Written by Vladimir Moss





     Shortly before the Russian revolution, St. Barsanuphius of Optina wrote: “In the Apocalypse it is said: Blessed is he that readeth the words of this book. If this is written, it means that it is really so, for the words of the Sacred Scripture are the words of the Holy Spirit. But in what does this blessedness consist? This question is the more pertinent, in that people may object that we do not understand anything of what is written. Perhaps the blessedness consists in the consolation to be gained from reading the Divine words. One can also think as follows: that which is not understood by us now will become understandable when the time described comes to pass. Judge for yourselves. Who reads the Apocalypse now? Almost exclusively those who live in monasteries and in theological academies and seminaries – they have to. But in the world hardly anyone reads it. Hence it is clear that he who will read the Apocalypse before the end of the world will be truly blessed, for he will understand what is taking place. And in understanding he will prepare himself. In reading he will see in the events described in the Apocalypse one or other of the events contemporary with him.”

     Let us now approach the interpretation of two of the most vivid symbolical figures in Revelation – the beast and the whore. While any such interpretation must be tentative and hypothetical, if it helps us to understand the events contemporary with us even to a small extent it will be spiritually useful. And if, as the elder says, some things still remain incomprehensible to us, they “will become understandable when the time described comes to pass” – and that time is surely not far off now…

     The first thing that becomes obvious when considering the beast and the whore is that with their multiple heads and horns they are highly complex symbols, and do not refer exclusively to one person or state or time. Clearly they are phenomena that recur throughout history. They may reach a climax of development towards the end of the world, but they are present throughout history in different forms.

     The second preliminary point is that while both are evil, the beast is a masculine, aggressive kind of evil, while the whore is a feminine, sensual kind. Taking into account how masculine and feminine symbolism is used in other books of the Bible, particularly the prophetic books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, we can make the following first approximate identification: the whore is religious evil throughout history, and the beast is political evil.  

     The third point to be made is that almost all commentators identify the beast with the Antichrist. There is much less unanimity about the whore. 


The Old Testament

     Let us now develop this hypothesis in more detail, beginning with the question: where and when did the phenomena symbolised by the whore and the beast originate in history?

     The answer to this question is: in Babylon shortly after the Flood of Noah. In Genesis 10.8-11 we read about Nimrod, who “began to be a mighty one upon the earth”, “a mighty hunter before the Lord” and the ruler of almost the whole of what is now Iraq. In the next chapter we read of the Tower of Babel built by Nimrod in his territory in order to reach the heavens and make a name for himself on earth. This vainglorious scheme was displeasing to God, Who destroyed it and confused the tongues of its builders. They scattered over the face of the earth, taking the Babylonian religion, the ancestor of all pagan religions with them. So here we have the first types of the beast and the whore, the Antichrist and the religion of the Antichrist, located in the city with the same name as that given to the whore of the Apocalypse.

     If we fast forward nearly 1400 years, we come to Nimrod’s successor, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Political evil now was deeply entwined with religious evil, as in the time of Nimrod. But the evil was worse now; for Babylon not only committed its own politico-religious evil in its own land, but overwhelmed the true state and religious worship of Israel, destroying the Temple and taking the king and people of Israel into captivity in Babylon. There the people were compelled to worship the idol set up by Nebuchadnezzar; and it was only the heroic confession of the Three Holy Children and, later, of the Prophet Daniel that won for the Israelites a measure of religious freedom. Daniel was also able to interpret two visions of Nebuchadnezzar (in chapters 2 and 7), whose imagery was incorporated directly into the image of the beast and the whore in the Apocalypse of St. John. 

     Combining Daniel’s own interpretation of these visions with that of the Holy Fathers, especially St. Hippolytus of Rome, we are able to develop the typology of the Antichrist-beast figure further, so as to see the beast not only in Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom (the gold of the statue in the first vision), but also in three succeeding kingdoms: that of the Persians (the silver of the statue), of the Macedonian Greeks (the bronze of the statue) and of the Romans (the iron and clay of the statue). The whole statue, representing the beast in his pre-Christian incarnations, is then destroyed by a Stone, representing the Kingdom of Christ, the successor and fulfilment of the kingdom of Israel. 

