Monday, January 23, 2017
1 One of the seven angels who had poured out the seven bowls came over and spoke to me (John). “Come with me,” he said, “and I will show you the judgment (doom, sentence) that is going to come on the great prostitute (harlot, idolatress), who rules (seated) over many waters. 2 The kings of the world have committed adultery (idolatry, fornication, immorality) with her, and the people who belong to this world have been made drunk by the wine of her immorality (idolatry, adultery).” 3 So the angel took me in the Spirit into the wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that had seven heads and ten horns, and blasphemies (names, titles) against God were written all over it. 4 The woman wore purple and scarlet clothing and beautiful jewelry made of gold and precious gems and pearls. In her hand, she held a gold goblet (cup) full of obscenities and the impurities of her immorality (vices, adulteries). 5 A mysterious (with a secret symbolic meaning) name was written on her forehead: “Babylon the Great, Mother of All Prostitutes and Obscenities in the World.” 6 I could see that she was drunk—drunk with the blood of God’s holy people (saints) who were witnesses for Jesus. I (John) stared at her (wicked woman) in complete amazement.
7 “Why are you so amazed?” the angel asked. “I will tell (explain to) you the mystery (secret symbolic meaning) of this woman and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns on which she sits. 8 The beast you saw was once alive but is not now. And yet he will soon come up out of the bottomless pit (abyss, underworld) and go to eternal destruction. And the people who belong to this world, whose names were not written in the Book of Life before the world was made, will be amazed (astonished) at the reappearance of this beast who had died. 9 “This calls for a mind with understanding (wisdom): The seven heads of the beast represent the seven hills where the woman rules (sits). They also represent seven kings. 10 Five kings have already fallen, the sixth now reigns, and the seventh is yet to come, but his reign will be brief. 11 “The scarlet beast that was, but is no longer, is the eighth king (ruler). He is like the other seven, and he, too, is headed for destruction. 12 The ten horns of the beast are ten kings (rulers) who have not yet risen to power. They will be appointed to their kingdoms for one brief moment (one hour) to reign with the beast. 13 They will all agree to give him (beast) their power and authority. 14 Together they will go to war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will defeat (triumph over, overcome) them because He is Lord of all lords and King of all kings. And His called and chosen and faithful ones will be with Him.” 15 Then the angel said to me (John), “The waters where the prostitute (harlot) is ruling represent masses of people of every nation and language. 16 The scarlet beast and his ten horns all hate the prostitute (idolatrous woman). They will strip her naked, eat her flesh, and burn her remains with fire. 17 For God has put a plan into their minds (hearts), a plan that will carry out His purposes. They will agree to give their authority to the scarlet beast (antichrist), and so the words of God will be fulfilled. 18 And this woman you saw in your vision represents the great city that rules over the kings of the world.” Revelation 17:1-18 (NLT)
Revelation 17 begins another section of the book. Beginning at Revelation 17:1 and ending with Revelation 20:15, John describes God and His Son Jesus the Lamb’s final victory over evil – the unholy trinity (Satan the dragon, the beast (antichrist), and the false prophet), their wicked woman, and people who follow the ways of evil. First, John reveals the destruction of the wicked woman in chapters 17 and 18. John describes this wicked and adulterous woman as “Babylon,” and she is in alliance with the evil beast.
Revelation 17 begins with one of the seven angels who had poured out the seven last plagues in chapter 16 coming over and talking with John, the human author of Revelation (Revelation 17:1). The angel told John, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters” (Revelation 17:1, NIV). Sadly, the kings and rulers of the world have committed wicked and idolatrous acts with the great prostitute, and the great prostitute has made the people of the earth drunk by the wine of her utter sin, adultery, and wickedness (Revelation 17:2; see also Revelation 14:8). Often, the Holy Scriptures interlink sexual immorality and spiritual unfaithfulness to God (see Revelation 2:20-23; see also Ezekiel 16:15-43). Here, John is speaking of spiritual adultery and unfaithfulness to the true and living God.
So, the angel took John in Spirit into the wilderness (Revelation 17:3). In the wilderness, John saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that had seven heads and ten horns (Revelation 17:3). Blasphemous names and titles against God covered the beast’s body (Revelation 17:3). The scarlet beast is either Satan the dragon of Revelation 12:3 or the beast from the sea from Revelation 13:1. Some biblical scholars see the beast as the antichrist that supports Babylon. Together, the dragon and the beast along with the false prophet are evil powers and the supreme enemies of Jesus and His church.
This wicked woman wore purple and scarlet clothing and beautiful jewelry made of gold, precious gems, and pearls (Revelation 17:4). This wicked woman adorned in gold, jewels, pearls and fine linen is the opposite of the Bride of Christ, adorned in bright and pure white with righteous acts (see Revelation 17:4; Revelation 18:16; Revelation 21:2, 9; see also Proverbs 31:10-31). Despite her surface or outward beauty, this woman’s inner being was complete evil and violence. Moral corruption, dishonesty, adultery, destruction, and death are what this wicked woman offers (see also Proverbs 5:3–14, 20; Proverbs 6:24–32; Proverbs 7:6–27). In her hand, the woman held a golden cup full of sin, obscenities, and the filth of her adulteries (Revelation 17:4). The prostitute had a mysterious title written on her forehead: “Babylon the Great, Mother of Prostitutes and of Idol Worship Everywhere around the World” (Revelation 17:5, TLB). This wicked woman was drunk with the blood of God’ faithful people (saints) who bore witness and testimony to Jesus in the world (Revelation 17:6). John stared at the wicked woman with amazement and astonishment (Revelation 17:6).
