The Revelation of John – chapter 17: The Kings of the Earth

9 Dec

I am continuing on with Revelation. In this series I have been comparing John’s vision with books with similar prophecies, such as Daniel, as well as section 77 of the Doctrine and Covenants, which gives interpretations to a selected portion of the images of the Revelation. I also rely heavily on the Joseph Smith Translation (JST – given in red).

See also chapter one,  two, three, four, five, first five seals, Sixth Seal I, Sixth Seal II, Seventh Seal Opens, First Four Trumpets, Fifth Trumpet, Sixth Trumpet, Ten, Witnesses, Seventh Trumpet, Twelve I, Twelve II, The Beast, The Mark, Three Angels, Two Harvests, Righteous, Plagues, Whore

Chapter 17

Verse 9

And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.

Most take this to refer to Rome, which was known as the city built on seven hills. I think that God was drawing on this imagery when the Angel gave this interpretation, but I think there is more to the meaning. In other prophecies the Lord uses the idea of a mountain to mean governments, or organizations (see Isaiah 2: 2, Ezekiel 17: 22, Micah 4: 1, and 2 Nephi 12: 2), and I think the same thing is being done here. The heads are seven kingdoms, or nations, that have been the center for this culture of corruption throughout the earth’s history.

 

Verse 10

And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.

Verse nine told us there were seven kingdoms, which is confirmed here in that there are seven kings. Those who see this as Rome see these kings are Roman emperors, but let us take a wider view, as we did in verse nine.

Let us consider that at the time that John is writing five of these kingdoms have already fallen, and John is living in the time of the sixth. John lived during the Roman empire, so we can conclude that Rome is the sixth kingdom, and the Emperor (as a title and position) is the ‘one that is.’

So, what are the five that have fallen? Looking back in history, there are five great empires that have basically ruled the known world, and each was a seat of great corruption. These five, in chronological order, are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. So, these are the five that are fallen.

However, the seventh had not yet come when John wrote this vision. Here there is no real indication of what it is, except that it would “continue a short space.” To make any comment as to what or who this seventh kingdom is would be pure speculation.

I am inclined to think it is the Holy Roman Empire which held power for only a brief time, and was a center for all forms of corruption. This could also represent the entire feudal state of the middle ages. This is just my opinion, however.

 

Verse 11

And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.

Now we see that there are actually eight kings. The seven heads represent seven kings, but the beast itself is an eighth, which comes out of the seven, or is born of them. Again, to try and say what this king is would be speculation.

In my opinion it does not represent a political kingdom, or nation, but a worldwide organization the works within many governments. It comes out of the other seven, as it is conceived and born as a reaction to the feudal state. It is the beast because it is inspired and directed by Satan. It is the final great secret combination that Moroni warned us of in Ether chapter 8. It seeks to overthrow the freedom of all people. It does so, not by conquest and subjugation, but through temptation and corruption, and so it supports the great whore Babylon.

 

Verses 12-13

And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.

What these kings are is again a matter of speculation. I believe they are organizations that either have, or will join with the beast. These are groups that formed for their own ends, but to increase their power and influence they seek out the eighth king and support him in his wickedness and partake of the cup that Babylon carries, full of abominations and filthiness. I will not speculate as to what these organizations are; only that by themselves they never grew powerful enough to be likened unto kingdoms.

 

Verse 14

These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.

Besides the general corruption and wickedness associated with Babylon the ten kings without kingdoms will actively fight against God, against the church of God, and against the people of God. They will specifically target the saints in an attempt to destroy them and drive Christ and the gospel from the earth.

But there is comfort here, for God will overcome. Christ is Lord of lords, and King of kings. He will overcome all his enemies. Those who follow him and called and chosen, and so will triumph with Christ.

 

Verse 15

And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.

This shows that the entire world has taken part in the corruptions and wickedness of Babylon, to the point that the people themselves support the culture.

 

Verse 16-17

And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.

These verses explain the self destructive nature of the culture of violence and corruption. They support the culture of corruption, but will eventually turn on it as such a culture cannot be sustained. I do not believe that this has happened yet, but will soon. When it does the ten kings will become fully aligned with the great organization that is the beast. This is the final judgment against the corruption of the last days.

This gathering of the evil organizations into the beast sounds very much like the gathering of armies and the wars that John spoke of in chapter 9 and chapter 11.

 

Verse 18

And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.

This last verse merely reinforces the identity of the woman as the culture of corruption that holds power over all the governments of the earth.

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