REVELATION CHAPTER 17
1. In our study of chapter 16, we noted ALL SEVEN VIALS (bowls) poured out (used) as God intended. What follows in chapters 17 through 22 is a more detailed account of the “individuality” of these destructive bowls of wrath, AND a more detailed account of the victorious attributes of the faithful!
2. We must remember the END OF THE WORLD has not yet passed; obviously, we are still living and the judgment day (Acts 17:31) awaits us. However, the events of which we read and study in these remaining chapters continue to give us the clearest picture of VICTORY, HOPE, and PROMISE AND GLORY should we remain faithful unto death. Likewise, these remaining chapters describe a very horrible consequence for sin and its continued rebellion against God and His Word.
Throughout our study, the noted reality of GOD’S MERCY/GRACE continues its evidence. Just as surely, however, within the administration of the seven last plagues, we noted the conspicuous ABSENCE of God’s mercy/grace inasmuch as this was the END of all opportunities for man’s repentance. While we accept without reservation the immediate fulfillment of these passages came upon Rome and its evil government combined with the insurgence of religious error acquiring in most cases equal rule and authority over man’s abilities as the government itself, we must further acknowledge the reality of such consequences continuing until the end of time! Rather than limiting the effectiveness of the book of Revelation to the first century Christians to whom it was given, we must realize Revelation (like all books of the New Testament) has continuing importance to us. Wickedness continues and therefore God’s wrath. Righteousness continues and therefore God’s mercy/grace. ONLY WHEN MAN EMPHATICALLY REJECTS THE TRUTH AFTER GOD’S SEVERAL ATTEMPTS OF EXPRESSING HIS DESIRE FOR THEIR OBEDIENCE, is God’s wrath FOREVER kindled against their souls! (Compare 2 Thessalonians 1:7 – 9; Titus 3:10; Matt. 7:6; et al). As His messengers, we must not deprive any soul of the opportunity of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:3). However, neither must we continually “beg” their acceptance of the gospel once they have emphatically rejected its saving power!
These remaining chapters place the above in clear perspective. The growing intensity of these passages shows God’s conclusive demeanor of His eternal decision/judgment. EVERY prophesy of scripture has been fulfilled with the lone exception of Christ’s return; nothing remains to prevent His return! It is therefore IMPERATIVE that every soul be ready to meet Him. If unprepared, then that same soul must accept the consequences – ready or not!
17:1 – As to which of the seven angels (messengers) that spoke with John, we have no knowledge. We do know however, this is a more focused view of God’s wrath upon sinful, non-penitent souls. “The judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon the waters” needs no further specific identity. While similar situations have been discussed, this “great whore” brings to a climax the destruction of the very “fostering agent” for immorality and degradation of (compare vs. 5 – “mother of harlots”). While we recognize this is indicative of Rome’s influence in both civil and religious government, the figurative language of this lewd woman shows the influence of evil was widespread. Consult Romans 13: 1- 7 regarding God’s required presence in government! When God is absent, then evil prevails, and such was the case with Rome. It is likewise the case today with any government that forsakes God and His word as its guide! (Prov. 14:34) Note the “judgment” of this great whore means “sentence.” It is God’s determination that she come to ruin and shall be no more! “Sitteth upon many waters” indicates the flowing influence of this sinful progenitor of evil.
2. That “kings of the earth” indulged her sinfulness shows they desired what she offered and engaged whatever task needful to gain their desires! “Like begets like” is not only a law of science which God ordained but is the same law with evil. (1 Cor. 15:33). Her wickedness influenced the general public in that they were “drunk with the wine of her fornication.” What pleased this evil woman pleased her kingdom and they act in kind to her example.
3. Sitting as a harlot in all her attractive garb, John sees the magnitude of this harlot. She sits upon a scarlet beast (scarlet being here the color of seductive rule for evil). The beast was explained at chapter 13 (the sea beast since we are examining civil government) full of blasphemous names and holding complete a complete mindset (seven heads) and abundance of power to enact her evil (ten horns). All this scene shall the angel explain in verses 7 – 18.
4. Here John sees the woman herself: the scarlet clothes express her rule (albeit in evil); the gold shows her worldly prosperity in immorality; her gold cup expresses the luxurious lifestyle in sight of mankind – HOWEVER, the contents of the cup express her true character – FULL OF ABOMINATIONS AND FILTHINESS OF HER FORNICATION.
5. Notice here the SINGULAR name (KJV) with four (world number) separate attributes, each of sinfulness. MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH each relate the same woman: one intent on the ABSENCE of God in both civil and religious affairs. We should note the meaning of each of these four characteristics:
a. MYSTERY = concealed from the naïve but revealed by her actions.
b. BABYLON THE GREAT = Immediately, Rome. In symbol, it is the power of influence that destroys the souls who need God as their strength and vitality in every word and deed!
c. THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS = She furthers her desires into future generations by giving birth to younger nations/religions of ungodly nature! As long as she remained, the populace of such “children” would grow in both men and women. If left unchecked, the descendants of such a “mother” are endless!
d. [MOTHER] OF ABOMINATIONS = Not only does she give birth to other wicked beings whose influence itself destroys nations and peoples, but she gives birth to the very ideas/ideals of wickedness!
