The Scarlet Beast

THE SCARLET BEAST[The woman was] sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. When I saw [the beast], I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of … the beast [that the woman] rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction … This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction. “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled. (Revelation 17:3-14, 16-17)

Identity of the Scarlet Beast – The scarlet beast is the same “beast coming out of the sea” mentioned in Revelation 13:1 (the anti-Christ). There he is also described as “having seven heads and ten horns.” This description indicates that he is
a representative of the “enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads . . . that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan,” Revelation 12:3-7. As the dragon is fiery-red, so the beast is blood-red in color; implying its blood-guilt and deep-dyed sin. The scarlet is also the symbol of kingly authority.(1)

What the Scarlet Beast is Doing – The woman (harlot) was sitting on the scarlet beast. In other words, the scarlet beast was carrying the harlot. Satan (and Antichrist) will use Mystery Babylon and its apostate religious system to accomplish their own ends (i.e., attain world power). Later, the anti-Christ will do away with the harlot and establish his own religious system. All of this is said to be the fulfillment of God’s Word (Revelation 17:17).

Throughout history, political systems have used religious bodies to further their political causes. At the same time, Church history reveals that corrupted religious groups have used politics to achieve their purposes. The marriage of Church and state is not a happy union. When dictators are friendly with religion, it is usually because they want to make use of religion’s influence. When it is no longer of any use they either discard, or destroy it.

The Church of Jesus Christ has been most influential in the world when it has maintained a separated position. Satan’s counterfeit religion will be subtle, requiring spiritual discernment to recognize. Paul’s great concern was that the local churches he founded not “be led away from [their] sincere devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:1–4). In every age, there is the tremendous pressure to conform to popular religion and to abandon the fundamentals of the faith. In these last days, we all need to heed the admonitions contained in 1Timothy 4 and 2 Timothy 3 to “have nothing to do with such” Things, but rather remain true to the Lord.(2) This is not just an admonition for the Tribulation period. As John said in his first epistle, the spirit of the anti-Christ “even now is already in the World.”

Was, Is Not, Will Come – This reference to the anti-Christ as “once was, now is not, and will come” may be a parody on the divine name in Revelation 1:4 (“from him who is, and who was, and who is to come”).(3) The fact that the beast was, now is not, and will come again in the future may also be a reference to Revelation 13:3 (“One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast”).

The beast (anti-Christ) … will come up out of the Abyss, the home of Satan (Revelation 11:7) and the place from which demons come (Revelation 9:1–2, 11). This indicates that the power behind the beast is satanic (Revelation 13:4) and that Satan and the man he controls are closely identified with one another. Their power is one. The supernatural revival of this future world ruler parallels the revival of his empire (Rome or Babylon once was, now is not, but will once again come up out of the Abyss).(4)

As noted, the period that the beast “is not” could be the time during which it has the fatal wound. With the healing of its wound it ascends out of the bottomless pit. The beast and the world power he rules returns worse than ever. Its power is derived from Satan (Revelation 11:7), not merely from the sea of convulsed nations (Revelation 13:1).(5)

Seven Heads – John is told that the seven heads represent seven mountains (Revelation 17:9) and seven kings or kingdoms (Revelation 17:10). He is not explicitly told the identity of the kings or kingdoms, in fact it is difficult to determine which he is speaking about (kings or kingdoms).

Kingdoms – The five kingdoms that had fallen could be the five great dynasties of the past (from John’s perspective) – Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. The kingdom that is would most likely be Rome in John’s day. The one yet to come, the seventh, is likely the future kingdom of the Beast.(6)

Kings – If John was incarcerated on Patmos during the reign of Nero, the reference to “seven kings,” of whom “five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come,” fits nicely with the emperors of Rome. Nero was sixth in the line of Roman emperors. Five had fallen (Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius), one is (Nero), and the other had not yet come (one of the successive Caesars or a far future anti-Christ?).(7)

Both – In Scripture, “kings” and kingdoms of often used interchangeably because kingdoms are generally personified by one prominent head, as Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, Mede-Persia by Cyrus, Greece by Alexander, etc.(8) Thus, it is difficult at times to determine whether John is speaking about the individual beast (The anti-Christ), the kingdom of the beast (Babylon or Rome revived) or both (since they are so connected).

