The Unveiling of Jesus Christ
The Concordant Version
THE GREAT ENIGMA
BESIDES the secret of the woman and of the wild beast, we are called upon to solve one of the most enigmatical statements in the Scriptures. "Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains where the woman is sitting on them, and they are seven kings. Five fall, one is, the other came not as yet: and whenever he may be coming, he must remain briefly. And the wild beast which was, and is not, it is the eighth also and is from among the seven, and is departing into destruction" (Rev.17:9-11). Were it in any other book, or any other setting, we would be strongly tempted to criticize the mixed metaphors, incongruously piled one upon another. It is the only passage that has come across our ken where one figure is explained by another. The heads of the beast are certainly figures of literal kings. But we are assured that they are also mountains, and these are not literal. This is evidently intentional, for it is introduced by the somewhat startling challenge, "Here is the mind which has wisdom" (Rev.17:9).
First, we are told that "the seven heads are seven mountains," then "they are seven kings." Some have suggested that these kings are not identical with the mountains, hence it should be rendered, "and there are seven kings," as in the Authorized Version. But it is always dangerous to make the translation fit an interpretation, and there seems no grammatical reason for the suggestion. The presence of and coordinates the two statements. Literally, it reads, as in the sublinear of the Concordant Version, THE SEVEN HEADS SEVEN mountains ARE . . . AND KINGS SEVEN [THEY] ARE. In Greek, the literal statement that there are seven kings would not use the word THEY-ARE. The fact that this is inserted shows that the kings are the interpretation of the seven heads.
To solve the riddle we must face all the facts. There is an evident effort here to give two distinct, yet consistent, interpretations of the seven heads. Only one of these is used to indicate to us the great chronological crisis when the woman is presented to our view. We are told about the various kings, and their rise and fall. Before this, however, we are told that the heads are mountains--immovable, steadfast eminences in the earth.
Contrary to all rules we are forced to take the mountains here as symbolic. In the Scriptures, they are used as figures of ruling powers. Rome was characterized by our Lord when He spoke cryptically concerning the moving of a mountain by faith. He really referred to the removal of Roman rule (Matt.17:20). The transformation took place on a mountaintop. The millennial kingdom was again revealed on a mountain at the close of the kingdom account (Matt.28:16). The new Jerusalem is on a mountain (Rev.21:10).
The seven mountains are evidently seven stable governments. The curious phrase "where the woman is sitting on them" confirms this. The woman is supported and upheld by well established powers. She is not dependent on the shifting tides of politics or the changing fortunes of rulers. Kings come and go, but she goes on forever. She seems secure, settled, untroubled by the turmoil of the times. This is the needed background for the sudden revolutionary change which seals her doom. The whole purport of this passage is to paint great Babylon at the pinnacle of her prosperity, for this immediately precedes her destruction.
When John marveled marvelously at the sight of the woman on the scarlet-colored wild beast, the messenger came to him and explained the secret by carefully defining the period of time in which the vision is placed. It culminates in the era immediately preceding the ascent of the wild beast from the abyss. "The wild beast . . . was, and is not, and is about to be ascending out of the abyss" (Rev.17:8). In other words, the woman holds her imperial sway during the great confederacy of the end time, until one of its heads receives the death blow (13:3), and attains her greatest power during the interval when the wild beast is in the abyss.
The necessity for this is apparent when we note that the previous section deals with the wild beast after the death blow was cured, and it emerges out of the sea (13:1-3). Babylon's splendor is associated with the time anterior to the judgment period already considered, when the faithful in the nation are persecuted by the wild beast after Satan gave him his throne. To understand great Babylon aright we must fix our attention on the crisis in her career, when the wild beast is not, for before this it is her patron, afterward it is her persecutor.
The difference between the seven mountains and the seven kings is this: One represents the seven stable politico-religious powers which compose the wild beast during its whole history. The seven kings are the rulers of these powers at any given time. Babylon's position on the mountains will be secure, settled, safe. It will be based on an economic foundation which is not affected by political changes. The nations cannot cancel their debts by choosing a new head. The overlordship of Babylon survives all governmental vacillations.
