How the Wicked Marvel
This part of Revelation presents questions which I in no way can answer. I am unable to identify the seven kings represented by the seven heads of the beast, nor an eighth that belongs to the seven. I cannot identify the ten kings which are represented by the ten horns. People smarter than me endlessly debate such matters only to admit that no one has found a satisfactory resolution.
So let us speak of that which we can know from this passage—matters which I think will be more edifying for our souls. From 17:6-8 we see that beast carries the “Great Prostitute” which sits on seven hills, no doubt intending, Rome (17:9). However, we have said before that the beast is any political and economic world system and power which seduces and coerces people to worship the itself (idolatry) and practice any and every sort of wickedness. This beast rises out of the “bottomless pit” and is described as one who “was, and is not, and is to come”; that is, the beast “rises” after it “was not,” in mockery of our Lord’s resurrection. Remember, Satan is the least creative individual in all the universe; all he can do is mock. Intriguingly, those who believe not the real resurrection of our Lord “marvel” at the false resurrection of the beast and are taken in by his deception. “Ten kings” who desperately want to share power with the beast join the league adding to the peoples (represented by the “many waters”) over which the Whore rules. These will make war on the Lamb and lose, but we will save that for 19:11-16.
So we now ask ourselves the question, “Why do the peoples marvel, worship, and follow the beast?” Well, these are the ones “whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.” These are people without the Spirit of God, who follow after that which promises to feed and clothe them, allows them their entertainments, and to gratify every sort of immoral and indecent act imaginable. These people worship not goodness but the power to entertain their lusts. They will readily and easily give over their minds, bodies, and liberties to such a one who offers them lifelong slavery to indolence and lechery. Christ calls his followers to take up the cross; the beast calls his followers to take up self-fulfillment, identity, and toleration for all things perverse. The beast’s path is simply easier than Christ’s and answers our sin nature. One day, all the world shall marvel after the beast. Please remember this: When all the world goes one way, the Christian goes the other.