In Revelation 17:8 the angel first addressed the mystery or secret (identity) of the beast, telling John that what he saw “was, and is not, and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit…” But, what does this mean? It would be difficult to offer an answer to this question without descending into subjectivity to some degree. Certainly, many of the current interpretations of the beast of Revelation 17 and its heads are purely subjective, and are without any objective merit whatsoever. Trying to make the beast to mean a resurrected Holy Roman Empire, which was never “holy” nor was it “Roman” nor was it even an “empire” in the strictest sense, is without any objective value.
If one compares the Apocalypse with Daniel’s prophecy, Daniel 2 precludes interpreting the identity of the beast beyond the first century AD, certainly beyond the existence of the Roman Empire. And, all Biblical scholars conclude the identity of the legs and feet of Daniel’s image in Daniel 2 and the fourth kingdom of Daniel 7 is the Roman Empire. Notice:
In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever (Daniel 2:44 – emphasis mine).
The text claims that the whole image would be destroyed “In the days of those kings…” which points to the fourth kingdom. In the days of the fourth kingdom (the Roman Empire) a stone cut out of a mountain without hands (i.e. not of human origin) would strike the image at its feet and destroy those empires. Babylon has fallen; Persia has fallen; Greece has fallen and certainly the Roman Empire hasn’t been in existence since about the fifth century AD. So, when was the stone “cut out of the mountain without hands” (Daniel 2:45) and when did it strike the image that eventually destroyed the whole? All Biblical scholars conclude that the Kingdom of God, which is the stone that crushed the image (Daniel 2:44), was begun in the first century AD. Therefore, I conclude that the beast of Revelation 17 must refer to people and events of the first century AD. Interpreting its identity beyond the first century would contradict the Scriptures (cp. John 10:35)?
John was told that the beast, at least in its then present context, “was” and “is not” (Revelation 17:8). In other words, the beast did exist at one time but wasn’t in existence at the time of this prophecy. Nevertheless, the beast was about to ascend from the bottomless pit and go into destruction. That is, it was about to return to existence only to be destroyed forever. I find it interesting that the text of verse-10 claims: “five (kings) are fallen, and one is (in existence; i.e. reigns) and the other is not yet come.” In other words, although the beast in Revelation 17:8 “is not” the text is still able to say one of its heads was reigning (Revelation 17:10), so the heads exist or have a life apart from the existence of the beast, itself!
The angel also claimed that the people of the earth, that is the Jewish people, will wonder or marvel (G2296) when they see the beast who was (did exist) but was not (i.e. passed out of existence) and yet is (arose into existence once more). Nevertheless, it is important to understand that the only Jews who wonder or marvel (G2296), when the beast returns to existence, are those Jews who are not followers of Jesus. Their names are not written in the book of life (i.e. citizens of heaven). It is very important, therefore, to ask ourselves: what occurred in the first century AD to account for this? I’ll address this in greater detail in my next study.
 This is the same Greek word that is used in Revelation 17:6 where John wondered or marveled at the woman with great “admiration” (G2295), and was rebuked by the angel. Thaumazo (G2296) is the verb, while thauma (G2295) is the noun. Jesus’ disciples will not succumb to the temptation of wondering over the existence of the beast, because they know what was about to occur, due to John’s prophecy, the Apocalypse.