Bible Commentaries
Revelation 17

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New TestamentZerr's N.T. Commentary

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Verse 1

Rev 17:1. This chapter (like some others) goes back to the time just before the Reformation, and will make symbolic predictions of that revolution. It should be stated that while the institution of church and state (which has not yet been dissolved as to the start of this chapter), is regarded as Babylon the Great and an enemy of God, the church part of the combination will seem to receive the more attention from the Lord in his condemnations. That is because it deals with the affairs of the soul which are more important than those of the secular government. Yet because the apostate church was supported by the political power of Rome and her Empire, much of the language in the symbols will be based upon the geographical and political features of that city. Show unto thee the judgment or give John a prediction of God's judgments in a vision. The great whore is said of the apostate church because false religions of all kinds are likened to immorality in figurative language. Sitteth upon many waters. Waters in symbolic language means people upon whom the corrupt institution pressed down with her desolating weight of intolerance and persecution. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Rev 17:1 Introduction. X THE HARLOT WOMAN ON THE SCARLET BEAST (Chapter 17) The contents of this chapter comprised the announcement of the angel to reveal to John the judgment to have been passed upon the harlot city. Before performing the announcement, however, the angel carried John away into a wilderness for a visional description of this harlot. These remaining chapters of the apocalypse surrounded only two opposite figures--the old apostate Jerusalem in contrast with the New Jerusalem, the Victorious Church of Christ. The old Judaistic Jerusalem with all of her apostasies must have been removed in order for the New Jerusalem, the church--or kingdom of Christ--to have come into world-wide sway. Hence, symbolic Babylon the Harlot and figurative New Jerusalem, the Bride (the church), were the center of the remaining apocalypses. Later, John was transported in vision to a mountain where he was allowed to view the Bride, the wife of the Lamb (the church of Christ)--but before doing so, the first angel summoned the Seer in spirit to appropriate surroundings to reveal the identity and character of Babylon, the great, the mother of the harlots, and abominations of the earth, and to visualize the judgment that was to come upon her--for the destruction of the Harlot must precede the victory of the Bride. The seventeenth and eighteenth chapters must be considered as one--for the announced judgment upon the Harlot by the angel at the beginning of chapter seventeen was suspended by the vision of the Harlot; and another angel descended in chapter eighteen to explain the mystery of Babylon the great, and to reveal the judgment against her in the overthrow and destruction of the city which the Harlot represented. There are numerous reasons why the Harlot could not have been the city of Rome. It is stated in this chapter that the beast hated the Harlot. But the beast admittedly was the Roman Empire, and if Rome was the Harlot, the Roman Empire hated the city of Rome. The beast being the empire, the Harlot was of necessity some other than Rome. First: The hatred of the beast for the Harlot harmonized with the animosity of both the Roman Empire and of Rome, its capitol city, toward Jerusalem. Third: There was no basis for a symbol or an analogy in which Rome could have been depicted as having Second: The latter half of Revelation beginning with chapter twelve was recapitulatory of the first half ending with chapter eleven, under another and different set of symbols. In Rev 11:8 the names Sodom and Egypt were symbolically applied to apostate Jerusalem, and thus identified by the descriptive clause where also our Lord was crucified. It was because of these apostasies and abominations that the symbolic name Babylon in Rev 14:8 was