Revelation 17:1-8

Sunday, August 16th, 2015

THE DESTRUCTION OF ECCLESIASTICAL BABYLON

INTRODUCTION:

Revelation of Jesus Christ 17 and 18 describe the final destruction of Babylon in both its ecclesiastical and political forms.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 17 deals with the destruction of ecclesiastical Babylon. This occurs just before the middle of the tribulation. It is at the end of the first half of the tribulation.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 18 deals with the destruction of political and commercial Babylon. This occurs at the end of the seven years of tribulation, just before the second coming of Christ.

In Revelation of Jesus Christ 17 , verses 1-6 deal with the vision; whereas, verses 7-18 deal with the interpretation of the vision.

We see -

I. THE INVITATION TO VIEW THE JUDGMENT OF THE GREAT HARLOT - 17:1-2

Revelation of Jesus Christ 17:1-2 - (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: (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.

In verse 1 John is invited to view the judgment of the great harlot.

There came one of the seven angels is literally one of the seven angels came. It is not revealed which one of the seven, and it really does not matter.

Which had the seven vials (or bowls) limits these angels to being the ones who poured out their bowls full of the wrath of God in chapter 16.

Talked with me is spoke with me and indicates that the angel had a private conversation with John.

Saying unto me introduces what the angel actually said to John in their private conversation.

Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters.

Come hither is come or come here.

I will shew unto thee refers to the angel and is predictive of a future event which will definitely occur. It means I will point out to you, I will show you, or I will make known to you.

What he will show John is the judgment of the great whore, i.e. the judgment of the great harlot (or great prostitute). This woman represents false religion as represented by apostate Christendom.

That sitteth upon many waters further identifies this harlot.

Verse 15 identifies the waters upon which the whore sits as peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 17:15 - And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 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.

With whom refers to the great whore introduced in verse 1.

The kings of the earth refers to the rulers of the world.

Have committed fornication is have prostituted themselves or have committed prostitution. They had involved themselves in a relationship with the whore which was not right and is regarded as spiritual immorality.

Another group which has been involved with the great whore is the inhabitants of the earth which has been used consistently in Revelation to refer to those who are unsaved. The inhabitants of the earth is literally the ones dwelling upon the earth or the ones who live upon the earth.

Have been made drunk is became drunk or became intoxicated and has been translated in a way which emphasizes the result of its action.

With the wine of her fornication continues the imagery of drunkenness and indicates what made the inhabitants of the earth drunk. It is with the wine of her fornication, which means with her fornication.

By fornication is meant prostitution or unchastity. It means that the peoples of the earth have been in a stupor over the immoral relationship of the great whore and their rulers. It has happened, and they have gone along with it.

Next, we see -

II. THE VISION OF THE WOMAN ON THE BEAST - 17:3-4

Revelation of Jesus Christ 17:3-4 - (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. (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.

In verse 3 John is carried in a trance into the wilderness where he sees a woman sitting upon a scarlet-colored beast which is full of names of blasphemy and which has seven heads and ten horns.

So is the same word which has been repeatedly translated and in the book of Revelation.

In he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness, he refers to this particular angel with whom John was speaking. He was one of the seven angels.

Carried me away is took me away.

In the spirit is literally in spirit and suggests that John did not actually go physically with the angel but that he went with the angel in a vision or in a trance.

Into the wilderness is into a desert or into a grassland in contrast to a cultivated and inhabited country.

In I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, I is John; and I saw is I beheld.

What John saw was a woman.

Sit upon a scarlet coloured beast is sitting upon a red beast.

The fact that the woman is seen riding the beast and is not the beast itself indicates that she represents ecclesiastical power as separate and distinct from the beast which is the political power.

Her position of riding on the beast indicates that she is supported by the political power of the beast and also that she is in a dominant role and at least outwardly controls and directs the beast.

The beast, rather than the woman, is described as full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. This is made clear in the Greek text by the fact that the gender of both full and having matches the gender of beast rather than the gender of woman. Adjectives are always found in the same gender as the nouns they modify.

Full of names of blasphemy is full of blasphemous names, full of slanderous names, or full of defaming names.

This beast also was seen as having seven heads and ten horns. This beast has been seen previously in Revelation of Jesus Christ 13 as the beast out of the sea who was described in Revelation of Jesus Christ 13:1 as having seven heads and ten horns . . . and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. The beast refers not only to the antichrist but also to the empire over which he rules. Here in chapter 17 the beast is the revived Roman Empire. Furthermore, the woman is seen riding upon the beast, suggesting that she is not to be equated with the beast and indicating that she is in control of the beast.

In chapter 13 the false prophet demands that the beast or antichrist be worshiped, which suggests that the woman is no longer present and that the antichrist is at that time in control of the empire. Her destruction has already taken place before the beginning of chapter 13 when the antichrist, the abomination of desolation, stands in the holy place and demands that he be worshiped.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 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.