Perhaps at no time did her suzerainty seem more serene than at the crisis in which she comes before us. Indeed, she is the only stable sovereignty, in a world seething with unrest. Even, the great world empire is temporarily destroyed. Its head is assassinated. Five of its kings fall. Only one remains, but he is evidently unable to govern the whole. Another has a brief reign. The world empire is not identified with him but with the head which is not. He, as well as the confederacy which he heads, is "the wild beast."
The seven heads are representative of the seven stable political powers which compose the wild beast during its whole history, and also stand for the particular individuals who are at the head of each at this particular juncture. We are told that the whole wild beast was in the abyss. The whole came up from the sea. This evidently refers to the confederacy. Yet our attention is immediately called to one of the heads, and this individual practically becomes the wild beast himself, for he is given all the authority which it wields.
After the introductory conflict of the end time, which transforms Daniel's four beasts into the single monster of the Unveiling, there seems to be still another struggle for supremacy among the seven heads. This appears to be the situation presented to us in the words, "five fall, one is, the other came not as yet: and whenever he may be coming, he must remain briefly. And the wild beast which was, and is not, it is the eighth, also, and is from among the seven, and is departing into destruction" (17:10,11).
All seven are first accounted for before the eighth, who is one of the seven restored, comes back from the abyss to deal out to Babylon the doom that it deserves. Five fall. The eighth is probably one of these. In the interim only one seems to have regal powers at first, followed by another of brief duration. When the eighth arises he is so supreme that he is the sovereign dictator of all and is the wild beast personified.
But why are these details presented in this place? We are considering the career of Babylon, not of the wild beast. It is more than likely that Babylon is at the bottom of all these political upheavals. She has a kingdom over the kings of the earth. Why should she not cause the fall of the five kings? It would not be at all strange if she should be responsible for the assassination of the one who reappears as the eighth head.
Can we not see beneath all this the sinister machinations of a mastermind? Babylon possesses far more power than any of the kings of the earth. Her influence is paramount in mundane politics. She is the indirect ruler of the world. Why not take the reins directly in her own hands? Why not have her own man at the head of all earthly sovereignty? Was it not promised them in the ancient prophets? But how are they to go about it? By simply setting in motion such influences as will cause the downfall of all except the one who will be her tool. "Five fall. One is." While we are not told why they fell, we are advised of the fact in a description of Babylon. God does not wander from His subject. They probably fell because Babylon wished to rise.
We are not told directly which one of the seven heads the wild beast is. We have seen that six of the heads are eastern and one western, and that the western head had ten horns. This probably is composed of confederate Christendom. When he returns to power, it seems that the ten kings take office at the same time, as his vassals, so that he becomes the acknowledged leader of the great military league which had conquered the east, and, as such, he dominates the world, the first supreme suzerain since Alexander.
Babylon's plan of concentrating all power in the hands of one man will thus be fulfilled, but with a fatal defect. This man, when he emerges from the abyss, obsessed by Satan, has plans of his own, and will not further her ambitious designs. On the contrary, he is her worst enemy. Perhaps he knows that these Jews were responsible for his fall. He realizes how unpopular they have become in the western countries, where an enormous part of the wealth produced flows into their coffers, and taxes are largely a tribute to their financial position.
It, therefore, appears most probable that Babylon, not content with the virtual control of mankind by means of her wealth, and even of politics by means of her influence, desires to attain that goal to which their ancient prophets have all pointed, the actual, political suzerainty of the world. They want a Jewish messiah to take the helm. And when was the time so propitious for such a move? Such a world emperor needs money most of all, for with it all else can be bought. In the early centuries, the Jews had neither wealth nor influence. Today they are a great international force. In that future day, they will be the paramount factor in finance and in commerce, and in control of all except the actual government of the nations. Why not grasp that also?
How will they go about it? With the press of the world in their power, and the politicians of the world in their pay, the Jews of the end time will be the king makers and the king crushers of the world. If they propose to be rid of the kings and rule the world by their own messiah, they will have the money, the machinery, and the men to do it. It will not be a crude conquest of arms, but a war in which wealth and wits will win.