applied to the fallen city of Jerusalem. become a harlot, for Rome never stood in the spiritual relation to God as a faithful city, turned to harlotry. The Harlot was a city once faithful to God, and only Jerusalem can fulfill the symbolic descriptions. Fourth: The apocalypse was not directly concerned with Rome, or the Roman Empire; rather, they were envisioned only as the instrument in the execution of judgment on Jerusalem, which in her multiplied apostasies had come to be symbolized as the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth, i. e. Judea and Palestine. All of this was in direct fulfillment of the things Jesus foretold in the twenty-third and twenty-fourth chapters of Matthew and the twenty-first chapter of Luke concerning the apostasies and abominations which would bring doom to the city of Jerusalem. For example read Mat 23:34-37 : "Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. 0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not !" The words of Stephen in denunciation of Jerusalem's abominations in Act 7:52-53 were predictive of this doom: "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it." The culmination of the Lord's upbraidings and Stephen's denunciation of Jerusalem were reached in John's visions of Jerusalem as Sodom, Egypt and Babylon, with her abominations and harlotry. There are other such portents of the downfall and doom of Jerusalem in the discourses of Christ and in the apostolic epistles, all of which come within the scope of John's visions. In chapter seventeen two chief figures were introduced: First, the old Jerusalem as the Harlot; and the persecuting power of Rome as the beast upon which the Harlot sat. Corollary to these two symbolic characters were the two judgments, one against the woman, the other against the beast in the form of the announced destruction of both. However, as the beast symbolized the Roman Empire, it was only as the persecuting instrument; hence, the destruction of the beast which should be accomplished was not the empire itself but the persecuting power which the beast embodied and personified. Seeing that chapters seventeen and eighteen deal with Jerusalem as the Harlot, and the persecuting power of the beast as the Roman Empire, the verses of the two chapters fall into an orderly sequence. (1) The harlot sitting upon the waters--Rev 17:1-2. (2) The woman on the scarlet coloured beast--Rev 17:3-8. (3) The great wonder comprehended--Rev 17:9-11. (4) The coordination of the ten kings--Rev 17:12-18. Verse 1. (1) The harlot sitting upon the waters--Rev 17:1-2. "And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters." The term harlot has been used always in a figurative sense to denote wicked cities, as of Nineveh in Nah 3:4; and of Jerusalem in Isa 1:21; and of Israel, when the nation became a harlot by the practice of idolatry in Revelation. So here apostate Jerusalem, in broken relation with God, was given the mystic name Babylon, the mother of harlots. From generations past the execration of Israel had increased from the time of prophet's reprobations in Isa 1:21 to the Lord's lamentations in Mat 23:29-39. By the elders of Israel the official responsibility for crucifying the Christ was placed upon Jerusalem in Mat 27:25. The martyr Stephen laid upon Jerusalem with the criminal charges of "betrayers and murders" in Act 7:52. The descriptions in Rev 14:8 Revelation 17 :l-6; 18:1-2, were but extensions of the same exposures in the continuing apostasies of Jerusalem. The vision of the harlot that sitteth upon many waters was based upon the fact and the history that Jerusalem depended on her affiliations with the Roman Empire and its tributaries for commerce, revenue and support. This statement has been considered an indication that the Harlot was Rome, sitting on the waters. But the same figure of speech was applied to Babylon in Jer 51:13 : "0 thou that dwellest upon many waters." It was not a reference to a literal geographical location, but to commercial sources of revenue and support; and it was a very impressive imagery of Jerusalem's dependence on affiliations with the heathen tributaries of Rome.

