Revelation 17:11
And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
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(11) And the beast . . .—Better, And the wild beast which was, and is not, even he himself is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into destruction. The wild beast himself, forming as it were an eighth, has to be reckoned with. There are seven heads; when these fall no eighth head will rise, but the wild beast, whose vitality has been seen in these successive heads, forms, as it were, an eighth, which is “out of the seven”—not one of them, but one rising out of them; no eighth empire shall rise, but the wild beast, now smitten in all the seven heads of his power, will, in the convulsive death-throe, seem an eighth power, in which the ebbing life of all the seven finds expression. The wild beast linked itself with seven great empires in succession: these all fell; the wild beast is left, as an eighth: then “the wild beast goes into destruction.” As an illustration, we may recall her whom the seven brothers had as wife; last of all the woman, the eighth, which was of the seven, died also. It has been noticed that the wild beast does not “fall,” like the others, “but goes into destruction;” there are no more world-powers like those who have fallen, but the wild beast is left, a last power reserved for destruction, a final antichrist, the lawless one whom the Lord will destroy with the brightness of His coming (2Thessalonians 2:3). This fierce and last flickering up of the doomed power of evil is dwelt on again in Revelation 20:7-10.

17:7-14 The beast on which the woman sat was, and is not, and yet is. It was a seat of idolatry and persecution, and is not; not in the ancient form, which was pagan: yet it is; it is truly the seat of idolatry and tyranny, though of another sort and form. It would deceive into stupid and blind submission all the inhabitants of the earth within its influence, except the remnant of the elect. This beast was seven heads, seven mountains, the seven hills on which Rome stands; and seven kings, seven sorts of government. Five were gone by when this prophecy was written; one was then in being; the other was yet to come. This beast, directed by the papacy, makes an eighth governor, and sets up idolatry again. It had ten horns, which are said to be ten kings who had as yet no kingdoms; they should not rise up till the Roman empire was broken; but should for a time be very zealous in her interest. Christ must reign till all enemies be put under his feet. The reason of the victory is, that he is the King of kings, and Lord of lords. He has supreme dominion and power over all things; all the powers of earth and hell are subject to his control. His followers are called to this warfare, are fitted for it, and will be faithful in it.And the beast that was, and is not - That is, the one power that was formerly mighty; that died away so that it might be said to be extinct; and yet Revelation 17:8 that "still is," or has a prolonged existence. It is evident that, by the "beast" here, there is some one power, dominion, empire, or rule, whose essential identity is preserved through all these changes, and to which it is proper to give the same name. It finds its termination, or its last form, in what is here called the "eighth"; a power which, it is observed, sustains such a special relation to the seven, that it may be said to be "of the seven," or to be a mere prolongation of the same sovereignty.

Even he is the eighth - The eighth in the succession. This form of sovereignty, though a mere prolongation of the former government, so much so as to be, in fact, but keeping up the same empire in the world, appears in such a novelty of form, that, in one sense, it deserves to be called the eighth in order, and yet is so essentially a mere concentration and continuance of the one power, that, in the general reckoning Revelation 17:10, it might be regarded as pertaining to the former. There was a sense in which it was proper to speak of it as the eighth power; and yet, viewed in its relation to the whole, it so essentially combined and concentrated all that there was in the seven, that, in a general view, it scarcely merited a separate mention. We should look for the fulfillment of this in some such concentration and embodiment of all that it was, in the previous forms of sovereignty referred to, that it perhaps would deserve mention as an eighth power, but that it was, nevertheless, such a mere prolongation of the previous forms of the one power, that it might be said to be "of the seven"; so that, in this view, it would not claim a separate consideration. This seems to be the fair meaning, though there is much that is enigmatical in the form of the expression.

And goeth into perdition - See the notes on Revelation 17:8.

In inquiring now into the application of this very difficult passage, it may be proper to suggest some of the principal opinions which have been held, and then to endeavor to ascertain the true meaning:

I. The principal opinions which have been held may be reduced to the following:

(1) That the seven kings here refer to the succession of Roman emperors, yet with some variation as to the manner of reckoning. Prof. Stuart begins with Julius Caesar, and reckons them in this manner: the "five that are fallen" are Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius. Nero, who, as he supposes, was the reigning prince at the time when the book was written, he regards as the sixth; Galba, who succeeded him, as the seventh. Others, who adopt this literal method of explaining it, suppose that the time begins with Augustus, and then Galba would be the sixth, and Otho, who reigned but three months, would be the seventh. The expression, "the beast that was, and is not, who is the eighth," Prof. Stuart regards as referring to a general impression among the pagan and among Christians, in the time of the persecution under Nero, that he would again appear after it was reported that he was dead, or that he would rise from the dead and carry on his persecution again. See Prof. Stuart, Com. vol. ii., Excur. 3. The beast, according to this view, denotes the Roman emperors, specifically Nero, and the reference in Revelation 17:8 is to "the well known hariolation respecting Nero, that he would be assassinated, and would disappear for a while, and then make his appearance again to the confusion of all his enemies." "What the angel," says he, "says, seems to be equivalent to this - 'The beast means the Roman emperors, specifically Nero, of whom the report spread throughout the empire that he will revive, after being apparently slain, and will come, as it were, from the abyss or Hades, but he will perish, and that speedily,'" vol. ii. p. 323.

