But here’s the thing I see in this assurance of Antichrist’s destruction: he’s not the real Christ. This Antichrist will die and be resurrected only to die again – the eternal death. But the true Christ died once and rose to life again forever – never to die again!
The focus of our text is the destruction of a particular and notorious woman. The woman who rides the Beast. We examined this woman’s profile 3 weeks ago and learned that the image of her riding on top of this beast insinuates an alliance in which she is the alpha partner. She is controlling and exploiting the Beast.
However, she needs the Beast as well. It is well pointed out by commentators that she depends on the Beast for support, insinuated by her riding on his back. Certainly the luxury she is adorned with came through her partnership with the Beast.
But this is a terminal relationship, and like all unstable relationships, its going to end. And badly – for the woman. Because this same beast she’s been gliding along on amassing a cosmic fortune is the same beast that is going to turn around and tear her to pieces. “Come and I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute” is how the chapter began. It ends with, “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.”
Now, the woman and the beast are symbolic in this vision of other things. The woman is the system of false religion that will control the world in the last days. Chapter 13 told us that another individual, the false prophet, will be at the Antichrist’s side to force the world to worship the Antichrist (13:12, 15).
The Beast’s Revival (v8)
Notice first the beast’s revival in verse 8, “….” Twice the phrase is used, “once was, now is not and will come”. It is used again in verse 11 ,”The beast who once was, and now is not is an eighth king.”
This beast is going to be a revived beast. It will be…then, it will not be…then, it will be again. Chapter 13 verse 3 seemed to be speaking of this when it said: “One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed.” Many really good commentators believe this refers to a revived empire, and, it could also be indicating that, though I believe in a secondary way. I actually believe the Roman Empire will be revived and we will get to that shortly. But specifically in this text the revived beast has to be a person. Two reasons for this. First, verse 8 says the world will be “astonished” at this revival of the beast. Chapter 13 connected the world’s admiration and worship for the person of the beast specifically because of his resurrection. Secondly, you’ll see that verse 11 uses the same revival or “come-back” language “the beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king.” It doesn’t say kingdom, but, king. And this king is going to be alive, then suffer a fatal wound, and come back from that fatal wound by the powers of the Abyss. The place of evil is going to be the power behind this evil personage. In chapter 13 verse 3 we learned that even Satan gave his power to the Beast, “The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.”
This beast’s power and authority are hellish and come from Satan. But there is a coming kingdom belonging to Jesus that is going to be installed on earth by the authority of the One Who Sits Enthroned Forever in Heaven. Remember in chapter 12 verse 10, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and of His Christ!” Or in 11:15, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ!”
The Beast’s Reverence (v8)
Next we see the Beast’s reverence. Not his reverence for anyone, but everyone’s reverence for him. Verse 8 says, “The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come.”
This verse is similar to the one in 13:8 where John is told, “All the inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.”
Religious devotion and belief in the supernatural will be very strong in the last days. The Antichrist as the Head of the State will also be the object of worship. Satan’s goal is power and worship.
Once again we see in Revelation the people who will worship Antichrist will be those people whose names are not in the Lamb’s book of life. What is this book of life? It is the official record in heaven of all those who are going to be in heaven. This book is seen again at the end of time in Revelation 20. It’s the scene of the Great White Throne of Judgment. Verse 12 gives us this image of the whole lost human race from all of history standing before this throne with books opened. “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life.” Then verse 15, which to me is so horrifying in its finality: “If anyone’s name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
This is the destiny of those who worship the Beast (13:4, 8, 12). For those who worship the dragon (4). For those who refuse to repent and stop their idolatry and worshipping of demons (9:20).Those whose destinies are Hell, who live like Hell, will worship the one who is from hell.
It is also to say that those who worship the Lamb will never worship the Beast or the Dragon or demons. Those whose destinies are heaven will worship the God of heaven and the Lamb who will come down from heaven.
The Beast’s Heads (v9-14)
Next we see the Beast’s heads, from verse 9 through verse 12. This is a very challenging section to understand. I have a lot of great commentaries on my shelf and they all don’t say the same thing here. Each interpretation has both pros and cons. Here are a few, but not all.
One interpretation says that the beast is the Roman empire and that the 7 heads are seven emperors. Admittedly I want to believe this one for several reasons. Historically the city of Rome is famously known as the city on 7 hills. Also, the beast should represent one single kingdom. At least, that’s what Daniel showed us in Daniel 7. I say this because another interpretation says these 7 heads are 7 different kingdoms in history (we’ll explore that next). But Daniel was shown 4 different beasts and those beasts symbolized 4 kingdoms that would rise to power (Dan. 7:3, 17). It seems logical then, that this beast in Revelation 17 would be one single kingdom. Actually I would say it should be seen as the 4th beast that Daniel saw, the Roman Empire.
