The Seven Heads of the Beast

Since I wrote the post “Wanna Bet?”, in which I give my stance on the identity of the ten horns of Revelation 17:12 and Daniel 7:7, 24, I have had a chance to dialogue about the identity of the seven heads of Revelation 17:9-11 with a couple of different people. I’ve wavered about this over the years, but now I think it’s time to officially declare my position. I know that some will not agree, as many people more studied than myself have come to different conclusions, but I think the view that I hold makes the best sense of the passage. Here is the passage for reference:   

   

This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. 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. These are of one mind and hand over their power and authority to the beast. 

   

   

 First off, what are these seven heads? The passage states that they are seven mountains, and then goes on to say that there are also seven kings, Revelation 17:9-11. In apocalyptic literature, a mountain referred to an empire or seat of authority, see Daniel 2:35, 44-45, Ezekiel 28:14, Isaiah 14:13, Zechariah 6:1, Micah 4:1. It is also established in Daniel that a head can easily refer both to an empire and to the individual who is at the head of the empire, see Daniel 7:6 where the Greek Empire is referred to in four divisions, each one rendered as a head on the leopard. To a lesser extent, there is also the Babylonian Empire and Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:37-38, “you (Nebuchadnezzar) are the head of gold”. In Daniel 8, the idea of horns upon heads signifies divisions within one empire. The Greek Empire was divided into four signified by four horns on one head, Daniel 8:8. 

 

 

When we come to Revelation 13 & 17 and read about this seven headed ten horned beast, we have some background that gives us understanding. The ten horns exist all at the same time, being ten kings that give their authority to the one empire, or man at the head of the empire. That empire has seven different heads under which it has operated throughout time. Here we have to backtrack a bit. Revelation 12 also pictures Satan himself with seven heads and ten horns. This is due to the fact that the outworking of Satan through organized man has been through this symbology, seven empires with the final empire existing in a division of ten kingdoms.   

What is meant by five have fallen? If we use the approach that the seven heads are primarily empires and secondarily as kings, then we can easily show that there had been seven previous empires which Satan had used. The word for “fall” here can mean a variety of things. It is used in Revelation for those who fall before the LORD in worship. But it is also used in reference to the city of Babylon the Great falling, which means the destruction as described in Revelation 18. It is also used for cities falling in Revelation 16:19. This could very easily be used in reference to empires having fallen previous to this point in time.   

It is quite simple to pinpoint the empire immediately previous to the empire that was in power at the time of John’s vision. The Greek Empire had preceded the Roman Empire. The Medo-Persian Empire had preceded the Greek Empire. The Babylonian Empire had preceded the Medo-Persian Empire. These are the empires that are envisioned in Daniel 2 & 7. But what about previous to this? What were the empires that preceded the Babylonian Empire?   

The empire that preceded the Babylonian Empire was the Assyrian Empire. This is noted in history and in the historical books of the Bible. II Kings shows that the rise of the Assyrian Empire was a threat to the entire Mediterranean region, including Samaria and Judah, the two divisions of the kingdom of Israel, see II Kings 15:29, 17:1-6, 18:13. Tiglath-Pileser was responsible for carrying away Galilee into captivity. Shalmaneser brought judgment upon Samaria which resulted in the destruction of the northern kingdom and the apostasy of those who remained. Sennacherib would have destroyed Judah except they turned to the LORD for refuge resulting in a miraculous protection from the Assyrians, II Kings 19:32-37. The prophets referred to the Assyrian Empire in several different ways, but usually as an evil tool, see Isaiah 10:5, 12, 27:1, 28:15, 18, Micah 5:5-6 (land of Nimrod). The entire book of Nahum is directed toward the destruction of the Assyrian Empire since Nineveh was most likely the capital city, see Zephaniah 2:13. Nahum is not overly popular on our study list, but its content is extremely important to God’s overall plan to judge the Assyrian Empire and bring in its place the Babylonian Empire.   

This brings up an important point concerning the empires that have been used by Satan in this seven empire scheme. They all have oppressed the people of Israel, which is God’s nation-plan for this society. II Kings 17-19 are sufficient to show Assyria’s oppression of Israel. Babylon’s oppression can be seen in II Kings 24-25 as well as Jeremiah 24-25, 27-29, 39, 52; while her destruction is outlined in Jeremiah 50-51. The book of Esther is evidence of the oppression of Israel during the Medo-Persian reign. Daniel 8:21-26, 11:2-3, 29-35 picture the then future oppression of Israel by the Greek Empire. The oppression by the Roman Empire is documented in secular history and hinted at in the gospels and Acts.   