(2) That the word "kings" is not to be taken literally, but that it refers to forms of government, dynasties, or modes of administration. The general opinion among those who hold this view is, that the first six refer to the forms of the Roman government:

(1) kings;

(2) consuls;

(3) dictators;

(4) decemvirs;

(5) military tribunes;

(6) the imperial form, beginning with Augustus.

This has been the common Protestant interpretation, and in reference to these six forms of government there has been a general agreement. But, while the mass of Protestant interpreters have supposed that the "six" heads refer to these forms of administration, there has been much diversity of opinion as to the seventh; and here, on this plan of interpretation, the main, if not the sole difficulty lies. Among the opinions held are the following:


11. beast that … is not—his beastly character being kept down by outward Christianization of the state until he starts up to life again as "the eighth" king, his "wound being healed" (Re 13:3), Antichrist manifested in fullest and most intense opposition to God. The "he" is emphatic in the Greek. He, peculiarly and pre-eminently: answering to "the little horn" with eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things, before whom three of the ten horns were plucked up by the roots, and to whom the whole ten "give their power and strength" (Re 17:12, 13, 17). That a personal Antichrist will stand at the head of the Antichristian kingdom, is likely from the analogy of Antiochus Epiphanes, the Old Testament Antichrist, "the little horn" in Da 8:9-12; also, "the man of sin, son of perdition" (2Th 2:3-8), answers here to "goeth into perdition," and is applied to an individual, namely, Judas, in the only other passage where the phrase occurs (Joh 17:12). He is essentially a child of destruction, and hence he has but a little time ascended out of the bottomless pit, when he "goes into perdition" (Re 17:8, 11). "While the Church passes through death of the flesh to glory of the Spirit, the beast passes through the glory of the flesh to death" [Auberlen].

is of the seven—rather "springs out of the seven." The eighth is not merely one of the seven restored, but a new power or person proceeding out of the seven, and at the same time embodying all the God-opposed features of the previous seven concentrated and consummated; for which reason there are said to be not eight, but only seven heads, for the eighth is the embodiment of all the seven. In the birth-pangs which prepare the "regeneration" there are wars, earthquakes, and disturbances [Auberlen], wherein Antichrist takes his rise ("sea," Re 13:1; Mr 13:8; Lu 21:9-11). He does not fall like the other seven (Re 17:10), but is destroyed, going to his own perdition, by the Lord in person.

And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth; this made the eighth succession of governments in the Roman empire.

And is of the seven; this was of the seventh head; for although this was the eighth government in order as we have counted them, yet one of these, viz. the seventh, (which was that of true Christian emperors), must not be counted as one of the seven heads, which were all idolatrous: so though this was the eighth government, yet he was one of the seven heads, i.e. idolatrous governments.

And goeth into perdition; and to be destroyed as they were.

And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth,.... That was in embryo in John's time, and yet was not come to its power and grandeur, is the eighth king; and this is the Papacy, which takes the name of the beast, because it is the head of the beast, and the only surviving head of the beast, or Roman empire, now become Papal:

and is of the seven; one of the seven heads, and the last of them, and is an idolatrous one, as the rest were, requiring and encouraging the worship of angels, of the virgin Mary, and saints parted: the pope of Rome is the eighth king, and seventh head, the latter with respect to his temporal power, and the former with respect to his ecclesiastical authority; for his government is quite of a different sort from the rest, being of a mixed kind, partly civil, and partly ecclesiastical, and therefore is signified by two beasts in the thirteenth chapter:

and goes into perdition; being the son of perdition, and is justly deserving of it; See Gill on Revelation 17:8.

{22} And the beast that was, and is not, even he is {23} the eighth, and is {24} of the seven, {25} and goeth into perdition.

(22) This is spoken by synecdoche, as if to say, as that head of the beast which was and is not, because it is cut off, and Nerua in so short time extinguished. How many heads there were, so many beasts there seemed to be in one. See a similar speech in Re 13:3.

