The Mystery of the Harlot and Beast Explained, Revelation Chapter 17 Verses 7-18 (NASB)

    And the ANGEL said to me, "Why do you WONDER?
This is the angel (verses 1 and 3 ) who came from the temple with one of the seven bowls. I point this out because this implies that what is to be shown to John (and us) is spiritual in nature. To be sure, there are physical attributes portrayed, but they have spiritual meaning.

That this angel is going to 'coach' John is not unusual. This is what angels do (Psalm 104:1-4 (see footnotes) and Hebrews 1:4-14). However, it is curious how the angel knew that John was WONDERing. Either John verbalized his 'spirit thoughts' (verse 3), or the angel read John's thoughts. Less likely, John's facial expression showed his WONDERment. We probably have no idea what our guardian angel knows about us!

One could read this to be a mild rebuke. It's like saying, "John, aren't you aware of spiritual events around you?" More than a few times, people have told me, "I study the Bible but I skip the Revelation because it's too hard to understand". If you are reading this, praise God, you are making an attempt to be spiritually alert.
    I shall tell you the MYSTERY of
See verse 5 for a discussion of MYSTERY in the Bible.
    (1) of the WOMAN and
Part of John's WONDERing may be that the BEAST is carrying her (instead of devouring her). This may be the first time that John realizes the WOMAN, the immoral and idolatrous religious system during the tribulation, is directly involved with the BEAST, the dictator of a unified church-state totalitarian regime - the devil's twisted spiritual empire.
    (2) of the BEAST that carries her, which has the seven HEADS and the ten HORNS.
The BEAST is introduced to us in Revelation 11:7 . We see him described in similar terms in Revelation 13:1-8 . Lastly his destruction is told in Revelation 19:19-20 .

The angel now proceeds to try to unravel the MYSTERY starting with the BEAST.
    "The BEAST that you SAW
This is the same BEAST referenced in verse 3 and in Revelation 13:1 .

Clearly this is visual imagery used to depict something spiritual. Recall the angel who is speaking here came from the temple (Revelation 15:6). Saying that John "SAW" this, denotes that these predictions are taking place in the time frame of the vision (not during John's lifetime on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9) as some commentators indicate).
  • WAS and
  • IS NOT, and
  • IS ABOUT TO come up out of the ABYSS and to go to DESTRUCTION.
This is the believer's view of how Satan is trying to emulate the TRUE MESSIAH. Apparently, Satan believes if he is successful, he can make himself God since he, Satan, has given his power(s) to the BEAST (Revelation 13:1-4). Normally the ABYSS is 'locked', but in Revelation 9:1 , Satan is given the keys to the ABYSS. The way this verse puts it, there isn't much time for the BEAST to leave the ABYSS and then go to DESTRUCTION (Daniel 5:22-28).
    And those who dwell on the earth WILL WONDER, whose name has not been written in the BOOK of LIFE from the FOUNDATION of the world,
Satan's purpose is to deceive, first, God's chosen people to believe that the BEAST is their long awaited Messiah. The deception is so good that, second, many non Jews will be caught up in this too. This is what is meant by "whose name has not been written in the BOOK of LIFE".

Also, this portion of scripture is NOT proof that you are predestined for heaven if your name IS written in the BOOK of LIFE from the FOUNDATION of the world. Scripture clearly teaches that mankind has made and can make choices. Rather, this portion shows that the eternal, all-knowing God knows what your choices will be. By God's grace, you and I still can make the choice to follow Jesus Christ as the TRUE Messiah. Sadly, those 'who dwell on the earth' at the time of this vision WILL WONDER if they made the right choice.
    when they see the BEAST, that he
      WAS and
      IS NOT and
      WILL COME.
This is a restatement of the first part of this verse but this time it is from the non-believers viewpoint. These people have a nagging suspicion that they have been deceived. They HOPE upon HOPE that the BEAST WILL COME to set up the ultimate kingdom. But the BEAST is destined for DESTRUCTION.
    "Here is the mind which has WISDOM.
Wisdom and understanding in end time visions require awareness or the ability to calculate (Daniel 12:5-10-13 and Revelation 13:18). This sentence is placed here to say, in effect, "Don't predetermine what the content of this triplet of verses (verses 9-11) may mean." (Romans 11:33-36)

