For those truly interested in gaining the best understanding of these next two chapters, I recommend that you take the time to read Isaiah 13-14 and Jeremiah 50-51, companion scripture passages that prophesy of the final destruction of Babylon.
Revelation 17 opens with one of the angels that emptied out one of the last seven vial judgments taking John into the wilderness to show him “the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters (v1).” This woman is later identified by the angel as “that great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth (v18).” The angel also reveals that the waters she sits on are “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues (v15).” In other words, her influence is worldwide. This woman is said to have committed fornication with the kings of the earth and to have made those that dwell on earth “drunk with the wine of her fornication (v2).” I believe context will prove the reference is primarily to spiritual adultery, though it cannot be denied that many who have followed her practiced physical adultery as well.
Jeremiah uses some of the same terminology as he prophesies of the final destruction of Babylon.
Jeremiah 51:7 & 13 “Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD’S hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad…. O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness.”
Note that Jeremiah reveals that the actions of Babylon have always been under the sovereign power of God and that He has used her in accomplishing His purposes. This thought can be troubling. Truth is, however, that God in His sovereign will chose to give man freedom of will even though He knew that man would choose to rebel against Him and follow the lead of the very first rebel—Satan. I believe He did that because He wanted a love relationship with us; He wasn’t interested in the love of programmed robotic entities. His plan of redemption would require that His people suffer times of judgment and discipline that He would often accomplish using the desires and choices of wicked men that chose to reject Him. All of these wicked men were followers of the false religions that were birthed in Babylon, but I am getting ahead of myself.
When John actually sees the whore, she is sitting on a scarlet colored beast that has seven heads and ten horns; this beast is said to be full of names of blasphemy. Note that this description mirrors that of the dragon identified as Satan in chapter 12 and the beast that arose from the sea identified as the Antichrist, the puppet of Satan.
Revelation 12:3 “And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.”
Revelation 13:1 “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.”
John makes the point that the woman is sitting on the beast. This is a picture of the fact that she is supported by and derives her power from the beast. This woman is wearing purple and scarlet and is adorned with gold, pearls and other gems. She is holding in her hand a golden cup “full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication.” There is a name written on her forehead—“MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”
I found a quote in the writings of E. W. Bullinger with which I agree. “The cup is one. This tells us that the corrupt streams which flow from this one fountainhead are all one in essence, character, and effect. It is the religion originally instituted at Babylon, by Nimrod, at the instigation of Satan. It is seen in all the great religions of the world. They are all alike in substituting another God for the God of the Bible: a god made either with the hands or with the imagination; but equally made. And a religion consisting of human merit. These things are common to all systems of false religion, and unite them in one.”
I believe the writing in her forehead affirms Bullinger’s statement. She is the mother city, Babylon, of all harlots or false religions that developed throughout the world. There is nothing good about these false religions; they all lead to eternal damnation.
John is said to look at this woman with wonder much the way we are drawn to watch “terrible” accidents or situations (e.g., 9-11-01) and try to process what we are seeing. He sees her drunk with the blood of the saints and the martyrs of Jesus.
The angel goes on to explain to John that the beast carrying her “was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition.” We’ve already learned that the scripture uses the term “mountains” to describe both kings and kingdoms. In this case we know that the woman represents a city, so it would make sense for the beast to represent not only Satan in the person of Antichrist but the kingdom she rules on his behalf. Reminder—Her sphere of authority is spiritual or religious, but that influence is powerful and results in economic prosperity as well.
It’s like the angel is trying to help us understand by telling us that the seven heads of the beast are seven mountains upon which she sits. Those seven mountains have had seven kings; “five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space (v10).” It would seem that this woman has held sway in each of these kingdoms—each one rooted in the false religion of Babylon of old, the place where Nimrod led the world of that time in rebellion against God and went on to establish his kingdom.
Micah 5:5–6 “And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds, and eight principal men. And they shall waste the land of Assyria with the sword, and the land of Nimrod in the entrances thereof: thus shall he deliver us from the Assyrian, when he cometh into our land, and when he treadeth within our borders.”
The kings/kingdoms that had fallen were Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, MedoPersia and Greece; the kingdom that “is” to John would have been Rome. The one “not yet come,” according to Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (as stated in Post #16), would arise from the remains of the Roman Empire as a ten-part confederacy. This would mirror the ten horns of the beast on which the whore is sitting and are identified as ten kings who will enjoy power for a short time in confederacy with the beast (v12).
The angel identifies the beast “that was and is not” as the eighth that is one of the seven. In other words, he emerges as the eighth king but was originally one of the first seven and is headed to perdition. Just so you know, I am trying to think this through afresh as I write this. Crazy as it seems, my first thought was that it could be a reference to Nimrod reincarnate. As I continued to think it through, it makes more sense to be a reference to the resurrection of the Antichrist from the “apparently” fatal blow that he suffers as detailed in chapter 13. I believe what makes him distinct after his resurrection is that he is then indwelt by Satan. There is only one other person in scripture that is described as a son of perdition—Judas Iscariot; and he was indwelt by Satan before betraying Jesus. Satan will declare himself to be God in the person of Antichrist and will actually end up leading the armies of the world in battle against Jesus at His return.
Point is made that those whose names are not written in the book of life will be filled with awe at the resurrection of the Antichrist. This implies that those whose names are in the book of life will not be so awestruck. Why? I think it is because they will understand what is happening from the word of God.
(to be continued…)