Revelation 17:
Dating the Book of Revelation and Commentary

 

February 23, 2003

 

In New Testament times the apostle Paul and others often spoke and wrote about judgment that was about to come upon the first century people:

 

God...now commands all men every where to repent:  Because he has appointed a day, in which he is about to judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance unto all men, in that he has raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31)

 

Many partial preterists insist the Matthew 25 has not been fulfilled because the judgment of the nations did not take place in the first century.  If it did not Paul was radically confused, not inspired.

 

And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.  And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment about to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. (Acts 24:24-25)

 

Why did Felix “tremble”?  Certainly not because of righteousness or temperance, but because he clearly understood with Paul that the judgment of Yahweh was about to come in his life time in that generation!

 

Paul told Timothy essentially the same thing:

 

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who is about to judge the living and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; (2 Timothy 4:1)

 

The above passages and many other similar passages make it very clear that the judgment of the “wrath of” Jesus Christ was about to descend on the people of the first century.  This judgment (among other things) was to bring about the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem (Matt. 24:2 et al.) Thus we ask ourselves the question – how was this judgment to occur?  Who or what was going to carry out this judgment and destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem?  For our answer to this we now turn to the book of Revelation:

 

The beast that you saw was, and is not; and is about to ascend out of the abyss, and go unto destruction: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. (Revelation 17:8)

 

When John wrote this passage, he declared that “the beast” was about to come up out of the abyss and go unto the destruction.  The full context of this passage is one of the very best internal evidences for a late 60’s AD date for the writing of the Revelation!  In order to recognize this, of course, it is very important to understand what John is really writing about in this and related verses.  We submit for your consideration that very, very few have ever understood this verse and its related context. 

 

Of special interest to us in this context is information about the “bottomless pit.”  Many Christians are very uncertain about the identity of the bottomless pit or abyss although most ostensibly think it has something to do with their concept of “hell”.  In reference to Revelation 17:8 one such person wrote, “Whatever is meant by the bottomless pit, the text does say that the beast will go to perdition or destruction”[1] (Emphasis mine).  He obviously assumes that John’s statement means the beast will go to his own personal destruction, as he stated, “Even unbelievers will be astonished at the fall of the beast…”[2] (Emphasis mine).  While this seems to be the assumption of most modern Christians, we think that this is an unwarranted assumption.  We can find nothing in the context of Revelation 17 about the fall or the destruction of this beast. 

 

John wrote:

 

The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to ascend out of the abyss, and go unto destruction, and those who dwell on the land (of the abyss) will marvel, whose names are not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not and yet is.

 

This verse states that the beast is about to ascend out of the abyss and those who live on the land (of Judaea) will marvel when they see the beast that was, and is not and yet is.  The text is clear the people will marvel when they see the beast!  Nothing is said about the destruction of the beast.  However, the text does say that “he will go unto destruction.”   While very few have done so, the obvious question that all Bible students should ask themselves here is the destruction of what?  It seems that the modern Christian community has assumed, without due consideration, that the text is about the destruction of the beast.  We do not think that this is the case.  As this text is not clear on this matter, we need to carefully examine the context of this verse to find our answer.

 

In verse one of this 17th chapter, John is told that he is to be shown the “judgment of the whore.”  Old and New Testaments speak in unison and conclusively that the “whore” is Jerusalem – the southern kingdom of Judah.  Thus the full context of this passage is “the destruction of Jerusalem.”  It is obvious that Bowman (and many others) would agree with this conclusion because he stated repeatedly in his book “that God had targeted Jerusalem of divine judgment.” (Page 23)  He even goes so far as to state that “the Roman Empire…was soon to attack and conquer the Jewish nation.” (Page 27)  He also stated “that the beast is the Roman Empire at the time of the reign of Nero.”  Therefore, we conclude that the “destruction” of verse 8 is the destruction of the whore, not the destruction of the beast as Bowman and nearly everyone else has mistakenly assumed!  There is much more evidence for this in the remaining contest of chapter 17.

 

According to verse 3, John is taken (in the spirit) into the wilderness and shown a vision of the whore and the beast upon which she was riding.  Here the whore is identified as “drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.”  This description can identify none other than the apostate Judaism in Jerusalem.

 

In addition to the “whore” John is shown a great “scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.”  As Bowman has stated (page 29), and as all Bible students “in the know” agree this beast is the Roman Empire.  Verse 10 tells John’s first century audience that there are “eight kings” of this Empire of which they should be cognizant.  We could not help but notice that although Bowman correctly identified the first seven kings[3], he made no mention of the eighth king.  We could not help but wonder why? 

 

According to verse 11, the “beast” that John described in verse 8 is to be that “eighth” King (Caesar) of the Roman Empire. 