Ever since the seven angels came from the temple with the seven bowl judgments (Revelation 15:8 and Revelation 17:1), the context of this scripture is spiritual. To try to place this triplet into geopolitical terms (mostly Rome) is not demonstrating WISDOM in my viewpoint. Rather, we must continue to be alert to current events to recognize when these things will come to pass (perhaps within our lifetimes???). This is equivalent to having oil in the lamps in anticipation for the wedding (Matthew 25:1-13).
    The seven HEADS are seven MOUNTAINS on which the woman sits,
MOUNTAINS in prophetical writings have referred to world powers (Isaiah 2:2-4 ; Jeremiah 51:24-26 ; Daniel 2:31-35 ; Zechariah 4:1-7). In this context, these are worldwide spiritual powers.

Consistently throughout Revelation, the number seven indicates completeness. Then this portion means that the seven HEADS are the complete organizational embodiment of the evil power of the beast. Also, the woman, the socioreligious organization in power at this time, is freely transported worldwide by the beast. That is, there will be no travel restrictions on those who have taken the mark of the beast. Note, though, that the beast puts up with this arrangement as long as the woman is useful to him (verse 16).

With the hindsight of September 11th, one could argue this represents seven major terrorist cells operating worldwide. What little we do know of al Quaida, it has strong religious overtones and is well funded with "oil money" (Revelation 18:15).
    and they are seven KINGS;
Nearly all commentaries try to identify these KINGS as either great empires or great leaders. Many try to name specific empires, but, this is risky in light of the first sentence of the previous verse .

The most that should be said is that seven is the number of completion in Revelation. Therefore, this should be interpreted as being the sum of the "character" of the beast. Furthermore, since the Bible is primarily an "Abraham" book, the Jewish and Arabic viewpoints should be predominant.
    five have fallen,
At the time this vision/explanation is happening, five spiritual eras or entities (this verse doesn't distinguish) that have tormented the Jews will have disappeared. While they could have been empires in the distant past of Jewish history, they could also be abstract entities which have spiritual impact. For example, they may be humanism (Genesis 3:1-7), naturism (Romans 1:24-25), atheism (1 John 5:6-10-12), polytheism (1 Corinthians 8:1-6), or materialism (Revelation 18:9-16). After the 7 seal judgments, the 7 trumpet judgments, and the 7 bowl judgments, these KINGS (kingdoms) are likely to be greatly diminished.

We know that the beast (devil) has kingdoms. He tried to give them to Jesus if only Jesus would worship before the devil (Luke 4:5-8). Apparently, at this point in the tribulation, five of these kingdoms, whatever they may be, are done away with.
    one is,
Relative to our lifetime, this probably is the Moslem world. However, this also could be hypocrite Christianity (Matthew 7:21-29).
    the other has not yet come;
Since this is beyond our relative horizon, we cannot know what this seventh KING (kingdom) is. We do know that the Antichrist is part of it (next verse).
    and when he comes, he must remain a little while.
This final attempt at suppressing or exterminating God's chosen people (see verse 14) will only last a short time (as in Revelation 12:12).

What is striking about this phrase is its indefiniteness. Normally, earlier in the Revelation, times are very precise (Revelation 9:5 , Revelation 9:15 , and Revelation 11:3). Perhaps it is written this way so that the devil will not know how much "little while" he has. He can read or hear scripture, too.
    "And the BEAST which was and is not, is himself also an EIGHTH,
This verse restates verse 8 . This is the same BEAST described in Revelation 13:1-8 . The conclusion then is that this is the antiChrist himself.

