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Revelation 17:8

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition - The beast is the Latin kingdom; (Ἡ Λατινη βασιλεια ); consequently the beast was, that is, was in existence previously to the time of St. John; (for Latinus was the first king of the Latins, and Numitor the last); is not now, because the Latin nation has ceased long ago to be an independent power, and is now under the dominion of the Romans; but shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, that is, the Latin kingdom, the antichristian power, or that which ascendeth out of the abyss or bottomless pit, is yet in futurity. But it is added: -

And they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names there not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is - By the earth is here meant the Latin world; therefore the meaning is, that all who dwell in the Latin world shall adhere to the idolatrous and blasphemous religion of the Latin Church, which is supported by the Latin empire, except those who abide by the sacred Scriptures, receiving them as the only rule of faith and practice. These believe in the true Sacrifice, and keep themselves unspotted from the corruption that is in the world. But the inhabitants of the Latin world, under the dominion of the Romish religion, shall wonder when they behold the beast, or Latin empire; that is, as Lord Napier remarks, "shall have in great admiration, reverence, and estimation, this great monarchie." They shall wonder at it, by considering it the most sacred empire in the world, that in which God peculiarly delights; but those that so wonder have not their names written in the book of life, but are such as prefer councils to Divine revelation, and take their religion from missals, rituals, and legends, instead of the sacred oracles: hence they are corrupt and idolatrous, and no idolater hath inheritance in the kingdom of God. In the preceding part of the verse the beast is considered in three states, as that which was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit; here a fourth is introduced, and yet is. This is added to show that, though the Latins were subjugated by the Romans, nevertheless the Romans themselves were Latins; for Romulus the founder of their monarchy, was a Latin; consequently that denominated in St. John's days the Roman empire was, in reality, the Latin kingdom; for the very language of the empire was the Latin, and the Greek writers, who lived in the time of the Roman empire, expressly tell us that those formerly called Latins are now named Romans. The meaning of the whole verse is therefore as follows: The corrupt part of mankind shall have in great admiration the Latin empire yet in futurity, which has already been, but is now extinct, the Romans having conquered it; and yet is still in being; for, though the Latin nation has been subjugated, its conquerors are themselves Latins. But it may be objected against the interpretation here given, that these phrases are spoken of the beast upon which the apostle saw the woman, or Latin Church, sit; for the angel says, The beast that Thou Sawest was, and is not, etc.; what reference, therefore, can the Latin empire, which supports the Latin Church, have to the Latin kingdom which subsisted before St. John's time, or to the Roman empire which might properly be so denominated! This objection has very great weight at first sight, and cannot be answered satisfactorily till the angel's explanation of the heads and horns of the beast have been examined; therefore it is added: -

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

The beast that thou sawest was, and is not - In the close of the verse it is added, “and yet is” - “the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” There are three things affirmed here: first, that there is a sense in which it might be said of the power here referred to, that it “was,” or that, before this, it had an existence; second, that there was a sense in which it might be said that it is “not,” that is, that it had become practically extinct; and third, that there is a sense in which that power would be so revived that it might be said that it “still is.” The “beast” here referred to is the same that is mentioned in Revelation 17:3, and in Revelation 13:1, Revelation 13:3, Revelation 13:11-16. That is, there was one great formidable power, having essentially the same origin, though manifested under somewhat different modifications, to one and all of which might, in their different manifestations, be given the same name, “the beast.”

And shall ascend out of the bottomless pit - ἐκ τῆς ἀβύσσου ek tēs abussouOn the meaning of the word here used, see the notes on Revelation 9:1. The meaning here is, that this power would seem to come up from the nether world. It would appear at one time to be extinct, but would revive again as if coming from the world over which Satan presides, and would, in its revived character, be such as might be expected from such an origin.

And go into perdition - That is, its end will be destruction. It will not be permanent, but will be overthrown and destroyed. The word perdition here is properly rendered by Prof. Stuart “destruction,” but nothing is indicated by the word of the “nature” of the destruction that would come upon it.

And they that dwell on the earth - The inhabitants of the earth generally; that is, the matter referred to will be so remarkable as to attract general attention.

Shall wonder - It will be so contrary to the regular course of events, so difficult of explanation, so remarkable in itself, as to excite attention and surprise.

Whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world - See this explained in the notes on Revelation 13:8. The idea seems to be, that those whose names are written in the book of life, or who are truly the friends of God, would not be drawn off in admiration of the beast, or in rendering homage to it.

When they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is - That is, the power that once was mighty; that had declined to such a state that it became, as it were, extinct; and that was revived again with so much of its original strength, that it might be said that it still exists. The fact of its being revived in this manner, as well as the nature of the power itself, seemed suited to excite this admiration.

