Revelation 17

Revelation 17

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The Great Prostitute and the Beast

17 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

When I saw her, I marveled greatly. But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”


Revelation 17 Commentary

by Hank Workman

Throughout the next several chapters of Revelation what we’re essentially finding is a Tale of Two Cities and not the Dickens’ classic.  The two cities of Babylon and the New Jerusalem are nothing Dickens could have imagined.  Polar opposite places to say the least.

Revelation 17 holds loads of symbolism, a lot of codes that are present in the first city.  It could be fairly confusing on some levels.  However, let’s keep in mind what took place in chapter 16.  Babylon had collapsed.  On many fronts, the next 2 chapters are like John hits the rewind button a moment and spends some time on this “Babylon”.  He calls her a notorious prostitute.  As you read Revelation 17, also keep in mind John’s audience.

He was writing to Believers who lived in a very violent time with much animosity toward Believers.  Consequently, he wrote in code to them on some levels.  Even Peter wrote in this in his first letter.  This was mainly because Nero had created a bath brimming with the blood of thousands of Believers who were killed for their faith.  Both Peter and John were sensitive to this.  Neither would want their letters to fall into the hands of government informers and be misconstrued as anti-government propaganda.  Which was what was taking place.

As we dig into Revelation 17 and the clues that are given it’s evident he writes of Rome.  However, because the Bible is living and active, relevant today – we must also look toward the future of what this means.  And although he wrote of Rome initially, this is a template for the ultimate God-defying Empire of the Antichrist.

John takes us behind the scenes, exposing political intrigues and treachery that eventually bring down Babylon the Great.  There’s an interesting relationship between the beast and Babylon or what we could even call a twisted version of Beauty and The Beast.  But in the end, the Beast turns and brings the Beauty to destruction.

Evil my friends, the Enemy will always use whatever and whomever he can to seemingly accomplish his purpose.  When they are of no more use, they are tossed aside.  Those who are not sold out to God; those who have no relationship with Him can be used as pawns for what he’s desiring to do.

Within Revelation 17, there are many clues that point toward the identity of Babylon being Rome at that time.  Rome was also famous for its seven hills.

The prostitute sits on many waters – The city of Rome and the empire was the center controlled the waterways of the Mediterranean.  In fact, by the end of the first century – almost every single port on the sea was controlled by Rome.

She sits on a scarlet beast – this shows who truly wields the power – the beast himself, Satan.  However, Rome being a puppet, the emperor and imperial cult drive this vast political enterprise.  Again, it’s a chilling look into what the ultimate dictator and tyrant, the Antichrist will be able to do.

She is drunk with the blood of God’s holy people – John draws attention to the role of Rome in persecuting the Believers in Jesus.  It is an appalling image.  Again, if we believe that Revelation speaks of what is yet to come, this symbolic Babylon functions as the epicenter for the Antichrist and the persecution of Believers is amped up.

The Kings – There’s a lot of stuff out there as to who the first 5 were – who the total of 8th would have been and truly who will be as we see this through the lens that shows the Antichrist.  Conspiracy theorists have had field days over this topic – stretching from the order of Roman Kings and Rome’s demise to current day situations that are of this world.  Someone has an opinion on this continually.

But fascinatingly and worth noting, the 8th king is the Antichrist who appears to die and returns to life, as correlates to chapter 13 in the description of the beast.  So, we have the 8th king and then mentioned are the 10 horns – representing a separate coalition of kings who ally themselves with the beast.

This brings up a very interesting comparison and even more direct information that was given to Daniel through a vision in chapter 7.  What is absolutely astounding are the similarities but more importantly this vision of Daniel happened at least 1000 years before this vision of John.  That fact alone gives pause.

I also asked about the ten horns on the fourth beast’s head and the little horn that came up afterward and destroyed three of the other horns. This horn had seemed greater than the others, and it had human eyes and a mouth that was boasting arrogantly. 21 As I watched, this horn was waging war against God’s holy people and was defeating them, 22 until the Ancient One—the Most High—came and judged in favor of his holy people. Then the time arrived for the holy people to take over the kingdom.

23 Then he said to me, “This fourth beast is the fourth world power that will rule the earth. It will be different from all the others. It will devour the whole world, trampling and crushing everything in its path. 24 Its ten horns are ten kings who will rule that empire. Then another king will arise, different from the other ten, who will subdue three of them. 25 He will defy the Most High and oppress the holy people of the Most High. He will try to change their sacred festivals and laws, and they will be placed under his control for a time, times, and half a time.

26 But then the court will pass judgment, and all his power will be taken away and completely destroyed. 27 Then the sovereignty, power, and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will last forever, and all rulers will serve and obey him.”  28 That was the end of the vision. I, Daniel, was terrified by my thoughts and my face was pale with fear, but I kept these things to myself.”

Daniel 7:20-27

Comparing both Daniel and John’s revelation more light is shown onto all that is going on or will be taking place. What’s so striking from Daniel is how this fits rather closely with the beast of Revelation, the Antichrist.  Ominously, John informs the reader that the 10 kings join in the war against the Lamb however in the end – are unable to carry out their objective as the Lamb overcomes!  And this is our hope and honestly should be our focus.  The Lamb overcomes.

