REV 17 AND THE BEAST AS AN EIGHTH (1)

PMW 2017-008 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

This is the second in a three-part study of the confusing verses in Revelation 17. I now move on to consider Rev. 17:11 and:

The eighth among seven?

In previous studies I argued that Nero is the personification of the beast. The evidence is quite clear and most compelling. But in Revelation 17:11 we read a statement which causes some difficulties with this interpretation. In fact, it “presents all interpreters with a real difficulty.” [1]

And the beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. (Rev 17:11)

Of course, the main difficulties have been solved for I show above what he means by “the beast which was and is not” (cf. Rev 17:8). But now who is this “eighth”? How can there be an eighth in a series of seven? And how is he “one of the seven”?

The Bible and eight

In biblical numerics eight seems to be the number of resurrection. [2] In the Old Testament the eighth day follows the day of rest and is the day on which man’s labor begins anew, as a resurrection of sorts (cf. Ex 20:8–11). God saves eight people on the ark to “resurrect” the human race (1Pe 3:20). [3] Leprosy is “regarded as a decomposition of the vital juices, and as putrefaction in a living body, [it] was an image of death.” [4] Thus, in Israel the leper is not admitted back into the holy community as alive until his eighth day sacrifice (Lev 14:10, 23). The menstruous woman is unclean because of her blood flow for seven days, then she is cleansed on the eighth day (Lev 15:29). This cleansing is necessary “unless they die in their uncleanness” (Lev 15:31). Each of these issues is analogous to resurrection.

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But most importantly, Christ arises from death on the first/ eighth day (Jn 20:1), which is the first day of a new week. [5] This begins a new creation (2Co 5:17). In Revelation he first appears as “the first-born of the dead” (Rev 1:5), establishes the book’s theme as the “pierced” (slain) one who will return alive to avenge himself (Rev 1:7), appears in its initial vision dressed as a priest (Rev 1:13) proclaiming “I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (Rev 1:18; cp. 2:8), and dominates the whole drama as the slain but living Lamb (Rev 5:6, 12; 12:11; 13:8).

Thus, here in Revelation 17:11 the “eighth” points to the beast’s mimicking Christ’s death and resurrection (cf. Rev 13:3; 17:8). Our text reflects this through an inter-textual parallelism: his coming “up out of the abyss” in Revelation 17: 8a is a form of resurrection reflected in his being “an eighth” (the number of resurrection) in Revelation 17:11 [6]:


Revelation 17:8a                                                  Revelation 17:11
“the beast . . . . was and is not” (hen kai ouk esti)       “the beast . . . . was and is not” (hen kai ouk esti)
“is about to come up out of the abyss”                         “is himself also an eighth”
“to go to destruction” (eis apoleian hupagei)                 “he goes to destruction” (eis apoleian hupagei)


The heart of this parallel is between the phrases “come up out of the abyss” and “an eighth.” In Scripture the “abyss” (abussos) is a part of the three-level cosmology of heaven, earth, and underworld (cf. Php 2:10; Rev 5:3, 13). “In the underworld (abussos) is not only the realm of the dead . . . but also Gehenna, the place of punishment” as well as “the prison of punished demons.” [7] In Romans 10:7 abussos appears in the context of resurrection: “‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)” (cp. Ps 71:20).


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My study of the difficult statements in Rev. 17 will conclude in the next article. We will see how this “eighth” image functions in the identity of the beast in Revelation.


Notes

1. Alan F. Johnson, “Revelation” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Regency, 1976–91), 12:560.

2. Beale, 875; Austin Farrer, A Rebirth of Images: The Making of St. John’s Apocalypse (Boston: Beacon, 1949), 70–72; Gaebelein, “Revelation,” 560.

3. “For righteous Noah, along with the other mortals at the deluge, i.e., with his own wife, his three sons and their wives, being eight in number, were a symbol of the eighth day, wherein Christ appeared when He rose from the dead, for ever the first in power” Justin Martyr, Trypho, 138:1 “The sacramental import of the 8th number, as signifying the resurrection” (Augustine, Januarius, 55). Cp. Augustine, Faust. 19; John of Damascus, Orth. Faith 23.

4. C. F. Keil and Franz Delitzsch, The Pentateuch, vol. 1 in Commentary on the Old Testament (Edinburgh, T & T Clark, 1866–91; rep.: Peabody, Mass.: Hendrikson, 2001), 2:384.

5. Barnabas writes: “We keep the eighth day with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus arose from the dead” (Barn. 15).

6. Moses Stuart, Commentary on the Apocalypse (Andover: Allen, Morrill, Wardwell, 1845), 2:326; Beale 875–76; Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Book of Revelation (NTC) (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001), 473.

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One thought on “REV 17 AND THE BEAST AS AN EIGHTH (1)

  1. apocalypse2blog April 2, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Amen to the postmillennial view

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