The Eighth King (Kingdom) – The eighth king (the beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king) does not appear to be merely one of the seven restored, but a new power or person that proceeds from the seven that is a consummation of all the God-opposed features of the previous seven kings concentrated into one. The eighth does not fall like the seven, but is destroyed personally by the Lord and is cast into hell forever.(9)

Some view the seventh empire as a future Christian nation because it bears the Woman upon its back. This kingdom “must remain for a little while.” Afterwards, the beast reappears as the eighth king in its true and undisguised nature as the sum of all the previous seven. This might explain why the Angel speaks of the eighth king as proceeding from the seven.(10) Perhaps this is a way of distinguishing between the anti-Christ and his kingdom before the middle of the tribulation (and the fatal wound) and afterwards. Perhaps also this could be reference as to how the seventh could be a truly Christian nation before, but becomes apostate in the eighth after the anti-Christ breaks his covenant.

Ten Horns – Revelation 17:12 explains that these are ten more kings. The number ten is the number of the completed course of the world. Therefore, with the ten kings the last phase of political world-history is represented. Until this time, the ten had not “yet received a kingdom.”(11) The phrase “authority as kings,” implies that they reserve their sovereign rights in their alliance with the beast, but “they give their power and authority to” him. They have the title of kings (presidents, prime ministers, emperors), but not with undivided kingly power.(12) They parallel the ten toes of Daniel’s image in Daniel 2:36–45, a future world empire (perhaps a revived Roman Empire).

In John’s day, these kings had not yet received their power. It is reserved for the last days when this future empire comes to power. Note that these ten kings willingly give support to the anti-Christ in his battle against Christ and the saints. With the help of the anti-Christ, they will destroy the great harlot.(13) The identity of the anti-Christ is clarified as a king who emerges from a group of rulers, apparently after several earlier empires or rulers. While it appears to the world that these rulers are dominant, they have received authority from the Lord only for a brief time (“one hour”)(14). One hour means a definite time of short duration. It is likely the time that the devil is cast down to the earth, in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short. This is perhaps a reference to the last three and a half years of the Tribulation (Revelation 11:2, 3; 13:5).(15)

War on the Lamb – The battle that takes place here immediately precedes the second coming. The armies following the Lamb are believers, since the terms called, chosen and faithful are not used for angels.(16)

Ruin of the Woman – The anti-Christ (who once carried the woman) and the ten kings will come to hate the prostitute and will bring her to ruin. While the exact time of this event is not given in this passage, it would seem to occur at the midpoint of the seven years when the beast will assume the role of world dictator by proclamation (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15). When the anti-Christ takes on worldwide political power, he will also assume the place of God and demand that everyone worship him or else be killed (Daniel 11:36–38; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:8, 15). The apostate world church movement, which characterizes the first half of the seven years leading up to the Second Coming, is thus brought to an abrupt end. It will be replaced by the final form of world religion which will be the worship of the world ruler, Satan’s substitute for Christ.(17)

Up Next – The Inhabitants of the Earth.

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References

  1. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 590). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  2. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 613). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  3. Barry, J. D., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Mangum, D., & Whitehead, M. M. (2012). Faithlife Study Bible (Re 17:8). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  4. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 971). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  5. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 591). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  6. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 845). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  7. Sloan, R. B. (1998). The Revelation. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 661). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
  8. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 592). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  9. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 592). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  10. Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (p. 315). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  11. Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moore, E., Craven, E. R., & Woods, J. H. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Revelation (p. 316). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
  12. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 592). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  13. Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 846). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  14. Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, StrongerFaith (p. 1909). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  15. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 592). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  16. Cabal, T., Brand, C. O., Clendenen, E. R., Copan, P., Moreland, J. P., & Powell, D. (2007). The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith (p. 1909). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
  17. Walvoord, John F. (1985). Revelation. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 972). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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