When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. 7 Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. 8 The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come. (Revelation 17:6b-8 NIV)
In this passage the angel explains to John a little bit more about the “Beast” that the woman is riding upon. This “beast” represents both the ruler of the country and the country itself that will support the wicked religious system known as the harlot of Babylon. Those who will not believe in God, whose “names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world” will be easily amazed and astonished by this great beast. This beast one was, is no more, and yet will come again. This apparently is the resurrection of an ancient government. I tend to think that this is the Roman Empire, since so many prophecies tie the Roman empire into the empire of the antichrist (Daniel 2:40-43, 7:7-8, 9:26-27, Revelation 17:9). The problem with this interpretation is that John says that this beast “now is not,” even though the Roman empire existed in his day. However, since the Roman empire has now been dead for 1600 years, we can perhaps speculate that this prophecy anticipated it’s break up and destruction.