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Introduction to Revelation 17: One of the greatest errors in prophetic interpretation

One of the greatest errors in prophetic interpretation by many Protestant theologians is the interpretation of heads and beasts in Rev 17:3.7.9-11. What they are saying is, a head represents a beast and a beast represents a head in prophetic interpretation. Therefore, a head is a symbol for a political empire. This is absolutely nonsense and goes against all interpretations of prophetical symbols. This is pure speculation and has nothing to do with Biblical exegesis. What they are doing is eisegesis: reading into the text what is not there, and then they reinforce each other’s argument by quoting from each other’s comments on Revelation. What they are saying is 1 + 1 = 3, and because they are professors of theology many people believe them.

Revelation of Jesus Christ           by Ranko Stefanovic

The following is a quote from one of the most prominent theologians in the Seventh-day Adventist church on the book of Revelation: the right honorable Ranko Stefanovic.

Ranco Stefanovic

Stefanovic writes in his commentary “Revelation of Jesus Christ[i].” Several modern commentators interpret the seven kings as Roman Emperors: five have fallen (Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and Nero), one ruled in John´s time (Vespasian), and the seventh, Titus, would be the one to come. The eighth one that was not yet would be Domitian as the returned Nero.

On page 521, he states, “This commentary argues that the sixth head/king, which “is,” must be understood from John´s viewpoint at the time of the writing of Revelation, in other words, the angel identified the heads/kings to John, and it must have had meaning for John when he wrote. Thus, the five that have fallen can be listed as follows: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. The kingdom that ruled the world and oppressed the church during the time of John was Imperial Rome (the sixth kingdom). The seventh kingdom to come from John´s perspective referred to medieval ecclesiastical Christianity represented in the sea beast that was mortally wounded in Revelation 13:1-10.” (The sea beast he is writing about is the Roman Catholic Church).

The reason for this error of prophetic interpretation of heads and beasts is, that the scarlet beast which is Satan, is the eighth head and part of the seventh. Therefore, many Protestant theologians conclude that a head in prophetic interpretation represents a beast and a beast represents a head. This is one of the greatest mistakes in prophetic interpretation.

A beast does not represent a head and a head does not represent a beast in prophetic interpretation, with the exception of the scarlet beast in Rev 17:3 and the sea beast in Rev 13:1-10. Why this exception? Because these beasts represent spiritual empires, and they are the heads of spiritual empires, in the present and in the future.

In the English language this picture is the whole beast

In the English language this picture is the head of a beast

Stefanovic is not doing an exegesis on the symbol of heads but eisegesis: reading into the text what is not there. This is pure speculation in what he says, and then he backs it up with other theologians who have the same interpretation. He is a most respected Seventh-day Adventist theologian, and Adventist theologians and ministers are usually at the forefront of prophetic interpretation. None can replicate their studies in the studies of the books of Daniel and Revelation. However, when we have a theologian that tries to agree with other Protestant theologians, so that he can sell a book, then I draw the line, and we are on our way going downhill with the understanding of prophetic interpretation.

You can see my study, from the Bible and Bible only, on what heads mean in Rev 17:9-11.

[i] Ranko Stefanovic, Revelation of Jesus Christ (Berrien Springs, Michigan: Andrews University Press, 2009), 520.

 

The writer of this study is Tony Butenko, a minister in the Seventh-day Adventist church Denmark. He has studied at Avondale College, Australia; Newbold College, England and Andrews University, Michigan, USA. He is married with four children and five grandchildren. His hobbies are walking in the bird nature reserve around his home, manipulating atoms in metals and experimenting with electricity in rays from the atmosphere.

 

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