Consider the symbol "mountains", which is found in Revelation 17:9. The question is what does the word mountain mean as a symbol? The prostitute woman is said to sit on seven heads which are also said to be seven mountains. Clearly, a literal woman cannot literally sit on seven mountains at once, let alone sit on 7 heads of a literal beast, both because of the physical impossibility of doing that and because there are no such things 7-headed beasts. Such beasts don't exist in reality. Thus, usage of the words "beast", "woman" and "mountains" is symbolic rather than literal. If you search Revelation for the word "mountains" (the word "mount" also occurs, which is essentially the same thing so we will include it), you will discover that 6 out of 8 occurrances where it is used, the usage is literal, with the remaining two being symbolic. Here is a complete list of the verses in Revelation where variations of the words mountain or mount occur:
(Revelation 6:14) And the heavens departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. (mountain here is literal)
(Revelation 6:15) And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the generals , and the mighty men, and every slave, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; (mountain here is literal)
(Revelation 6:16) And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: (mountains here is literal)
(Revelation 8:8) And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; (mountain here is symbolic)
(Revelation 14:1) And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. (mount here is literal)
(Revelation 16:20) And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. (mountains here is literal)
(Revelation 17:9) And here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sits. (mountains here is symbolic)
(Revelation 21:10) And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, (mountain here is literal)
When confronted with the word mountain in Revelation 17:9, most people run to the book of Daniel and read the following:
Dan 2:44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
Dan 2:45 Just as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.
Clearly, the word mountain in Daniel most obviously means "kingdom", though it does have other symbolic meanings that are hidden from plain view and take some deep thought to see. In doing this, they have the right idea, just the wrong place. They forget to first check and see if Revelation provides its own definition, which, of course, it does. Let us now study to learn how Revelation does this.
In Revelation 6:14-16, the word mountain(s) is used literally. These verses describe the reaction of many who are not ready to meet Jesus when he comes the second time. They are terrified of him and want to die. Therefore, the react by wishing that the mountains and rocks would fall on them to hide them from the view of Jesus. So, what we have in these three verses is an association of the word mountain(s) with:
- the Second Coming of Jesus,
- the wicked who will not go to heaven when he comes, and
- death and destruction of the wicked at the Second Coming of Jesus.
You should be able to see at a glance that these cannot be the symbolic meaning of the word mountains for Revelation 17:9 because Revelation 17:10 tells you that they are also 7 kings. Thus, somehow they involve leaders who are not inanimate objects and are not just intellectual constructs of events or places. They have to be some type of persons, whether human or angels or gods. And because they are heads, they are leaders, not just ordinary persons.
The result is that other verses need to be considered.
Revelation 8:8 is used symbolically and the meaning is not readily apparent at first glance and likely its interpretation must be derived elsewhere. Let us skip this verse.
Revelation 14:1 associates the word mount (which is same as mountain except that it is used as part of a name) with:
- the 144,000 (the people of God),
- the city of God (which also can be symbolic of the pure church elsewhere in Revelation),
- the lamb of God (Jesus), and the presence of God.
Now, which of these are persons who are also leaders? Obviously, the city is not a person so can be eliminated. The people of God are not leaders while on earth so can also be eliminated. That leaves the presence of God as the final possibility. He is a person and is a leader - the highest there is because of his position as the king of the universe.
Nobody would say that the prostitute woman is sitting on God, especially since there are 7 heads/mountains that she sits on and becasue she is said to be Babylon and is a prostitute. So, if this is to fit, somehow the symbol will have to be adjusted. One way to do that is to understand the symbol through the view that there are two women in Revelation which present opposite contrasts. One is clearly connected with the true God, so the other should be connected with false gods. The idea that a group of gods is what she sits on certainly could fit. Here is why.
The woman of Revelation 17 is said to be a prostitute, which implies she is not genuinely connected to the true God, though she pretends to be. Thus, her claim to the presence of divinity is false. We know that the woman is said to be Babylon, the literal city of which had a history of worship of false gods. If the pure woman can be said to be associated with a mountain (Mount Zion in the Holy City, the New Jerusalem) which is also associated with the true God, then why can we not say that the prostitute woman has false gods associated with the mountains she sits on?
In Daniel 2, there was a stone cut, without hands, out of a mountain which destroyed the statue in the dream God gave Nebuchadnezzar and in turn the stone grew to become a mountain that filled the whole earth. That mountain can be considered representative of God because his presence was associated with it (kingdom is not the only interpretation of the "mountain" in Danel 2, though many seem to think so). By way of contrast to this, there are verses elsewhere in the Bible which associate the presence of hills and mountains with false gods.
The reader needs to consider that the women of Revelation present opposing viewpoints and opposing symbolism to varying degrees. For example, the pure woman is clothed with the sun, which is clearly symbolic of Jesus. In contrast the prostitute woman is clothed in purple and scarlet, which is found in the temple of God and suggests a pretense of the presence of God and is suggestive that she is attempting to fit herself into the temple of God where she does not belong. She is covered also with many precious stones. Revelation shows the presence of precious stones in the foundation of the holy city, suggesting that she is again insinuating herself into the pure church and trying to pretend that she has the presence of God about her person. The gods in her church are false gods and the true God is not there. If he were there, then she would be shown with the sun clothing her also.
The point is this: if the pure woman (which represents the true church) is associated with the mountain in the city of God (the pure woman is also symbolic of the city of God which contains this mountain), which is also associated with the true God, then by way of similarities and contrasts, the prostitute woman who symbolizes Babylon will be associated with one or more mountains which are associated with false gods instead of the true God. The mountains will be polar opposites in regards to that which they represent and yet will be similar. Both mountains occur within their respective cities (interestingly, literal Babylon had a large ziggurat within it which the Babylonians considered to represent a mountain within which their false gods lived). Therefore, both mountains represented the presence of Gods within their respective cities. In the case of the true God, this would represent the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the case of the false gods, this represented the false pagan gods that were brought into symbolic Babylon and which were renamed after the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
A similar conclusion can be drawn from Revelation 21:10.