A Question I Was Asked:



Who Are the Seven Kings of Rome of Revelation 17: 9-10,12?








Can you tell me who the Seven Kings of Rome - as mentioned by John in Revelation 17: 9-10, 12 - really are?



UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay, let us look at that:

9. "This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. 10. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while. 11. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.

12. "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. 13. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. 14. They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings - and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers."

I will tackle this by making a number of points:

1 (verse 9). The seven hills identify Rome. Bible commentators of all backgrounds recognise this, there is no debate here. Rome is built on seven hills.

2 (verse 10). But these seven hills are also kings. We have already identified the Rome of John's day, It is now pretty easy to identify these 'kings' with the first seven rulers of Rome, but perhaps we need to wait for verse 12 for more on that.

3 (verse 11). Who is the beast who "once was, and now is not," and is belonging to the seven. Various ideas have been suggested but I believe it is a clear reference to Satan. Why? He is of the seven because of giving them evil power. He "once was and now is not" because he had been bound at the beginning of the Church age. The binding means that the devil cannot prevent people from coming to Christ and going on to attain salvation. it does not mean Satan cannot cause havoc in other ways and he was causing it here. He was thrown down to earth at the beginning of the Christian era (Matthew 12:28-29; Luke 10:17-20; John 12:31-32; Colossians 2:13-15; Revelation 20:1-3). The text also states that this "eighth king" is going to go into destruction. Satan finally goes into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10).

4 (verse 12). Okay, to look back at verse 10 we can now identify these Roman Emperors:

  1. Julius Caesar. (Reigned 46-44 BC).
  2. Augustus. (Reigned 27BC-14AD).
  3. Tiberius. (Reigned 14AD-37AD).
  4. Gaius (Caligua). (Reigned 37-41 AD).
  5. Claudius (these five had fallen when John wrote - verse 10). (Reigned 41AD-54AD).
  6. Nero (the "one is" was Nero - verse 10). (Reigned 54AD-68AD).
  7. Galba ("the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while" - verse 10. Galba only reigned for 6 months from June 68AD to January 69AD).


5. All of this also confirms that John wrote during the reign of Nero. The old idea that John wrote as late as 90-95 AD is now discredited almost everywhere - it just does not stand up to careful research. That scenario came from Bible liberals and evangelicals should not have been so quick to get 'on-board' with it. The irony is that it was another liberal, John Robinson, who overturned it. John the Apostle wrote in the 60s AD just a few years before the temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD. It is now also clear from this that John wrote before Galba became emperor in 68AD.

Tacitus does not agree with the order I have given above but Josephus - a most meticulous historian who actually lived through these things - agrees and so does Seutonius, a Roman historian who lived 69-122AD. Some mostly liberal Bible commentators and a few others too have wanted to drop Julius Caesar from the list, but why? - he was the first emperor and later emperors were called 'Caesar' after him. The problem was that too often certain liberals had already made up their minds that John wrote in the AD90s and 'adjusted' the list of these emperors to fit in with that! They wanted Domitian (reigned 81-96AD) to be the emperor when John wrote. These liberals were joined by prophecy futurist fundamentalists who did not want any suggestion that John might have been referring to first century events in Revelation (of course not, they were prophecy 'futurists'), so eagerly grasped the idea that John might not have written until circa 95AD, this making everything he wrote truly 'futurist.' But the truth is now out - we can now be pretty sure that John wrote in the 60s AD. Also, he wrote before the temple was destroyed in AD70 because the temple was still standing when John wrote (see Revelation 11:1-2). Accepting the correct (early) dating for Revelation makes many things within this book nicely fall into place.

6 (verse 14). "They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings - and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers." These Roman emperors waged war against the early Christians, though none as much as the utterly despicable Nero. It amounts to 'waging war against the Lamb' to attack and persecute Christians.

Robin A. Brace. June 1st, 2016.

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