Wickedness Defeated 1
This is a difficult passage to interpret. Indeed it does call for wisdom. Not that the meaning is obvious or that clever people can work it out centuries or millennia in advance. But when the time comes, the wise will be confident in the outcome because they will understand the hand of God in the circumstances around them. The spotlight in the vision has moved from the prostitute Babylon, who rides on the beast (Revelation 17:3-6), to the world leaders over whom she has control. The seven hills were readily identifiable as the hills around Rome, but could also be the seven hills around Jerusalem (Psalm 125:2). Or they might simply represent the totality of world powers, as they are also kings.
Some have interpreted the seven kings as Roman emperors, from Augustus to Domitian (missing out some minor leaders) and then jumping forward to the Antichrist as the eighth king. Others say that they are global empires. This has some credibility if they are taken as the empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome; the seventh being an empire of global domination yet to come, before the full manifestation of the Antichrist. The ten horns are transient dictators who will agree with and support the authority of the Antichrist. If these concepts have validity, then the churches, to whom the Revelation was initially addressed, would be prepared for waves of persecution. But do not forget that Revelation has an 'end of time' meaning which is greater than the immediate circumstances the Early Church faced. It is a message for us and those who follow us, until Jesus returns.
Although it is difficult to configure all these elements into a complete chronological sequence, there is a big picture here. The nations will again regroup as a global empire, discarding the authority of Jesus Christ and being controlled by a leadership which is violently opposed to Him. With the combined strength of their best worldly wisdom and devilish intention the world-wide forces of power will assemble to eliminate the Lord Jesus and His people (Revelation 16:16). But all their evil efforts will be turned back upon them. The Lamb will triumph, and they will be destroyed, because He is the supreme ruler of everything (Revelation 19:19-21). At the end of this passage we find the called, chosen and faithful followers of Jesus – glad and content to be with the One they always trusted as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 21:1-5).
Revelation is to prepare God's people in every age, to be confident in Jesus despite hostility from wicked people and Satanic agents. Even though the world will get worse, Jesus is still Lord. When powerful people and demonic spirits want to destroy God's kingdom, He will always have the last word (Revelation 19:1-2). Although the church is seen as weak (2 Corinthians 12:9-10), our task is to stand still (Exodus 14:13; Ephesians 6:13-14) and hold firm to what we have believed until the Lord brings the victory (2 Timothy 1:12). That is the wisdom we need. It is true for each little struggle now, as well as for the cataclysmic confrontation at the end of time.
© Dr Paul Adams