What John considered difficult to understand, this angel (a special servant of God) considered simple. That does not surprise us. God has all knowledge, and he can give that knowledge to his servants. However, for us, the angel’s explanation in Revelation chapter 17 is one of the most difficult passages in the whole book.
We are confident that the beast here means the antichrist, Christ’s great enemy. The description of him matches the description in Revelation 13:1-8. However, the angel says something strange about him. ‘The beast was, and is not’. The angel repeats those words to emphasise them. ‘Was’ clearly means that the antichrist has a past history. ‘Is not’ means that the history has ended. That happens before the antichrist appears again to rule the world. At that time, he comes from the abyss, which means a deep hole without any bottom. That meant the worst part of hell in Revelation 9:1-2. He rules; he fights Christ; then he returns to hell to suffer a punishment without end (19:20).
Those later events match Revelation chapters 13 and 19. The deepest holes on earth are below the sea, which matches the description in Revelation 13:1. Our problem, however, is what that past history was. Cities can re-appear after many centuries. Men cannot (Hebrews 9:27), and clearly antichrist is a man.
However, antichrist is a man whom an evil spirit controls (1 John 4:3). It has controlled many people in the past, but it (the evil spirit) will return.
That evil spirit looks for the person whom it can control (Matthew 12:43-44). When it finally finds the ruler called antichrist, it will possess him completely. Then it will use him in a more terrible way than it has ever done before. That will astonish the people on earth. Only the people of God, whose names are in God’s book, will refuse to serve the antichrist. God knew them all, by name, even before he created the earth. They alone will be citizens in the New Jerusalem.
Please use the links at the top of the page to find our other articles in this series. You can download all our articles if you go to the download page for our free 700+ page course book.
© 2016, Keith Simons.