Chapters 17 and 18 of the book of Revelation form another parenthesis. They are expositions of two verses. Chapter 17 explains Revelation 14:8 and chapter 18 expounds Revelation 16:19. In Revelation 14:8 we read, And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. Likewise, in chapter 16, we learned that great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath (verse 19). As we have already discussed, the Babylon of Revelation 14 is a religious system, whereas the Babylon of Revelation 16 is political. The chapter before us, then, is the story of the rise and fall of the ecumenical world church, while chapter 18 describes the destruction of a political system. Letís begin our investigation of chapter 17 and discuss its prophetic implications, historically.
Verse 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:
Here we see one of the seven angels who administered one of the seven judgments speaking to the disciple, John, inviting him to view the judgment of the great harlot who sitteth upon many waters. This phrase, many waters, speaks of religious control over humanity, internationally. Proof? Verse 15: The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
Verse 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.
Here we discover that this worldwide religious system holds both earthís leaders and people within its grasp. The fornication committed is between these worldly leaders and the church. Remember that fornication, spiritually speaking, has to do with idolatry, including all its evil connotations and associations.
Spiritual fornication also has to do with Christianity embracing the world - leaping out of Christís arms into those of another lover. Godís Word instructs true Christians to be separated from the world (see Romans 12:2), specifically cautioning them not to fall in love with the world or anything that it contains (see 1 John 2:15). Those who disregard these commands are spiritual adulterers or fornicators. Thatís why James 4:4 declares, Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Harlotry and whoredom, then, speak of idolatry and worldliness.
During the Tribulation hour, a vast international religious system (the great whore of verse 1) creates impure alignments with kings, rulers, and presidents in an unprecedented way. Her control is so overwhelming that humanity becomes mentally stupefied or hypnotically drugged as they are made drunk with the intoxicating brew of these religious / political alliances.
Verse 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.
At this point John, guided by the Holy Spirit. Observes the woman (or world church) sitting upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. We first saw this beast in chapter 13, verse 1: I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns. We immediately recognize him to be the Antichrist, who came to power through a confederation of western nations pictured by the ten horns and ten toes. The only difference between the present text and verse 1 of chapter 13 is that the beast is now described as being scarlet coloured. Most commentators believe this reflects his bloody assault upon the world as he rises to power. He begins his reign with a fake peace pact (see Daniel 9:27) which he later breaks! As a result, millions are slaughtered during his rule. Now he bears the blood red color of an executioner.
Verse 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:
As this world church on earth is described, please keep in mind that the true Church - the bride of Christ - is in heaven (chapter 4, verse 1). Her members were raptured from all nations and from many denominations. In fact, their song was recorded in chapter 5, verse 9: Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. The lyrics clearly prove that they trusted in the precious blood of Jesus for salvation. There is no other way (see 1 Peter 1:18,19).
Cain rejected the blood and tried to appease God with a vegetable offering (see Genesis 4:3), but God said, It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul (Leviticus 17:11). One cannot get to heaven by following the commandments of men (Matthew 15:9), observing tradition (see Mark 7:9), or as a result of works (see Titus 3:5). Thus, those who believed and obeyed Godís teachings concerning the blood of the Lamb are in heaven when the false church, the great whore that sitteth upon many waiters, holds sway over the earth.
This false religious system of the Tribulation hour is a complete union of the church and the world. Its members are the leftovers from all denominations. They were either doctrinally or morally wrong. One is as bad as the other. The doctrinally wrong are described in 2 Peter 2:1 and 3: But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction ... whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
The morally wrong are pictured in Jude, verses 8-21. Now we understand why theology and morality are so important! When God says, All have sinned (Romans 3:23), He means all. When He declares, The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), He means punishment. When He declares, The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7), He means just that! There are no two ways about it! God says what He means - and means what He says. If one rejects Godís Word, he will end up among this Tribulation crowd of self-indoctrinated religionists in a world church destined for destruction.