Verse 2

Rev 17:2. The kings of the earth means the rulers over the various divisions of the political empire, such as the ones named at Rev 13:1. In their devotion to the spiritual harlot they were guilty of fornication. The inhabitants of the earth refers to the subjects under these kings who submitted to their adulterous ruling. Wine of her fornication. In literal practice we find "wine and women" often associated, hence they are so considered in the symbolic vision that John saw. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 2. The reference in Rev 17:2 to the harlot's fornication with the kings, and the wine of her fornication making drunk the inhabitants of the land were symbols of the extensions of Jerusalem's affiliations with foreign people, and the passion to be like the nations around them, as Israel demanded in 1Sa 8:5. These affiliations so enamored the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem as to be characterized in the symbolism of being drunk with. the wine of her fornication. The apocalypse was consistently that of apostate Jerusalem. It described the iniquities of Israel from their national sin of demanding a king to be as other nations under Samuel, the course that carried them into exile; and that in the visions of Revelation brought their city and their national existence to destruction.

Verse 3

Rev 17:3. Carried me away in the spirit is significant, and reminds us again of the truth that John never did leave the isle of Patmos literally while in the vision of this book. It was a part of the symbolical vision to be taken away into the wilderness and see the things that shall be described. The woman is the apostate church of Rome symbolized by the city of Rome because the church rested on the government of that city for support. The literal reason for using a beast in the symbol that was scarlet, was the fact that scarlet was one of the royal colors of the Empire. Seven heads and ten horns is explained at chapter 13:1, and it will appear in this chapter with a slight variation in the application. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 3. (2) The woman on the scarlet coloured beast--Rev 17:3-8. "So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns." The color of the beast was derived from the Red Dragon of the preceding chapters that instigated the persecutions. The crimson color was also the symbol of sin: "Though your sins be as scarlet . . . though they be red like crimson" Isa 1:18. The adaptation of the color red was significant in this symbol of a beast full of the sins of blasphemy. The word blasphemy originally denoted every kind of railing, reviling, irreverence, and insulting reproaches against God, or any other detraction; hence, this beast was full of names of blasphemy--any or all blasphemy against the church that could be named in connection with or reference to every known form of heathen idolatry. The comments on the seven heads and ten horns which characterized the beast have been made in preceding chapters, this being the same beast, the Roman Empire and its tributaries, extended remarks here are unnecessary.

Verse 4

Rev 17:4. Since the state color of the beast (Rome) was scarlet and purple, it was appropriate that the rider of the beast should be robed to match. It is literally true that the clergy of the church of Rome wear these colors in their church ceremonies. It is also appropriate that such colors be used in the symbols of that church, in view of the faithful people of God who had their blood taken from them in the persecution at the hands of that wicked institution. Being decked with precious stones and pearls also was appropriate because the church of Rome possesses and uses great wealth in her ceremonies. The symbolic cup represents the corrupt practices that the church of Rome forced upon her subjects. It is symbolized in the form of a person filling a cup with vile and abominable materials then forcing some helpless person to drink it. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 4. The description in Rev 17:4, of the woman arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and bedecked with all adornments of gold, jewels and pearls, were highly extended symbols of the harlots sources of seduction; and the golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication were all descriptive of the lewd character of the harlot woman, and symbolic of the unfaithfulness of Jerusalem, "the faithful city become an harlot." It was a lurid picture of the spiritual condition of Jerusalem and all Judea.

Verse 5

Rev 17:5. The name that John saw written on the forehead of this woman was put there by the Lord to designate to the apostate her true character, not that she had taken to herself such an inscription. In truth the leaders of the church of Rome of today deny that this applies to their "holy mother church." Mystery is a part of her characteristics; Thayer's definition of the word at this place is, "The mystic or hidden sense." The apostate church has always thrived most when she could keep her people in ignorance of what was going on. Babylon the great. There are many ways in which anything can be great both good and bad. Babylon was great in a bad sense and that is because she was the most extensive and powerful influence for evil that Satan ever devised. Mother of harlots. A bad woman can be the mother of pure daughters and they would not need to participate in the wickedness of their mother; but this woman's daughters also are harlots. Of course as we have previously learned, harlotry in figurative Ianguage means any false religion or unscriptural organization. The conclusion is that the religious denominations in the world are the harlot daughters of Rome, because they obtained the principal tenets that make up their creeds from the doctrines put out by that apostate church. Abominations of the earth is a general summing up of the evil doctrines and practices of the church of Rome throughout the world. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 5. The name written on the woman's head, in verse five, was the inscription: Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth. The spiritual evils of the land of Judea with all the national apostasies of Judaism were her offspring. The prophet Hosea employed the same figure of whoredom, or harlotry, in his descriptions of Israel in Hos 1:2 Hos 2:1-5 of his book of prophecy. Stronger terms defining spiritual adulteries, fornications and harlotry, could not have been employed to set forth the spiritual luridness of Israel which brought on her exile--and the same extreme analogies apply to the spiritual decadence of Jerusalem which culminated in destruction, devastation downfall and termination.