Uriah Smith
Daniel and the Revelation, 659

Verse 8

Rome in Three Phases. — The beast of which the angel here speaks is evidently the scarlet beast. A wild beast, like the one thus introduced, is the symbol of an oppressive and persecuting power; and while the Roman power as a nation had a long, uninterrupted existence, it passed through certain phases during which this symbol would be inapplicable to it, and during which time, consequently, the beast, in such prophecies as the present, might be said not to be, or not to exist. Thus Rome in its pagan form was a persecuting power in its relation to the people of God, during which time it constituted the beast that was; but the empire was nominally converted to Christianity; there was a transition from paganism to another phase of religion falsely called Christian; and during a brief period, while this transition was going on, it lost its ferocious and persecuting character, and then it could be said of the beast that it was not. Time passed on, and it degenerated into popery, and again assumed its bloodthirsty and oppressive character, and then it constituted the beast that “yet is,” or in John’s day was to be.DAR 659.2

The Seven Heads. — The seven heads are explained to be, first, seven mountains, and then seven kings, or forms of government; for the expression in verse 10, “And there are seven kings,” should read, and these are seven kings. “Five are fallen,” says the angel, or passed away; “one is;” the sixth was then reigning; another was to come, and continue for a short space; and when the beast reappeared in its bloody and persecuting character, it was to be under the eighth form of government, which was to continue till the beast went into perdition. The seven forms of government that have existed in the Roman empire are usually enumerated as follows: (1) kingly; (2) consular; (3) decemvirate; (4) dictatorial; (5) triumvirate; (6) imperial; and (7) papal. Kings, consuls, decemvirs, dictators, and triumvirs had passed away in John’s day. He was living under the imperial form. Two more were to arise after his time. One was only to continue a short space, and hence is not usually reckoned among the heads; while the last, which is usually denominated the seventh, is in reality the eighth. The head which was to succeed the imperial, and continue a short space, could not be the papal; for that has continued longer than all the rest put together. We understand, therefore, that the papal head is the eighth, and that a head of short continuance intervened between the imperial and papal. In fulfillment of this, we read that after the imperial form had been abolished, there was a ruler who for about the space of sixty years governed Rome under the title of the “Exarch of Ravenna.” Thus we have the connecting link between the imperial and papal heads. The third phase of the beast that was, and is not, and yet is, is the Roman power under the rule of the papacy; and in this form it ascends out of the bottomless pit, or bases its power on pretensions which have no foundation but a mixture of Christian errors and pagan superstitions.DAR 659.3

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.
Ellen G. White
This Day With God, 322.2

Those who are striving to be overcomers will be pursued by the temptations of the enemy. Satan will tempt them to corrupt the principles which all must maintain who would reach the high standard that God has set before them. Satan rejoices when he can lead souls to follow mistaken ideas, until their names are blotted out of the book of life and recorded among the names of the unjust. We can overcome only in the way that Christ overcame—by wholehearted obedience to every commandment of God. True religion is obedience to all the commandments of God. TDG 322.2

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Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 381-90

In Revelation 14 the first angel is followed by a second proclaiming: “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” Revelation 14:8. The term “Babylon” is derived from “Babel,” and signifies confusion. It is employed in Scripture to designate the various forms of false or apostate religion. In Revelation 17 Babylon is represented as a woman—a figure which is used in the Bible as the symbol of a church, a virtuous woman representing a pure church, a vile woman an apostate church. GC 381.1

In the Bible the sacred and enduring character of the relation that exists between Christ and His church is represented by the union of marriage. The Lord has joined His people to Himself by a solemn covenant, He promising to be their God, and they pledging themselves to be His and His alone. He declares: “I will betroth thee unto Me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies.” Hosea 2:19. And, again: “I am married unto you.” Jeremiah 3:14. And Paul employs the same figure in the New Testament when he says: “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:2. GC 381.2

The unfaithfulness of the church to Christ in permitting her confidence and affection to be turned from Him, and allowing the love of worldly things to occupy the soul, is likened to the violation of the marriage vow. The sin of Israel in departing from the Lord is presented under this figure; and the wonderful love of God which they thus despised is touchingly portrayed: “I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest Mine.” “And thou wast exceeding beautiful and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through My comeliness, which I had put upon thee.... But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown.” “As a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord;” “as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!” Ezekiel 16:8, 13-15, 32; Jeremiah 3:20. GC 381.3

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Ellen G. White
The Upward Look, 277.6

All are to hear the last message of warning. The prophecies in the book of Revelation, chapters 12 to 18, are being fulfilled. In the eighteenth chapter is recorded the very last call to the churches. This call is now to be given. In the nineteenth chapter, the time is pictured when the beast and the false prophet are taken, and cast into a lake of fire. The dragon, who was the instigator of the great rebellion against heaven, is bound, and cast into the bottomless pit for a thousand years. Then follows the resurrection of the wicked and the final destruction of Satan and all the wicked, and the final triumph and reign of Christ in this earth.—Manuscript 75, September 20, 1906, “A Caution Against Heavy Investment in Food Manufacture.” UL 277.6

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