I want, badly want, to make final statements about interpretations and I write lots of notes and think hard trying to craft a unifying explanation. For this lesson I had already written here many paragraphs neatly aligning my theory. I deleted them (saved them somewhere else actually). They were not fitting.
What do I find that unravels my mental notes and mind-crafting of these things? The beasts, the woman, and the peoples can represent such a gamut of things. In one moment the beast, “Beast 1” as I have termed him/it seems to be a spirit being and physical one. He/it is ideology one moment and then a multinational conglomerate the next. The woman is individual and then national. Sometimes the interpretation seems to be in the ancient past stretching to the end of days and other times it is Roman or Greek. Sometimes the thoughts craft into Jew or Gentile.
See I want to have one bucket and pour all of my energies into a unity of thought, but with prophecy this is not proving possible. So, I will regroup and try to say some generic things. From there hopefully good insights can be gleaned for life and godliness.
I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. (Revelation 17:7b–ESV)
Seven heads and ten horns. In this description the scope of the entity called the beast seems to be multinational. That entity is carrying a more singular entity of a woman. The woman may represent a single human, city or nation, but whichever direction one goes it seems that there is clarity of one entity over many. I think that can safely be derived from these words.
A cycle of life and death for Satan’s allies
8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. (Revelation 17:8–ESV)
When John was shown the beast the angel was talking to John in John’s time. The angel spoke of an entity whose existence came and went. Quickly appended to it though is a resurrection, and that resurrection is from the bottomless pit, or the abyss depending upon the translation. So the beast entity was a thing that existed physically on the earth and disappeared from it. It had not been annihilated or reduced to non-existence. Its experience was merely restructured to existence, residence in a place called the abyss, some other, separate dimension.
The beast will not stay in that other dimension, but will rise from it and then be destroyed. The angel did not say that it returns to the abyss, but rather that it is destroyed. The abyss is considered the abode of the dead and especially that of the demonic.
There are other places in the scripture where we read of demons being held in chains until the final destruction. The demons who went into the pigs begged Jesus not to send them to the Abyss. In Revelation 9 we see locusts from a pit like this led by a demon from that place called Abaddon or Apollyon.
So it seems that there is some collusion in the Abyss between Satan, his captains, commanders and the rest of humanity. They will not always reside there, but will for a time. After they are released they will ultimately be destroyed. The Lake of Fire has a permanence to it which I think it is safe to say is part and parcel of destruction, and that of a permanent character.
Marvel on the earth
On the earth there are those who are living out their one life, and the angel speaks of those who see the beast and marvel at it. They marvel because this thing which had passed rises again. It is seen by men and women of the earth and something about it registers in their minds. “This thing is not new,” they say. “It was here before and seemed gone. Look at it. Wow! It is back. What does this mean?”
I think they will be somehow pleased over it. Their own way of looking at things will be bolstered by this resurrection. They have not been followers of the lamb and have seen events supernatural. Here is a champion for their cause rising like a Phoenix from the ashes. Should we see rejoicing? Could it be furtive or anxious? Are they guardedly happy? Maybe something about it is suspect. I don’t know, but they marvel, they are astonished. It is different.
Marvel for our class
While the people are said to marvel at the resurrection of this long dead thing I marvel over the language used by the angel. When the angel says those who marvel are those whose names were not in the book of life from the beginning of time it links my thoughts to two other Biblical passages.
The first linked passage is Genesis 3. There God spoke of enmity between Eve’s offspring (Jesus) and the offspring of the serpent (Satan). The second is that of Ephesians 1 where there are men and women who have been chosen from the foundation of the world. So when the angel uses terms as he does the parallels drawn are pan-historic. We are familiar with God being the alpha and the omega we must not forget that part of that is coupled to humanity. God in his omniscience is aware of the end games, the finalities of human history. He knew it from before he made it.
We need to be careful not to get bogged down in the matters of predestination and free will. Great thinkers over the millennia have written their theses on this complicated matter. It is better to set this aside and take God as our champion. For the Christ-follower to see the beast arise will seem a blow. It will not be a happy marveling, but will bode poorly. Look though at the phrase book of life. God knows those who are his and has known them from long, long before their assembly, before their lives could have been foreseen. From that pan-historic position God knew and God knows.
From reading the Bible we can also know. The end game has been told to us. We must accept this integrating it into our minds, our hearts, our psyches. We should thank God for that and then when troubles come call upon him for help. His help will have his shape, but his shape is always and permanently good. God’s good doings extend from the moment of his creative conceptualizations.