Rev 17:9-11 The seven heads of the sea beast of Revelation

The sea beast (Rev 13:1) is the fourth beast that the prophet Daniel saw (Daniel 2:40, 7:7). This is made more certain by the leopard, bear, and lion elements of the lower body of the sea beast (Rev 13:2). Looking backwards from the Apostle John’s vision back to Daniel’s vision the four beasts are identified as the Roman Empire, the Grecian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire, and the Babylonian empire.

The seven heads correspond to the following seven Roman emperors:

The first head refers to Caligula (AD 37-41) who had those in Rome worship him as a physical living god. Shortly before his death Caligula ordered the erection of a statue of himself in the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem. However while the statue was in route by sea Caligula was killed and the order was never carried out.
The second head refers to Claudius (AD 41-54) who persecuted some Christian Jews by driving them out of Rome and also annexed Judea into the Roman Empire.
The third head refers to Nero (AD 54-68) who started persecuting Christians in earnest after he blamed them for the burning of Rome in AD 64. He devised cruel forms of torture and put many Christians to death for his amusement. It was during these persecutions that the Apostle Paul was beheaded and also the Apostle Peter was crucified.
The fourth head refers to Vespasian (AD 69-79) who began to rule after the year of four emperors (Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian). Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 and the Second Temple was also burned. The Jewish people revolted and over a million were killed throughout Judea. This period marked the First Roman-Jewish War of 66-73.
The fifth head refers to Titus (AD 79-81) who before becoming emperor violently put down the Jewish revolt against Jerusalem in AD 70. A short while before he died at the age of 42 a large part of Rome was burned by fire.
The sixth head refers to Domitian (AD 81-96) who during his reign as emperor referred to himself officially as “The Lord God”. Prior to becoming emperor In AD 71 Vespasian, Titus and Domitian all participated in the Roman triumph parade where they celebrated the defeat of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Second Temple and the removal of the sacred items such as the menorah. Their triumph included killing some Jewish prisoners in public display. The Arch of Titus constructed by Domitian has an inscription that reads “The Senate and People of Rome (dedicate this) to the divine Titus Vespasianus Augustus, son of the divine Vespasian.”
The key to understanding the sequence of these six heads is by recognizing the timeframe that Revelation was communicated to the Apostle John on the island of Patmos. The ancient account by Eusebius, the disciple of Polycarp, the disciple of John, states that Revelation was given to John while he was on the Island of Patmos during the latter part of the reign of Domitian. Here is the key verse from the Bible that substantiates this interpretation of the sixth head, “They are seven Kings. Five have fallen, one is, “ (Rev 17:10). It is significant that the Lord Jesus Christ spoke Revelation from His throne in heaven at the same time that Domitian was proclaiming himself as “The Lord God” on earth.
The seventh head refers to Hadrian (AD 117-138). The Roman Empire was at its greatest extent during Hadrian’s reign. He planned to put a temple of Jupiter on the burned out Second Temple site in Jerusalem. This sparked another huge Jewish uprising and over 580 thousand Jews were killed. The Second Roman-Jewish War finally ended after the third Roman military assault from 132-135 prevailed, Judea became desolate, and Hadrian renamed the province Syria Palaestina. Hadrian died in 138 of natural cause. A review of this seventh head reveals that it has the same characteristics of the first six heads. So then the Bible verse, “the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while.” (Rev 17:10) appropriately refers to the Roman Emperor Hadrian.

A review of these seven kings reveals that they collectively had three characteristics: claim to divinity, persecution of Jews, and persecution of Christians.

Notice that the ten horns and seven heads are treated separately: “ten horns and seven heads” (13:1) and “seven heads and ten horns” (17:8).