 

As has been noted above, in verse 8 John describes the beast (eighth king of Roman Empire) as “the beast thatwas, and is not, and is about to come up out…” What is this riddle that John puts forth?  Very few modern Bible students have understood this riddle, however Bowman got quite close when he stated, “’the beast that was’ as the past Roman persecution, the beast that ‘is not’ as a pause in the Roman persecution, and the beast that ‘yet is’ as a renewal of Roman persecution.”[4]  He erred because he forgot that the context of this statement is the destruction of the whore, not the Roman persecution of the Christians.    The reason that most modern Bible students do not understand this riddle is because they fail to put it in the proper context.  Remember the context of this whole passage is the “judgment of the whore” – thus the destruction of Jerusalem!  John’s riddle thus means that this man who “is about to come up…” and become the eighth king of the Roman Empire “was” (previous to his coming up and becoming king) involved in the judgment-destruction of the whore-Jerusalem, but at the time in which John was writing the Revelation he “is not” involved in the judgment-destruction of the whore-Jerusalem, but he “is about to come up” into his kingship and in that capacity he will return to the work of the judgment -“destruction” of Jerusalem.

 

Where is this man who is going to be the eighth king of the Roman Empire?  John informs us that he is about to go up out of the abyss.”  What and where is this abyss?

 

Traditional Christian “wisdom” has associated the abyss with their concept of hell.  Thus it is generally taught that this is some strange creature that comes from hell or as Bowman states this “has been interpreted as ‘the invisible demonic habitat’ and ‘the domain of heathenism.’”[5]  We don’t think so, and we think we have clear and strong biblical evidence for our thoughts!  First, in context all the kings (Caesars) of the Rome Empire were flesh and blood human men, thus this eighth king must also have been a flesh and blood human.  If hell is what the Christian church has taught that it is, no man ever did or ever will come out of hell to rule the Roman Empire!  Thus if this eighth king did not come up out of hell, where was he and from whence did he come?  In other words – what and where is John’s abyss?

 

Remember the context here is “the judgment of the whore!”  Verses 16-17 inform us that the whore was hated, made desolate and naked, her flesh eaten and she was burned with fire.  In other words she was “judged and destroyed!”  This whore was located in the land of Judaea, thus the judgment of the whore would take place in Judaea.

 

A Hebrew prophet, psalmist informs us:

 

The transgression of the wicked [Jew] says…that there is no fear of God before his eyes.  For he flatters himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.  The words of his mouth are iniquity and deceit: he hath left off to be wise, and to do good.  He devises mischief…O Yahweh…thy judgments [upon these iniquities] are an abyss: (Psalms 36:1-6, in part, emphasis added)

 

In Revelation 17 Yahshua God is showing the judgment-destruction He is about to bring down upon the whore.  It is established that the whore is Jerusalem in Judaea.  Thus putting the information from the Hebrew psalmist-prophet with the information from the Hebrew apostle-prophet we can now see that John’s “abyss” is the first century place of Yahweh’s judgment for sin which is Jerusalem in Judaea!  Thus the land of Judaea of the first century Jews is John’s abyss!  This is the place where Yahweh’s judgment was to take place.

 

Bowman got very close to this truth when he stated, “the land of Judaea had become a target area for the just and holy judgment of God,” (Page 41) “God had singled out Judaea for divine judgment,” (Page 46) “…so the mighty angels in this passage really means the Roman soldiers that Christ used as his messengers of justice (emphasis mine) to punish the Jewish persecutors.  The words, ‘flaming fire’ means the ‘flaming fire of war’ which Christ used to destroy the harlot city of Jerusalem and its temple,” and “the bottomless pit is symbolic of divine punishment.”  Unfortunately he did not find the connection to Psalm 36:6 and did not follow it all the way to its proper biblical conclusion.

 

Now we must ask – was there a man in the land of Judaea (the abyss) who had been involved in the judgment of Judaea, but at the time John wrote Revelation was not active, and who soon left Judaea to become a Roman Emperor and who as the king of the Roman Empire ordered the judgment-destruction of Judaea?  There certainly was and his name was Vespasian, the Roman General who had been sent to Judaea by Nero to take over the Roman army which was already in that land and to prosecute the judgment-war against the Jews in that land.