Secondly, if one says he is a Christian but continues to live in sin, the result will be the same - even though his doctrinal theories may coincide with the true teachings of the Word. Yes, disobedience to revealed truth, as well as incorrect doctrine, keeps one from the presence of God for all eternity. This is why Titus 1:16 states: They profess that they know God [lip service]; but in works [daily living] they deny [God], being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate [counterfeit]. Therefore, the members of both groups remain on earth when Jesus calls His genuine children home in the twinkling of an eye. Then these leftovers from all denominations become members of the only religious body still in existence - the world church under the false prophet.
Looking at verse 4 once again, we notice that the woman or mother of the united world church is clothed in materials of purple and scarlet colour. This signifies rulership, for imperial Rome bedecked its leaders in such fashionable elegance. Strange, is it not, that ecclesiastical rulers have always desired temporal authority? They have sought to control the world as well as their parishioners.
Constantine, who became Emperor of Rome in 312 A.D. and eventually head of the church, is a perfect example of this power struggle which has continued to the present hour. Shades of Nicolaitanism! Remember the church of Ephesus in chapter 2. Question: Is such a goal scriptural? No! Jesus taught His disciples to pray, Thy kingdom come (Matthew 6:10). When that great event takes place in chapter 19, verse 16, then and only then, is a theocracy - the government of God - established upon earth. This position of leadership is reserved for the Lord Jesus Christ, and no mortal has any business taking His place. The throne belongs exclusively to the King of kings and Lord of lords.
The colors and jewels of verse 4 picture a church composed of prelates or leaders elegantly dressed in purple and scarlet (the colors of the emperors from the time of Constantine). They are also decked with gold and precious stones and pearls (a picture of wealth) and use idols in worship (pictured by the golden cup in the womanís hand). The cup is full of (1) abominations and (2) filthiness.
Verse 5: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Here we discover that the mother church has daughters. Her offspring are groups who either rejected the true teachings of the founder of Christendom or who had a counterfeit experience with the Son of God. They went through the motions but were never truly converted. Among them are cultists, apostates, and unconverted professors of religion - including Baptists, Catholics, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, and those who were members of a host of denominations.
They never really knew the Lord (see Matthew 7:21-23). The fruit of daily living was spoiled. Now they are all united in one homogenized ecumenical monstrosity - the counterfeit church under the leadership of the false prophet. However, the true believers from many denominations are already on the glory side and were evacuated at the Rapture (see Revelation 4:1).
Friend, at the Judgment Day, no church - not even your church - will be the final standard of truth. Neither will tradition hold sway at the judgment bar of God. The only and absolute authority of truth, faith, and religious practice is Godís Holy Word (see 2 Timothy 3:16)! This is why the Lord Jesus himself said in Mark 7:7 and 13, Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered.
Verse 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.
As John watches all the cunning antics of persecution this woman used and uses, he [wonders] with great admiration. This does not mean he admires the one who has so mercilessly destroyed so many. Instead, the original Greek is that John "wonders with a great wonder." He is mystified.
Verse 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.
The explanation begins in the next verse.
Verse 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.
The angel continues unfolding the mystery of the beast in verses 8 through 17. Then, in verse 18, the identity of the woman is revealed. Concerning the beast, the angel declares, The beast that thou sawest was [past tense], and is not [present tense]; and shall ascend [future tense] out of the bottomless pit. This is the same beast found in verse 3 and also in chapter 13, verse 1. The reason the beast was, and is not and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition is that, as mentioned during our study of chapter 13, verse 3, he is more than likely assassinated during the Tribulation hour - and thus, is not. Then satan, the great imitator, resurrects him and enters the body of this human for the final forty two months of the Tribulation.
This explanation fulfills the statement, and yet is (verse 8). While he is deceased, the beast is in the place of departed evil spirits - the bottomless pit. At the time of his resurrection, he ascends out of this pit, only to eventually go back into perdition at the conclusion of his reign when Christ comes (at the Battle of Armageddon) and casts him into the lake of fire (chapter 19, verse 20). Verse 8 also tells us that those persons whose names [are] not written in the book of life, are emotionally stirred as they see the beast that was [alive], and is not [because of his assassination] and yet is [because of his resurrection] ruling again.
