1. We now stand ready to begin our study of Revelation chapters 17 and 18, which deals with the religious, commercial, and political aspects of that entity which in the Bible is referred to as Babylon. Before we begin chapter 17, let me give you some background information which will help you to understand MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH, which is spoken of by John in Revelation 17.5: “And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”
2. “Revelation 17 is a parenthetical passage that contrasts Mystery Babylon, the religious system, and the literal city of Babylon, which is fully discussed in Revelation 18. The time frame for Revelation 17 is the first half of the Tribulation culminating with the destruction of the Mother of Harlots at mid-Tribulation.”
3. All the way back in the book of Genesis we read of only four men surviving the great Flood with their wives. They were Noah and his sons Ham, Shem, and Japheth. Of the three we know from the Biblical record that Ham was the most wicked, having so little respect or regard for his father Noah that he greatly shamed his father by looking on his nakedness while he lay in a drunken sleep and then telling his brothers what he saw. We find that account in Genesis 9.19-24:
19 These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.
20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
4. Genesis 10.6-10 records that this wicked son Ham had a son named Cush, who in turn also had a son named Nimrod. It was Ham’s grandson Nimrod who, in defiance of God’s command to go forth and replenish the earth, chose instead to gather a following around himself and build what came to be known as the Babylonian Empire.
5. Through both Biblical and archaeological sources we can piece together enough to know that Nimrod saw religion as a great force among all men, even those who do not know God and who refused to bow down to the true and living God. So Nimrod established a false system of religious idolatry, the first of its kind ever to exist, which focused on two things:
a) First, that famous tower of Babel, which was the rallying point for the religion of those who opposed God.
b) The second focal point of Nimrod’s false religion was his wife Semiramis, or Astarte, or Ishtar, as she later became known.
6. Folks, remember that it was from this religious system that God called Abram, and from which he fled in response to God. That should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that worship of the true and the living God and allegiance to this false religion are diametrically opposed.
7. For your own information, allow me to share with you some of the outstanding characteristics of Babylonian idolatry archaeologists have pieced together:
a) Babylonian idolatry featured a caste of priests to whom confessions were made and from whom indulgences and absolutions from sins were purchased or sought by other means.
b) Nimrod’s religion also had an order of religious virgins, who actually were temple prostitutes. As time went on this false system even developed a kind of temple prostitution requiring every woman to function as a prostitute for at least a portion of her lifetime, in service to the false religion.
c) After Nimrod’s death, Semiramis, the widow of Nimrod, actually claimed that the son she gave birth to was a savior-son, conceived without human father, making him the son of God. Thus, her glory in the religion Nimrod had established came from her “glorious son.”
d) Her son, Tammuz by name, was killed. However, he was miraculously brought back to life after being mourned for with fasting and prayers for 40 days. When he was “resurrected” from the dead, their false religion incorporated the egg into that system as a symbol of that great miracle of raising Tammuz from the dead. That is how the Easter egg, correctly pronounced “Astarte egg” and named after his mother, came into existence. That is also where Lent came from. In Ezekiel 8.14, we see Jewish women weeping for Tammuz during this 40-day period leading up to the celebration of his resurrection: “Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD’s house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.” Of course, Ezekiel condemned this idolatry.
e) Additionally, these idolaters used a small cake or wafer in their worship, Jeremiah 7.18: “The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.” They also burned incense to Semiramis, who they claimed was the queen of heaven, since she had given birth to the supposed son of God, Jeremiah 44.17, 25: “17But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil. . . 25Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, saying; Ye and your wives have both spoken with your mouths, and fulfilled with your hand, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed, to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her: ye will surely accomplish your vows, and surely perform your vows.” By the way, the only queen of heaven in Scripture is Nimrod’s wife, the most prominent personality in Babylonian idolatry.
f) Finally, and this is most important to remember, this false religion was merely a tool, and is merely a tool, that was used by the ungodly to usurp the place of the true God in the lives of men. This was done to strengthen the Babylonian Empire.