 

There is a very interesting comment in Josephus about a “sacred oracle” that ostensibly applies to this Revelation passage.  Josephus states:

 

But now, what did most elevate them in undertaking this war was an ambiguous oracle (Rev.17:10-11) that was also found in their sacred writings, how, “about that time, one from their own country (this shows that the Jews understood John’s bottomless pit to be “their own land”) should become governor (Caesar) of the habitable earth (Roman Empire).”   The (apostate) Jews took this prediction to belong to themselves in particular; and many wise men were thereby deceived in their determination.  Now this oracle certainly denoted the government of Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea. (WOTJ Book VI, ch.V, Sec.4, emphasis and comment added)

 

According to Josephus, The Roman army wanted Vespasian to become emperor because of his age, excellent character, experience and military record.  They also considered Vespasian and his son Titus as the "dynamic duo" that would be able to salvage the Roman Empire with Vespasian as king and his son Titus leading the army.  When Vespasian went to Rome to officially begin his reign, Titus returned to Judaea

to continue the prosecution of the war against the Jews and was "sent (by Vespasian) to destroy Jerusalem"  which he eventually did. In his writings, Josephus often refers to Titus as "Caesar" even while Vespasian was the ruling monarch. (Wars Of The Jews, Book III, ch. 1, sec.3 p.502 - ch. 10, P.546)

 

According to the historical accounts, especially Josephus, Vespasian became the general of Nero’s army in Judaea and proceeded to prosecute the war against the Jews (“was”), however, while doing that Vespasian and the army heard about the death of Nero.  At that time Vespasian placed the war in abeyance pending the placement of the new king.  During this time of inaction (“is not”) in Judaea and chaos in the Empire, the Roman soldiers began to persuade Vespasian to become the new Caesar.  After considerable hesitation Vespasian finally succumbed to the urging of the troops and with the approval of Alexander of Egypt, he agreed to permit them to anoint him the eighth Caesar of Rome (“about to come up out of the abyss”).  Vespasian then proceeded to Rome, dispatching Vitellius’ army on the way, and became the eighth king which John described in Revelation 17.

 

In the clear light of this information let us now take another look at verse 8 and its pertinent context and true meaning as shown below:

 

The beast (eighth king of the Roman Empire) that you saw was (involved in the war against the Jews), and is not (currently prosecuting the war); and is about to come up out (ascend) out of the abyss (Judaea), and lead [the kingdom] unto [the] destruction [of Jerusalem-Judaea (Jews)]: and they that dwell on the land (the apostate Jews)  shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast (the eighth Roman Caesar) that was (involved in the war), and is not (currently prosecuting that war), and yet is (in the land). And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains (the reign of the seven kings), on which the woman (Jerusalem) sits.  And there are seven kings: five (Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, & Claudius) are fallen, and one is (Nero), and the other (Galba) is not yet come; and when he (Galba) comes, he must continue a short space (seven months).  And the beast (Caesar-king) that was (in the abyss prosecuting the war against the Jews), and is not (currently prosecuting the war), even he is the eighth (Roman Caesar-king), and is of the seven (Chief General of the Empire under Nero), and leads unto the destruction (of Jerusalem). (Revelation 17:8-11)

 

 

The “ten kings” of verse 12 receive their power when Vespasian becomes Caesar, and being of “one mind…(they) give their power and strength unto “the beast” (Vespasian).  Verse 14 explains that these ten kings shall make war with (Greek: “meta,” this does not mean against as erroneously given in many “modern” translations) the Lamb.

 

If this passage means that the “ten kings” fight against the Lamb and the Lamb “overcomes them” as many modern translations render this passage, then it is totally out of context.  Remember the context is “the judgment of the whore” and her destruction as given in verses 16-17, it is not about the destruction of the Roman Empire or any of its kings.

The Greek word ("autos") which the KJV and others translate "them" is an improper translation.  Here is the definition of autos from two lexicons:

"846 autov autos ow-tos’ from the particle au [perhaps akin to the base of 109 through the idea of a baffling wind] (backward);  pron.

AV-him 1952, his 1084, their 318, he 253, her 242, they 121, same 80, himself 58, misc 1679; 5787

1) himself, herself,  themselves, itself

2) he, she, it 

 

846. ~autov~ autos; an intensive pron., a prim. word; (1) \@self \@(emphatic) (2) \@he,

she, it\@ (used for the third person pronoun)


  This word "autos" is used and translated "her" in numerous other places in Revelation.  Two of the most informative are:

Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. "And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. "Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. "I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:20-23 NKJV, emphasis added)

Before we look at some other verses, take a good look at the verse above.  In these verses "her" is a reference to the "whore" Jezebel, probably a NT metaphor for apostate Jews, as is the synagogue of satan in 2:9 & 3:9. 

 

Now look at the next passage:

And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement. But the angel said to me, "Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. (Revelation 17:5-7 NKJV)

The subject matter of chapter 17 is "the judgment of the whore" (1) "come here and I will show you the judgment of the great whore."  The rest of this chapter details the judgment and destruction of this "great whore."  Contrary to poor exegesis and presumptive thinking, the context and subject of verse is still the judgment of the whore.  Jerusalem is the "great whore" and the "beast and the ten kings that receive power with the beast" are God's agents of vengeance and wrath upon this "great whore."  Verse 14 has nothing to do with the judgment upon the beast and the ten horns as many erroneously think, but everything to do with the judgment and punishment of the "great whore" by God's agency of vengeance and wrath.  "These be the days of vengeance." The time of vengeance upon the whore, Jerusalem!.

