Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bible Study - Revelation Chapter 17

The Judgment of Religious Babylon

The Description of Religious Babylon  (Rev 17:1-6  a)

(Rev 17:1)  And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
(Rev 17:2)  With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
(Rev 17:3)  So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
(Rev 17:4)  And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
(Rev 17:5)  And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
(Rev 17:6)  And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.

·         Verse 1. John is called to come and see the judgment of Babylon, but in the process he also gets a description of the woman (Babylon). The subject of this section is the judgment of religious Babylon. The judgment describes her condemnation, sentence, and penalty passed. The emphasis is the particular character and nature of the penalty that God has in store for Babylon.

·         Babylon’s description as “the great harlot” refers to the spiritual prostitution and fornication that categorizes the apostate church of the Tribulation which is unfaithful and rejects the Lord Jesus Christ as her husband (2 Pet 2:1-2).
·         “Great” refers to the harlot system which will reach its zenith after the removal of the true church (genuine believers) by way of the rapture. The prostitute exists today in many forms (Roman Catholicism, liberal Protestantism, the cults, etc.), but after the church is gone, or perhaps even before it is gone, they will unite and become one great ecumenical religious system.
·         “That sits on many waters” refers to world-wide unification and control. “Waters” refers to the “nations” and the many people of those nations. “Sits on” suggests the concept of control as well as unification. The nations are religiously united and politically affiliated with each other through the power and control of this religious system and its head. When the church is raptured, the apostate system which will already have spread its tentacles all over the world, will quickly unite and become the one-world church.

·         Verse 2. “With whom (the harlot) the kings of the earth have committed fornication” is a reference to the leaders of the non-communist block of nations in which the religious system has her tentacles. This is an alliance of church and state which is an unfaithful act for both. This causes both to prostitute (compromise) their responsibility before God.

·         “They have been made drunk with the wine of her immorality.” The wine refers to the demonic doctrines, ideologies and concepts produced by this religious/political alliance. In ancient Babylon it involved the mysteries of the mother-child cult and the one-world order of Nimrod and later Nebuchadnezzar. In our day the worship of the queen of heaven is still present (a new face for an old concept) namely, one-world order through social reform and the mysticism of the New Age movement.   One idea that has been promoted by liberal Protestantism is we are all God’s children and can come to God in various ways; another is the delusion Satan has promoted from the beginning that we can be like God (Gen 3:5).
·         “Drunkenness” in any form is an escape mechanism and the result of negative volition, indifference, apathy, and rejection of God’s revelation to man in Christ and the Bible. Because of the great negative volition that will exist at the time of the Tribulation, the world will be ripe for the wine of the harlot’s system.

Lutzer and DeVries give us an excellent overview of the nature of this intoxicating wine of Babylon. In a section entitled, “Where New Meets Old” they write:

Read the Old Testament and you will be impressed with the number of times the name Babylon appears. The city began when men rebelled against God and attempted to build a tower—called Babel in
Gen 11:9 —that would reach to the heavens (Here man was undoubtedly attempting to be like God under Satan’s delusion [parenthesis mine]). From those occult beginnings, Babylon eventually rose to become a dominant power with its sorcery permeating the ancient world. The prophets of God condemned it because it represented all that was most evil in man’s attempts to dethrone God.

What did the Babylonians believe that was so perverse?
Isa 47:8-11 summarizes their religion.

The New Testament predicts that at the end of this age the religion of ancient Babylon will again stand in opposition to God. A woman clothed in purple and scarlet is described by the Apostle John as having the mystery name on her forehead, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (
Rev 17:5).

We may not be certain that the New Age Movement of today is indeed the final Babylon of Revelation. What we do know is that the final Babylon will practice the same occult religion as that of ancient Babylon. That is the religion which is now sweeping the Western world and gaining widespread acceptance among all levels of our society.

·         Verse 3. “The scarlet beast” refers to the Antichrist. He is scarlet because he is blood-thirsty and will at the right time kill the woman (the religious system).