"which was" refers to his mortal life, "is not" refers to his apparent dearth, and "is himself" denotes his 'resurrection' into his supermortal life. To Jews still looking for the Messiah, the antiChrist through his imitation of Jesus' life, crucifixion, and resurrection is very convincing. Jesus himself had warned this would happen (Mark 13:14-23). Ironically, for Jews to accept the antiChrist as the Messiah, the antiChrist must either be a Jew or an exceptional impostor.

To be the EIGHTH means that not only does the antiChrist wholeheartedly participate in the wickedness of all the seven kingdoms, but also is the embodiment of this wickedness in superhuman form. The dragon (Revelation 13:4) has given him a personal pride and arrogance which will set him apart from all other mortals. See the "little horn" of Daniel 7:8 .
    and is one of the SEVEN,
In the previous verse, we defined the SEVEN as abstract concepts. They could just as easily be socioreligious entities such as Protestants, Catholics, Moslems, Buddhists, Jews, and such. We are not given a clue what the seven "kingdoms" are; so the reader/student of the Revelation MUST ever be aware of the world's religious landscape. Since the Bible is so closely tied to the Jews, God's chosen people, true believers must ever watch events in Israel. Interestingly, even the secular press instinctively knows this and gives disproportionate news coverage about Israel
    and he goes to DESTRUCTION.
After "remaining a little while" (previous verse), this simple sentence marks the end of the BEAST. Revelation 19:20 identifies the location of this DESTRUCTION.
    "And the ten HORNS which you saw are ten KINGS, who have not yet received a KINGDOM,
Was this what Daniel saw (Daniel 7:1-7-11)?

"who have not yet received a KINGDOM" could be interpreted as:
  1. during John's lifetime
  2. until the tribulation period
  3. until the brief "loosing" of the Devil (Revelation 20:7-10)
  4. without geopolitical boundaries but nonetheless an operational unit, e.g. al Quada.
    but they receive AUTHORITY as KINGS with the BEAST for one hour.
If you take the Daniel 9:27 one week as the seven years of tribulation as most scholars do, then this one hour is roughly 15 days. On the other hand, if you take 2 Peter 3:8-13 , then we have a time range of a hundred of a second to 41+ days. Given these large time conversion differences, many scholars take this to mean for a brief period of time.

Due to the precision of time in the rest of Revelation, this probably is a literal one hour. The 9/11/2001 initial acts took place within one hour so this is plausible. One cannot be sure how long one hour is, though, at this time in the tribulation given the "time changes" that may have occurred during earlier judgments (for example, the fourth trumpet in Revelation 8:12).
    "These have one purpose
Usually political kingdoms can't agree. Consider how many countries have been formed due to ethnic differences alone. Even in the Mideast where one would hope to find unity among ethnic lines, we find many splinter (often violent) organizations. So something unusual has taken place to cause this oneness of purpose.
    and they give their POWER and AUTHORITY to the BEAST.
Strange way to put this since the BEAST is a "puppet" regime too (Revelation 13:2). Or another view, the devil uses these 10 short-term rulers, powers, and world forces of this darkness (Ephesians 6:10-20) to fulfill Revelation 13:2.
This is just a statement of what actually happens in Revelation 19 . This is a spiritual WAR and fulfills the prophesy given in Zechariah 14:1-2 .
This fulfills the continuation of the prophesy in Zechariah 14:3-8 . The details of how this will be accomplished are given in Revelation 19:11-21 .

Recall that the sword comes from Jesus mouth (Revelation 1:16) which means this WAR is a war of words of TRUTH (John 14:1-11). The words will be spoken by One who has AUTHORITY (verses physical control of the earth; although the Lamb has that also). It is the same AUTHORITY
            because HE is LORD of lords and KING of kings,

This is confirmed in Revelation 19:16 . Apparently these titles were commonly used among the New Testament believers (1 Timothy 6:11-15-16). In the Old Testament, the title was "God of gods" (Deuteronomy 10:17).
    and those who are with Him are the
Those who are with Him are not spectators but active combatants (see Matthew 10:24-33 ; Jude 1:14 ; Daniel 7:9-10-11 ; and Zechariah 14:5).