8. Years later, when the Persians invaded Babylon, the high priests of this false religion fled to Asia Minor and settled in the city of Pergamum, but not before Babylon had succeeded in spreading various versions of their religion throughout the world, usually featuring the mother-son cult.
a) In Egypt the mother and son cult were worshipped under the names of Isis and Osiris.
b) In India, they are still worshipped under the names of Isi and Iswara, her son.
c) In Rome, it was Fortuna and her son Jupiter.
d) In Greece, the Great Mother was Ceres, with the babe at her breast.
e) Even in China, newly arriving Jesuit missionaries were astonished to find the Madonna and child already being worshipped, and pictures of the Madonna actually had a glory over her head, just as a Roman Catholic painter would have done it.
Babylon succeeded in spreading her heresy the world over. And she did it long before Rome ever came into existence as a city or was recognizable as a religious system.
9. Now, remember, there are two sources of information that informs us of the escape of Babylonian priests to Pergamum: There is archaeology, the findings of man as he digs up the ruins of ancient civilizations and pieces together clues that he stumbles across. There is also the Bible. Read Revelation 2.13: “I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.” Since the word “seat” is the Greek word for throne, qronoV, we can be quite sure that Satan’s seat, or throne, arrived in Pergamum from Babylon.
10. From Pergamum, the Babylonian religion with its Madonna cult spread into Italy at the time Pergamum was made an official Roman city. So, by the time of the Lord’s earthly ministry the Caesars had already begun to use the false religion, with its Madonna cult, as a means of enhancing their own power over the people they ruled. It was Julius Caesar who first took upon himself the duel role of both political leader and religious leader of Rome when, as emperor, he had himself elected religious high priest and was conferred with the title of Pontifus Maximus.
11. Yes, even before the Lord Jesus Christ established His church the Pontifus Maximus was in existence. Though he was not at that time called the Pope, as he is today, he was the recognized leader and high priest of the Babylonian-originated religion and its Madonna cult.
12. When the gospel began to spread through the ministries of poor and persecuted churches, great inroads were made against this false religious system wherever it was encountered and whatever it happened to be called in its specific location. However, as time went on and the fires of evangelism began to cool, and vigilance was relaxed, unbelievers began to infiltrate these churches, especially when Constantine declared the Roman Empire a “Christian” empire and it became politically advantageous to be a “Christian.”
13. Over the course of about 300 years it reached the point where many churches had more unsaved people as members than saved people, and the cooled off Christians allowed the lost crowd to bring the thoughts and ideas of the Babylonian religion and the Madonna cult into the churches without rebuking them. That is what brought about, especially with the so-called “conversion” of Emperor Constantine, the emergence of the Roman Catholic Church as we see it today.
14. In summary, Catholicism is not the offspring of Babylonian idolatry. The Roman Church is the mother of idolatry transplanted from Babylon to the Italian peninsula. Just look at her.
a) Nimrod’s priests are Rome’s priests and fathers.
b) Ishtar’s religious virgins are Rome’s nuns.
c) The 40 days of weeping for Tammuz has become Lent.
d) The Babylonian feast of Tammuz’ resurrection has become Rome’s Easter, which is also observed by liberal Protestantism.
e) Ishtar and Tammuz have become what Rome means when they refer to Mary and Jesus.
f) The little cakes referred to in Ezekiel are now the host of the Catholic mass.
g) The incense offered to the queen of heaven has its counterpart with Rome, too.
h) Babylon’s ceremonial sprinkling for remission of sins matches Rome’s baptism by sprinkling for removal of original sin.
i) And worst of all is the fact that Babylon offered salvation by works apart from the bloody sacrifice demanded by God, while Rome offers what she calls the unbloody sacrifice of the mass.
15. As we begin our study of Revelation chapter 17, remember that the exterior of Babylon may have changed, but she is still the rebellious religion started by Nimrod, the hunter of men’s souls and rebel against God. Can the child of God have any part of that? No!
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:
1. Here begins an interruption in the flow of events of John’s narrative, an interlude if you will. But it is a very important interlude that John uses to explain some of the things not yet mentioned in the Revelation.