     This typology is developed further in the second vision. The four antichristian kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome are represented this time by four beasts. But the fourth beast, Rome, is represented as having ten horns, which are ten further kingdoms. St. Hippolytus says that these will be “democracies” – a form of government that had disappeared from the earth at the time of his commentary. Another interpretation is that they represent the ten periods of anti-Christian persecution that took place in the first three centuries of the Roman empire.

     And then among the ten horns there arises an eleventh, who will “destroy fearfully” and “will even rise against the Prince of princes. But he shall be broken without human means” (7.24, 25). Patristic commentators unanimously describe this eleventh kingdom as the kingdom of the last, personal Antichrist, who will be destroyed by Christ Himself at His Second Coming…


Rome and Israel

     Fast forward another 1000 years or so, and we come to the time of the triumph of Christianity in the Roman empire. Daniel’s first prophecy has been fulfilled already: the pagan Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman kingdoms have passed, and the era of Christ’s Kingdom has dawned. It has not yet “filled the whole earth”, but it has filled “the inhabited earth” (oikoumene) of the Greco-Roman Mediterranean world from Britain to the borders of Persia. 

     What are the beast and the whore in the first centuries of the Christian era? Undoubtedly the beast is the pagan Roman empire, or at any rate the empire in those (relatively short) periods of its existence when it persecuted the Church, compelling the Christians to worship the emperor as god. As for the whore, this refers not only to the cult of the emperor but also to the multitude of pagan religions from all parts of the empire which all found their home in Rome in this period. For just as the Babylon of Nimrod was the fount of all pagan religions, spewing out its religious evil throughout the world, so the Rome of the pagan emperors was the gathering point and bringing back together, as it were, of all these religions and their mystical teachings and rites, which often involved temple prostitution and other debauchery unacceptable for the Christian conscience. Worthily, therefore, was pagan Rome called Babylon in the Apocalypse: “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth, … the woman drunk with the blood of the martyrs and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Revelation 17.5, 6).

     The whore is said to commit fornication with the kings of the earth, implying that all these kings – presumably the rulers of the semi-autonomous regions of the Roman empire - partake of the religious evil she represents. She is also said to be carried by the beast, “which was full of the names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns” (Revelation 17.3), implying that the supreme political ruler of the time – the Roman emperor – supported and sponsored the whore’s abominations. All this fits very well with the political and religious situation during the pagan Roman empire.

     However, the Apocalypse makes it plain that the symbolic significance of the beast and the whore was not exhausted in the Roman period. For the angel says to St. John: “I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition” (17.7). Again, it is said of the beast that it “is, and is not, and yet is” (17.8). And again, that of the seven heads of the beast, “five have fallen, and one is, and the other has yet to come. And when he comes he must continue a short time” (17.10).

     There is a puzzle here. We have just identified at least one of the incarnations of the beast, with some confidence, as pagan Rome. And yet here the angel says that the beast, at the time of the writing of the Apocalypse – that, is during the reign of the fiercely anti-Christian Domitian, who considered himself to be a god – “is not”. On the other hand, the same angel says that the sixth head of the beast “is” at the time of writing. How can the beast be said to be and not to be at one and the same time?

     In order to solve this enigma, let us first try and identify those heads of the beast – whom the angel identifies as “mountains” or “kings” – that had already fallen at the time of writing. In our discussion of Daniel’s visions, we saw that four of the heads could be identified with Babylon, Persia, Macedonian Greece and Rome. However, we must modify our definition of “Rome” because at the time of the Apocalypse Imperial Rome had definitely not fallen. Perhaps Republican Rome is meant – that fell with the ascension to power of Augustus, the first Roman emperor. So we can now identify four out of the five fallen kingdoms as: Babylon, Persia, Macedonian Greece and Republican Rome. However, it may be objected that Republican Rome was not a kingdom, but a republic, so does not count… Another alternative is to add Egypt to the list of pre-Christian kingdoms… Or Assyria could be counted as a separate kingdom from Babylon…