·         As seen earlier (Rev 13:1) he is “filled with names of blasphemy,” which refers to his anti-god character and to the blasphemous claims he will later make (2 Thess 2:4). 
·         John was taken to a “wilderness.” Obviously, this refers to a desolate, desert-kind of place, but it is designed to picture the world which the woman and beast will rule. It will be full of cities and peoples, but it will be a spiritual desert. There will be no true spiritual food or water from this empty religious system. The world will be starving and dying. This is what religion does for man, it leaves him in the desert
·         The woman is described as “clothed in purple and scarlet and adorned with gold, precious stones and pearls.” Purple and scarlet have for centuries been the colors of royalty and of the wealthy. In part they stand for her political power, and in part they point to her religious pomp and trappings. The “gold, precious stones and pearls” refer to her immense wealth. These colors have for centuries been the colors of the Roman Catholic Church, and the wealth of this church is immense. Many believe that Papal Rome will somehow be involved in this last time system, at least in the first half of the Tribulation.
·         “Having a golden cup” refers to her enticing manner of alluring men and nations. She invites men to drink of her deadly and stupefying wine by offering it in a golden cup, while arrayed in all her splendor.
·         “Abominations and unclean things” may refer to the various forms of idolatry involved in the worship of God through images, statues, and medals, etc. “Unclean things” refers not only to the nature of the doctrines taught, but what they lead to in the life, immorality and impurity. Man’s religion offers no solution to the flesh. It’s the flesh seeking to overcome the flesh and it profits nothing (John 6:63; Col 2:20-23).

1 Tim 4:1-5 emphasizes that not only are such doctrines demonic and satanic, but gives us one of the primary doctrines of latter day Babylonianism, celibacy among the priests. This has led to horrible atrocities in the Roman Catholic Church. In Chiniquy’s book, Fifty Years in the Roman Catholic Church, he says that a young student priest was questioning a superior about this doctrine of Rome and received the following reply: “You have spoken as a true heretic … you speak of the Holy Scriptures just as a Protestant would, do you appeal to them as the only source of Christian truth and knowledge. Have you forgotten that we have the holy traditions to guide us, the authority of which is equal to the Scriptures?” Later he said: “You are not required to understand all the reasons for the vow of celibacy; but you are bound to believe in its necessity and holiness.”

This nullified Scripture on the basis of human tradition (
Mark 7:13). Such a position refuses to allow people to carry out their responsibility to function as Berean believers (Act 17:11). The idea of celibacy as a means to holiness is absolutely contrary to Scripture. As is always the case, false doctrine produces false practice. The Scriptures teach celibacy (remaining single) should not be embarked upon unless one has the gift of celibacy (Mat 19:10-12; 1 Cor 7:7-8). It teaches that marriage is good, a blessing and one of God’s means to avoid fornication; that it is an aid to happiness and a means of avoiding temptation (1 Cor 7:2, 1 Cor 7:5, 1 Cor 7:8). Marriage is a blessing in those without the gift, and even allowable in those who do not have the gift (1 Cor 7:2, 1 Cor 7:8, 1 Cor 7:28). Spiritual leaders such as Peter were married (2 Cor 9:5).
·         “And on her forehead was written …” The practice of harlots in ancient times was to write their names on their foreheads for easy recognition, which showed the shamelessness of their character. It revealed a seared conscience from continual rejection of God’s truth.
·         “Mystery” here is not a part of the name but a description of the name, a secret. Initiation into the mysteries of the cult was always a part of Babylonianism and links this harlot with the ancient system. This connects the new and final system with the ancient system.
·         “Babylon the Great” is the secret name. It is telling us that Babylon the Great refers not only to the city of chapter 18, but to a religious system, the Babylonianism of ancient time, which will reach its peak in the Tribulation.
·         “The mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.” First, this points to the source. Besides the concept of origin or source of all spiritual idolatry and false religions, the word “mother” indicates the position the harlot will play in the final days. She will gather all the forms of false religions under her wings for the one great world-wide harlot system.
·         “And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints …” is a reference to the rampant martyrdom of believers during this time. One good way to promote the one-world church will simply be the annihilation of all opposition.

The Description of the Beast  (17:6b-14)

Rev 17:6  And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
Rev 17:7  And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.
Rev 17:8  The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
Rev 17:9  And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
Rev 17:10  And there are 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.
Rev 17:11  And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
Rev 17:12  And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
Rev 17:13  These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
Rev 17:14  These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.

John’s Wonderment and Interest

·         “And when I saw her (the woman sitting on the beast) I wondered greatly.” “Wondered” is the Greek qaumazw, “to be amazed, surprised,” or “to wonder at something with attentive interest.” Should we not see in this the effect that all doctrine or Bible study should have on our hearts? As we open the Word and study and reflect on its marvelous truth, should it not lead to a spirit of wonder, amazement? We should be keenly interested in the details of God’s revelation, its explanation, and application.

When this is true, something always happens. God sees to it that we have an opportunity to learn and to know (
John 7:17; Jer 29:13). He sends along a Philip or one of His servants as here in Revelation 17 (Act 8:26-27).