As we consider this prerequisite for qualification in the seven empire scheme of Satan, it becomes obvious which empire would be the first to oppress the people of Israel. The Egyptian Empire was present at the birth of the nation of Israel, oppressing them at that time, and then at later times as well. God’s supernatural judgment upon the Egyptian Empire seems to be unequaled in later judgments. His judgment is direct, from heaven, and full of wrath, see Exodus 7-15 for details. The judgments upon later empires are all vicariously carried out by other nations. One empire rises up only to be judged by the next empire. One extremely interesting reference to the judgment upon Egypt is Psalm 74:13-15. Apparently it was revealed to this prophet that the judgment upon Egypt was likened to judgment upon a dragon type creature which had its heads broken into pieces, which then in turn rained down manna for the children of Israel. This leviathan was judged during the plagues and then at the Red Sea in such a way as to crush its head in some spiritual way that we don’t completely understand. It’s interesting that the word leviathan is used in reference to the coming judgment upon the Assyrian Empire in Isaiah 27:1, but an eschatological reference cannot be denied either since the resurrection is present in Isaiah 26:19-21.   

Because of Psalm 74:13-15 and Isaiah 27:1, along with the above study, I believe that Satan used the Egyptian Empire and the Assyrian Empire as the first two heads of the dragon/beast of Revelation 12, 13, and 17. Then logically it follows that the next three heads of the beast that had already fallen in John’s day were Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. So that is my view of “five have fallen”. The “one is” would be the Roman Empire in power at the time of John’s vision. “The other has not yet come” would be the ten kings which John viewed as the next step in the beast’s transformation. Daniel’s vision showed that the fourth beast (the sixth head of John’s beast) has ten horns. These ten horns existed on this beast, yet the Roman Empire never existed in the form of a ten nation empire. John’s vision shows us that the next step would be the transformation of the Roman Empire into an empire which had a ten nation confederacy, Revelation 17:12. This head of the beast (with ten horns) will only remain a little while. It’s duration will be relatively short in time span compared to the others, Revelation 17:10. The beast as a whole is the eighth, yet there are only seven heads on the beast. What will happen to transition from the seventh head to the eighth is that the ten kings will give their authority to the beast, meaning the empire and the one man who controls the empire, Revelation 17:13. Daniel’s vision is helpful here showing the little horn rising up among the ten horns, Daniel 7:8. The vision is explained that one man will rise up among these ten to take control of the entire beast, Daniel 7:24.   

So what can we expect? Sometime in the near future, as the return of the LORD grows closer, we will see the development of a ten nation confederacy within the boundaries of the old Roman Empire. Remember to include both the eastern and western divisions of the Roman Empire in your calculations. The Western portion would center around Italy and Europe. The Eastern portion would include Asia Minor, the Middle East, and even northern Africa. It was basically the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The ten nation confederacy will rule the world. It’s not that every single nation will be under direct control of this empire, but its hegemony will make it unequaled in power. Then while this ten nation confederacy is in control, there will arise one leader amongst these ten leaders, subduing three during his rise to power. The ten leaders will then concentrate their authority to one central location, to the beast as an empire and to the little horn as a person.   

I am contradicting three well respected scholars with my views. First is BW Newton. His views can be read at this link here. Here is a short clip for what he believes about the seven heads. “The native monarchy of Nimrod – the theocracy of Israel – the systematic despotic monarchy of Nebuchadnezzar, which was, in a peculiar sense, established by God – the aristocratic monarchy of Persia – the military monarchy of Alexander – the empire of the Caesars, which arose out of democracy – and the clay-iron or constitutional monarchies of modern Europe, are the seven forms which have already appeared. The sixth, viz. that of the Caesars, was existent when the Revelation was given; the seventh, though it has appeared, has not yet been perfected; the eighth, which is reserved for Antichrist, closes the scene.” While I respect much of BW Newton’s scholarship, his view lacks scriptural substance and strays from the idea that the seven heads on Satan are in view here as well, thereby excluding the theocracy of Israel, see Psalm 114:1-3.   

Another scholar that I am contradicting is fellow PreWrather Donald Salerno. His view is that the four divisions of the Greek Empire must be included within the seven heads of the beast. Here is a quote to summarize his views taken from Revelation Unsealed. “The seven heads or kings are the same seven that were given to us by Daniel: Babylon, one head; Medo-Persian, one head; Greece, four heads (Egypt, Syria, Macedonia, and Asia Minor); and Rome, one head. The five that have fallen or have had their dominion take away (Daniel 7:12) are : Babylon, Medo-Persian, Egypt, Syria, and Macedonia.” In my estimation, Salerno’s method doesn’t make sense because the Asia Minor portion should have been considered past, but Salerno justifies this by pointing to passages like Revelation 2:13 and Daniel 8:23-26 believing that the end times antichrist will rule from there.   

