This at once disposes of the popular interpretation which regards these seven mountains as referring to the seven hills on which the city of Rome was built. The Holy Spirit expressly tells us that the seven mountains are (represent) seven kings.2
The punctuation of the AV. in this verse is very faulty. Verse 9 should end with the word “wisdom,” and the remainder of the verse should form part of the tenth verse. The explanation of the angel would not then have been cut in two, and interpreted separately as is commonly the case; and the “seven mountains” would not have been treated independently of the clause which goes on to further explain what they signify. The “seven mountains” are, according to this, “seven kings.” It does not say that “there are seven kings” over and above, and beside the “seven mountains;” but that the “seven mountains are (i.e., represent) seven kings.” . . . These mountains, then, are no mere heaps of earth or rocks, but “kings.” . . . For interpreters to take these literally as “mountains,” in the midst of a context which the same interpreters take to be symbolic; and in the face of the interpretation actually given by the angel that “they are seven kings,” is to play fast and loose with the word of prophecy.3Rather than identifying these seven kings (which are seven heads) with seven historic kingdoms, some aspire to find fulfillment of John’s vision in the events of first-century Rome. Most frequently, preterist interpreters attempt to pick kings in such a way that Nero can be said to fulfill the predictions concerning The Beast. In doing so, they overlook inconsistencies in counting kings:
To be sure there have been many attempts to fit the date of Revelation . . . into the emperor lists of the first century. . . . But immediately there are admitted problems. Where do we begin—with Julius Caesar or Caesar Augustus? Are we to exclude Galba, Otho, and Vitellius who had short, rival reigns? If so, how can they be excluded except on a completely arbitrary basis? A careful examination of the historic materials yields no satisfactory solution. If Revelation were written under Nero, there would be too few emperors; if under Domitian, too many. The original readers would have had no more information on these emperor successions than we do, and possibly even less. How many Americans can immediately name the last seven presidents? Furthermore, how could the eighth emperor who is identified as the beast also be one of the seven (Rev. 17:11+)?4For a more in-depth discussion of the problems of correlating these kings with early Rome, see Beale.5 five have fallen
Seiss (followed recently by Ladd and Walvoord) has suggested an interpretation that takes the five-one-one to refer to successive world kingdoms that have oppressed the people of God: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece (five fallen), Rome (one is), and a future world kingdom. While this solves some of the emperor succession problems and fits nicely, it too must admit arbitrary omissions, such as the devastating persecution of the people of God under the Seleucids of Syria, especially Antiochus IV, Epiphanes.7However, it is not the futurist who is arbitrarily neglecting the Seleucids, but the night vision of Daniel (Dan. 7+) which guides the identification of these kingdoms. Daniel’s four beasts are widely held to be Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Since the initial stage of the fourth beast, Rome, is already underway (“one is,” see below) at the time of John, this provides identification of the previous three: Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. It is apparent that the Seleucid empire—an outgrowth of the disintegration of the Greek empire under Alexander, is largely subsumed into the third leopard beast. Although it is probably recognized in the four heads on the leopard beast (Dan. 7:6+) and the four notable horns on the he-goat in another of Daniel’s visions (Dan. 8:8+), it is not given the same prominence as the other kingdoms. This is not an arbitrary decision by the futurist, but the plan and purpose of the Holy Spirit Who provided Daniel with the visions. Since only three of Daniel’s four kingdoms have fallen by the time of John, another two kingdoms must be found to form a total of five. The only arbitrariness attributable to the futurist is in the identification of these previous two kingdoms: whether they be Egypt and Assyria or extend further back to include Babel.It is our view that the historic scope of the seven-headed beast ridden by the Harlot and her identification with Babylon points in the direction of Babel as the first kingdom. But there is still the problem of knowing whether to include Egypt or Assyria as the second. If the issue is to be decided by volume of passages pertaining to either kingdom, it would seem that Egypt would garner the most votes resulting in the five fallen kingdoms of: Babel, Egypt, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece.one is
[Gentry’s] conclusion that Nero is the sixth or “the one [who] is” also faces serious obstacles. The greatest obstacle is his need to begin counting “kings” with Julius Caesar. He tries to defend this by citing several ancient sources, but the fact is that Rome was a Republic, ruled by the First Triumvirate, in the days of Julius Caesar and became a Principate under Augustus and the emperors that followed him. Neither does Gentry attempt to explain the thirteen-year gap between Julius Caesar’s death and the beginning of Augustus’ reign. They were not consecutive rulers as he makes them out to be.8and the other has not yet come
1 The NU text associates this phrase with the end of the previous verse.
2 Arthur Walkington Pink, The Antichrist (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1999, 1923), s.v. “Antichrist and Babylon.”
3 E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), Rev. 17:10.
4 Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), Rev. 17:10.
5 Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 21-24.
6 Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), Rev. 17:10.
7 Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Rev. 17:10.
8 Robert L. Thomas, “Theonomy and the Dating of Revelation,” in Richard L. Mayhue, ed., The Master’s Seminary Journal, vol. 5 (Sun Valley, CA: The Master’s Seminary, 1994), 194-195.