XXVIII - 9(95) Excerpt


what of the night?”

"The hour has come, the hour is striking and striking at you,
the hour and the end!"                         Eze. 7:6 (Moffatt)


The HARLOT and the BEAST

(Part 5)

In 1534, the Luther Bible, in connection with Revelation 17, showed a cut of a woman wearing the triple tiara of the popes and riding a seven-headed dragon. The obvious deduction was that this symbolic woman represented the Papacy. Uriah Smith in his Thoughts on the Revelation, adopts the same basic view. He wrote:

"This prophecy is more definite than others applicable to the Roman power, in that it distinguishes between church and state. We here have the woman, the church, seated upon a scarlet-colored beast, the civil power." (pp. 702-703, 1897 ed.)

This same basic concept from the Reformation has continued to be the traditional Adventist view of the woman and the beast of Revelation 17, with the added focus on what is termed, "the daughters of Babylon." However this designation is not found in the book of Revelation. Looking at Revelation 17 from an exegetical viewpoint, what is its message?

First it is uniquely connected with the time just preceding the Seven Last Plagues. Of the woman who sits as a "queen," it is declared that "her plagues (shall) come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire." (Rev. 18:8; 17:16) Further, it is one of the angels of the Seven Last Plagues who shows to John "the judgment of the great whore." (17:1)

The designation of the angel who unfolds to John these final visions of the book as "one of the angels which had the seven vials" is in itself revealing from different perspectives. (17:1; 21:9) First, "the Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto Him to shew unto His servants ... He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John." (1:1) Twice during the final revelation by the designated angel as one who was involved in the Seven Last Plagues, John attempts "to worship" him. (19:10; 22:8-9) Each time he is told, "See that thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets that have the testimony of

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Jesus." (Composite of the two previous references) It was Gabriel who stated to Daniel that "there is none who holdeth with me in these things (the Scripture of truth) but Michael your prince." (Dan. 10:21) Not only does this confirm Gabriel as "His angel" but also clearly indicates that Gabriel is one of the angels involved in the pouring out of the Seven Last Plagues, if not the chief angel.

The question arises, if Gabriel shows to John, "the Lamb's wife" - "that great city, the holy Jerusalem," whose wife is she who is also designated as "that great city." and boasts herself as a "queen"? The use of the word, "holy" is in contrast to the "city" which is "full of abominations." (17:4-5) Is it unholy Jerusalem?

One must recognize that in this final section of Revelation there is set forth two cities - Babylon arid the New Jerusalem; two women - the one "clothed with the sun" and the one bedecked with gold and pearls; two wives - one, the wife of the Lamb, and the other, the wife of the "scarlet colored beast."

Who is this "scarlet colored beast"? It has seven heads and ten horns as the serpent-dragon of Revelation 12. It should be observed that when the beast of Revelation 13, which also had seven heads and ten horns, is described, its bodily differences from the dragon are noted. (13:2) No such differences are given of the beast of Revelation 17, except the absence of crowns on the heads, and the color change from fiery red to scarlet. The word for scarlet (kokkinon) is used to describe the color of the robe the Roman soldiers put on Christ in mockery of Him as "King of the Jews." (Matt. 27:28) No longer are the heads crowned, the dragon is reigning.

This beast is described as "was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition." (17:8) This past, present and future designation parallels the same description for "the Almighty" who "is, and which was, and which is to come" (1:8); but with distinct differences. In contrast to the One who "is to come," whose kingdom the dragon-beast has challenged, this beast goes into "perdition," or destruction (20:10) The kingdom of God is confirmed by the power of His Christ.

The first section (Chapters 2-11) of the book of Revelation closes with three Woes. During the time of the Second Woe, "the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit" is introduced. (11:7) He operates just prior to the Third Woe - which cometh, "quickly." The final Woe marks the close of all human probation, and the pouring out of "the wrath of God." (11:15-19) If then, the activities of the beast designated in Revelation 11 are amplified in Chapter 17, the time frame for the fulfillment of the events in Chapter 17 is established - "the last remnant of time."

"The beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven". Note carefully, that while the eighth, he is not of the seventh, but of the seven. He is the power which, though invisible, has operated through all seven heads. Now he assumes openly his claim of rulership of the kings of earth gathered together to a place called in the Hebrew tongue, Har-Mo'ed. (16:13-14, 16)

This brings us to a review of who are the seven heads. Various interpretations have been set forth. One must keep in mind that the controversy between the dragon and the woman who gave birth to the Man-Child goes back to the first gospel promise (Gen. 3:15) which is symbolically represented in the vision which introduces the second section of Revelation (12:1-3 ). Further, the scope of the book included those who sing the song of Moses as well as the Lamb (15:3). This binding of the Bible together as a unit with Moses standing for the Old Testament times, and Jesus Christ for the New Testament is an established concept. (John 1:17; Heb. 3:5-6) Thus the warfare of the dragon-beast against the people of God must begin with the persecution of the corporate body by Egypt. Understanding the definitive declaration of the angel as being expressed from John's point of time (17:10), the five which had fallen were Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia and Grecia. One was, Rome - Pagan and Papal - and one yet to come, and he was to "continue a short space."