A third scholar that I am contradicting is Robert Van Kampen, one of the founders of the PreWrath position. While Van Kampen and I agree on the first six heads, Van Kampen holds another view on the identity of the seventh. While I view it as future, existing in the form of a ten nation confederacy before the appearance of the antichrist, Van Kampen identifies it as past from our perspective. From his book The Sign under the section The Seventh Beast Empire Identified: “The shocking reality is that only one nation in history fits these criteria – Nazi Germany, the Third Reich, under the absolute and demonic dictatorship of Adolf Hitler!” My response is that Revelation 17 seems to give the definition for this seventh that would come for the short period of time, namely the ten kings that would arise for a brief period of time. Then the eighth would be the antichrist, or the little horn of Daniel 7 rising up among the ten. I would not include Nazi Germany for the same reasons that I would not include the nations which persecuted Israel during the time of the Judges such as Midian, Moab, Ammon, and Philistia.   

Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13   

-The Orange Mailman  

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13 Responses to The Seven Heads of the Beast

  1. Kathy Hall says:

    This is fascinating, Orange. I do have a question. You may or may not want to answer it. What do you see are the possibilities of our nation’s future, before the Lord returns?

  2. Kathy Hall says:

    …and we know Glenn Beck will not save America…

    All joking aside, I realize with my question, the answer will only be speculation, but it would seem that America will ultimately fall under the rule of one of these ten heads that will arise, and then ultimately AC, right?

    I do think you are on to something, Orange. You are a careful student of the word and you back up your position with scripture.

  3. Kathy Hall says:

    Hey Orange, so Tim and I have been pouring over this post. I see now that you wrote that not every single nation will be under direct control of this empire. (I read through this really fast the first time and I had to look up the definition for hegemony, by the way…) Another question, how does Rev. 13:3 fit into your view? I’ll be quiet now…

    • Hey Kathy-

      I like to use a fancy word now and then to make it look like I’m educated. I think we have a paucity of eclectic words in our modern day usage. Hopefully this tendency of mine doesn’t hinder my perspicuity, or your perspicacity.

      The possibilities for our nation’s future? We will either ally ourselves with the ten nation alliance or we will not. We could decide not to at first, but then buy in at a later time. Remember that the seven headed ten horned beast will be so powerful, both militarily and spiritually, that the world will wonder who could ever make war with this beast.

      Think about the Roman Empire. They ruled the world but didn’t have direct control over every single portion. Countries on the southern tip of Africa or in the far east were not under their direct control, but they were influenced by the commerce that occurred within the Roman Empire. No other nation could stand up to their might. The idea of commerce brings up another facet of this ten nation alliance. There will be a city which will be the economic center of the world. Babylon will be built, probably literal Babylon somewhere in Iraq. This city will be so alluring that every nation will want her goods. The nations of the world will be drooling all over her (in a figurative way) in order to have the goods that every covetous heart desires. The nations of the world will commit adultery with her. She will rule over the kings of the earth through her commercial might.

      Initially, the ten nation alliance carries the harlot. But part way through Daniel’s 70th week, they turn on her. When the mark of the beast in instituted, most nations will be so involved with the harlot that they will be deceived into taking the mark of the beast in order to keep getting the goods that she has been delivering to them. It is difficult for me to believe that the greedy and covetous USA will not be on board to institute the mark of the beast.

      What exactly will happen? It’s difficult to say. Let’s keep out eyes on what we know the scriptures have foretold. There will be a ten nation confederacy. There will be a city that rules over the earth. Any other impossible questions?

      Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

      -The Orange Mailman

  4. Kathy Hall says:

    Thanks, Orange. Such great thoughts and insights…except when I read you, I have to keep my dictionary close…made me laugh. That time is really going to be something, isn’t it?

  5. Kathy Hall says:

    There was my question regarding Rev. 13:3. There are some over at FP who make the fatal head wound apply to the empire. Do you view it as applying to the one in the seat of authority or to the empire? The beast at the beginning of the chapter is described as having ten horns and seven heads. If I understand you correctly, the position you would take is that this is Satan or his system? Or is it Antichrist? Or both? Since the text reads that one of the beast’s head’s looked as if it had been slain to John in his vision, this would naturally seem to refer to an individual, a ruler of one of the empires. In verse four the question is asked, “Who is able to wage war with him? Who is the him? A ruler or an empire? Does the text go from an empire to a ruler when referring to the beast? I think I just confused myself…

    • Hey Kathy. Yeah that was me that tries to make the head wound be about the empire. It seems to me that whatever happens with the wound, which is by a sword, should be one to provoke a reaction out of the world that would make them wonder who could make war with the beast. It could be a wound to an individual who comes back to life. That would provoke such a reaction. Hey, who could actually make war against this guy if he just came back from the dead. But also, if one of the empires were wounded by the sword, symbolic for war, then this empire came back from such a deadly wound, then the world (those not within the ten nation confederacy) would wonder “how could anyone ever destroy this ten nation alliance since it just miraculously was healed?”