2. Who is this great whore which sitteth upon many waters? It seems ridiculous to think of a description of a literal whore sitting upon “many waters.” Thus, the “many waters” is very likely a symbolic reference to the great mass of Gentile humanity. If that be true, the whore here is descriptive of some great system. Verses 15 and 16 will confirm this.
73. Let me read from The New American Bible, which is a Catholic edition. I read the authority behind this edition.
a. First, the title page:
THE NEW AMERICAN
Translated from the
Original Languages with Critical Use of All the Ancient Sources by members
of the Catholic Biblical Association of America, SPONSORED THE BISHOP’S
COMMITTEE OF THE CONFRATERNITY OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE
b. On the next page are a series of “nihil obstats” for the text, for the Bible text, for the Dictionary and Appendices, and for the “Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (Bible Facts). These “nihil obstats” signify that there is nothing objectionable to the Roman Catholic theologians attesting.
c. On the same page is what are called “imprimaturs” which signify the authority for publishing this Bible in its finished form. The “imprimaturs” are from the Archbishop of Washington, the Administrator, Archdiocese of Chicago, and the Archbishop of Westminster.
d. So you see, I am not reading from some pamphlet produced by some renegade priest who is at odds with the Roman Catholic hierarchy. This version of the Bible is fully backed by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, including a statement signed by the pope at the time of publication, Paul VI:
For the faithful in all English-speaking countries the publication of The New American Bible represents a notable achievement. Its pages contain a new Catholic version of the Bible in English, along with illustrations and explanations that facilitate the understanding of the text.
For more than a ¼ of a century, members of the Catholic Bible Association of America, sponsored by the Bishops Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, have labored to create this new translation of the Scriptures from the original languages or from the oldest extant form in which the texts exist.
In so doing, the translators have carried out the directive of our predecessor, Pius XII in his famous encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, and the decree of the Second Vatican Counsel (Dei Verbum), which prescribed that “up-to-date and appropriate translations be made in the various languages, by preference from the original texts of the sacred books”, and that “with the approval of Church authority, these translations may be produced in cooperation with our separated brethren” so that “all Christians may be able to use them”.
The holy task of spreading God’s Word to the widest possible readership has a special urgency today. Despite all his material achievements, man still struggles with the age-old problems of how to order his life for the glory of God, for the welfare of his fellows and the salvation of his soul. Therefore we are gratified to find in this new translation of the Scriptures a new opportunity for men to give themselves to frequent reading of, and meditation on, the living Word of God. In its pages we recognize His voice, we hear a message of deep significance for every one of us. Through the spiritual dynamism and prophetic force of the Bible, the Holy Spirit spreads his light and his warmth over all men, in whatever historical or sociological situation they find themselves.
On all who have contributed to this translation, and all who seek in its pages the sacred teaching and the promise of salvation of Jesus Christ our Lord, we gladly bestow our paternal Apostolic Blessing
From the Vatican, September 18, 1970
Paulus P. P. VI
4. Now let me read the marginal notes for Revelation 17.1-6: “Babylon, a symbolic name (v. 5) of Rome, is graphically described as the great harlot.”
5. Is it not interesting that the Roman Catholic position is that this whore is Rome? You see, the Roman Catholic Church maintains that the whore is the pagan religion of Rome prior to Catholicism’s emergence as the dominant force in religion.
6. I agree with all that, except for one thing Rome fails to mention: Catholicism is that very same paganism which existed under Rome’s emperors, except for a few outward cosmetic changes and a change in the name of the organization.
7. What John is talking about here is Roman Catholicism. Subsequent verses will support this contention.
(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.
1. It should be mentioned, at this point, that the false religion that seeks to supplant the worship of the one true and living God is characterized as feminine. I have remarked in the past of the tendency of western Christendom toward effeminacy, and that trend reaches its climax in the completely feminine nature of the false religion.
