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.
10. there are—Translate, "they (the seven heads) are seven kings."
five … one—Greek, "the five … the one"; the first five of the seven are fallen (a word applicable not to forms of government passing away, but to the fall of once powerful empires: Egypt, Eze 29:1-30:26; Assyria and Nineveh, Na 3:1-19; Babylon, Re 18:2; Jer 50:1-51:64; Medo-Persia, Da 8:3-7, 20-22; 10:13; 11:2; Greece, Da 11:4). Rome was "the one" existing in John's days. "Kings" is the Scripture phrase for kingdoms, because these kingdoms are generally represented in character by some one prominent head, as Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, Medo-Persia by Cyrus, Greece by Alexander, &c.
the other is not yet come—not as Alford, inaccurately representing Auberlen, the Christian empire beginning with Constantine; but, the Germanic-Slavonic empire beginning and continuing in its beast-like, that is, HEATHEN Antichristian character for only "a short space." The time when it is said of it, "it is not" (Re 17:11), is the time during which it is "wounded to death," and has the "deadly wound" (Re 13:3). The external Christianization of the migrating hordes from the North which descended on Rome, is the wound to the beast answering to the earth swallowing up the flood (heathen tribes) sent by the dragon, Satan, to drown the woman, the Church. The emphasis palpably is on "a short space," which therefore comes first in the Greek, not on "he must continue," as if his continuance for some [considerable] time were implied, as Alford wrongly thinks. The time of external Christianization (while the beast's wound continues) has lasted for centuries, ever since Constantine. Rome and the Greek Church have partially healed the wound by image worship.