      Here’s my issue. If the head wound is strictly literal, as in it refers to the head of an individual man who is assassinated or something like that, then the sword must be literal as well. It can’t be a gun, otherwise we cross the line into symbolism.

      Either way could be the case, I just usually like to mess with people because the empire view is a very defensible view. It states “one of the heads” indicating a plurality at that point in time, pointing to one of the empires.

      Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

      -The Orange Mailman

      http://www.fulfilledprophecy.com/discussion/viewtopic.php?f=51&t=51414

  6. Kathy Hall says:

    Hmm…I’d forgotten about that discussion, and that I was involved in it…

  7. Chris W says:

    I am aware that this discussion is quite old, but I will give my ten cents for what it’s worth. I think the seven heads can easily be explained within the framework that Daniel 7 gives us. The beast of Rev 13 is a composite of the four beasts of Daniel 7, four of the seven heads belonging to “Greece”. I believe that the fourth head/phase of Greece is actually Rome, so when John says “one is”, he is referring to Rome, the fourth head of Greece. The final beast would thus be ‘end times’ Rome.

    In summary, the beast of Rev 13 is clearly an empire, not an individual. The first beast emerges from the sea (gentile) and the second from the land (jewish). The number of the beast is about the second beast, not the first. 666 is a reference to Solomon and the 666 talents of gold, referring to the fact that he became corrupt – overtaxed and exploited the people – just like this evil jewish leader does.

  8. Hey Chris- I agree that the four beasts of Daniel 7 are included in a “composite” of sorts in the beast of Revelation 13. But the beast of Revelation 13 with seven heads is explained in Revelation 17. The fourth beast of Daniel 7 is not said to have 7 heads, but it does have ten horns. I don’t think you can dismiss the idea that the Greek Empire existed in an arrangement of four different divisions all at the same time. So the four heads of the Greek Empire all existed before the rise of the Roman Empire. That would mean, to adopt your viewpoint, that there are 7 heads before we even get to the Roman Empire. That’s just my take, but thanks for your thoughts. They line up fairly close with Donald Salerno which I referred to above.

    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  9. Orange,

    I think some clarification is in order. The beast of Rev 13 is a composite of all four beasts in Daniel 7, making a total of seven heads. I think the four heads of ‘Greece’ (the third beast) are four different phases in the history of the beast, namely – Alexandrian Greece, Egyptian Greece (king of the south), Syrian Greece (king of the north) and Hellenistic Rome. The fourth beast would then be a later, demonic kingdom.

    I think this matches well with the chronology of events given in Daniel 11. Plus, it also frees us from the need to invent two previous heads that are not mentioned in any of the key texts. Babylon is the *first* beast according to Daniel 7 so there can’t be any previous beasts or heads. Donald Salerno sounds like he has more or less got it, except that he throws Macedonia in as the fourth head of Greece, when hellenistic Rome is a much better candidate. Why else would Daniel be so concerned about the fourth beast, which is “not like the others”, if it were not distinct in some way from hellenistic (Greek) Rome?

  10. Chris- The four horns of Daniel 8:8 are seen coming up all at the same time, not progressively one after another. Even secular history affirms that this was the case that Alexander’s kingdom settled into four major divisions. This accounts for the struggle in Daniel 11 between the king of the north and the king of the south. These are two contemporary divisions within the Greek Empire, thereby showing that the four kingdoms were not successive. Looking back again at the third beast, the four heads on the beast like a leopard are all seen at the same time. This shows that the final arrangement of this kingdom would consist of four divisions within the same empire at the same time. Take a look again at Daniel 8 and how the four horns come up. Thos four kingdoms are the Ptolemaic Kingdom of Egypt, the Seleucid Empire in the east, the Kingdom of Pergamon in Asia Minor, and Macedon.

    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  11. Chris W says:

    Orange,

    I think you’re right about Daniel 8, but those are horns, not heads and so they represent the rulers of those four respective kingdoms. The four heads being on the third beast at the same time does not necessarily mean that they all came up at the same time – we are not told that they didn’t come up in succession, we are simply shown a vision of a beast which already has all four heads.

    Thanks for the interaction though. My interpretation of prophecy is mostly preteristic, but I’m open to a future for national Israel – not sure about the temple/sacrifices stuff though (not that I think it’s goes against the gospel). From what I can tell, preterism and prewrath actually have a lot in common, it’s just that they place the fulfilments at different times in history. I would agree with the concept of a prewrath rapture in fact – just one which already happened 2000 years ago and only included the Apostles (the “we” of many of the Pauline epistles) and martyrs of the early church (including the 144,000 believing Jews from the twelve tribes).

    I really enjoy your thoughts on prophecy though and I like to see the interaction between the different schools.

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