Verse 6

Rev 17:6. Saints and martyrs refer to the same people although the words have a different (but not conflicting) meaning. Saint means a holy or righteous person which applies to all Christians. Martyr means witness and all Christians are martyrs because they are faithful to the testimony of the Gospel regardless of what may be the result. The fact that both saints and martyrs had shed their blood in defence of the testimony of Jesus, shows the latter word is not applied to some on the simple ground that they died for Christ. Saw the woman drunken. To be drunk literally requires that a person be under the influence of alcohol. The term has come to be used figuratively, as when it is said that a man is "drunk with a craze for money; or for pleasure." Rome had shed so much blood of righteous people she is said to be drunk with the desire to slay the Christians. Wondered with great admiration. The last word usually has the sense of approval, but it is not restricted to that meaning. The phrase means the vision John saw was so unusual and vast that he could only gaze at it. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 6. The woman was envisioned as drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus, in verse six. This not only referred to the fact that Jerusalem had slain the prophets as in Mat 23:29-39; and been "betrayers and murderers," as charged by Stephen in Act 7:52; and was the city "where also our Lord was crucified," as in Rev 11:8; but it was her apostasies that had caused the persecutions which had overwhelmed the land, and Jerusalem was therefore responsible for the blood of the saints and the martyrs symbolized throughout the apocalypse. When John saw this adorned harlot sitting on the beast, he wondered with great admiration. The word wonder here means that the meaning had not yet been revealed, as it was done in the visions that followed. The word admiration has the meaning of astonishment--that is, John wondered with great amazement as he viewed the decked and jeweled Harlot seated on the beast whose power would bring her to destruction.

Verse 7

Rev 17:7. Wherefore didst thou marvel? This question indicates that the amazed expression on the face of John was mixed with that of being puzzled over the whole phenomenon. The angel promises to explain to him all about the mystery involving the woman, the beast and the seven heads and ten horns that the beast had. The passage deviates from the usual manner of the book. When the symbols are described we are generally left to figure out (by the help of history) what the interpretation is. This time the angel will tell to what institutions and persons the symbols refer. Not that he will specify the personal items of application, but he will describe it so that a student of the Bible and history should have no uncertainty about it. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 7. An angel cryptologist in verse seven appeared to decode the symbols which concealed in a mystery the vision of the beast upon which the woman sat. The enigmatic significance of the mystic symbolism which surrounded both the woman and the beast involved their respective destinies --the destruction of the woman (Jerusalem), and the perdition of the beast (the persecutor). The angel interpreter, proposing an explanation of the cryptic vision, repeated the wonder of the woman sitting on the seven heads and ten horns of the beast. It was a continued repetition in description of the Roman Empire, as previously shown, and of Jerusalem the apostate metropolis of Judaism.