The reason I suggest the sixth head as pagan-papal Rome as a viable exegesis of this definitive declaration is that in the Book of Daniel, the two are placed as one. The "little horn" of Daniel 7, ever remains a part of the non-descript beast. The "little horn" of Daniel 8 represents both phases of Rome. But what is represented by the "head" that continues a "short space"? Is it the second beast of Revelation 13, or the "image" formed? Regardless which power is chosen, following this, the dragon - "that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan" - appears in person asserting his right of rulership - he "is."

We next turn our attention to the woman. Instead of eisegetically reading into the symbol

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the traditional concept from the Reformation and the Millerite Movement, let us see just what the Scripture is saying. The "woman" is designated as "that great city" (17:18), or Babylon the great. By pursuing this avenue of revelation, we observe that "that great city" in its fall is to be divided into three parts (16:19). Further, there are three symbolic powers, out of whose mouths come "unclean spirits" (16:13-14) which assemble "the kings of the earth and the whole world" to a place called in the Hebrew, Har-Mo'ed, or Mount of the Congregation.

Perceiving this scarlet-colored beast to be the symbolic representation of Satan's literal appearing as the long looked for Messiah of Judaism, and the "Coming King" of Christian tradition, coincides with God's revelation of Lucifer's intent. He purposed in his heart "to sit also upon the mount of the congregation (har-mo'ed), in the sides of the north." (Isa. 14:13) This is defined as mount Zion, "the city of the great King." (Ps. 48:2)

Again, you have a contrasting aspect of the prophecy of Revelation. While the rulers of earth are gathered on earthly Mount Zion, which Jesus declared to be desolate (Matt. 23:38), there is portrayed another gathering on the heavenly mount Sion - the 144,000 with the Lamb (14:1). Those who refuse to bow to the false christ, are honored by the true Christ through Whom they overcome and by Whom they are delivered (12:11; 17:14).

Now let us return to the three parts of Babylon. As we seek to find an answer, we need to keep in mind that any intepretation must be tentative, and can only be truly known as the scroll unrolls. However, it is interesting to observe that the one which Bible prophecy designates as a key player in the final drama of earth - the Papacy - speaks not only of Jerusalem, but of that city as the source of reverence of three monotheistic religions - Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. [1]

Attention must also be directed to "the ten horns." (17:12) These ten horns are "ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power (authority) as kings one hour with the beast," not with any "head" but with the beast itself when he appears with his "wife." The parallel prophecy is not the ten horns of the nondescript beast of Daniel 7 - these were reduced to seven - but rather with the ten toes of the image of Daniel 2. Again the identification must wait the "final rapid movements" as they reign only "one hour" with the beast.

The text states that these "ten horns" have one mind and shall give their power (dunamis) and strength (exousia) to the beast. One must ask with a bit of wonderment, how do the "spirits of devils" effect such a unity when for more than six thousand long years, Lucifer in his rebellion has sought to create confusion and discord? In fact the very name of "that great city" Babylon has come to mean confusion. The text gives the answer - a Sovereign God "puts in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled." (17:17)

The oneness of these ten horns leads them to unite in "the war (polemos) of that great day of God Almighty" (16:14). In this final phase they now join in the last battle of the "war in heaven" where Michael and His angels fought against the dragon, when at its climax there came the cry, "Now is come salvation, and strength (dunamis), and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ." (12:7, 10) This final battle of the war involves "the remnant of [the woman's] seed." Trusting in the blood of the Lamb, they remain "called, and chosen, and faithful." The Lamb, coming forth to rescue His bride, overcomes the ten kings "for He is Lord of lords and King of kings." (17:14; 19:11)

When the powers of earth see that they have been beguiled and deceived by the final religious union, "these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire." (17:16)

The name of the "whore" that "great city" which reigned over the kings of the earth - "Babylon the Great" - should be given consideration. The name comes from Babel where God confused the languages and dispersed the "gathering together" of man to defy the God of heaven. (Gen. 11:9) Because of this, the name has stood for confusion. However, Brown Driver & Briggs, in their Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, note that the Assyrian, written Babili, means "gate of god." (p. 93, art. babel) While God uses strong language in describing the departure from truth - harlotry - the deception in reality will be so great that the whole world, apart from a small remnant, will be swept through this delusive "gate of god" to perdition.

[1] Apostolic Letter - "Redemptionis Anno" - April 20, 1984; Encyclical - Tertio Millennio Adveniente, Nov. 10, 1994.