The Identity of the Seven Kings of Rev. 17:10 (Judgment 4)

The difference between visions and explanations helps us solve one of the most vexing problems in the whole book of Revelation. Who are the seven kings of Rev. 17:10? They are clearly sequential, but where do they begin and when is the “one is” of the angel’s description? It is a power in John’s day, one at the very end of time, or is it somewhere in the course of history? Various Seventh-day Adventist scholars have drawn each of these three conclusions.

One popular option among non-scholars is to see the seven kings as seven consecutive popes, usually beginning with the year 1929, when Mussolini restored Vatican City to the sovereignty of the Roman Catholic Church, and the very last pope of earth’s history. This view has frequently suggested that a current pope is either the last or the next to last. So this view has led people into date-setting and is now stretched to the limit as pope after pope continues.

A second view is quite popular among SDA scholars. It suggests that the time of the sixth king (the “one is” of 17:10) is the time from 1798 to 1929, when the papacy had no temporal power. The five fallen kings would then be Babylon Persia, Greece, Rome, and the medieval papacy. The one that is would be the time when the church has no temporal power. The seven kings would be the situation today, the restored Vatican power. This view fits well with the overall Adventist view of the end-time.

But seeing this text as part of an explanation rather than a vision would rule out both options if applied here. The passage about the seven kings is not in the vision (Rev. 17:3-6), it is in the explanation of the vision (17:7-18). In order to make sense to John the explanation needs to be from his standpoint in history. So the “one is” king would have to be present at the time when John himself received the vision in order to make sense. If the “one is” kingdom is the pagan Rome of John’s day, the five who are “fallen” would be the five super powers of the Old Testament world; Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece. The seventh “king” would be the medieval papacy and the “eighth” (Rev. 17:11) king, who is one of the seven, would be the revived Babylon of chapter 17, an entity that in its fullness is still in our future.

5 thoughts on “The Identity of the Seven Kings of Rev. 17:10 (Judgment 4)

  1. Meluleki Maphosa

    Thank you. You just settled my mind. I worry a great deal about trying to make this prophecy onto the papacy. For a start it is too simplistic and tempting to accept without question. Secondly it is sensational. Thirdly it leads to time setting which is dangerous. Finally I worry about prophetic interpretations that fail to revive my spiritual life. Technically sound interpretations have a tendency to give satisfactory and logical explanations that ignore spiritual revival. God has given us prophecy partly in order to change us and our way of thinking. How is the sin problem being addressed in this prophecy?

    1. Jon Paulien Post author

      Not every part of SCripture must have a spiritual benefit, some parts are history, other parts geneological. they serve a different purpose. But I would encourage most to spend the marjority of their time on the parts of Scripture that are the most clear and that have strong spiritual benefit.

  2. Robert Whiteman

    I agree with your final assessment, with exception of the “one is” as being only pagan Rome. There are 7 heads on the dragon, the hybrid beast of Rev 13 and the scarlet beast of Rev 17. They represent the same powers that Satan has worked through since Israel was a nation, beginning with Egypt. The 6th is Rome(pagan and papal), as in the iron legs of Daniel 2(which must be our foundation for interpretation), and the 7th will be the feet of iron and clay, led by the false trinity and their enforcement of the mark of the beast(see Rev 17:12-14). The 8th “was, is not, and shall ascend/go into perdition”. This 8th is Satan who works behind the world powers and supports the harlot Babylon the great. He alone ascends from the bottomless pit since he alone is cast into it.
    He will lead the wicked against the city of God as the visible head of the hosts in rebellion, and will then be revealed as the one who destroyed the earth(Isa 14:16,17). Then all the lost will turn on Satan and his angels for the last struggle of the wicked before they are consumed, root and branches when all will be “cast into the lake of fire”.

    1. Doris

      I just love everything you say – and most especially, how you say it. Thanks for your comment. I will be pondering and praying about this for some time, i reckon.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.