QUESTION: The Scriptures depicting the eighth king, seem more like a riddle, such as Samson’s riddle to the Philistines, than a statement. For instance, how can a kingdom “that was”, still not be around or already present? Since this takes a mind with wisdom, isn’t Revelation telling us that the 8th king is already here? Or that it has already been, but is cloaked so-to-speak, rather already setup?
ANSWER: The angel’s explanation of the 8th king is a riddle. And riddles require some thinking to solve. That is why the angel said that solving it required a mind with wisdom.
Here is the riddle of the harlot and the beast that “was, but is not.”
“Well, on seeing her I was greatly amazed. So the angel said to me: ‘Why is it that you were amazed? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the wild beast that is carrying her and that has the seven heads and the ten horns: The wild beast that you saw was, but is not, and yet is about to ascend out of the abyss, and it is to go off into destruction. And the inhabitants of the earth—those whose names have not been written in the scroll of life from the founding of the world—will be amazed when they see how the wild beast was, but is not, and yet will be present.
“This calls for a mind that has wisdom: The seven heads mean seven mountains, where the woman sits on top. And there are seven kings: Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet arrived; but when he does arrive, he must remain a short while. And the wild beast that was but is not, it is also an eighth king, but it springs from the seven, and it goes off into destruction.”
To properly understand the riddle it is important to realize that the angel is speaking in two spaces of time — both from the standpoint of the present. The main narrative is from the point of reference of John in the first century. Hence, the five kingdoms that had fallen and the “one is” are from John’s standpoint.
However, the whole point of the Revelation given to John was to disclose the future. And John had just had a startling vision of this scarlet-colored, seven-headed monstrosity carrying the woman called Babylon the Great, and then the angel began to explain the things that he saw in the future speaking at times from the future, but in the present tense.
That is because the angel was not only speaking to the apostle John, he is really speaking to those who will be living in the future —at the moment the vision comes to life — a “John class” if you will. Hence, the focus of the vision is really at the point in time when the wild beast “is not.”
What is the significance of the wild beast not being? It represents the crash — the absolute collapse of the present governmental system that has existed for over three millennia.
Of course, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that all these things have already happened. The Watchtower teaches that the wild beast received a mortal head wound and recovered during the First World War. And the wild beast that “is not” is supposedly the League of Nations. The period when it did not exist was during the Second World War. But lo and behold! The beast emerged from the abyss in 1945 in the form of the United Nations!
So, yes, you would get no argument from Jehovah’s Witnesses that the 8th king is “already here.” That is what the Watchtower has been teaching for 70 years.
But there are many, many questions that arise if what the Watchtower teaches is true — questions that none of Jehovah’s Witnesses or their Governing Body can answer intelligently.
To demonstrate their fallacy, simply try to coherently explain how it is that people have already received the mark of the beast. After all, the Grand Climax book, the Watchtower’s last commentary on Revelation, states that people of the world first began receiving the mark of the beast in 1922, after the League of Nations came into existence.
Here are a few pertinent questions I have posed for Jehovah’s Witnesses already:
Question #3: The Revelation Grand Climax book says that people have already received the 666 mark of the beast because of supporting the UN and the political system in general, particularly since 1945. But doesn’t receiving the symbolic mark mean that a person is doomed to everlasting destruction? If people are already marked then what is the point of preaching to them? Can they lose the mark by repenting? And if so, what is the point of the mark in the first place?
Question #21: In the Revelation Grand Climax book in the chapter entitled Earthquakes in the Lord’s Day, it states: “Consider what John describes at the opening of the sixth seal: ‘And I saw when he opened the sixth seal,and a great earthquake occurred.’ This must fall within the same time frame as the opening of the other seals. Just when in the Lord’s day does this earthquake occur, and what kind of quake is it?”
The opening of the sixth seal describes a unique and horrifying development involving the luminaries of the heavens going dark and all the mountains crashing down. Jehovah’s Witnesses understand this symbolism to apply to the coming tribulation. Christ also spoke of similar phenomenon that would occur during the tribulation. But while the Grand Climax book rightly interprets the opening of the sixth seal to the great tribulation, it contradictorily states that the sixth seal has already been unsealed and that the world wars were merely preliminary tremors preceding the big one. But since the end of World War Two the world has enjoyed a prolonged period of relative peace and prosperity. That being the case, is it really a straightforward interpretation to suppose that an initial period of upheaval gives way to a prolonged period of stability after the sixth seal is opened? And is it reasonable that a century or more passes from the time the seal is broken until the events depicted therein actually transpire?
Since the world-shaking tribulation has not begun, why ought Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to believe and teach that the sixth seal is already opened? Is the reason the Watchtower concocted the notion of a preliminary quaking a ploy to allow the Society to continue to assert the previous seals have already been opened?
Question #22: The 13th chapter of Revelation depicts one head of the seven-headed beast receiving a death-dealing blow, only to revive. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the head of the beast is the Anglo-American power and that the beast received the mortal blow during the First World War. But how can that be reconciled with the fact that Great Britain and America were victorious?
The Bible’s symbolism of the head of the beast being slaughtered must surely depict the ruling powers ceasing to function for a time – even suffering a collapse. Yet, neither the United States nor Britain experienced anything even remotely close to instability. True, hundreds of thousands of men lost their lives in senseless slaughter, but that did not bring down the governments or lead to anarchy or economic collapse. Besides, America lost far more men and came closer to collapse during the Civil war than WWI. The facts of history simply do not justify the Watchtower’s interpretation. Isn’t it apparent that the beast has not been slaughtered yet?
The appearance of the eighth king will be something extraordinary. It will be the Phoenix-like resurrection of the political system from the ashes of disaster. People will be truly amazed and thrilled to have a functioning government again — even if it is a totalitarian nightmare. The world will have been so terrorized by the system’s collapse they will prefer anything other than anarchy.
That the rule of the 8th king has not commenced is evident from the fact that even though the angel speaks to us from the point when the beast “is not,” he speaks to the future kingdom of the 10 horns. That’s why we read: “The ten horns that you saw mean ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they do receive authority as kings for one hour with the wild beast. These have one thought, so they give their power and authority to the wild beast.”
The crash of the system will really commence judgment day for all people. That is because people will be judged as to how they respond to the calamity. Those who will admire the beast do not have their names written in the book of life, meaning they will have demonstrated to God that they prefer Satan’s rule to his. And because of that they will forfeit their lives.