One of the mysteries in the book of Revelation is the woman riding on the beast.

I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls (Rev 17:3-5).

John was surprised by the vision

Then the angel said to me: "Why are you astonished" (Rev 17:7).

John knew all about beasts. His world had been dominated by many great empires, and was currently controlled by the most powerful beast of all: the Roman Empire. What was strange about the vision was the woman sitting on the beast. Sitting symbolizes control, so this terrible beast with seven heads and ten horns was being controlled by a woman.

This beast is described earlier in the book of Revelation. It is a terrible empire that crushes and controls the world. The key to understanding this vision is identifying the woman.

The woman is called Babylon the Great, but that does not help much, as this was not the real city with that name. The name Babylon is used to symbolize immorality, witchcraft, adultery, power and control.

John was told the identity of the woman at the end of the vision.

The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth (Rev 17:18).

The woman is the "great city" that controls the kings of the earth. This city had been described in the vision of the two prophets earlier in Rev 11:8.

Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city-which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt-where also their Lord was crucified.

This city is called Egypt and Sodom and Babylon to indicate that it is opposed to the purposes of God, but it is actually the city where Jesus was crucified. Everyone knows where Jesus was crucified. The great city is Jerusalem. This means that the woman controlling the beast is the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel.

This identity of the woman is confirmed in Rev 12:1,5.

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head... She gave birth to a son, a male child,

The woman with a crown of stars is Israel. She gave birth to Jesus, who is the child who will rule the nations. This woman controlling the beast was covered with glittering jewels, so she is Israel.

This is why John was astonished by the woman on the Beast. He had seen this vision of the woman being attacked by the dragon and being scattered amongst the nations (Rev 12:14-16). So he is amazed when he sees this same woman sitting on a terrible beast and controlling it. It was hard to believe that Israel could control an empire built in the image of the Roman Empire.

The vision of the woman on the Beast describes a season when the nation of Israel will control the most powerful empire the world has known. Many other nations will be controlled by her too.

This vision might be being fulfilled in our own time. The United States is the most powerful empire the world has ever known, with the strongest economy and military bases all over the world. Many nations are under its power, and no other nation can challenge its role as superpower.

The surprising thing is that the dominant political force in the United States is the Israel lobby. A presidential candidate who rejected the demands of AIPAC will have difficulty being elected. Getting elected to congress is difficult without the support of lobby groups like AIPAC. Many members of congress are willing to place the security of the United States at risk in order to protect Israel.

When Bibi Netanyahu visits the United States, the congress gives him a standing ovation, something it rarely does for a sitting US President. This strange power situation is perfectly described by a woman (Israel) sitting on a beast (United States).