The woman refers to the great whore.

Was arrayed in is had clothed herself in, had put on herself, or was wearing.

Purple and scarlet colour refers to the color of her clothing.

She was also decked with gold and precious stones and pearls.

Decked with is adorned with.

What she was adorned with is gold, precious stones, and pearls.

She was certainly all decked out in an effort to make herself look attractive.

She also looked very wealthy. Having a golden cup in her hand suggests that she had one of the finest drinking vessels money could buy.

However, rather than her cup being filled with some delicious beverage, it was full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication.

Abominations are detestable things, and filthiness is uncleanness.

Of her fornication, i.e. both abominations and filthiness are produced by her immorality.

Fornication is a general term for every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse including such wicked things as prostitution, homosexuality, bestiality, adultery, and incest, things which are shameful even to discuss. Here her fornication is spiritual rather than physical in that it has involved the worship of things and beings other than God. At the same time there has been much physical immorality in her religious practices.

Furthermore, we see -

III. THE NAME OF THE WOMAN - 17:5

Revelation of Jesus Christ 17:5 (5) And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

Verse 5 continues the description of the woman, i.e. the great whore.

Upon her forehead was a name written. This refers to the woman. What was written on her forehead describes her character.

The tense of written indicates that it had been written previously on her forehead and that it was now in a state of having been written there. It was in the open on her forehead and available for all to see her true character.

Mystery suggests something hidden that is now being revealed. It means secret, secret rite, or secret teaching. However, it is no longer a mystery or secret. This information is now available to all. It seems that the word translated MYSTERY is descriptive rather than an actual part of her name. If so, it should not be capitalized and should be understood as another way of saying the same thing. It was a name written, a mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth. The King James Version translators, however, evidently regarded it as part of the name and put it in all capital letters.

Babylon the Great may be rendered as the great Babylon. This apostate world religion which would worship anything other than God has been around since the tower of Babel and suggests that Satan desired it when he said, I will be like the most high in Isaiah 14 .

The mother of harlots and abominations of the earth continues the name on the forehead of the woman.

The fact that she is described as the mother suggests that she was the first one and is responsible for all the others.

Of harlots is of prostitutes. It is the same term used to refer to the great whore in verse 1.

Abominations is the same word used in verse 4 meaning detestable things. This woman is responsible for much wickedness.

The appears before both harlots and abominations in the Greek text, which indicates that the entire class or group of harlots as a whole is under consideration and that the entire class or group of things known as abominations is likewise under consideration in this verse.

Harlots in this context likely has a much broader sense than physical immorality and must carry with it the idea of spiritual harlotry which would turn someone else's heart away from the Lord and the things of the Lord.

Abominations is frequently used in reference to idolatry.

Babylon is actually a counterfeit or false religion which plagued Israel in the Old Testament, and the churches in the New Testament. Since the apostolic days, it has also had a tremendous influence in moving churches from Biblical simplicity to apostate confusion. Its most confusing form is found in Romanism. It is also interesting to note that the mystery religions were Babylonian in origin, and that Masonry claims it originated with them.

The apostasy seen today will climax in this future superchurch which will engulf all Christendom in the period after the rapture of the saints at the end of the church age.

After this, we see -

IV. THE WOMAN DRUNKEN WITH THE BLOOD OF MARTYRS - 17:6-7

Revelation of Jesus Christ 17:6-7 - (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. (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.

I saw is I beheld where I is John.

The woman is the great whore, the woman John saw wearing scarlet and sitting upon the beast. John is still talking about the same woman.

Drunken is a participle used to describe woman, and its tense denotes continuing action at the same time as the action of saw. She was drunk at the time John saw her.

Ordinarily, those who get drunk do so with alcoholic beverages; but here the woman's drunkenness is with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

It means that she is responsible for having shed the blood of many saints (i.e. of many believers).

The same thing is stated a second time in a second way, with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus, i.e. those who bore witness for Jesus by dying for their faith. Here the saints are the martyrs of Jesus. The saints and martyrs of Jesus are not two different groups of people but one group described in two ways.

The woman is pictured not only as the source of all evil in apostate Christendom but also as the one who is actively engaged in the persecution of the true saints. She is described as drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

Church history has demonstrated that apostate Christendom is unsparing in its persecution of those who attempt to maintain a true faith in Jesus Christ.

What has been true in the past will be brought to its ultimate conclusion in this future time when the martyrs will be beyond number from every kindred, tongue, and nation.

The blood shed by the apostate church is exceeded only by that of the martyrs who refuse to worship the beast in the Great Tribulation.

When I saw her is literally having seen her. The action of when I saw or of having seen occurs before the action of I wondered. Hence, it is understood in the sense of after I had seen her.

The one intended by her is the woman who was drunk with the blood of the saints, i.e. with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. She is the great whore, the woman John saw wearing scarlet and sitting upon the beast.

