The Seven Heads and Ten Horns Explained

(Revelation 17:8-11)

In Revelation 13, the diadems on the seven heads of the dragon moved to the ten horns, the ten states of Europe. The seven heads and ten horns of this beast are best understood in Revelation 17.

“The beast that you saw was and is not.”1Rev 17:8 — The beast was established by “the lie” of Satan. It “was and is not.”

“Is about to come up out of the abyss.”2Rev 17:8 — The same description of the beast can be found in Revelation 11. It is the beast that will kill the two witnesses.

“All those who dwell on the Earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will wonder when they see the beast.”3Rev 17:8 — The people of the world are misled by this beast in a drunken state.

“Here is the mind that has wisdom — the seven heads are the seven mountains on which the woman sits.”4Rev 17:9 —Here, the Protestant Reformers looked to Rome because Rome was on seven hills, but the next phrase was incorrectly copied in later manuscripts, saying, “There are seven kings.”

The earliest manuscripts said:

“They are seven kings.”5Rev 17:10 — The seven mountains are seven kings.

“Five have fallen.”6Rev 17:10 — Looking backwards from John’s time, there were five kingdoms that kept the saints in captivity: Greece, Persia, Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt.

“One is….”7Rev 17:10 — This is Rome.

“The other is yet to come.”8Rev 17:10 — This is described in verse 12 as “ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom.” The seventh head is a conglomeration of the ten kings.

“He must remain a little while.”9Rev 17:10 — The conglomeration of the ten kingdoms will remain a little while, but the kingdom of the beast will continue.

“The beast is also … eighth.”10Rev 17:11 — The Greek lacks the article for “eighth” because the kingdom of the beast was not consecutive to the seventh kingdom. It began in the days of the seventh kingdom.

“And is one of the seven….”11Rev 17:11 — The beast was identified by the name Lateinos, the Latins, who were among the seven.