Google+ Followers

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Seven Kings And The Ten Horns

John's Revelation speaks about Rome under the symbol of "Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations" (Rev. 17:5). She is drunk with the blood of the saints, the martyrs or witnesses of Jesus. The angel with the seventh bowl explains this mystery of the woman and the beast that carries her, the beast with seven heads and ten horns. The seven heads are the seven mountains or hills on which Rome is founded . . . and "they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while" (Rev. 17:9-10).

So who are these seven kings? A variety of conclusions have been offered. Here is a list of the Emperors or "kings" of Rome in the first century:
  1. Julius Caesar (founder) —13 July 100 BCE - 15 March 44 BCE (murdered by senators)
  2. Augustus23 September 63 BCE - 19 August 14 CE (natural death)
  3. Tiberius 16 November 14 CE - 16 March 37 CE (natural death)
  4. Caligula 18 March 37 - 24 January 41 (murdered by soldiers)
  5. Claudius25 January 41 - 13 October 54 (poisoned)
  6. Nero —15 December 37 - 9 June 68 (suicide)
  7. Galba — 8 June 68 - 15 June 69 (lynched by soldiers)
  8. Vitellius —18 July 69 - 20 December 69 (lynched by soldiers)
  9. Otho —15 January 69 - 16 April 69 (suicide)
  10. Vespasian — 1 July 69 -23 June 79 (natural death)
  11. Julius Sabinus — Spring, Summer 70 (hiding; executed 79)
  12. Titus — 24 June 79 - 13 September 81 (natural death)
  13. Domitian — 14 September 81 - 18 September 96 (murdered by courtiers)
  14. Nerva —18 September 96 - January 98 (natural death)
  15. Trajan — 28 January 98 - 7 August 117 (natural death)
Julius Caesar sculpture at the Louvre
As to which of these emperors the Revelation refers we can only guess, as have many. Some suggest that the list of seven begins with Julius, others with Tiberius, yet others with Nero. They further suggest that the interim, short-lived emperors (Galba, Vitellius, Otho, Sabinus and Titus) not be included in the list of the seven heads. All that any commentator can do is guess, because it is unclear, regardless of how much speculation you do, exactly to whom the symbol of Babylon in the Revelation initially pointed.

The same thing holds true for the ten horns. Could they refer to the ten governors in Palestine who supported the Romans or legates of the army? As noted, we can only make inferences, based upon Roman history and the parallel history of Babylon, the writings of the Old Testament and various non-Biblical sources.

So what is the point of it all? The Lord God guides the destiny of nations and calls and gathers his people to Himself. Ultimately the harlot and the beast upon whom she rides will perish. The next chapter takes up that theme as a voice from heaven calls God's people to come out of her. We will take up that call in Revelation 18 in the next post.