The Answer and Promise of the Angel (7)

·         “And the angel said to me ‘Why do you wonder?’” In other words, why do you stand there gawking! Perhaps he was reminding John (and us) of the principle of prayer, “ask and you shall receive …” or “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God …” Nothing thrills the heart of God more than the hungry, searching heart of a believer seeking to know God’s Word.

So the angel promises to tell John about the mystery, the secret concerning the woman and the beast. I suppose from the world’s twisted perspective, this is the story of beauty (man’s viewpoint) and the beast. But there is more. By the angel’s question and description of the woman, however, he shows we should not marvel at the woman which appears in such pompous and religious attire because she is so satanic and thereby destructive and deceptive. We should never be deceived by outward form or religiosity no matter how outwardly attractive or influential or powerful as is the case with this ecumenical and godless system.

The Description (8-14)

·         This is the same beast as described in Revelation 13. Actually seven things are stated about this beast beginning with verse 8 and continuing down through verse 14.

1.       Verse 8 describes the beast, the antichrist political system in terms of the past, present and future. The beast is the personification of imperial power. “Was” refers to old Rome, the old Roman empire of John’s day; this is her past. “And is not” refers to the fall of Rome. From John’s standpoint and ours, Rome would fall and pass from the scene; this is her present condition. “And is about to come up …” refers to the revived Roman empire in its final form in the days of the Tribulation; this is her future. This future form is related to the abyss, to Satan (it has a demonic source), but also to destruction. This teaches us that we should not to look for the mere revival of earthly power in the sphere of what was once great and then died away as with other countries. This verse is stressing that this revival of Rome is no natural phenomenon. Behind its rise is Satan himself.
2.      We are then told in verse 9 that the seven heads of the beast are mountains which, as we saw in the study on chapter 13, refers to seven successive world kingdoms represented by seven former kings (verse 10) all of whom supported the religious system of the harlot. The statement, “Here is the mind that has wisdom” in verse 9 is a warning. Only those who know this truth and accept it will be prepared to recognize and stand against the deception of this future system. Understanding God’s truth always gives us the capacity, if we will use it, to recognize the enemy as the enemy.
3.      Verse 10 tells us that “five are fallen.” As mentioned previously, this refers to the past history of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece. “One is” refers to Rome of John’s day, the sixth. “The other is not yet come “ refers to the revived Roman empire, or the Ten Nation Confederation of the first half of the Tribulation and will truly be a work of the Devil. This seventh kingdom will continue only for a little while, specifically, 3 1/2 years (the first half of the Tribulation).
4.      Verse 11 then informs us this beast which was, is not, and would come again actually becomes an eighth kingdom; he is one of the seven and will go into destruction. The revived Roman empire will take on the form of an imperial dictatorship and by this change actually become an eighth kingdom, a whole new and vicious form of government, the blasphemous form seen in Revelation 13. This occurs in the last half of the Tribulation and lasts for 3 1/2 years, but then is destroyed by the return of Christ (Rev. 19).
5.      Verse 12 defines the ten horns. The ten horns become the Ten Nation Confederation of nations that will join together under ten kings. These are nations which were once a part of the old Roman empires. Some time before the Tribulation, these European nations will begin seeking a way to confederate together for political, military and commercial reasons. It is a confederation that will take place partly because of pressure from the king of the north and partly because of a world-wide conspiracy led by Satan in preparation for his end time bid to be worshipped by man and to control the world. These ten nations will form the nucleus of the end time kingdom.  “Who have not yet received …” i.e., this is all future and will occur in the Tribulation. “They receive authority … with the beast” means the beast will probably be one of the kings or certainly one who will rise up from one of the ten nations to take control and become the head of this confederation (Dan 7:23-24).
6.      Verse 13 then tells us of their league with the super-personality, the one called the beast and the white horse rider of Revelation 6. They will give him their authority and power thinking he can solve the world’s problems and provide a leadership which the world needs against the Communist threat of the king of the north, his allies, the Orient, and solve the Arab-Israel dispute.
7.      In verse 14 we are told they will wage war with the Lamb, but that the Lamb will overcome them as the King of kings and Lord of Lords. This is the subject of chapter 19.

The Destruction of the Harlot  (17:15-18)

Rev 17:15  And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
Rev 17:16  And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
Rev 17:17  For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
Rev 17:18  And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.