As verse 23 of Daniel said, the fourth world power will rule over the earth and Revelation 18 concluded that the woman ruled the kings of the earth – this reveals of somehow how the End Times Babylon will exercise the same clout and sway over the world.

However, in an interesting twist – the Beast bites back.  This is really somewhat of a shock when you think about it – but the beast and the ten horns hate the whore.  They plot to carry out her complete destruction.  Again, the enemy will use whomever, whatever for his purposes and when those purposes are fulfilled, they’re tossed aside.  The enemy moves on.  Yet there’s a PS to this fact.

The scarlet beast and his ten horns all hate the prostitute. They will strip her naked, eat her flesh, and burn her remains with fire. For God has put a plan into their minds, a plan that will carry out his purposes. They will agree to give their authority to the scarlet beast, and so the words of God will be fulfilled.”

Revelation 17:16-17

The enemy may have his purposes in what he’s doing but God’s purposes are bigger!  God’s purposes are grander.

And possibly as disconcerting as it may seem for some of us, possibly all of us, God will and does allow evil to carry out his greater purpose.

And this is the thing we must all rest in no matter what may come our way.  Even the things that are unjust, the hardship, the persecution we may even have at the moment – God has allowed it – but it’s for a greater purpose.  We must cling to this hope that no matter what people – God is in control.  The enemy and his puppets are not.

Whatever the hardship we go through – it is definitely a fact that in the end – God wins.  God is in control.  They are not.  Cling to this promise.  Hold tightly to this fact.  Draw near to God through all of the uncertainty and such times.  He wins.

Revelation 17 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

We have already reiterated it over many chapters, but Rome stood proudly as a pagan symbol against Christ and His church. Here in Revelation 17, she is personified as a notorious prostitute. She represents wealth and power and is “drunk” on the blood of Christian martyrs. She is carried by her source of power which is the beast with both seven heads and ten horns. The heads represent seven hills as well as seven kings that sit upon those hills. The ten horns are the ten kings who join in battling against the Lamb. The waters represent the nations of the world and the woman herself is identified in verse 18 as the great city (Rome).

The symbolism itself is not hard to determine. The angel speaks to John and reveals the interpretation of the vision. But, there are many other layers that are interesting to explore for us today.

The Woman

The primary issue with the woman is not her harlotry, drunkenness, laziness, power, or wealth. Those traits personify her. But the most serious charge at hand is the fact that she has engaged in the deception of the earth and murdered the children of God. This illustrates for us just how much Jesus loves and adores His bride, the church. In order for the bride to be seen in all her glory, the injustice of deception must be set straight. It is not coincidental that her most serious crimes match those committed by the beast and the false prophet in the chapters prior to this.

In Revelation 13, we read that the whole world is astonished by the beast. He has deceived them. Here in verse 6, John writes, “When I saw her, I wondered greatly.” A more literal rendering from the Greek text is, “And seeing her I marveled a great marvel.” The KJV captures this emotion by translating it, “and when I saw her I wondered with great admiration.”

John may have been expecting a “great city” in ruins. Instead, he saw the harlot perched atop the beast, confidently adorned with jewels and looking victorious. It must have been an unbelievable sight because the imagery draws John’s gaze until it is finally broken by the angel’s voice, “Why are you astonished?” This seduction is the same feeling we may get as we watch a luxury sports car drive down our street. Or, it may be similar to a drive down the Vegas strip with all the sights and sounds of money, power, and fame.

The application here is obvious. The enticement of the world’s power slithers among us so subtly it is hard NOT to gaze in astonishment.  This dangerous allure comes complete with every vice that our flesh craves. What is it that breaks our attention when our flesh desires to marvel over the empty things of this life? We circle back to the primary issue at hand. This visual that is pleasing to the eye has deceived the world and viciously spilled the blood of Christ’s church. She is an enemy of God.  She has rested on the power of the beast.

The angel makes it immediately clear to John this is not the end and she most certainly is not the victor.

The Beast

After the angel tells John to “snap out of it,” the source of her power is revealed. There is much more attention given to the beast than to the woman. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the humorous parody in the following verse.

“The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction.

Revelation 17:11 NASB

God is the One who was, and is, and is to come, which makes the beast the one who was, and is NOT, and will go to his destruction. Our God Almighty is the eternal Creator, separate from time and space while the beast is simply a being that exists and is destroyed. This is quite possibly a throwback to John’s amazement of the woman riding on the beast.

The apostle John wants you and I to be prepared. Don’t be shocked when the people and multitudes follow the beast. Don’t be surprised when these powers join together and make war on the Lamb and the people of God. Don’t panic. Don’t fear. Don’t worry. He’s telling us these things so we are prepared, because we will lose the battle, but the One who we cling to has already won the war. Where does your heart and mind need to be encouraged by this simple statement?

Don’t marvel. Our King has already locked up the victory.

Additional Resources

Revelation 17 Sermon
The Boxcutter Podcast – Revelation 17 & 18: A Dirge for A Drunken Harlot

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