     However, none of these solutions to the question: who are the five fallen kings? enables us to answer the question: which of them “is, and is not, and yet is” (17.8)? Our hypothesis is that this mysterious appearing and disappearing kingdom refers to the anti-Christian kingdom of Israel. Israel from the time of David to shortly before the birth of Christ, the true successor of David on his throne, had been a true kingdom, a type of the Kingdom of God Himself. But then Herod came to power. He was neither a Jew nor a descendant of David; he destroyed the old Hasmonaean dynasty and tried to kill Christ Himself at His Birth. His kingdom was semi-autonomous, thanks to the favour and support he had won from Rome. But this had been achieved at the cost of his faithfulness to the God of Israel (he worshipped Jupiter in Rome and built temples to pagan gods). So Christ, the true King of Israel, while recognizing Rome as a legitimate political power, did not recognize Herod’s rule – which is why He agreed to speak to Pilate, but not to Herod. And only forty years after His crucifixion, Herod’s kingdom, usurped now by the Jewish pharisaic revolution, was destroyed by the Romans.  

     And yet the anti-Christian kingdom of Israel continued to exist in the underground. For the Pharisees formed a government-in-exile which, significantly, took up residence in Babylon, where also that greatest monument of religious evil, the Babylonian Talmud, was composed. Therefore anti-Christian Israel both existed and did not exist – it no longer existed as an independent centre of political power, but it continued to exist in the underground, supporting the new form of religious evil, Talmudism, which gradually departed more and more from its monotheistic roots until, with the formation of the Kabbala, it merged with the “old-style” evil of paganism... 

     So we can now – tentatively, as always when interpreting the Apocalypse - identify the five fallen kings as: Babylon, Persia, Macedonian Greece, Republican Rome and Herodian, anti-Christian Israel. The sixth head, therefore, which was still flourishing at the time of the writing of the Apocalypse, was Imperial Rome. Meanwhile, the fifth head, anti-Christian Israel, continued to exist in the underground but without an independent power-base, a situation that continued essentially unchanged for over 1800 years as the first, pagan Roman empire passed into the New, Christian Rome of Byzantium, and then the Third Rome of Moscow…


The Seventh and Eighth Heads: Soviet Russia and Israel

     What, then, is the seventh head? Three candidates have been proposed: Papal Rome, the Muslim Caliphs and the leaders of Soviet and neo-Soviet Russia. 

     With regard to Papal Rome, we must not confuse the whore – religious evil – with the beast – political evil.  The Papacy has a strong claim to being another incarnation of the whore, the religious evil of Babylon. Its luxury is proverbial, its murderous opposition to the true, Orthodox faith of Christ is undisputed, and in recent times it has tried to become the mother of all the harlots of the world by uniting all religions – not excluding Judaism – under its ecumenist umbrella. Although Papal Rome tried to make herself out to be the sovereign of all Christian political rulers from the eleventh century onwards, this met with strong opposition, not only in the Orthodox East, but also in the Catholic and Protestant West, and must be judged to have failed. Even if we identify the Holy Roman Empire of the Habsburgs as the political arm of the papacy, it was destroyed by Napoleon in 1806. And the Pope’s own political dominions were taken away from him by the Italian government in 1870. So, whatever its political ambitions and influence, the Papacy must be judged still to be a religious institution, and therefore part of the whore, not of the beast.

     A similar point can be made with regard to the Caliphs. Islam was and continues to be a powerful religious force. But unlike Christianity it has never developed a doctrine of the State; even the idea of the relative independence of the State from the priesthood is weakly developed in Islamic thought. In the sixteenth century there existed three powerful Islamic empires: the Mughals in India, the Savefids in Persia and the Ottomans in Turkey. But they were not united, they did not share a common caliph, and they all weakened and eventually fell victim to Western powers…

     In 1917, however, two much more powerful candidates for the title of seventh head of the beast arose almost simultaneously: Soviet Russia and the Zionist state of Israel. Indeed, insofar as the main leaders of both movements were Jews originating in the Pale of Settlement in Western Russia, we may seem them as two branches of the same political phenomenon, the re-emergence of Jewish power from the underground. The October revolution in Petrograd, and Lord Balfour’s promise of a Homeland for the Jews in Palestine, were both reported in the same column of newsprint in the London Times for November 9, 1917. This amazing “coincidence” surely signifies that here we see the two horns of the beast of Jewish power emerging simultaneously from the sea of the Gentile peoples. The beast that “was” in the time of Christ, but “was not” after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., now “was again”, as the Apocalypse had prophesied.

