Monday, 24 May 2021
But the angel said to me, “Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. Revelation 17:7
In the last verse, after seeing the woman (the great harlot) “drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus,” he then said, “I marveled with great amazement.” John was astonished at what he had seen, and his mind could not grasp it. With that, this verse now begins with, “But the angel said to me.”
This is the angel mentioned in verse 17:1 and who has been with John since then, while he has beheld the vision. Obviously, he saw John standing in awe and therefore asked, “Why did you marvel?” It is the same verb used in the previous verse, thaumazó. As was noted, this was the same state as Daniel was found in when he beheld his own overwhelming vision, as is recorded in the Greek translation of that verse.
The Hebrew word used in Daniel is shamem. It signifies astonishment or amazement as if one is utterly stupefied. This is the state that John was in. The angel realized this and called to him to direct his attention back to reality with the question. Then, to allay his overwhelmed state, he next says, “I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.”
At times, this also happened to Daniel. He was presented with visions from others, and he had his own visions at times as well. He would be affected by them because he would have to explain the meaning of them to those who had the visions, or he would need to have them explained to him by an angel. At times, parts of the interpretation of the visions he was given were withheld from him. For John, now, the identity of the woman and the beast will be made known.
The main details will include 1) the woman, 2) the beast, 3) the seven heads, and 4) the ten horns. The rest of the details should then be understandable based on knowing what these four refer to.
Life application: Visions in the Bible are used to convey symbolism that refers to real things which have or which will come about. Every portion of the symbol has meaning, no matter how insignificant. To see a vision like this then means that an entire sweep of history may be summed up in a single display. Trying to mentally grasp what is portrayed is something that surely causes sensory overload.
The angel’s question to John was a reassuring way of letting him know that the meaning can be known and what is depicted is not beyond comprehension. Further, the knowledge will be imparted to him. In essence, “John, don’t be overloaded. Keep your attention on the big picture and the details will be understood.”
This is what we should do with the Bible as well. There are big picture themes, and there are also minute details. Together they form a whole for us to understand what God is conveying to us. The big picture themes revolve around what God will do, and has done, in the sending of the Messiah. Everything else must be taken in relation to that. God has promised, God has sent, and God will complete all things through Him.
As long as we look for Him and to Him, everything else will find its place. Therefore, let us look to JESUS.
Heavenly Father, even two thousand years after John was given the details of the book of Revelation, we still argue over its final meaning and interpretation. Help us to carefully contemplate the symbolism, but not to lose sight of the overarching theme of Revelation. You are in complete control of all things, and You know the future before it occurs. Thank you for this assurance. Amen.