throne.
To understand as much as we can about these kings we need to hop over to Revelation 16 when it is talking about the 6th bowl of wrath being poured out, the sixth bowl is talking about the battle of Armageddon. This is where we will see more about these ten kings and their warring with the Lamb.
And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon. – Rev 16:12-16
So these kings are gathered together by miracle working demonic spirits, sent forth in this bizarre ritual of the unholy trinity of the dragon the beast and false prophet, and these demonic spirits are presumably what causes them to agree to the suicide mission of trying to war against the Living Christ. Which in case your wondering does not turn out to good for them.
and shall give their power and strength
I’m not entirely sure that these kings ever do get kingdoms or not, but they have some kind of assets that are utilized by the beast. And it says here that they give their power and strength to the beast for this mission of warring against the lamb.
The title “Lord of lords and King of kings” is applied to the Lamb here and the rider on the white horse in Revelation 19:16.
Revelation 19 is another picture of this battle or Armageddon.
And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. – Rev 19:15-16
So we see here a clear reference to Armageddon again, and as we compare the different scriptures about these kings and the final battle they are drawn to fight, My hope is that we are getting a better understanding of who theses kings are.
Let’s go down a rabbit trail for a minute because You may be asking the question “How is Armageddon referenced all these times, in all these different places, like Revelation 16, 17, and 19 if the book of Revelation is chronological?” Well let me assure you not everyone sees the book Revelation as chronological, but I think its because they don’t see the simple structure of this great book.
It helped me tremendously to see the structure of the last few chapters of revelation, so Ill take a moment to explain it with this graph I made.
The seven bowls are detailed in chapter 16. These include the worst parts of Gods judgment in the book of Revelation and I believe they occur relatively quickly, and close together.
The 6th bowl details the battle of Armageddon, this is where we saw the spirits like frogs which gather the kings to the battle of Armageddon.
And the 7th bowl details the judgment of the whore of Babylon.
The next few chapters are what I like to call “zoom chapters”, where the step by step chronology is halted in order to give more specific details about someone or something. In the case of the next two chapters 17-18 it gives the finer details of the 7th bowl which is where Mystery Babylon is destroyed.
The next chapter, chapter 19, mostly details the 6th bowl in finer detail, this is where we just read where it says “on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS”
When Revelation 19 is done “zooming in” on the finer details of the 6th bowl or Armageddon, it picks right back up in Revelation 20 where the in timeline left off in Revelation 16.
Then in Revelation 20 we see the antichrist and false prophet judged, right where you would expect it to be if it was a continuation from Revelation 16, then the completion of the first resurrection happens, the 1000 years of peace or millennium begins, Then it continues and describes the time after the 1000 year period when Satan is released to gather the nations for one final battle, the Gog Magog war, and finally we see the very last event in the chronology of all prophetic revelation, the New Jerusalem and the eternal kingdom descends.
I hope this gives you a better understanding of the chapters we are studying, I think you will find it is easier to understand this book when you plug in the concept of zoom chapters to the book of Revelation.
Ok back in our study the next verse is Revelation 17:15, It says:
And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. – Rev 17:15
The waters which thou sawest,
The angel here is giving the interpretation of the waters that he saw the whore on.
[the waters] are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
This idea of sitting on peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues is a way to say that the city of Mystery Babylon rules over many, and has great power and authority. This is consistent with the later descriptions of her actions in the next chapter and her relationship to the other kings of the earth and other nations.
The same language is used when Jeremiah talks about the destruction of actual Babylon in Jeremiah 51:13
O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness. – Jer 51:13
You will see many similar things like this in Jeremiah 51.
I think this is why Mystery Babylon is called Mystery Babylon because she shares not only the city of Babylon’s former power over nations, but also shares her worship of false gods as well as ultimately Babylon’s pattern of Judgment detailed in Jeremiah 51.
We have of course been detailing in our study the possibility of the eschatological city of Jerusalem being Mystery Babylon, the city that rules many nations in the time of the antichrist.
It should be noted that Jews and Christians both believe that Jerusalem will be the capital city of the world in the messianic age,
The book of Zechariah is just one of many places in the Bible where this promise is made:
“Then shall the Lord go forth … and His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east … and it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.” (Zech. 12:3, 4, 16, 17)
You will find glimpses of Jerusalem’s future as world capital are sprinkled all though the psalms and the major and minor prophets. Jewish people have been waiting for thousands of years for someone to make Jerusalem the world capital just as their scriptures promise that it will be.