     The fall of Russia, the Third Rome, in 1917 represented “the vengeance of Zion” on the empire that had defeated it in 70 (which the Talmud calls “Edom”). With the removal of “him who restrains” (II Thessalonians 2.7), legitimate monarchical power, there was now an opportunity for the Antichrist to appear openly again on the stage of world history. And he appears first as the collective Antichrist of Soviet power, and then, later, as the personal Antichrist, the false king of the Jews, the new Herod – who, however, will be born in Russia according to St. Seraphim of Sarov. 

     Nevertheless, while closely related, Soviet Russia and Israel cannot be counted as the same head. Our hypothesis is that Soviet Russia – the most militantly anti-Christian regime in history and the only one to be formally anathematized by the Orthodox Church - is the seventh head. It is said to continue “a short time” (17.10) – in the span of human history, the hundred years since 1917 is indeed a short time, and recent events have led many to predict the speedy demise of Putin’s regime. 

     We hypothesize that Soviet power, the collective Antichrist, is also that head which “was mortally wounded, and its deadly wound was healed” (13.3). For the Soviet regime has been “mortally wounded” three times, and each time it has recovered. The first was at the height of the White successes in the Civil War in 1919. The second was at the height of Hitler’s successes in his invasion of Russia in 1941. And the third was the actual downfall of the Soviet State in 1991, that “geopolitical tragedy”, in Putin’s words, which he is now determined to reverse…

     As for the eighth head, “the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition” (17.11). Since this is the last head of the beast, we must identify it with the personal Antichrist, the false king of the Jews, the reincarnation of that anti-Christian Israelite power that we have identified as the fifth head. This power “was” in Christ’s time, “was not” under the Roman empire, and “will be” in the last times, being conceived in 1917 through Lord Balfour’s declaration and being born in 1948 with the foundation of the Zionist State of Israel. 


The Beast versus the Whore

     The angel goes on: “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast... The ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire” (17.12-13, 16). 

     In the next, eighteenth chapter there follows a detailed description of the fall of Babylon, hailed by the inhabitants of heaven but bewailed by the merchants of the earth because the enormous possibilities for enrichment that she provided have vanished...  

     The event described appears to be the climax of a war, perhaps a nuclear one, in which the two main forms of evil in the world – political evil and religious evil, the beast and the whore – turn against each other, and the whore is destroyed “by fire”. How are we to understanding this in view of the fact that for most of history the whore has “sat” on the beast, being supported and sustained by it? We know that Satan’s kingdom is divided against itself and therefore must eventually fall. But can we say anything more about this most momentous of schisms? Is there any clue in the sacred text, or in contemporary history, that would enable us to identify the combatants in this war a little more precisely?

     One vivid detail immediately strikes us: “Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What is like this great city?” (Revelation 18.17-18). Evidently, insofar as Babylon can be identified with a geographical place or city, it is situated on the sea. And the image of sailors on the sea watching the smoke of the city’s burning reminds us of perhaps the defining image and symbol of contemporary reality: the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York on September 11, 2001. That event, taking place on the feast of St. John the Baptist, the prophet of repentance, was a powerful call to the western world to repent of its sins. So far, its message has not been heeded, and we may expect that the destruction of the Twin Towers will be followed by a far larger-scale destruction of western cities, perhaps of the whole of western civilization. 

     The hypothesis, therefore, is that Babylon in its present-day incarnation is western civilization as a whole, and that what we see here described in the Sacred Scripture is the destruction of its most potent symbol and “capital”, the Twin Towers of New York. That the West in general and New York in particular should be identified with Babylon is confirmed by a number of facts. First, the street-plan of New York is modelled on that of ancient Babylon. Secondly, it is in New York that the United Nations is situated with its declared purpose of uniting all nations in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a cardinal aim of which is a reduction and “levelling” down of all religions to a lowest common denominator. And thirdly, New York, together with other great cities of the West – Amsterdam, Paris, Geneva, London and Chicago – has taken the lead in hosting and promoting the ecumenical movement in such institutions as the World Council of Parliaments (first meeting: Chicago in 1893) and the World Council of Churches (first meeting: Amsterdam in 1948).