Related spiritually to:
CALLED (2 Timothy 1:9 and 1 Peter 2:4-10) and
SALVATION (Romans 1:1-6-7)
CHOSEN (Ephesians 1:3-4-14; Colossians 3:12-17; Matthew 22:1-14; 1 Peter 2:4-6-10; and Psalm 89:19-37) and
FAITHFUL." (Matthew 25:14-30 and 1 John 5:1-4-5)
STEWARDSHIP or Endurance (Revelation 22:11 and Revelation 2:8-10)

    And he said to me,
This most likely is the same angel speaking in verses 1 and 7 . Most often throughout the Revelation, angels are talking with John. The major exception, of course, is the original command to write the book of the Revelation (Revelation 1:10-19).
    "The WATERS which you saw where the HARLOT sits, are
This expression seems a bit odd. When one sits on water (unless it is ice), one sinks under. However, read how Jesus describes the last days in Luke 21:25-28 and His use of the sea and the waves. While the literal sea and waves may be "roaring" causing perplexity, if water is the container of spirit(s), then this verse here in Revelation indicates that the HARLOT will control or suppress any of the raging opposition to the beast (and the 10 kings). As a sidelight, look how much the 10 kings appreciate what the socioreligious organization (HARLOT) did for them (next verse).
Finally, the way this angel talks about "the WATERS", he may well be the angel of the WATERS (Revelation 16:4-7). The use of the past tense "SAW", indicates that the third angel has poured out his bowl already.
PEOPLES (individuals) and
MULTITUDES (groups of individuals) and
NATIONS (individuals within physical boundaries) and
TONGUES (individuals within ethnic cultures).
It is clear that this includes every being with a soul. Considering the major calamities the earth has gone through with the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments, it is amazing that these people are not dispersed and off seeking their own revenge or salvation. However, these people are under the total control of the Babylonian HARLOT (socioreligious empire).

One should be aware that from these same WATERS, we, the redeemed, have come (Revelation 5:9). Praise the Lord that we are FROM these WATERS and not IN THEM (John 15:18-19-27)!
    "And the ten horns which you saw, and the BEAST, these
This is a reference back to verse 12 . These are "evil" horns as they are on the BEAST. But there are "good" horns too (Revelation 5:6). So again we see the conflict between "good" and "evil" (Genesis 2:15-17). This conflict has kept all of us from the tree of life (Genesis 3:20-24 and Revelation 22:1-2,18-19 ). Since these horns are located on the head, where "thinking" takes place, this indicates that the four steps below are a CONSCIOUS effort.
    1)   will HATE the HARLOT and
The ten leaders will openly start showing contempt for the socioreligious consortium (harlot) now in control of the earth. However, because the BEAST wants everything, even this consortium must go. He, the BEAST, wants to control the entire earth himself. This implies that the ten leaders are puppet regimes.

Throughout history, it is not unusual for political organizations to tolerate or even embrace religion when it deems it convenient or expedient. Yet underneath, one gets the sense that there is a mistrust between both parties. Hatred and envy work like that.
    2)   will make her DESOLATE and NAKED, and
After the hatred comes the conscious effort to deprive the consortium of its wealth. With the funding removed, the supporters will quickly leave, leaving the consortium NAKED. At this point the religious part of the consortium has nothing to offer, and the consortium loses its power to rule.
    3)   will eat her FLESH and
Just as the flesh is the outward appeal of our physical body, so, too, the appeal of the consortium disappears. The consortium is taken over (eaten) by the ten leaders and the BEAST.