The difficulty of this passage is this: if the beast is the revived Roman kingdom then the 7 heads are kings of the Empire (as verse 10 says) But how do we know which 7 Roman Emperors is meant? There are more than 7, and, different scholar have different lists. This makes it hard, not insurmountable but hard. One thought in response to this would be to point out that there were 12 tribes of Israel according to Scripture, but, Scripture also says there were more than 12 tribes. And depending on where in the Bible you’re reading the list of 12 names can be different. So, perhaps the same is true regarding the 7 heads – that they represent 7 kings of the Roman Empire but not all the kings of that empire.
Another interpretation sees the beasts 7 heads not as kings, but, as seven major kingdoms that will have risen up through history. These seven kingdoms are identified by commentators as: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Ancient Rome, and finally, Revived Rome. A couple points are in order for us.
First of all, why these 7 kingdoms? Henry Morris has some great insight on this (MacArthur pg 170)
Second of all, Ancient Rome must be Revived. Daniel 2 and 7 specifically tell us that the fourth Gentile kingdom (overwhelmingly understood to be Rome) must be destroyed by Jesus when He returns (Dan. 2:34, 41-45). Therefore, at the 2nd coming of Jesus there must be a Roman Empire operating in the world, revived from history. It must have gone dormant, not dead in history.
Third, this last kingdom, a Revived Roman Empire, may possess many traits of the earlier kingdoms, which some passages indicate. For instance, this 7-headed beast government was visually described for us in 13:2, “The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion.” This one beast had the traits of multiple other beasts. These other beasts: the lion, the bear and the leopard, were described by Daniel as their own individual kingdoms successively appearing in history (Daniel 7:3-7). Now, this final beast seems to be a composite of all these other kingdoms.
Daniel even indicated this as well in Daniel 2. Describing another vision of these kingdoms – each symbolically represented by different metals – he said that the kingdom of Jesus would come like a rock and smash all these other metals (Dan. 2:34-35). Now, for Jesus to do that, all these other metals have to be around – all these other kingdoms have to be around in some way. If the final end of days kingdom of the Antichrist has assimilated many of these historical kingdoms traits within itself, and much of his kingdom reflects those ancient kingdoms, then it can be said that they will be around when Jesus comes back and smashes them.
Fourth, this list of 7 nations fits the text when it says “Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come.” Five of these kingdoms have departed the stage of history: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. Rome was the global super-kingdom of John’s day when he received this vision. The other that has not yet come refers to the end of days revived Roman Empire.
Fifth, the final kingdom is headed up by a king who is also called a beast. Read verse 11. Now the text refers to a man as a beast, the man is the king of the beast-kingdom. He is an 8th king that belongs to the 7 kings. He belongs to the 7 heads of the beast.
Here’s the interesting part: I believe the 7th and 8th king are one and the same person. Notice verse 10 says the 7th king “when he does come he must remain for a little while.” I believe that refers to the first half of the Tribulation. And we know that the Antichrist is going to be wounded fatally and then come back from the dead – whether actually or just as a hoax is beside the point. The point is that when at the half-way point of the Tribulation he is resurrected by the power of Satan he will begin a whole new reign, he will be a new king with the most ferocious power ever. He will not be the same king during the last half of the Tribulation as he was during the first half. Thus, he is the 7th king of a revived Roman empire during the first part of the Tribulation, then, after his death and resurrection, he will be the “8th king”, ruling over the Revived Roman Empire in its final, climactic stage.
Let us end today with the assurance that once again is sprinkled by the Holy Spirit into the text meant to encourage believers: “He is going to his destruction.” Verse 8 said the same thing. Its as if God the Spirit wants us to keep in mind the whole time that the end of this man and the end of his government and the end of Satan are guaranteed.
But here’s the thing I see in this assurance of Antichrist’s destruction: he’s not the real Christ. This Antichrist will die and be resurrected only to die again – the eternal death. But the true Christ died once and rose to life again forever – never to die again! Remember what he told John in chapter 1? “Behold, I was dead, but, now I am alive forever.” Amen! And when the living Christ comes back He will destroy that Great Imposter the Antichrist and all that goes along with him.
Could there be any better way to begin Communion? To remind ourselves of our Lord’s death and His victory over death when He rose again? Focus your mind there now. The world will worship Antichrist because he will supposedly be resurrected. But his death and resurrection won’t save anyone’s soul. We worship the Lamb because He was slain from before the world and He came back to life for our salvation.