Now look at verse 14 again, amplified this time by proper exegesis:

And the ten horns that you saw, are ten kings, who a kingdom did not yet receive, but authority as kings the same hour do receive with the beast, these have one mind, and their own power and authority to the beast they shall give over; these, with the Lamb shall make war (against the great whore. See what they do to her in verses 16-18), and the Lamb shall overcome her (the great whore), because Lord of lords he is, and King of kings, and those with him (the beast and the ten kings and their armies) are called, and choice, and stedfast (to carry out the will of the Lamb [v 17].  (Revelation 17:12-14 LT)

Context, context, CONTEXT!!!!!!  HOW MANY TIMES DO WE NEED TO HERE IT? CONTEXT!!!

The first portion of verse 14 is clear, the beast and the ten kings make war with the Lamb, not against him.   In other words the beast and the ten kings unite, and are brought under the power of the Lamb (overcome) to do his will to make war against the whore.  This is verified in verses 16-17:

 

And the ten horns which you saw 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 (the Lamb) hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. (Revelation 17:16-17)

 

In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul urges the Roman Christians to not attempt to “avenge” themselves against their persecutors (primarily the Jews) but rather to allow the wrath (judgment) of God to do its work (Romans 12:19ff).  Then Paul continues:

 

…the [Roman] powers that be (the beast and the ten kings) are ordained of God.  Whosoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves judgment (Gk. “krima” cf. Rev. 17:1).  For rulers are…a terror to…the evil…if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he bears not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him (persecutors) that doeth evil. (Romans 13:2-4)

 

 

In Revelation 19:11ff John describes the Lamb coming forth as a conquering king:

 

And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he does judge and make war.  His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.  And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.  And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.  And out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.  And he has on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.  And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.  And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war with (Not against as in AV. Gk. meta, cf. Rev. 17:14) him that sat on the horse, and with (Not against as in AV. Gk. meta, cf. Rev. 17:14) his army. (Revelation 19:11-19, emphasis and comments added)

 

The above is John’s description of the climax of the destruction of Jerusalem as a result of the Lamb’s judgment.  The great armies of the beast (Vespasian and the ten kings) in submission to do the will of the Lamb bring destruction to the whore.  However, at this point John makes an interesting adjustment in his language.  In verse 20 John describes the whore using the words by which he had described her in the 13th chapter of Revelation:

 

And I beheld another beast coming up out of the land; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon.  And he exercised all the power of the first beast before him, and caused the land and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.  And he doeth great wonders, so that he makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceived them that dwell on the earth by the means of those wonders which he had power to do in the sight of the [first] beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the [first] beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.  And he had power to give life unto the image of the [first] beast, that the image of the [first] beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the [first] beast should be killed.  And he caused all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:  And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the [first] beast, or the number of his name.  Here is wisdom. Let him that has understanding count the number of the [first] beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six. (Revelation 13:11-18)

 

Thus John describes the fate of the second beast of Revelation 13:11-18 at “the hands” of the armies of the beast (Vespasian) and the ten kings.  Thus “the powers that be” have borne the sword, become the avenger, and delivered the wrath of God upon Jerusalem and the apostate first century Jews:

 

And the [second] beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the [first] beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both [the second beast & the false prophet] were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone [Jerusalem in the process of destruction].  And the remnant [of apostate Jews] were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword [of prophecy fulfilled] proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:11-21 AV)

 

Thus just as John and Paul had declared, in 70 AD the armies of the beast and the ten kings delivered the “wrath of God” by sacking and burning Jerusalem (Apostate Judaism, the second beast of Rev.13:11-18) to carry out the will of the Lamb.

 

If the reader is interested in more details about these things you may acquire our paper on the “Thousand Years” for a donation of $5.00.

 

Much very useful information about the angel (messenger) and the key etc. can be gleaned from chapter 9.  If you are interested in the details you can acquire our paper entitled “The Abyss” for a donation of $5.00.

 

We would really appreciate your consideration and evaluation of the above material.  Comments and questions are most welcome.

 

That TRUTH may prevail!

 

In the service of the reigning King,

 

Lloyd Dale, Founder and CEO

Olive Tree Ministries

 



[1] Bowman, George M. Revelation 17-22 Re-examined, page 29.

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid, pages 31-32.

[4] Ibid, page 28.

[5] Ibid