I thought I would avoid the vision portions of Revelation in my daily blog just because of the complexity and diversity of interpretations, but it is just too interesting to pass up. Plus, there is some bad interpretations that have captivated mainstream America by it’s sensationalism by interpreting things as if they were connected to present day. (The events, beasts, and kings don’t have to be a reference to 20th or 21st C things to have relevance and application for today.)
Anyway, this verse is pretty graphic:
And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. (Rev 17:3)
So, who is this woman and what is the scarlet beast? Hmmm… The best way to interpret Revelation is to follow the author’s own instruction in doing so. He interprets this for us on the passage to a degree.
But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. (v. 7)
John goes on to explain:
This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; (v. 9)
Here is a geographic description of the seven heads: seven mountains. This is a reference to Rome. 1st century readers (who we must remember are John’s intended readers) would have known this clearly as Rome. Rome was famously known for being built upon 7 hills. Nearly every ancient writer refers to these 7 hills when referencing Rome. So who is the woman? Verse 5 says, “And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” Babylon was not a world power in John’s day, but was used as a reference to Rome (see 1 Peter 5:13, “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.”). In fact, Archeologists have discovered the coin (or medallion) of Vespasian depicting the goddess “Roma” as a woman seated on seven hills.
Joh continues to expound the vision by explaining that the 7 heads are also 7 kings, as are the 10 horns. When you apply John’s description of the kings to the corresponding kings of Rome, you find out when, it appears John is writing his famed letter.
I can’t go on with just a daily blog to expound Revelation, but did want to show how the author does give plain clues to the reader for interpretation. Another important clue is his repeated reference at the very beginning of the book (“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place… Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” Rev 1:1,3). These again give us clues as to the timing of the events John describes.
Well, I can’t leave on such an undevotional note, so here is a verse from the Psalmist that comforts the soul.
For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
McCheyne’s Bible Reading Plan: Dt 20, Ps 107, Is 45, Rev 17