The Mystery of the Seven Heads
THE Bible gives us the clue that unravels the mystery
of the third seven-headed monster.
And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads
are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. 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. And the beast that was,
and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into
perdition. (Revelation 17:9–11)
In Scripture, a mountain is symbolic of a nation or
kingdom. In the following text, God is speaking about the Babylonian
Behold, I am against thee, O destroying mountain, saith
the Lord. (Jeremiah 51:25)
It should not surprise us that the seven kings are
associated with the seven mountains.
Exponents of prophecy have long pondered the mystery of
the five fallen heads, the one present, and the one in the future. Various
explanations have been suggested. Most of these explanations have assumed
that the one that "is" is a power contemporaneous with the
period in which the book of Revelation was written.
One of the greatest nineteenth-century exponents of the
prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, Uriah Smith, suggested that the seven
heads represented the seven types of government in control during the era
of the Roman Empire—kingly, consular, decemviral, dictatorial,
triumviral, imperialist, and papal (Uriah Smith, Daniel and the
Revelation, Signs Publishing Company, p. 669)
We greatly admire Uriah Smith’s work, but this
explanation does not fit the criteria, as we shall see. These heads
evidently represent individual powers rather than various aspects of a
The view that the head that "is" represents
pagan Rome (the power in ascendancy during the period in which John wrote
the book of Revelation) remains popular. Using this basis for the sixth
kingdom, these interpreters have suggested that the five fallen kingdoms
were Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. The seventh kingdom
which is yet to come, by this understanding, was papal Rome. But this
interpretation may be faulted on two grounds. First, Egypt and Assyria
never appear in God’s great list of world apostate powers represented in
the books of Daniel and Revelation. Second, what the Bible says about this
seventh power is very significant.
He must continue a short space. (Revelation 17:10)
Since the Papacy dominated the world scene for 1260
years, the longest period of any power in the history of this world, it
could hardly be said that it continued "a short space"; thus
this interpretation fails to meet the specific criteria given in the
The reason that interpretations such as those cited
above have failed to meet the specifications of the prophecy is that the
setting of the prophecy has been overlooked. This prophecy was not
fulfilled in the days of John the apostle; instead, it is fulfilled during
the time of the end when the great investigative judgment is in session.
We shall review this setting.
And there came one of the seven angels which had the
seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew
unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many
waters. (Revelation 17:1, emphasis added)
While it is not within the purpose of this book to
examine the investigative judgment in detail, it should be stated that
this judgment commenced in the year 1844.1
One recent attempt to unravel the mystery of the seven
heads suggests that these represent popes. Commencing with Pope Pius XI,
the pope who authorized the signing of the concordat with Mussolini in
1929, they number five who are fallen (the remaining four dead popes are
Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI, and John Paul I). In this understanding,
Pope John Paul II is advanced as the head that "is," and it is
expected that he will die and be replaced by another pope who will sit on
the papal throne for a brief period. While interesting, such an
explanation does not indicate why the period of the eighties is designated
as the period that "is." The seven heads, or mountains, are
seven powers. They are not specific rulers or forms of rule. Thus this
view must be discarded.
Dr. Mervyn Maxwell (a modern exponent of prophecy), in
his book, God Cares, correctly accepts the view that the sixth
head, the head that "is," corresponds to the time of the
investigative judgment. His interpretation of the seven heads consists of
Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, pagan Rome, papal Rome, the wounded Papacy,
and the restored Papacy. This view almost fulfills the given criteria, but
not quite. It does not permit a reliable explanation of the mysterious
eighth head; also, the wounded power of the Papacy was so weak that it was
in no position to strongly oppose God’s truth; yet the prophecy does
provide another vital clue to the correct understanding of this
fascinating prophecy. We need to consider it.
And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the
eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. (Revelation 17:11)
The eighth is said to be a beast, and is reported to be
of the seven beasts. This fact definitely directs our attention to the
beasts prominent in the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation.
With this information, our understanding of the
prophecy is clarified. The first five beasts are as follows:
1. The lion with two eagle’s wings, in Daniel 7:4,
2. The bear that was raised on one side, in Daniel 7:5,
3. The four-headed leopard, in Daniel 7:6, represented Greece.
4. The ten-horned monster, in Daniel 7:7, represented pagan
5. The seven-headed, ten-horned monster, in Revelation
13:1, 2, represented papal Rome.
To this point, this understanding fits very comfortably
with the characteristics set forth in this prophecy. Since papal Rome
received its deadly wound (Revelation 13:3) in 1798, we must search for
another world power in Satan’s master plan to oppose the church of God.
History concerning this era provides insight into the
sixth head or beast—the one that "is." At the time of the
dramatic fall of papal Rome, one of the most bloodstained revolutions in
history, the French Revolution was in progress. For the first time, the
world was directed away from religion to atheism as the perpetrators of
the French Revolution abolished religion and set up a profligate woman of
low morals as the goddess of reason.
The influence of the movement of atheism was to have
far-reaching effects upon the nations of Europe and beyond. Atheistic
communism, which was to dominate Eastern Europe for over seventy years of
the twentieth century, perceptively traced its roots to the French
Karl Marx, the father of communism, was a deep student
of French history. He not only studied the French Revolution but also the
revolution of 1848 in France, where civil war had broken out between the
workers and the middle class. Marx wrote two books in German concerning
the lessons to be learned from the French uprisings—Die Klassenkampfe
in Frankreich 1848 bis 1850 and Der Achtzehnte Brumaire des Louis
Napoleon Bonaparte. Even the nations of Western Europe were not
untouched. Each, one by one, became a twentieth-century bastion for
godlessness. Countries such as Italy and France possessed very strong
communist parties. The Communist Party of Italy was capable of receiving
40 percent of the popular votes cast in democratic elections in 1948 (Encyclopedia
Britannica, 1963 edition, Article, Communist parties). While we would
not make an issue of it, we do find it intriguing that the monster of
Revelation 17 is designated by a color—a scarlet-coloured beast
(Revelation 17:3). Could this color be another specific clue inserted by
an omniscient God to provide us evidence that the identity of this monster
is atheistic communism? This power splashed its symbolic red across the
nations of the earth.