Who is Babylon? Many people believe Babylon was a coded substitute for Rome, the city set on seven hills (Revelation 17:9). John wrote Revelation to encourage believers of Jesus to remain committed and faithful to the true and living God despite persecution from harsh Rome emperors, such as Nero. Scholars who see Babylon as Rome sometimes try to identify the kings mentioned here as specific Roman rulers. Yet, some scholars see Babylon as representative of all powerful political and economic world systems that persecute and kill faithful believers of Jesus and seduce believers into adultery against God with their allurement of material prosperity and pleasure. The modern-day nations of Iran and Iraq are the site of ancient Babylon. Nevertheless, Revelation 18 reveals John’s vision of Babylon’s destruction predicted at Revelation 14:8 and portrayed in the seventh bowl judgment at Revelation 16:18-19. In Revelation 18, God avenges the wrongs and hurts of His faithful people (saints) and prophet (Revelation 6:10; Revelation 11:18; Revelation 17:6) and all who have suffered undeserved violence on earth (Revelation 11:18).
Then, the angel said to John, “I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns” (Revelation 17:7, NIV). The angel told John, the beast, which you saw, once was alive, now is not, and the beast will come up out of the bottomless pit (abyss) and go to eternal destruction (Revelation 17:8; see also Revelation 13:12-14; Revelation 19:17-21). The people of earth, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life before the world began and gave allegiance to beast, will be astonished when they see the reappearance of the beast after being dead (Revelation 17:8). These evil worshipper too will be judged by God and thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). This beast is an imitation of Jesus, who dead and rose from complete death (Revelation 1:8; Revelation 2:8; see also Matthew 28:1-10). Then, the angel said to John, “This calls for a mind with wisdom” (Revelation 17:9, NIV; see also Revelation 13:18).
Next, the angel said to John the beast’s seven heads represent a certain city built on seven hills where this woman has her residence, and they also represent seven kings (Revelation 17:9-10). The angel told John that five of the kings have already fallen, the sixth king now reigns, and the seventh king is yet to come, but his reign will be brief (Revelation 17:10). The beast that died is the eighth king, having reigned before as one of the seven (Revelation 17:11). After the beast’s second reign, he too will go to his doom and eternal destruction (Revelation 17:11). The beast’s ten horns are ten kings who have not yet risen to power to receive a kingdom (Revelation 17:12). These ten kings will be appointed to their kingdoms for one brief moment to reign with the beast (Revelation 17:12). Also, these ten kings will all sign a treaty giving their power and authority to the beast (Revelation 17:13).
Efforts to identify in history the five fallen kings or kingdoms, the sixth (current) king, a seventh (future) king who would reign briefly and the eighth that belongs to the seven have yielded conflicting conclusions. Some scholars have proposed several Roman emperors, several world empires, or simply numerical symbols standing for all worldly kingdoms that culminate in the beast. Even if scholars cannot identify the identity of these kings or kingdoms, Revelation reveals that the dragon and the beast’s time is “short” for the unholy trinity (Satan the dragon, the beast (antichrist), and the false prophet) will come to eternal destruction (Revelation 17:9-11; see also Revelation 12:12; Revelation 19:19-21; Revelation 20:7-10).
Together these ten kings and the beast will wage war against Jesus the Lamb (Revelation 17:14). However, Jesus the Lamb will conquer and overcome the ten kings and the beast (Revelation 17:14). Jesus the Lamb is now the reigning and ruling Lord of lords and King of kings, and His people are the called, chosen, and faithful followers (Revelation 17:14; see also Revelation 19:16). Jesus’ title “Lord of lords and King of kings” emphasizes His sovereignty and but also His union with the true and living God (see Deuteronomy 10:17; John 14:8-11).
Then, the angel said to John, the waters (oceans, lakes, and rivers) that the wicked woman sits are the masses and multitude of people of every race, language, and nation (Revelation 17:15). However, the satanic alliance of the wicked woman and the beast will collapse revealing the self-destructive power of evil! As Professor Loyd Melton once taught, “There are no friends among crooks!” The beast and his ten kings who will reign with him all hate the wicked woman (Revelation 17:16). Together the beast and the ten kings will attack the wicked woman and leave her to ruin (Revelation 17:16). God will put a plan into the beast and his ten kings’ minds and heart to carry out His purposes and plans (Revelation 17:17).
The true and living God controls the entire universe including evil (Revelation 17:17). God sovereignly uses even His enemies to carry His purposes and fulfills His Word. Revelation 18 reveals God’s destruction of this wicked woman with her seductive allurement (Revelation 18:8-9, 20). Then God reveals the Bride of Christ in her beauty and true righteousness (Revelation 19:7-8). Finally, the angel told John the wicked woman John saw in his vision represents the great city that rules over the kings of the earth (Revelation 17:18).
Significantly, the book of Revelation climaxes with a vision of two women: one, the wicked woman who seeks to seduce the world with all manner of evil (Revelation 17), and the other, the Bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2, 7, 9-11).
ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Dr. Loyd D. Melton, Ph.D., Senior Professor of the New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2016).