I [i.e. John] wondered is I marveled or I was astonished.

With great admiration is literally a great wonder or a great marvel. Hence, the phrase I wondered . . . with great admiration is understood in the sense of I wondered greatly, I marveled greatly, I was greatly astonished, or I was utterly amazed.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 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.

The angel is one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls of judgment. He was introduced in verse 1.

Said unto me is said to me where the one represented by me is John.

What the angel said was, Wherefore didst thou marvel?

Wherefore? is why?

Didst thou marvel? is did you wonder? or were you astonished? It is the same word translated I wondered in the previous verse.

The angel continues with I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns where I is the angel.

Will tell thee is literally will say to you (i.e. to you, John).

What he will tell John is the mystery. The before mystery indicates that this is a particular mystery, i.e. a particular secret or secret teaching. It was something which was not obvious and not known, but it was about to be made known.

The particular mystery is of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her.

The woman is the same woman described in verses 3-5 as sitting upon a scarlet coloured beast, who was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, who had a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication, and who had a name written on her forehead: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

The beast introduced in verse 3 is the color scarlet and full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

That carrieth her refers to the beast carrying its rider, the great whore.

Finally, we see -

V. THE ORIGIN OF THE BEAST - 17:8

Revelation of Jesus Christ 17:8 (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.

In verse 8 the angel reveals to John the origin and destiny of the beast.

The beast that thou sawest refers to the beast which was introduced in verse 3 and said to be scarlet in color and full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns on whom the woman was sitting and who was said in verse 7 to be carrying the woman.

Was suggests that the beast formerly existed.

And is not suggests that the beast apparently ceased to live or to exist for a time; yet, here in Revelation of Jesus Christ 17 it is alive again or existing again in association with the woman.

Furthermore, the beast shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition.

Shall ascend out of the bottomless pit identifies this beast as the one who ascends out of the bottomless pit who makes war with the two witnesses in Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:7 and kills them.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 11:7 - And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.

The bottomless pit is the abyss. It is the home of Satan and demons and indicates that the power of the political empire is satanic in its origin as is plainly stated in Revelation of Jesus Christ 13:4 .

Revelation of Jesus Christ 13:4 - And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?

He is the beast out of the sea introduced in Revelation of Jesus Christ 13:1-10 .

Shall ascend is literally is about to ascend and is predictive of a future event which is definitely going to happen. Inasmuch as the bottomless pit is the place of confinement for demons, shall ascend out of the bottomless pit suggests the beast's demonic or Satanic orientation.

Another event which awaits the beast is mentioned: and (shall) go into perdition.

(Shall) go is literally is about to go and is predictive of a future event which is definitely going to happen.

Into perdition indicates where the beast is about to go.

Perdition is destruction, annihilation, ruin, or utter ruin and refers to eternal damnation. It suggests that the empire of the beast (or antichrist) will eventually be destroyed and that the beast himself will be cast into the lake of fire.

There is an identification to some extent of Satan with the future world ruler and an identification with the future world ruler with his world government. Only Satan himself comes from the abyss. The fact that Satan and the world ruler are referred to in such similar terms indicates their close relationship with each other.

What is revived is imperial government, not an imperial ruler. That which seemingly went out of existence in history never to be revived is thus miraculously raised from the dead at the end of the age. We refer to this empire as the revived Roman Empire.

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. They that dwell on the earth is the ones who live on the earth or the ones who are settled down on the earth.

Shall wonder is shall marvel or shall be astonished. It is predictive of a future event which is definitely going to happen. It is the same word translated I wondered in verse 6 and didst thou marvel in verse 7.

They that dwell on the earth who shall wonder are further described by whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.

One possibility for understanding whose names were not written is that their names have never been written in the book of life. They have not been written in the book of life in the past; and as a result, they are not written there now. It may mean that these people were never saved and that their names were never written into the book of life as a record of their salvation at any time from the foundation of the world.

A better way to understand this, however, is that it means that their names are no longer written there. Their names along with the names of all persons were originally written in the book of life; but when they finally and completely rejected their opportunity to be saved, their names were blotted out and as a result were no longer written in the book of life. Their names have been removed.

From the foundation of the world is from (the) world's foundation or from the world's beginning. It suggests from the creation of the world. They are a group of people who have never been saved.

When they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is indicates when these unsaved persons will be amazed.

When they behold is literally beholding or seeing. It is understood in this context as when they see.

What they will see is the beast that was, and is not, and yet is, which suggests that this beast was alive, and then seemed to die, but now is alive again. The time that the beast is not refers to a time which is yet future to the New Testament era. It refers to the time period from the fall of the Roman Empire to the beginning of the revived Roman Empire, which will occur in the tribulation. It is in this period of time that the beast, i.e. the imperial form of government, is dead or at least appears to be dead. It is the time in which we are living.