“The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction. The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings — and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” (Rev 17:11-14)


4 Responses to “Rev 17:9-11 The seven heads of the sea beast of Revelation”

  1. Hi there, you commented on my blog Caligula and Antiochus Epiphanes. I replied to you there. I have read your post here concerning the 7 heads of the beast. I find your thoughts interesting, but I don’t know that you can prove your case about each of these men persecuting both Jews and Christians. Moreover, Caligula was not the first Roman emperor to claim deity. Augustus began the emperor cult, copying it from Persia.
    I have another blog and in it I address the seven heads of the beast. I believe they are the seven kings who conquered Jerusalem, and Herod (the sixth king) alone prevented the plundering of the Temple. The other rulers entered the Temple and two completely destroyed it. If you care to read any of my posts you may find them Here. For studies on the beast simply click on the “End Times” Menu on the top bar. I also recently did other studies on Revelation recently. Click on the Archives, beginning with the 22nd study (at present) from the top on June 25, 2010 i have about 12 studies on Revelation.

    Have a great evening,

    • re: “I find your thoughts interesting, but I don’t know that you can prove your case about each of these men persecuting both Jews and Christians.”

      From my writing I’ll go ahead and add the word ‘collectively’ –
      A review of these seven kings reveals that they [collectively] had three characteristics: claim to divinity, persecution of Jews, and persecution of Christians.

      The main point of what I’m trying to elaborate on in this piece is Rev 17:10.

      From what i’ve read I think Caligula was different then the other Emperors in that he was apparently the first to make himself worshipped as a physical living god wheras deification of the earlier emperors was done by the people/senate post-mortem.

      In my view the beast rears it’s ugly heads after the death, resurrection, and ascention of Jesus Christ (33).
      These seven kings I enumerate in this study were all Emperors of the Roman Empire starting with Caligula (37-41). The eighth king has not yet appeared but will some day present himself to the world just like Domitian et al.

      • Well, you are certainly welcome to believe whatever you please, and how can anyone prove you wrong. After all, the Scriptures don’t say one way or another whether the heads are Roman emperors. My question is what makes them any different than Augustus who introduced the emperor cult? People all over the empire sacrifice to his image and swore by him. Why is he different than Caligula? Tiberius didn’t remove the cult when he became emperor, so why was he any different? I think that your idea that all the heads of the beast had to have persecuted both Christians and Jews is highly subjective. Who could prove you correct or wrong? The Scriptures simply don’t support or deny what you claim. Which one of these heads received the deadly wound that was healed?
        According to Revelation 17, the sixth head was reigning when John received the prophecy and the seventh would come not long afterward, and the beast that was and is not is of the seven but is technically the eighth. How do your seven Roman emperors fit into this?
        In what way did Caligula persecute Christians? It is my understanding that the followers of Jesus were the only Messianic group that was not persecuted by Rome or thought to be a threat to Caesar. Josephus shows all other messianic cults were hunted down and destroyed almost as soon as they were formed. How does this fit into your understanding?

      • This is my revised summary statement based on your initial feedback:
        “A review of these seven kings reveals that they collectively had three characteristics: claim to divinity, persecution of Jews, and persecution of Christians.” An optional summary could also be worded this way: “A review of the seven-headed beast reveals that it had three characteristics: claim to divinity, persecution of Jews, and persecution of Christians.”
        One point I would like to amplify is that it is impossible for there to be an anti-Christ without first having Christ (33). The response of the Dragon is to always oppose the plan of God. The Dragon failed to destroy Jesus and the establishment of His Kingdom (rev 12:4-5). Failing to defeat Jesus, the Dragon wages war against Israel (rev 12:13). Failing to destroy all Jews, the Dragon wages war against Christians (rev 12:17). This is the scriptural basis for my one line summary description of the sea beast (rev 13:1, rev 17).
        I have not speculated about the fatal would (Rev 13:3). I think it will become apparent when this future event is fulfilled. However I think there is a link between the eighth king and the fatal wound.
        Here is some additional information on Caligula comparing him to other Emperors. of divinity

        We have many examples in the New Testament text of persecuted Christians. There is also much archaeological evidence in Rome of the catacombs where persecuted Christians hid. Jesus blessed the church in Philadelphia for “enduring patiently” but also warned that persecutions would continue. The master warned of persecutions to his followers (Mat 24:9).

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