The FLESH here is used in similar manner as Micah (Micah 3:1-4) and David (Psalm 27:1-6) used this expression. It is the deliberate consuming of life sustaining organization.
    4)   will burn her up with FIRE.
This is consistent with the Old Testament punishment for Levitical harlotry (Leviticus 21:1-9). The socioreligious consortium will be totally eradicated. The ten leaders do not want this alliance to ever become viable again. Be aware however, that this is one of the ways a strong God executes judgment.
    "For God has put it in their hearts to EXECUTE HIS PURPOSE
Even in judgment, God's plan ALWAYS is executed. Mankind may believe that they control a 'KINGDOM' (Psalm 75:6-8), but, at best, they can really only make choices for themselves individually . This is particularly true in spiritual matters. God doesn't accept the notion of 'power of attorney' or 'class actions'.

Compare how Paul describes this as a 'deluding influence' (2 Thessalonians 2:1-11-12).
    a)    by having a COMMON PURPOSE, and
This phrase echoes verse 13 .
    b)    by giving their KINGDOM to the BEAST,
The transfer is complete. In verse 13 , just their power and authority were given. But now these 10 horns give their KINGDOM (singular, implying they were only governors in a larger KINGDOM) to the BEAST.
    until the WORDS OF GOD should be fulfilled.
While these WORDS may be taken to refer only to those spoken here in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, in a broader sense, they are those spoken throughout eternity (that we know about through the Bible). They would include the creation (Genesis 1:3-5 through Genesis 3:22-24), and correlate with the redemption process (Revelation 5:1). Before the "sin curse" was placed on the earth, God spoke and saw that "it was GOOD" (physically and spiritually). God now is using evil leadership to separate evil from good or the tares from the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). Once the tares are burned, the earth can be returned to its "GOOD" status. Interestingly, it doesn't matter what status in life a person has attained. Whether primitive native or sophisticated socialite, politician or common citizen, highly educated or intellectually challenged, one always struggles with spiritual/moral values.  See the list in Revelation 21:8 of those persons who choose the wrong values.
From a prophetic viewpoint, this verse will confirm Revelation 14:8 , Jeremiah 25:8-14 , and Zechariah 14:1-9.
    "And the WOMAN whom you saw is THE GREAT CITY,
Several times Babylon (the name of the WOMAN), is referred to as GREAT (Revelation 17:5 , Revelation 14:8 , Revelation 16:19 , and Revelation 18:10). One senses that THE GREAT CITY is not a specific city but rather refers to a large collection of people (that really is what cities are). In particular, these are people whose names are NOT written in the book of life (verse 8). They have openly and angrily directed their hatred at believers (names written in the book of life) to the point of spilling the believer's blood (verse 6).

Most often in the past, scholars have placed the GREAT CITY as Rome with its papacy or Jerusalem (Revelation 11:8). If one considers that since the bowl judgments, most of the Revelation is spiritual in nature, then Jerusalem makes good sense. Both Jews and Arabs, religously, uphold Jerusalem as one of their most sacred cities.
    which reigns over the KINGS of the EARTH."
Since the 10 kings/horns are not mentioned here specifically, this has a broader meaning. It means all the world's leadership at this time of the tribulation. Most likely there will only be one worldwide government which will have expunged organized religion (see verse 16). With the Beast (AntiChrist) now the only one left to worship, the only things remaining to be purged from the earth are the evils of idolatry and its friend, greed. As we will see in the next chapter, verses 8 and 11-19 , this economic structure too will be gone.

The difficulty we have in interpreting this verse is that we have a hard time imagining what will be left of this earth after the seals, trumpets, and bowls judgments. Certainly the population will have been severely reduced (Revelation 6:8 and Revelation 9:15), geography mostly rearranged and flattened (Revelation 16:20), and the World Health Organization will be backlogged trying to catalog and understand all the new medical plagues being experienced by the people (Revelation 16:2). All organized religion will be wiped out in favor of only worshipping the AntiChrist/Devil. One has to ask, what are the KINGS of the EARTH really controlling.........and what is the WOMAN controlling when she/they are reigning over the KINGS of the EARTH?
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 Used by permission."

References to the Revelation of Jesus Christ are in bold italics. All other references are in bold only