6. “Drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs” shows this vile woman’s full interest: DESTRUCTION OF ALL THAT IS RIGHT AND HOLY, REGARDLESS OF COST! While such an intoxication caused her to think “all is great with me” she is completely unaware of the totality of her demise because of this drunken state! God has not forgotten the death of these saints and martyrs and does avenge! John’s “great admiration” (KJV – “great wonder” – ASV) is not of a positive nature. Such a site would not be a welcomed site, but is nonetheless an astounding one in the realm of “how can this be?” John would not desire the continuation of such a wickedness, but neither can he explain it. Such will be the need of the angel.
7. The angel is quite aware of John’s pondering this site and promises an explanation.
8. The beast is one whose effectiveness WAS, but is no more. He (it) had been a great power (perhaps of civil government, perhaps of false religious influence) but via prostituting the power with the Woman (vs. 4) to gain approval, will now return (i.e., the influence of that evil) to meet his (its) ultimate destruction! An example of this process would have been Pilate (see Luke 23:4, 14, 22). Also note the promise of Jesus regarding such wicked yet powerful leaders: “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:48b) Those who have not obeyed the GOSPEL and therefore do not have their names in the book of life, are in wonderment about this beast that was, is not, and yet is (regarding the continuation of evil’s influence.)
9. The angel continues the explanation of the vision. Note the statement, “And here is the mind which hath wisdom.” We have seen this statement before and recognize it mandates the READER’S thought and understanding! It proves the need to FOCUS on the actions and learn from the reality of this vision! The “seven heads” are seven mountains” on which the woman sat. “Mountains” usually refers to powers or areas of power/rule. (There are two symbols here – “seven heads” “seven mountains”. The meaning becomes clear as we continue the passage. The fact of “seven” being complete shows the totality of this power. Many suggest Rome as the meaning of this verse, and we could not successfully refute that description from this text.
10. Next, we learn the “seven heads” are seven kings. This also represents the completeness of power (rule) within the Roman Empire. Of this, five kings are gone (a relief to the remnant remaining that will endure the next two.) There was a present king and the seventh was future. When he comes to power, his power will last but a short time.
11. The beast of 17:8 is an ally of the seven kings. (See again the comments of verse 8). The point of this passage is that ALL civil powers whose fornication (sinful morality incorporated into the ruling governments – see Romans 13) with the woman (the MOTHER OF HARLOTS = the progenitor of others whose influence in both religious and civil affairs corrupts the minds of its citizens) enabled their continued evils, will meet with destruction! Thus, the “eighth” is indeed “of the seven” and all are lost!
12. – 13. The “ten horns” are ten kings who have not come to power yet but will receive some momentary power with the beast. The point is simple: ten other nations will engage their loyalty to Rome, but none shall long endure! Each one has the same ultimate end: damnation! The result is not questionable – God knows the time element and God’s promises are ALWAYS fulfilled! This proves the scene of the ALMIGHTY on the throne ALL RULE (chapter four.)
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.” Here is the VICTORY, HOPE, PROMISE and GLORY we have seen throughout our study! The enemies of Christ are plentiful; yet individually or collectively THERE IS NO POWER GREATER THAN CHRIST! The Lamb shall overcome them! The reason is simple: HE IS KING OF KINGS. This is not simply the “greatest of all kings” as is the case when the phrase appears in accolades of Cyrus, Darius, Hezekiah, et al. Here and always when associated with Christ Jesus, it means KING ABOVE ALL KINGS. Likewise, the phrase LORD OF LORDS. There is none greater in power and might, therefore none can defeat Him. Notice as well, “those that are WITH Him ...” These are the saints, the remnant, the redeemed – the accolades that refer to the OBEDIENT. They have endured the onslaught of the wicked governments, the onslaught of the false doctrines and BECAUSE OF THEIR FAITHFUL ALEIGNMENT WITH CHRIST they cannot and will not meet with defeat! THAT’S VICTORY. The HOPE becomes reality, the PROMISE fulfilled and, in its completion, the reception of GLORY! They are CALLED – heeding the command of Christ to obey, CHOSEN – because they DID obey, and FAITHFUL because they refused to surrender to the evil!
15. The angel continues the explanation of the vision. The waters are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. It is clear the whore had rule over many, many people and directed them into the degradation of all manner of sin.
16. We have seen how evil often rebels against evil for the sake of additional power. However, they ultimately destroy each other via weakening their strength through the destruction of their allies. This is God’s pattern for destroying various Empires (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medes and Persians, Greece, and now Rome.) The relationship between Rome (the whore) and all other nations would deteriorate beginning with the “ten kings/horns” will turn to hate (generated through envy) and then quickly die out as its sole basis is lust – SELF ESTEEM! (See 1 John 2:15 – 17).
17. As stated in the previous comments, this is God’s design. Carefully note the wording of the angel: “For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.” The emphasized words do not give credence to these evil souls obeying the gospel, but rather that God uses their evil to accomplish His good. If they wish to destroy themselves because of their continued wickedness, then it is God’s will they be destroyed anyway! This is the fulfillment of God’s Word!
18. This is the proving text of the whore be the symbolism of Rome – the capital city of the evil Fourth Empire mentioned in Daniel 4.