(23) Nerua Traianus, who in various respects is called here the seventh and the eighth.

(24) Though in number and order of succession he is the eighth yet he is counted with one of these heads, because Nerua and he were one head. For this man obtained authority together with Nerua and was Consul with him, when Nerua died.

(25) Namely, to persecute the Churches of Christ, as history agrees, and I have briefly noted see Geneva Re 2:10.

Revelation 17:11. Bruston takes καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἑπτὰ ἐστιν as a translation of השבעה הוא ומן, in the sense that the eighth was more (or greater) than the seven, i.e., realising more fully the ideal of the Beast. But even were the case for a Hebrew original clearer than it is, such an interpretation is forced. The verse is really a parenthesis added by John to bring the source up to date. Domitian, the eighth emperor, under whom he writes, is identified with the true Neronic genius of the empire; he is a revival and an embodiment of the persecuting Beast (cf. Eus. H. E. iii. 17, Tert. Apol. 5: portio Neronis de crudelitate, de pallio 4: a sub-Nero) to the Christian prophet, as he proved a second Nero to some of his Roman subjects (cf. Juvenal’s well-known sneer at the caluus Nero). This does not mean that John rationalises Nero redivivus into Domitian, which would throw the rest of the oracle entirely out of focus. Domitian, the eighth emperor, is not explained as the Beast which was and is not and is to come up out of the abyss (Revelation 17:8), but simply as the Beast which was and is not; no allusion is made to his term of power, and the concluding phrase καὶ εἰς ἀπ. ὑπάγει is simply the conventional prophecy of doom upon persecutors; it need not be a post-factum reference to D.’s murder in 96. He belonged to the seven, as he had been closely associated with the Imperial power already (Tac. Hist. iii. 84, iv. 2, 3; cf. Jos. Bell. iv. 11, 4). The enigmatic and curt tone of the verse shows that either from prudence (“some consideration towards the one who is beseems even a prophet,” Mommsen), or more probably from pre-occupation in the grim, ulterior figure of the Neronic antichrist, the prophet does not care to dwell minutely on the emperor’s personality as an incarnate Nero. He does not even allude to the suspicion, voiced by his contemporaries (4 Esd. 11:12) that Domitian had made away with Titus. His vision is strained, like that of his source, to the final and supernatural conflict; the Satanic messiah, the Beast who is to return from the abyss, bulks most prominently on the horizon. The absorbing interest of the oracle, even in its edited form, is eschatological. John simply puts in a few words, as few as possible, to bring this Vespasianic source up to date, since the death of Titus had not been followed by the appearance of the Nero-antichrist. The latter is still and soon to come however! John thoroughly shares, though he expands and applies, the prediction of his source. The addition he makes to it in Revelation 17:11 must on no account be taken as if it meant the substitution of “Domitian = Nero redivivus” for the supernatural expectation of the latter. There is certainly some awkwardness in the juxtaposition of Domitian as a second Nero and of Nero redivivus, but this was inevitable under the circumstances.

11. even he is the eighth] Perhaps rather, both is himself the eighth, and is of the seven.

of the seven] is most easily understood “is one of the seven”—i.e. the eighth emperor of Rome, in whom the antichristian spirit of the empire finds its personal embodiment, will be a revival of one of his seven predecessors—viz. Nero, the fifth of them. The words can however be taken to mean “the successor and result of the seven, following and springing out of them;” if a scheme of interpretation be preferred with which this meaning harmonises better.

goeth into perdition] Implies something more than the “fall” of the other kings.

Revelation 17:11. Καὶ αὐτὸς ὄγδοός ἐστι, καὶ ἐκ τῶν ἑπτά ἐστι, is both himself eighth, and is of the seven) Καὶ, καὶ, is equivalent to both, and. Ὄγδοος is a part the predicate, therefore it is put without the article: the pronoun, αὐτὸς, cohering with it, is also a part of the predicate, adding emphasis to the eighth, in so far as he himself is contradistinguished from the seven. The eighth, and the seven, are masculines, so that the noun king or kings is to be understood.

