Apr 8, 2012

What Is the Chronological Order of Revelation 13 Relative to Chapters 17 and 18?

Tony Garland

Dr. Tony Garland

Q. How do you interpret and chronologically order Revelation 13, 17, 18?

A. As to my general chronological interpretation, I see both Revelation 13 and 17 as spanning the entire sweep of Biblical history in their initial verses. (Just as I see Revelation 12 in regard to the promise of Messiah to be born of a woman (Gen. 3:15) with an ultimate fulfillment found in the Jewish virgin Mary (Isa. 7:14; Mat. 1:22-23). This comes from my interpretation of the seven heads of the beast as representing seven successive empires of significance to Biblical history—which I take as starting with Babel in order to account for the historical span of the harlot as well as her role as the mother of harlots.

Having recognized the origin of both Revelation 13 and 17 in early history, it seems clear that the specific events which are then elaborated upon fall within the period of ascendency of the personal beast. Thus, during the time of the end. There appear to be several textual clues which indicate overlap in the events of Revelation 13 and 17/18, including shared references to:

  • Rise of the beast from the sea, symbol of restless Gentile activity (Rev. 13:1 cf. Rev. 17:15).
  • Mortal wound and recovery upon rise/restoration from the bottomless pit (Rev. 13:3 cf. Rev. 17:8).
  • Marvel/worship at the restoration of the beast (Rev. 13:3-4 cf. Rev. Rev. 17:8).

Thus, there is much overlap between Revelation 13 and 17. However, there does appear to be one detail of significance which would place the destruction of the harlot at a relatively earlier phase of Revelation 13—possibly before the beast Himself has reached his ultimate ascendency:

  1. Ten horns arise on the final head (on the 7th head of the beast seen by John, the fourth beast seen by Daniel).
  2. The beast arises after the ten horns (Dan. 7:24) as an eighth head, if you will (Rev. 17:11).
  3. The ten horns give their allegiance to the beast, possibly in connection with the destruction of the harlot (Rev. 17:17). In any case, the ten horns are functioning as a complete set at her destruction (Rev. 17:16).
  4. The beast overthrows three of the ten horns (Dan. 7:8,20,24).
  5. Christ overthrows the beast at His second coming (Rev. 19:20).

This sequence appears to indicate that the harlot is destroyed during the "one hour" in which the ten horns have authority with the beast (Rev. 17:12), but soon thereafter the beast overthrows three of the ten. Thus, I understand Revelation 18 as occurring before event #4 above. Even so, it is difficult to precisely place events #3 and #4 within Revelation 13 so as to state categorically when the destruction of the harlot, the city of Babylon, takes place in relation to the events within chapter 13. I'm not sure much more can be said regarding sequence with a high degree of confidence without possibly going beyond that which God has revealed. In any case, more of my thoughts on these passages can be found within my commentary on the Book of Revelation.