Revealing Revelation – The Harlot and the Beast

15Jan11

As the angel continues with his explanation of the vision John is experiencing the direction now turns to the relationship between the two. But before addressing that doomed relationship he gives a quick explanation as to the ten horns on the heads of the beast.

Rev. 17:12-14 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. [13] These are of one mind and hand over their power and authority to the beast. [14] They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

There have been several explanations as to the identity of these ten kings. One is that they represent religious leaders and were responsible for the formation and proliferation of the Emperor Worship Cult. The passage, though, dictates more of a civil authority than a religious one.

The best possible understanding is in relation to the governors of the ten Roman provinces. Each of the grew in power at the death of Nero and through Galba’s inability to unify and secure the nation. They all tried through some means to improve their status in hopes are gaining more authority and even possibly being considered for the position of emperor.

Their actions lead to great civil unrest and many civil skirmishes throughout the empire. The further the province was away from the central government in the city of Rome the more daring those leaders were in hopes of possibly even breaking free from the empire.

Their time was short lived, though, as Vespasian was able to wrestle control of the government and put an immediate stop to the civil unrest and hopes for succession. This should be seen as their “one hour” of power as noted in the passage above.

But one aspect that was consistant was that those kings used this time to persecute the Church and martyr those who were members of the Way. Taking their cue from nero’s persecution and also noting the positive response from the Jews when they did persecute the Church, the intensification of persecution increased during this short time period.

But the persecutions were from orders from Rome and by following those orders fulfilled their part of being those that received their power from the Beast. They, in a sense, are like the Harlot that resides “on” the Beast in that she also receives her power and authority from the Beast. This leads then to the next section in the passage in question and the inter-related actions and relationship of the Harlot and the Beast.

Rev. 17:15-17 And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. [16] And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, [17] for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and l handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.

The angel continues by explaining that the Harlot resides on the waters and that those waters represent the gentile nations, as has been discussed several times previously. Here, John continues this imagery and symbol. This would symbolize how Israel had harloted herself with the nations of the world.

The Jewish influence in the world at that time should not be missed. Not only was she a great trade center, but also her religion was scattered throughout the entire known world with synagogues found everywhere in every city. One may recall in Acts 2 that it is noted that present during Peter’s famed sermons were “devout Jews from every nation under heaven.” The Jewish influence can simply not be missed.

But note how the passage also tells us that the ten horns and the beast will hate the Harlot and make her desolate. This pictures perfectly the confederation of nations that combined to make the Roman army that surrounded the city and eventually destroyed her.

For those that try and argue that the harlot is Rome have a real dilemma here as it is clear that the beast and the ten horns on the beast attack and make desolate the harlot. This leaves only Jerusalem and Israel in view of the Harlot’s identity. And, of course, any reader here would recognize the fact that this played out in history in 70 AD.

One last and very important point to consider is exactly who is controlling the events. None other than God Himself! Many have complained in the exegesis of the 70 weeks passage in Daniel that it would be flatly absurd and horrific to consider that the “prince” leading the charge of desolating the city would be Jesus Christ. But it is clear here in this passage that these events are under the direct control, command, purpose and will of God! Note in the passage from Ezekiel below the incredible similarity.

Eze 16:37 therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated. I will gather them against you from every side and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. 38 And I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged, and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy. 39And I will give you into their hands, and they shall throw down your vaulted chamber and break down your lofty places. They shall strip you of your clothes and take your beautiful jewels and leave you naked and bare. 40 They shall bring up a crowd against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords. 41 And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women.

This Old testament image is nearly identical to the point that John is making in the Revelation. The “adulteress woman” is Israel and the result of her adultery will be here humility and her destruction. And it is God directing the entire event.

Also note that that they would accomplish these things and continue to do so until the words of God are fulfilled. Those promised seven fold judgments and the wrath of God set against the Covenantally Unfaithful will be fulfilled. It is done with the fall of the city and the destruction of the ultimate symbol of the Old Covenant, the Temple.

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