Verse 9: And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
This is a tremendous text. It locates, geographically, the final world power block and headquarters for the world church as well. Historically speaking, Rome is the only city situated on seven hills. The names of her seven peaks are (1) Aventine, (2) Caehan, (3) Capitohine, (4) Esquihine, (5) Palatine, (6) Quimnal, and (7) Viminal. There is no disputing the fact. The world church, sitting on these seven hills, heading up scores of denominations, rides to power on the back of the ten horned western federation of nations.
Verse 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.
As John receives this vision of the seven kings, five have already fallen. They were (1) Julius Caesar, (2) Tiberius, (3) Caligula, (4) Claudius, and (5) Nero. Number 6 - Domitian - is, at the time John receives this revelation, alive and on the throne. Number 7 is yet to come. He, of course, is the Antichrist whose reign will last briefly, or a short space.
Verse 11: And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
This verse is a thought twister, but easily understood when one considers it carefully. Who is king number eight if there are only seven kings in the first place? Number eight is number seven resurrected! And the beast that was [before his assassination], and is not [because of his untimely death], even he is [because of his resurrection] the eighth. He is of the seven because satan, who incarnated his body while dead, also motivated the other seven. As further proof that number eight is the resurrected Antichrist (number seven), we are again told that he will eventually go into perdition. This statement is also made concerning number seven in verse 8 as well as in our text - verse 11. King number seven and king number eight are one and the same.
Verse 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.
The ten horns have not become quite familiar to us. They may soon control the world. Communism, as we have learned, is not the final power block of history. Rather, this ten toed western alliance is. The power of these nations, however, will be for one hour, or for but a brief moment of time.
Verse 13: These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
The final ten nation western federation - after the Antichrist ousts three of the original members and replaces them - becomes so unified that everything they possess, economically and militarily, is placed under the control of this world leader (see Daniel 7:8, 24).
Verse 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.
This verse is fulfilled in chapter 19, verses 11 through 16, when the worldís armies gather together against the Lord and His anointed as pictured in Psalm 2:2: The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed. The Lamb (Christ) is the Lord of lords, and King of kings. The called, chosen, and faithful who accompany Him are the armies of heaven (chapter 19, verse 14) composed of the believers (the true Church) who were raptured out of the world in chapter 4, verse 1, and who then waited in heaven seven years to return with the Bridegroom.
Verse 15: And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
As explained in our discussion of verse 1, the woman sitting upon many waters is the world church who exercises religious control over mankind internationally.
Verse 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.
The Antichrist eventually betrays his religious followers. They bowed and scraped to his image, but now he no longer wants to share the limelight and glory with them. Thus, the individual leaders of the countries in the ten nation confederacy turn against the world church. They hate her, strip her of all possessions (the gold, precious stones, and pearls of verse 4), and destroy her by burning her remains to the ground. Who places such a plan of action in the hearts of these rulers? None other than God Almighty!
Verse 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.
Imagine, God does it all! This portion of Scripture emphasizes the futility of politics. Despite the methods and manipulations of man, Godís plan always comes to pass. He sets up and knocks down world rulers at will (see Psalm 75:7). They are but pawns in the game of life (see Proverbs 21:1). Godís will prevails regardless of what humans attempt to do. Christian, get souls saved! This is your God given goal. Let the world spend time on temporal issues. The cause of Christ is eternal!
Verse 18: And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
This great end time city is located within the Common
Market nations and proves that the political and religious power brokers
exist together simultaneously. Since the world church forms at the
time when ten western nations unite - and both the European Economic Community
(now the European Union) and World Council of Churches began unity proceedings
in 1948 - Christís coming must be near. How long, O Lord, ere we
shout that glad song, "Christ returneth, hallelujah!" Yes, "Hallelujah!"