There is here an intimation of that long celebrated and great Adversary, whom all antiquity and the whole Church of Rome regard as one individual and extraordinary man. Bernard, who is called the last of the Fathers, has hit the matter closely enough. For in his late age, in his sixth discourse on the psalm, Qui habitat [Psalms 111], after bitter lamentations concerning the corrupt state of the Church and its ministers, he says, “It remains that the Man of Sin be revealed, the Son of Perdition, the demon, not only of the day, but even of the mid-day, which is not only transformed into an angel of light, but is also exalted above everything which is called God, or which is worshipped.” Of the Reformers, who in other respects had their attention especially fixed upon their own times, and not without reason, Francis Lambert acknowledged, that one remarkable adversary, the Son of Perdition, was hereafter to come and he mournfully described that calamity.—Exeg. Apoc. pp. 183, 193, 215, 265. Among the Propositions of Hier. Zanch was this: Although the kingdom of Antichrist has long ago been revealed; and he who holds the primacy in it, and reigns, is the true Antichrist; yet it is not in opposition to the Sacred Writings, to say, that just before the end of the world there shall come one of remarkable character, and outstripping all men in iniquity, the true and perfect Antichrist, who may even work miracles. For in a pre-lection at Argentina on the end of the world, he had discoursed to this purpose, and was blamed on that account by others. The Divines of Heidelberg, A. 1561, approved of this Proposition, and those of Zurich even confirmed it, in these words besides others: “Since wickedness becomes greater from day to day, and is increased without measure, there is no reason why there should not at last arise some one κατʼ ἐξοχὴν [by pre-eminence], who may very far outstrip in his impiety the other enemies of the Gospel, and whom the Lord may altogether destroy with the breath of His mouth.” see Zanch Misc. Theol. pp. 1, 18, 21, 44, 48. And in no other way, on this subject at least, Jo. Brent replied in the same year to Jo. Marpach: “I should be unwilling odiously to contend about Antichrist; we know that the Papacy is antichristianity. But it may perhaps happen, that among the Popes there may arise one, who may surpass all the rest in impiety, craft, deceits, cruelty, and tyranny, and may give occasion to the Son of God to hasten His coming for the complete destruction of the Papacy, and the judgment of the quick and dead. The Lord will take care concerning this matter: we will perform our own duty, and will wait for the coming of the Lord.” Compare the Epistle of Lud. Crocius, inserted among those of Voss; Heding. on 2 Thessalonians 2:3; Weismann’s Inst. p. 1121, lin. 5, 6; the Patmos of H. Horchius, p. 70; C. B. Michaëlis on Dan. pp. 247, 248. “What if we should concede to the Papists,” says Bailly, “and in this the orthodox ARE NOT OBSTINATE, that in the long series of Romish antichrists there should at the end of the world arise one more wicked than his brethren, though they are most wicked, by a kind of ἐξοχῇ [pre-eminence] of wickedness,—one who should closely resemble the days of Antiochus: they themselves would gain nothing by this concession.”—Op. Hist. et Chron. f. 244. Vitringa says appropriately to this passage: That the beast itself is also the eighth king, according to the order of his predecessors. Thus it can without any difficulty be imagined, that after these kings of mystic Babylon one is still to be expected just before the close of the power of Antichrist, who shall slay the witnesses of Christ, and rage against the Church above all others; and of him the Spirit had especially prophesied under the name of the Beast: ch. Revelation 11:7. And all at the present day, who take the prophetic times, and among these the 42 months of the beast, in their ordinary signification, agree, namely, in ascribing so short a power to the one king. I am not accustomed to rely on testimonies of human authority: the truth has no need of them; but when there is a possibility of its being supposed that any doctrine is paradoxical, it is expedient to collect the anticipations of the truth which lie concealed in the minds of men. This one, last king, will differ most widely from all his predecessors, as in malignity, so in the manner of his destruction. They for the most part die by a natural death; he shall be given alive to eternal torment: ch. Revelation 19:20; 2 Thessalonians 2:8.—ἐκ τῶν ἑπτὰ, of the seven) Primasius admirably says, LEST you should esteem this one, whom, he calls eighth, OF ANOTHER RACE, he has subjoined, He is of the seven.

Verse 11. - And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition; and the beast (neuter, θηρίον) that was and is not, he himself is also an eighth (masculine), and is of (ἐκ, out of) the seven, etc. We may note

(1) that "eighth" refers to "king" in ver. 10, being masculine gender;

(2) the absence of the article before ὄγδος, "eighth," shows that this is not the eighth in a successive series, in which the kings already mentioned form the first seven. The Revised Version probably gives the correct meaning, "is of the seven;" that is, the beast himself consists of, and is formed by, what has been denoted by the seven kings. We have already interpreted the beast as the worldly power - Satan in his capacity of "prince of this world." We have also shown that the "seven kings" describes this worldly power as it exists throughout all ages. This verse, therefore, sums up and reasserts briefly what has been already virtually intimated in the symbolism employed, viz. that the beast is the sum total of what has been described under the form of five kings, then one king, and then one king again (ver. 10). His final doom is also reasserted, "he goeth into perdition" (cf. ver. 8 and Revelation 19:20) Revelation 17:11
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