I think that our verse Revelation 17:15 and others like it show that the antichrist will succeed in doing this to an extent as he masquerades as their messiah. He will make Jerusalem the uncontested world capital. If you understand this, the entire next chapter about the people making pilgrimages and bringing tribute to Mystery Babylon as if it was the city of the messianic age and as if the antichrist was the messiah then it will make a lot more sense to you.
People will try to use this verse about her sitting on waters which are nations, to say that the 7 headed beast that she sits on represents kingdoms not kings.
They would say that this verse defines the beast itself as opposed to the waters that both the woman and the beast sit on. To say it another way they are saying that the waters here are the beast as opposed to what the beast along with the woman atop him are sitting on. They would say well it says she sits on waters and sit says she sits on a beast so the beast and the waters must be the same.
But I think this is wrong for two reasons, One its more logical to assume that she is sitting on a seven headed beast and both of them are sitting on the waters (that is ruling over the peoples nations etc. )In other words the city of Jerusalem (the woman) and the beast she rides (The antichrist) are both sitting (ruling) many peoples and nations.
Not only is this consistent with what we just looked at about the 10 horn kings, who give their authority to the beast, but it also connects to the Revelation 13: where we see that the seven headed ten horned antichrist beast comes out of the sea, ( a consistent idiom for peoples and nations) He is not the sea itself in Revelation 13, in fact that chapter makes it very clear in my opinion that he is in fact a human king.
Rev 17:16 And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
This a very interesting development, The ten kings who we saw earlier are subordinate to the antichrist and are used to go to war against God, are also used here to destroy the city of Mystery Babylon. So the antichrist here turns on the woman. We will see later that although the kings who do this are under the complete control of the antichrist, It is God ultimately that causes this to happen for the purpose of His Judgment.
Interestingly this verse is the fulfillment of a detailed prophecy in the old testament book of Ezekiel about the Jerusalem. Let’s take a look:
Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, – Eze 16:1-2
You can see from verse 1 and 2 that this prophecy is about Jerusalem, the context in this chapter also make that clear as well, It says:
And I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy. I will also give you into their hand, and they shall throw down your shrines and break down your high places. They shall also strip you of your clothes, take your beautiful jewelry, and leave you naked and bare. “They shall also bring up an assembly against you, and they shall stone you with stones and thrust you through with their swords. They shall burn your houses with fire, and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women; and I will make you cease playing the harlot, and you shall no longer hire lovers – Eze 16:38-41
This is exactly fulfilled in our verse back in Revelation 17:15.
Here God says he will give Jerusalem into their hand. So even though the agent of destruction has evil intent , God will use them to carry out His righteous judgment on Jerusalem. You can see the same language being used here as in our verse, they strip her naked and burn her with fire. All because of her “playing the whore” with false gods.
It should be noted that these earthly kings only constitute a small portion of her destructions, she is also judged by earthquakes and fire from heaven as well as whatever these kings do. I would also submit that the ultimate Judgment of Mystery Babylon and the Battle of Armageddon take place at the same time, or very close to one another. I also think they will happen at the same place, I.E. Jerusalem.
For more on this possibility see a paper called: “ A Big Problem: Where is Har Magedon? An Examination of Revelation 16:16 “ But for now, all you need to know is that although the antichrist turns on the city of Mystery Babylon and uses his lackey kings to plunder her, it is by no means the only judgment she receives according to the 7th bowl judgment and parallel passages.
For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. – Rev 17:17
For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will
This shows the sovereignty of God in all this. That God is the ultimate force behind this judgment, whether these kings know it or not, is made even more clear in the next chapter which says:
Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her. = Rev 18:8
And to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
Again this hearkens back to the fact that these 10 kings give their power and authority to the beast. Here it says that they collectively have a kingdom, not plural kingdoms. This is interesting and may indicate that the ten kings are representatives of one collective kingdom, this may also explain why they didn’t have a kingdom “yet” in verse 12, and why they were only said to give power and authority in verse 13.
And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth. – Rev 17:18
Here we have a very important verse to study in the process of trying to figure out who Mystery Babylon is.