Verse 8

Rev 17:8, Was and is not refers to Pagan Rome which ceased to be such an institution (on the surface) after the time of Constantine. Ascend out of the bottomless pit. The last two words mean that part of the intermediate state where evil men and angels are kept until the judgment day. It is the place where the wicked rich man went as recorded in Luk 16:23 where the word is "hell" but comes from a different Greek term. Since the members of Pagan Rome were wicked it was necessary to show them as ascending from this pit. But we should take notice that the vision leaps across all the intervening years for the moment to predict the final destiny of those members of the beast that had been in the bottomless pit. After the intermediate state is no longer needed, these wicked persons will ascend out of that pit and go into perdition, which means they will be cast into the lake of fire. Having shown a brief picture of the fate of this beast, the vision at once resumes the events and appearances that are to take place before the final day of perdition. The vision is so unusual that the uninformed shall wonder at it. That is the same word used in verse 6 which was seen to mean that one is puzzled with amazement, and it would have that meaning especially with the uninformed. By that word I mean the ones described by John as those whose names are not written in the book of life. Chapter 13:8 shows this italicized statement means those who are not faithful servants of Christ. Their names (of the faithful) are said to have been written in the book from the foundation of the world or before the human family had become an orderly group of human beings. The beast that was and is not and yet is was that which caused the astonishment spoken of above. The beast was Pagan Rome outwardly until the time of Constantine, who caused the union of church and state to take place. That put an end to Pagan Rome as far as outward profession was concerned, and it is in that sense that John says the beast is 'not. But In reality Papal Rome retained so much of the doctrines and wicked practices of the original empire, that it could truly be said of Papal Rome that it was Pagan Rome in disguise or in another form. It is in that sense that John says the institution yet is, which caused the uninformed of the world to be amazed and puzzled. But the righteous did not have to be in such a state of mind because they had always been respectful hearers of what inspired men had said. For instance, if they had only-read and considered what Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 2, they would have expected such revolutions to take place as these affairs of Rome. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 8. An element of the mystery in the code description of the beast, in verse eight, was in the unusual saying: the beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition. Prevailing in those days was "the Neronic myth" that Nero was dead, but was incarnated in Belial the idolatrous prince and head of the heathen world; and hence, the belief that he lived. The myth could have been the basis of the symbol, which undoubtedly means the persecutor had apparently granted surcease of the persecutions, but it was only a lull--the beast that was, and is not, should again appear without warnings, ascending as it were from the unfathomable depths of diabolical abode. This was the same beast described in previous chapters as appearing in heaven-defined as the realm of political authorities and government, hence in visible personification. After his disappearance, or lull in persecution, he was returning from his invisible demonic habitat, as from nowhere, to revive the persecutions-- hence, the beast was, and is not, and yet is. This verse is comparable to the code six hundred and sixty-six of Rev 13:18 and referred to the same composite beast --the Roman Empire, personified in the persecuting emperor. The reappearance of the beast in the display of power again caused wonderment among the dwellers of the earth whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world--that is, all of the people of the heathen and Roman world who were not the people of God, and had never been so reckoned, held the worldly pomp and power of the Roman emperor in great admiration. But this inhibition of the presence and power of the persecuting beast was not for long. His reappearance as a persecutor was also characterized as a final disappearance when his defeat and destiny should be accomplished--he would eventually go into perdition. It should be remembered that the destiny of the beast did not refer to the destruction of the empire itself but to the destruction of the persecuting power which the beast represented. The symbols have the same force and application as Isaiah's description of the decease of the wicked lords of Babylon--referring not to the literal demise of the Babylonian empire, but to the wicked dominion over the people of God. There is a continuous reinforcement of the parallels between the apocalypses of the fortunes of Old Testament Israel through exile to their return and the destruction of Babylonian lordship, represented by Isaiah, in Isa 66:22, as their "new heavens and the new earth"; and the apocalypses of Revelation dealing with the persecutions of the New Testament church, the destruction of the old Jerusalem, and the symbolic "new heaven and new earth" of Rev 21:1 --a delineation of the grandeurs and glories of the New Jerusalem.