As a result, these five kings fall. It is not said that they are assassinated necessarily, though one seems to have received the fatal sword wound. They lose their place as heads of the wild beast. Only one remains. Probably he is the one chosen to head their messianic kingdom. Another, who comes up later, has but a brief career. The fact that we are told all of this in connection with Babylon's sovereignty must mean that she is the power which dethrones and sets up kings, as Israel's real Messiah will do in the millennium. So it is until the abyss opens up and disgorges the eighth head, who had been one of the seven.
All of the horns of the wild beast were on one of the seven heads, which we have identified with Christendom and its ten military powers. This head was originally the nondescript monstrosity of Daniel's prophecy, which conquered the eastern beasts, and absorbed them, forming the seven-headed, ten-horned monster of the Unveiling. It seems probable that the eighth head had been the head of Christendom, the head with ten horns, and, when he reappears, he not only takes the place of all the heads, but is the special king of the western military league.
The ten horns will hate the woman. At first glance, it may seem singular that these should have a special dislike to Babylon. But a little reflection will show that there will be good cause for this hatred. "Christians" (not the true believers in Christ, but the apostate religionists) have always hated and persecuted the Jews. None of the other religions have been so bitter against them. But that is only a part of the cause which leads to such a terrible pogrom, in which Babylon and all its glory and power are utterly destroyed.
It takes much money to wage wars. There is only one way in which the coming wars, such as fill the prophetic horizon, can be financed. The nations must bond all their resources, and mortgage their manhood and their future. Since the horns are military powers, they will be the ones who will feel the burden of war debts most keenly. The great bulk of these bonds will fall into the hands of Babylon. The Jews will have a mortgage on Christendom. The principal will be so great that there is no possibility of paying it. The interest will be so heavy that it will enslave the nations who owe it. Something of this can be seen today in the nations which have been engaged in war.
The problem presented during a post-war period is a vast one. Rehabilitation proceeds rapidly. Currencies are stabilized. But the greatest task is the payment of debts and indemnities. This colossal undertaking will consume many, many years, even in the richest of the belligerent nations. A similar situation will confront the western military powers after the far greater conflict of the future. They will be victorious but impoverished. The paramount problem to be solved by the great emperor of that day will be this financial incubus, which will make the victorious west virtual vassals of a Jewish combine in Babylon. To meet the interest is an unbearable burden. To pay the principal is impossible. Shall the conquerors of the world submit to perpetual slavery?
Stories are told of the old Jewish ghettoes with their money lenders and the perils which came to them through the hatred of their creditors. One is especially fresh in my mind. A reckless young gentile became deeply in debt to a Jewish banker of one of the independent towns of Germany. As he had no means to pay what he owed, he conceived the diabolical plot of accusing the Jews of treason, and thus rid himself of his obligations by destroying his creditor. The town was at war with another at the time, so the feelings of the populace were easily roused. If his plotting had not been overheard, the whole Jewish population of the city would have been massacred and the ghetto destroyed.
The eighth head has a similar plan for solving this financial dilemma. Alexander could not untie the Gordian knot, so his sword severed it. The western military powers cannot pay the Babylonian bankers, but they can destroy them. So popular is this plan that their ten kings, with one consent, approve of it, and give their power and authority to the wild beast. So it is that "the ten horns . . . and the wild beast, these will be hating the prostitute, and they will be making her desolate and naked, and they will be eating her flesh, and they will be burning her up with fire, for God imparts to their hearts to form His opinion, and to give their kingdom to the wild beast until God's words will be accomplished" (Rev.17:16,17).
The solution of the great enigma lies in the distinction between the settled economic substructure of government on which the Jews will found their future financial domination of the world, which is figured by seven mountains, representing the seven stable subdivisions of the world federation, and the transitory political rulers, who fall and rise, and who are, to a large extent, under their influence. But, when one arises from the abyss, obsessed by Satan, God uses him to deal with Babylon as she deserves. The apostate, money-worshiping Jews meet a combination which is too strong for them. God imparts His opinion to Satan and the wild beast and the ten horns. All the powers of evil are marshaled by the powers of good to wipe false Babylon from the face of the earth.
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