Britain, a former bastion of Christianity, lost its
way. An Englishman, Charles Darwin (about the time of the commencement of
the investigative judgment), offered a theory of origins which discarded
the concept of our Creator. Rationalists (such as British earl Bertrand
Russell) gathered much support. The English Church, in many instances,
embraced agnosticism. Men such as Dr. Robinson, bishop of Woolwich,
declared that it would be good to cease discussion about God in his absurd
book, Honest to God. In a British Broadcasting (BBC) television
program, in the mid-eighties, Hugh Montefiore, bishop of Birmingham, was
asked if he could present a sound piece of evidence for the existence of
God. He suggested, "Well, there’s evolution!" That same
bishop, fifteen years earlier, had been accused of declaring Christ to be
a homosexual, an accusation that he refused to deny.
Dr. David Perkins, bishop of Durham, declared that
Christ was not born of a virgin birth, and that He was not resurrected
from the dead. In 1985, a London Daily Telegraph survey of 42
Anglican bishops indicated that 31 expressed doubts about the resurrection
And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain,
and your faith is also vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14)
Europe was not overwhelmed by a movement of religion;
instead, it was overwhelmed by an avalanche of political and
Persecution of the loyal soldiers of Christ became
almost as intense under this manifestation of satanic power as it had been
under its predecessor, papal Rome.
Undoubtedly, the beast of Revelation 17 includes
atheism, both in the West and in the East, in the form of European
communism. But this prophecy accurately predicted that it would not be the
sixth head which would bring about the final satanic acts upon this earth.
Just as the five previous powers had passed away, so communism and
atheism, as the chief violators of the freedom of Christians to worship
God by following biblical principles in the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries, would also pass away.
In only a few months in 1989, the sixth head of
atheistic communism had almost been swept away. The perceptive Christian
has witnessed one of the most dramatic fulfillments of Bible prophecy as
we enter the last decade of the second millennium of the Christian Era.
The sixth head has fallen, the seventh is emerging; yet many Christians
are blind to the significance of these events. We have been fully warned
that the last days will come as a thief to the unprepared. (1
But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day
should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the
children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. (1
Thessalonians 5:4, 5)
But are we? Many Christians are almost in a deep coma
in regard to their perception of the signs of the times.
On January 15 1990, Russell found himself seated next
to an English Baptist pastor on a flight from London to Singapore. They
discussed the cataclysmic events in the communist world. To Russell’s
surprise, he found that this minister of the gospel was totally oblivious
to the great significance of the events which had just taken place.
Apparently, he had not studied that vital book of Revelation.
Many atheists are not so blind. The renowned Marxist
thinker, Milovan Djilas of Yugoslavia, made this insightful comment:
The Soviets are changing the course of history, not
just of Eastern Europe but of the world. (Bombay, Times of India,
January 29 1990)
Djilas, while not aware of the scriptural basis of his
assertion, nevertheless fully perceived the global significance of the
fall of atheistic communism. As Christians, we possess infinitely more
light than a Marxist philosopher.
The only beast which remains unaccounted for is the
second beast of Revelation 13:11–17—the two-horned lamblike beast
which especially, but not exclusively, represents apostate Protestantism
in the United States. This former pillar of religious tolerance, as we
shall see, will change the established rights of its citizens and
persecute God’s saints during the process of restoring the power of
And he deceiveth them . . . saying to them that dwell
on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the
wound by the sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the
image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and
cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be
killed. (Revelation 13:14, 15)
We have seen the effective demise of atheistic
communism in Europe within the last quarter of the year 1989. Just as
Medo-Persia followed Babylon without interval, Greece similarly followed
Medo-Persia, and pagan Rome succeeded Greece in rapid succession. Just as
papal Rome emerged from its pagan counterpart and atheism arose at the
point of papal demise, we can also expect the rise of persecuting apostate
Protestantism in the very near future because Satan leaves no vacuum in
his unwearied efforts to defeat the gospel of Jesus. We have already seen
Protestantism in the United States clamoring to restore the prestige and
power of the Roman Catholic Church. Baptists, Lutherans, and others
(discarding their Protestant heritage) are courting the favor of the
Papacy. The archbishop of Canterbury has joined the host of deluded
religious leaders in blindly fulfilling divine prophecy. The Papacy will
soon be restored, with Protestant support, to its former position; then
the following prophecy truly will be fulfilled.
Even he is the eighth, and is of the seven. (Revelation
The eighth is surely the restored Papacy, which was the
fifth head of the seven.
Beware of the seventh and eighth that it supports.
Protestantism, in league with restored Catholicism, must continue a short
space. (Revelation 17:10)
Jesus is coming soon. Then this earth will be
destroyed. We each need to ponder one awesome question:
Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved,
what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and
godliness? (2 Peter 3:11)
God leaves us in no doubt concerning the answer to this
Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such
things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot,
and blameless. (2 Peter 3:14)
We can be prepared for that great day only as we trust
God’s grace and power.
For a more biblical discussion of the investigative judgment and its
prophetic dating, see The Sacrificial Priest by the same authors.
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