Verse 9

Rev 17:9. The seven mountains have no special significance except as an item of geography and history by which to identify the city of Rome. On whieh the woman sitteth means that the apostate church rested upon the government of Rome for support. Comments by Foy E. Wallac Verse 9. (3) The great wonder comprehended--Rev 17:9-11. "And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. And there are seven kings: fire are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition." The mind which hath wisdom referred to the deep mystical import of these symbols which were here merely projected but not fully explained or interpreted--the full meaning is reserved for the following chapter. Everything in the visions revolves around the Jerusalem of the Jews, Rome being only collateral to the accomplishment of the visions. The reference to the seven mountains was not subject to a literal application any more than the literalizing of the woman. Mountains were ordinarily the symbols of the seats and positions of political and governmental authority, where power was concentrated. And while that was true of Rome, surrounded literally by seven hills; it was true also that Jerusalem was the city where apostasy in the realm of religious power was concentrated; and Jerusalem was also surrounded by seven literal mountains: Zion, Acra, Moriah, Bezetha, Millo, Ophel and Antonio; all of which are mentioned in the history of Josephus in connection with the war against Jerusalem (Book 5, Section 5, 8). The application of these symbols to Jerusalem finds consistency in the context.

Verse 10

Rev 17:10. In some previous verses and in verse 12 below the text plainly says the ten horns represent ten kings or kingdoms that were inferior• units of the Roman Empire. Hence the seven kings of this verse must have another meaning, and I believe they refer to important men who were leaders in the affairs of state right in the capital city. It is merely a coincidence that the Lord had seven of those prominent men in mind which is also the number of the geographical hills or "mountains" that comprised the city of Rome. It is clearly shown in Roman history that leading men in the Empire often vied with each other for power and the vision shows such a conflict. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 10. The seven kings of verse ten were the imperial Caesars, of which Nero was sixth in succession from Julius. The seven mountains cannot be representative of the seven kings, since the text does not read they are seven kings, but "there are seven kings." The text further states that five are fallen, and one is and the other is not yet come. Though Julius Caesar was the head of the Roman Republic, it merged into the empire; and the Roman emperors derived the official title Caesar from Julius. There can be no reason in fact or history to justify omitting Julius from the count of the Caesars of Rome, and only the demands of a theory to provide a later date for Revelation has caused it to be done. The seven kings, five of which had fallen, followed the count from Julius Caesar, the first-then, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, the five which had fallen-- and Nero, the sixth. He was referred to in the phrase and one is--that is, the reigning emperor. It is further stated that the other, or the seventh, is not yet. The five Caesars had passed before John wrote this apocalypse; and Nero, the sixth Caesar, was reigning at the time Revelation was written. The apocalypse belonged to the Neronic period. Omitting quite properly the subordinates, or mock rulers, Domitian was the seventh Caesar; and the text specifically stated that he had not come. It is difficult to account for a theory that fixes the chronology of Revelation in the latter part of the Domitian reign when he, the seventh, had not come. The rectification of the traditional chronological error attached to the Book of Revelation will automatically correct the "future prophecy" theories so full of misconcepts. The text stated that the seventh king, or emperor, must continue a short space--that is, the persecutions would not end with Nero, but would continue to be prosecuted in reigns of short duration of the successive emperors.

Verse 11

Rev 17:11. The beast that was has been already shown to be Pagan Rome. The apostle says this beast is the eighth; not merely one more beast that would count up to eight, but it was the eighth and of the seven. This denotes that it was in the same line, or bore some fact in common with the others. And the phrase goeth into perdition strengthens that conclusion, for we learned in verse 8 that it was Pagan Rome that was to go into perdition. (Not that Papal Rome will escape perdition, but that is not under consideration at present.) The vision means that Pagan Rome as a whole must take her place in the count with all those individual "kings" or chief men in the corrupt institution, and all go down as a unit into the lake of perdition. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 11. It is stated in verse eleven that the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seventh, and goeth into perdition. There is a repetition here of verse eight, to which the reader may refer, concerning was, is not, and yet is. But verse eleven affirms the affinity and continuity of the imperial beasts. From the sixth to the seventh the vision was extended, in verse ten; and verse eleven presents the eighth as having the same genus, the spirit of the persecuting beast appearing in one emperor after another until their course was run. To the church at Smyrna the Lord said: And ye shall have tribulation ten days. This undoubtedly referred to the period of the ten persecuting emperors from Nero to Diocletian, who vowed to obliterate the name Christian from the Roman Empire; and it fixes the time period of these apocalyptic disclosures from Nero to Diocletian, the tenth emperor from Nero--thus assigning the date of Revelation to the early part of Nero's reign, before the siege and destruction of Jerusalem; and its symbols to the Nero-Diocletian period of persecution.

