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Chapter 16

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 Empire:

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 single power.

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 prophecy.

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, represented Babylon.

2. The bear that was raised on one side, in Daniel 7:5, represented Medo-Persia.

3. The four-headed leopard, in Daniel 7:6, represented Greece.

4. The ten-horned monster, in Daniel 7:7, represented pagan Rome.

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 Revolution.

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 of Christ.

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 "religious" atheism.

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 Thessalonians 5:2)

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 papal Rome.

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 17:11)

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 all-important question.

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.

1 For a more biblical discussion of the investigative judgment and its prophetic dating, see The Sacrificial Priest by the same authors. Write to Hartland Publications, P.O. Box 1, Rapidan, Virginia 22733, U.S.A.


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