The Interpretation of the Water (15)

·         By its own interpretation, the text tells us the waters are symbolic. They are symbolic in that they refer to the vast majority of the people of the earth, perhaps with the exception of those countries confederated together with the kings of the north, south, and east. Walvoord writes:

·         The fact that a symbolic meaning is specifically assigned to it here indicates that this is the exception to the usual rule. The situation described here is one of great political power on the part of the beast but a sharing of rule with the woman who controls the multitudes of the world.212

The Desolation of the Harlot (16)

·         For centuries the kings and the harlot have appeared as lovers, but there has been no real love between them. They each simply used the other to further their own ends. But now the religious system will have served its purpose, so the ten kings banish and completely destroy the harlot (the religious system). Her wealth, buildings, property will be confiscated, her leaders killed, and everything else destroyed.

Summary of These Events

1.       The time of this event will be about the halfway mark in the Tribulation or Daniel’s seventieth week. It will coincide approximately with the events of Revelation 12 (when Satan is booted out of heaven) and with Ezekiel 38 and 39 (when Russia invades Israel and is destroyed, assuming the king of the north is Russia). This will create the vacuum needed for world control.

2.      During the first half of the seven years, apostate Christendom will flower and establish its power all over the world. Because of the treaty with Israel which allows them to have their temple and peace in Jerusalem, there will undoubtedly be a certain amount of religious freedom during the first three and half years, but not necessarily for true believers in Christ.

3.      There will be wide-spread preaching of the gospel, but genuine believers will be extremely persecuted (Rev 17:6). The reason for this is that other religious systems won’t pose a threat to the harlot’s system, they will all be eventually amalgamated, but true genuine Christianity will not join their ranks and will pose a threat; they will therefore be persecuted. The same is true today and we will face greater and greater pressure.

4.      With the beginning of the second half of the week, the leader of the revived Roman empire will proclaim himself dictator of the world. He therefore destroys the world church, probably just prior to this declaration. He will then be free to take over everywhere.

5.      So in the absence of the apostate world church he substitutes the worship of himself (Rev 13:8).

6.      Two key parallel passages are Dan 11:36-39 and 2 Thess 2:4. Here the willful king, the man of sin, puts aside all other deities in favor of worship of himself. This includes Dan 9:27 and the abomination of desolation.

Fulfillment of God’s Purposes (17)

·         The divine judgment inflicted follows a pattern and principle. Ancient Babylon was used to bring affliction upon the people of Israel as were Assyria and Egypt, but eventually these same nations that God used were themselves the objects of judgment because they did not act for God, but for themselves.

·         Verse 17 states the principle that God uses the blasphemous actions of world religions and governments to fulfill His own purposes. The plan of the ages unfolds majestically and Scripture shows that God permits the increasing increments of wickedness until the cup of iniquity overflows, then judgment comes.

·         In the declaration “God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose,” there is another indication of God’s use of the forces of evil as instruments of his own purposes of judgment (Jer 25:9-14; cf. Luke 20:18). Nothing will distract them from their united effort to destroy the prostitute until God’s purposes given through the prophets are fulfilled (cf. Rev 10:7; Rev 11:18).213

Final Identification of the Woman (l8)

·         The woman can be identified by the great city in which the final form of Babylonianism will reside. At the present time this appears to be Rome, for this is where Babylonianism today has its headquarters though that is not the emphasis here in this chapter.

·         The city here according to verse 5 is a mystery, not a literal city. The entire context of chapter 17 supports this interpretation, distinguishing as it does between the city identified with the woman and the political power referred to as the beast and the ten horns.214

·         Yet it is the great city, the mother city, the archetype of the evil Babylonian system that has been opposed to God throughout history.

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209 For an excellent work on this issue and what our forefathers meant by separation of church and state, see The Myth of Separation by David Barton, Wallbuilders, P.O. Box 397, Aledo, TX 76008. The Wallbuilders is an excellent resource regarding our godly heritage.

210 Erwin W. Lutzer, “The Myth the Church Should Have No Voice in Government” Exploding the Myths That Could Destroy America, Moody Press, Chicago, 1986, pp. 159-64.

211 Erwin W. Lutzer and John F. DeVries, Satan’s Evangelistic Strategy For This New Age, Victor Books, Wheaton, IL, 1989, pp. 23-24.

212 John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Moody Press, Chicago, 1966, p. 255.

213 NIV Bible Commentary, Zondervan, electronic version.

214 Walvoord, p. 257.

References and Credits
·         Revelation 17 Study - Stan Feldsine
·         The basis for this study came from:
·         Credit to: J. Hampton Keathley III

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