Verse 12

Rev 17:12. These ten kings (or small kingdoms) are named at chapter 13:1. It says they had received no kingdom as yet. The meaning is they were not in rightful control of their kingdoms although they were acting as kings. But the phrase also indicates that they will finally be kings in their own right after Papal Rome has been put down even as Pagan Rome was, then each nation will have its own chosen form of government. But for the time being they may only act as kings. One hour with the beast is a figure of speech meaning that the time for continued oppression of Rome was to be comparatively short. The reader should bear in mind that the vision goes from the days of Pagan Rome in verse 11 to those of Papal Rome in the present verse. On that basis the beast now is Papal Rome in conjunction with the state. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 12. (4) The coordination of the ten kings--Rev 17:12-18 : The ten kings of the beast in verse twelve had received no kingdom as yet; but receive power one hour with the beast. These mock rulers of the Roman tributaries had no independent rule; they were the contemporary subordinate rulers with the beast for one hour--that is, a temporary exercise of a delegated power in conjunction with Rome, but of short duration as persecutors; their power would continue no longer than the accomplishment of God's will in the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of Judaism.

Verse 13

Rev 17:13. These means the ten kings of the preceding verse and until they have had their eyes opened by receiving the Bible back again, they will not know any better than to give their power and strength unto the beast (church and state). Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 13. It is stated in verse thirteen that these ten kings had one mind. The overshadowing personage of Nero was pictured as standing behind; but the single aim and common purpose was the destruction of Jerusalem, the devastation of Judea to rid the empire of Judaism, and the subsequent war against Christianity in the full power and strength of the coalition of the kings with the emperor against the church. Jerusalem was destroyed, Judaism perished, but the church survived.

Verse 14

Rev 17:14. These again means the ten kings just mentioned. While they were still under the control of Papal Rome and blinded by the false doctrines of that corrupt beast, they were opposed to the Lamb of God and made (religious) war with Him. The Lamb shall overcome them. This will be accomplished by the Reformation, for that movement will give the Bible back to the people in their native tongue. When that is done the Lamb shall overcome them which means He will subdue their opposition to the word of God and to the true church that is regulated by that word. Lord of lords puts Christ above all other rulers, and King of kings means He is greater than the ten kings who fought against Him. Christ does not conduct the conflict directly but does it by His great army. The army is composed of those who are called (by the Gospel), and they are chosen because they have qualified themselves by being faithful. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 14. The vision in the preceding chapters of the great red dragon's war against the Christ is continued in verse fourteen; but the Lamb would overcome all assailants and assaults against his church, for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings--over all kings and emperors of the earth --and because his followers are called, and chosen and faithful. Such fidelity cannot be extinguished by the trials of persecution

Verse 15

Rev 17:15. The angel now begins to give John the interpretation of the vision as was mentioned at verse 7. The first verse says the corrupt woman sits upon many waters, and this verse explains it to mean peoples and nations, etc. That is because the Roman Empire was one of the "four world empires" which contained all the so-called civilized people of the earth. Verse 15. It is repeated in verse fifteen that the waters upon which the Harlot sat were the peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues, which represented, as previously explained, Jerusalem's affiliations with the heathen world, and the intermingling with nations and people of all parts of the empire. This became a source of corruption and apostasy.

