John was amazed when he saw the woman (v. 6) because of her seeming resilience. His response surprised the angel who was speaking to him. The angel then explained to John what the beast was with seven heads and ten horns signified, and its connection to Babylon.
The seven heads and the ten horns represent kings, with the ten kings having not yet appeared (they are the powers of the future). In contrast, the seven are made up of five kings who have had their day, one who is ruling, and one who is yet to come (perhaps, the future Antichrist). Together, they look like a mini-attempt to be divine (past, present and future). They are also connected to the beast. What is going to be the experience of this powerful beast that has all authority? Here are six things that are said about it.
First, we are told where it comes from – the bottomless pit, and where it is going – destruction. Whatever else this means, it is devilish. Second, the only people who don’t acknowledge its authority are Christians, those described as having their names in the book of life. Third, a wise person at the time John sent this book will see that Rome (the city built on seven hills) was the current expression of political power. Fourth, whatever power future leaders have, it will be for a short time – one hour. Fifth, they are united in serving the beast just as their predecessors were. Sixth, they fight against Jesus and his kingdom, but he will defeat them because he alone has total power. Their combined power is no match at any time against him.
John also is told that the woman – Babylon – influences the whole world (the waters). He is also told that future rulers (the ten kings) and the beast – that is the political powers – hate the woman and want her economic influence and resources. This leads to a conflict between the economic and the political forces, which causes Babylon to come to poverty.
What is the explanation for this turn of events? Behind the scenes, God is at work to ensure that this unholy set-up never has final success and the jealous rulers will devise policies that will bring about the demise of Babylon. One day, Babylon will fall, but the way God will bring it about is to allow one section that the devil influences to destroy another section that he influences.