Here we are told point blank by the angel that this woman is a city. The views that try to make her something else, such as an allegorical source of spiritual and economic evil are disregarding the faithfulness of the angels interpretation of John’s vision.
All through scripture when interpretations of a vision are given they are pretty straightforward. It is unlikely therefore that the angel would tell john that they were going to interpret his vision and then give him an interpretation that he was not supposed to accept. It would also be inconsistent with the angels other interpretations in this chapter also.
The angel gets specific, it says it is “that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth. “
Now we know from the passages we read today that Mystery Babylon will sit over many nations and peoples and tongues and will be the city that the antichrist rules from. But I think the problem that many commentators have here is they try to look around their current days and find that which rules over the earth in their day.
This tendency to look to our surroundings for fulfillment of this passage as opposed to the future has causes a lot of bad interpretations here.
Considering the antichrist is supposed to set up a world government that most of us would agree is in the future, why would we feel the need to have the passages about his world government capital city fulfilled in the past. The temptation has been too great to resist for most commentators in my library.
I am under the impression that the bible would not like us to speculate on this point, and one of the many ways it gives us the answer to this question is by the use of this term “great city”
The phrase “great city” is used 10 times in the book of Revelation, and every time it refers to the city of Jerusalem. Many people would violently disagree with me on that because they don’t see Mystery Babylon (which is called the great city) as Jerusalem.
Lets set aside for the time the instances of the phrase “ great city” used to refer to Mystery Babylon and only talk about references to the great city where it is absolutely undisputed that it is talking about Jerusalem, for example:
And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. – Rev 11:8
Obviously the city where our Lord was crucified is Jerusalem, no one would deny that.
Some commentators concede this point begrudgingly knowing the problem it creates.
I would also call your attention to the definite article “ho” in the Greek here as in THE great city, this ensures we know that Jerusalem is considered by John to have a title of the great city.
The fact that John uses this phrase “great city” which he uses earlier to define the Jerusalem during the time of the two witnesses after they were killed by antichrist is very strong evidence in favor of the interpretation that Mystery Babylon is Jerusalem.
But these “great city” references show that Mystery Babylon is Jerusalem in another way as well.
Revelation 16:19 distinguishes the “great city” from the cities of the nations.
Revelation commentary.org states:
[This] is the second proof that “the great city” refers to Jerusalem. “The cities of the nations” (Gentiles) is in contrast to “the great city (Jews).“
So understand this part, the word gentiles and nations are almost interchangeable there are two types cites in the world if you want to look at it from a Jewish perspective. Jerusalem and the gentile cities, in this verse Mystery Babylon is contrasts with the cites of the nations, which suggests that it is not a gentile nation.
Some scholars that recognize the significance of Revelation 16:19 and will try to make the reference to Babylon here be a third entity in the discussion. The word “and” here in then KJV seems to lend credibility to this third party interpretation.
In other words they say that the great city which they would concede is Jerusalem is split into three parts, and the cities of the nations also fell, AND Babylon was mentioned third party.
Most would say that only two parties are in view here The great city divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations, the following mention of Great Babylon is in reference to the Great City mentioned just before.
Other translations agree, especially the newer ones they connect the great city in the first part to great Babylon.
(NET) The60 great city was split into three parts and the cities of the nations61 collapsed.62 So63 Babylon the great was remembered before God, and was given the cup64 filled with the wine made of God’s furious wrath.65
63 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “so” to indicate the implied result of Babylon’s misdeeds (see Rev 14:8).
Another new bible set to be completed later this year says
(ISV-v2.0) The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. God remembered to give Babylon the Great the cup of wine filled with the fury of his wrath.
The net bible renders this So Babylon, the ISV renders it, God remembered to give Babylon, that is to say that it did not introduce a new character here but gave more information about the first character mentioned.
I know that was the long way around, but the simple version is that the last verse of Revelation 17 calls Mystery Babylon the great city, a term that is used to very directly identify the Jerusalem of the Antichrist by the same author in the same book using a definite article to indicate a title or at least a very definite identification with the phrase.
Notes and appendixes:
Appendix audio about the resurrection of antichrist:
A Big Problem: Where is Har Magedon? An Examination of Revelation 16:16
Can Satan Raise the Dead?Toward a Biblical View of the Beast’s Wound