Verse 16

Rev 17:16. The ten horns are the kings or kingdoms which are named in the comments at chapter 13:1. Shall hate the whore is literal, for when the kings and people of the smaller units of the Empire come to realize how deeply they have been deceived by her they can have no other feeling toward her. The rest of the verse is a symbolical vision of the resistance that will be put up by these ten kings and their people when they "get their eyes open." Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 16. It is declared in verse sixteen that the kings of the empire, represented by the ten horns, hated the Harlot. This is solid proof that the harlot city was not Rome--assuredly the Roman kings did not hate the capital city of the Roman Empire. But they did hate Jerusalem and coordinated their efforts with the emperor to reduce it to the condition here described: make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh and burn her with fire. The Lord's account of the siege of Jerusalem together with the history of Josephus were a graphic fulfillment of these apocalyptic pronouncements on apostate Jerusalem, the faithful city become an harlot.

Verse 17

Rev 17:17. God bath put in their hearts. God never directly causes any person to do wrong who wants to do right. But when a man or group of men shows a persistence toward wrong, then He gives them up to carry out their own ways until they have learned their lesson. (See the comments at 2Th 2:11.) It had been predicted (in such passages as that just cited) that such conduct would be practiced by these kings, hence in doing so they were carrying out the divine prediction. But they will be suffered to operate in that way only until the words of God shall be fulfilled. This means until the time for them to be enlightend by the work of the Reformation. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 17. The accord of these kings with the emperor was described in Rev 17:17 as being in God's plan to fulfill his words, spoken by his prophets, and by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, concerning the destruction of the once faithful but then harlot city of Jerusalem,

Verse 18

Rev 17:18. Since the Reformation has not occurred yet, at the point of the great drama applying to this verse, the woman and great city refers to Babylon as the union of church and state. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 18. With verse eighteen the chapter closes with a significant declaration: And the woman which thou sawest is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth. It is this passage that has been the basis of the interpretation and theory that Rome was the city that reigned over the kings of the earth, and was therefore the harlot city. But the conclusion does not follow. In Rev 11:8 Jerusalem is called the great city under the symbols of Sodom and Egypt, hence the term "great city" has been a mystic designation for Jerusalem. In the history of Josephus, Volume 7 of Wars, Section 8, 7, the historical term "that great city" was applied to Jerusalem. This was both the historical and symbolic designation for Jerusalem. There are no such terms and titles employed to designate Rome. The appellation for Jerusalem comports further with the reference to the city as Babylon, the Great in Rev 11:8, symbolically called Sodom and Egypt, but identified as being Jerusalem by the statement where also our Lord was crucified. The last statement of verse eighteen "which reigneth over the kings of the earth" did not refer to the empire of the Caesars, nor the city of the emperors. The word reign here denoted a dominion. The earth, as defined at the beginning of the visions and later repeated, referred to the land of Judea, inclusive of Palestine. The city of Jerusalem was the royal city where the kings of Judah reigned. The phrase the kings of the earth was used in the sense of Act 4:26-27 : "The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast annointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together." These "kings of the earth" were of Judah, and Jerusalem was the capital city of the land, standing in the same relation to these "kings of the earth" as Rome sustained to the emperors. The second psalm represents Jerusalem as ruling with a rod of iron over "the kings of the earth" who had set themselves against the Lord's annointed One. In the Wars, Book 3, Section 3, 5, Josephus adds that "the royal city Jerusalem was supreme, and presided over all neighboring country as the head does over the body." There is every contextual reason to apply the language of verse eighteen, "that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth," to Jerusalem in relation to the kings of Judah, as figuratively set forth in the second psalm, and quoted in fulfillment in the gospel of Matthew. Beside these scriptural applications, it must be true in ordinary logic and common consistency that the beast being the Roman empire, the harlot city which the beast hated could not have been the city of Rome. The entire vision is centered on the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, the demolition of the Jewish temple and the end of theocratic Judaism and of the Jewish state; and the devastation of the land of Judea, the homeland of the Jews. The persecution of the church was a consequence of such catastrophe, being considered by the Romans as a sect of the Jews. But the Roman empire and Rome, the city, were only collateral to the visions of Revelation as the instrument of the power of destruction and of persecution.
Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 17". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.