Revelation 17:12–18 (NKJV)
After the fate of the woman and the beast are determined, and the seven heads are identified as the kings of seven mountains, the narrator of the vision moves on to describe the ten horns.
12 “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. 13 These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”Revelation 17:12-14
The ten horns are described as ten kings who have not had a kingdom yet. They are not contemporaries of John, and have no names as of the time of the Revelation. It is described that they would receive a kingdom for an hour as kings with the beast. While unnamed, and without a kingdom at the time, there was a bloody civil strife between the governors of the chief provinces of the Roman empire for one year, from A.D. 68 to A.D. 69. These ten governors fought against the power of the emperor and could have wrecked the economy and the civilization they undergird. This is considered an anti-Christian force, and they induce their own retribution from God. This group of governors are symbolic of the ten kings who will rule with the antichrist for a time, and then will be overcome in a moment by Jesus Christ. In their reign, they are of one mind, making them formidable, and they submit their authority to the beast, following him into battle. They enter into war with the Lamb, and the Lamb definitely will overcome them.
Here the Lord is described as “Lord of lords and King of kings.” This statement is the strongest statement of the power and authority of Jesus Christ anywhere. His authority is bound up in the Lord title, and the fact that He is not just a lord, but the Lord of all lords, above and beyond every Lord. His Kingship is not just over a human or earthly kingdom, but over the entire earth, so that every king is subject to Him as well. This is the ultimate leader of the earth and the heavens, and there is none like Him anywhere. Those who are with Him are “called, chosen, and faithful.” Those who follow Christ, especially during this final conflict, are safe and allied with Christ. They are His children, and are protected and destined for heavenly bliss.
15 Then he said to me, “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. 16 And 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 For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18 And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.”Revelation 17:15–18 (NKJV)
Again, the waters on which the harlot sits represent the people over whom the harlot reigns. The ten horns, or kings, will hate the harlot, and will cause her to become desolate, naked, burned, and decimated. God moved upon the kings to work against Rome, and to give their allegiance and their kingdoms to the beast. This action will fulfill the purpose of God, which is to overthrow that great city, Rome (Babylon), which reigns over the kings of the earth. This unholy alliance begins to unravel, as the Lord takes authority and works His purpose to dissolve the kingdom of the beast.