     St. John Maximovich once said that America was a great nation, but that she was threatened by the sins of greed and sensuality. These are the “Babylonian” sins of a society that permits everything, every religious abomination and every deviant and perverse life-style. Of course, America is not alone in this: her parent-civilization of Western Europe is, it could be argued, even more debauched. However, the popular imagination – and especially the imagination of non-western peoples – has seized on America in particular because of her size, wealth, and military and technological superiority over every other nation. America for many around the world is the Antichrist – in this respect, little has changed since the days of the Cold War.

     This raises the objection: why should America and the West be ascribed to the whore and not to the beast, especially in view of the military ventures of the West in recent years? And the answer is that, for all the West’s military power, it is still not a militaristic power; proportionately, it spends far less of its GDP on military expenditure than Russia or China or some Muslim powers. The power of the West in the world is primarily “soft” rather than “hard”, religious and civilizational rather than political and military, feminine and seductive rather than masculine and coercive. It is all the more dangerous for this feminine seductiveness, which imperceptibly weakens the soul and makes it impervious to the call of the truth. But at the same time this power is also weakness. Thus for all its power to eavesdrop on its and other states’ citizens, it allows far more free speech than its rivals – to its undoubted cost.  It is precisely this feminine softness and indiscipline of the West that makes it vulnerable to attack from more masculine, disciplined states. Of course, the West is taking steps to remedy this defect, but in terms of control of the media the western intelligence agencies are still no match for the KGB/FSB. In the 1930s the flabby western democracies squandered the large lead they had over Nazi Germany through their weak-willed refusal to make the necessary preparations and interventions in time. The same pattern appears to be being repeated in today in relation to neo-Soviet Russia. The result will almost certainly be disaster; for just as the drunken and effeminate Belshazzar of Babylon was suddenly overwhelmed by the more manly Cyrus the Mede; and just as cultured but divided and squabbling Athenians were eventually defeated by the more ascetic Spartans, so the West will eventually be defeated by the more determined and fanatical neo-Soviets of “Vlad the Great”.

     As for the “ten kings” who carry out the will of the beast, the clue to their identity lies in the identity of those who destroyed the Twin Towers in 2001. They were all Muslims. And if there is one group of States that hates America and the West even more than the neo-Soviets it is the fundamentalist Muslim States, especially Iran. Nor is it necessary for them to have nuclear bombs or inter-ballistic missiles. In today’s world, a bomb in a suitcase, or a hacker working from a home computer, or a passenger on an airline with only a penknife in his hand, can do as much damage…

     Nor should we forget the State that will almost certainly be the most powerful in the world in a very short time and whose kinship to the beast is undoubted: China. The Apocalypse prophesies the intervention of “the kings of the east” with an army of “two hundred million men” (Revelation 16.12, 9.16) at a crucial point in the conflict. Only China could field an army of two hundred million men today…

     In chapter nineteen of the Apocalypse (vv. 19-21), we read that, after destroying the whore by fire, the beast will itself be destroyed by the Lord Jesus Christ. For however great the evil of the ecumenist West, the evil of the communist East with its pseudo-Orthodoxy and direct challenge to the authority of God is even greater. So the Lord deals with this evil directly and personally, thereby avenging the blood of the millions of new martyrs of the communist yoke and ushering a completely new period of human history symbolized by the thousand-year-reign of Christ (Revelation 20).



     Of course, evil will not be finally vanquished in this post-World War Three period; there can be no utopia until the Second Coming of Christ; only then can we expect to see the fullness of truth and righteousness upon earth. Nevertheless, institutional evil, both political and religious, will have suffered a shattering blow from which it will take generations to recover. This is what the prophecies tell us. This is our hope and faith. And this hope and faith can give us the strength to endure to the end through the terrible days that await us…


May 13/26, 2014; revised November 16/29, 2017.




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