2. True religion is masculine. The right worship of God is led by men and not by women, and by masculine men and not like the effeminate men who pastor so many churches and who cater to so many of the women who fund parachurch ministries. This is why Paul exhorts all Christians, women included with men, to “quit you like men” in First Corinthians 16.13. This is also why those called to pastoral leadership must be men, according to First Timothy 3.1-5:
is a true saying, If a man
desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober,
of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a
brawler, not covetous;
that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all
5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
3. When a church loses its distinctive masculinity and becomes effeminate, or tolerates the pretense of promiscuity by the men in the church tending to look like and behave like the promiscuous men in the dominant culture who do not know what godly manliness really is, then that church is moving in the direction of this end time false religious system. Rome is already there. Evangelical Protestant Christianity and the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement, with their offend no one brand of soft leadership, is rapidly moving in that direction. Sadly, fundamentalism, with so many churches having women worship leaders, having so many women teaching young men and even men, and with all of the lightning and thunder gone from the pulpits across America, is not all that far behind.
4. Again, there is a reason why this false religious is characterized as feminine. You want your women to be feminine, make no mistake about that. For example: The longer the hair is on a woman the more feminine it makes her look, something the apostle Paul addressed to the Corinthians. But religion should not be feminine. And spiritual leaders should not be either women or effeminate men.
5. This whore is guilty of spiritual prostitution with the kings of the earth. Friends, any historian would agree that this description parallels Rome’s tendency to bend truth around for the sake of political expediency and profit.
6. And the part about being “drunk with the wine of her fornication”? The power, and the prestige, and the enlarged egos, which are built up has an intoxicating effect on those who participate in this spiritually illicit game.
(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.
1. I want you to notice that verses 1 and 2 are John’s record of the words spoken to him by one of the seven angels, which had the seven vials, describing to John what he is going to show him. In order to show John the scene, the angel must take him to a wilderness. This is a spiritual wilderness. Nothing but moral barrenness surrounds this political-religious system we are about to learn of.
2. The woman in the scene sits on a scarlet colored beast. Now remember, we are looking at something which will take place in the future. This suggests that during the tribulation period the great whore church will ride upon the fortunes of the great political machine of the antichrist, who is here described as the beast.
3. That this beast is political Rome she rides upon, or the revived Roman Empire, is suggested by the fact that the beast is scarlet colored. And not only is scarlet significant as the Biblical color of sin, Isaiah 1.18, but scarlet is also the color of Imperial Rome.
4. That the beast represents the antichrist and his political machine is also shown by “names of blasphemy” and the “seven heads and ten horns” which are already known to be related to the antichrist, Revelation 13.1.
(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:
1. That the woman is arrayed in purple and scarlet is significant since those are colors frequently and generally used by the Roman Church. These colors are especially used by the bishops and cardinals of Rome.
2. Decked with valuable ornaments refers to this symbolic woman being gilded. As a matter of fact, your marginal reference may use the word gilded. Folks, when something is gilded it is quite different on the outside than it is on the inside. Beauty and wealth are to be seen on the outside of the Roman Church, but what about the heart of this idolatrous system that perverts the gospel of Jesus Christ into a works righteousness scheme? That is another story.
3. Notice also that she has a golden cup in her hand. Of all the religions of the world, which one does the golden cup or the golden chalice personify? Rome! In addition, that precious and beautiful cup full of what? Abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. We are talking about spiritual adultery here.
4. How can a child of God remain in a religious system that is such a stench in the nostrils of a righteous and holy God like ours? I do not know.
(17.5) And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
1. My, my, my, what we learn in this verse. On her forehead is her name. By the way, in ancient Rome prostitutes oftentimes wore headbands with their names written on them so those who committed fornication with them would know their names. And from her name we shall learn her identity.
2. “Mystery Babylon the Great.” This means that Roman Catholicism is Babylonian religion. “Mother of harlots” identifies this religious system as the fountainhead, the source of spiritual harlotry. Again, this must mean Babylon, the starting place of idolatry.
3. “Abominations of the earth.” This suggests that at least the majority of the abominations of the earth are tied to this religious system. And if you will remember from my introduction to this chapter, I stated that every idolatrous religion in the world could be traced to Babylon as its source and origin.
(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.
1. This woman, this religious system, is drunk with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus and the saints of God. Are you aware of the conservative estimates of Church historians who place the number of people slain by the Roman Catholic Church in the last 1600 years in the multiplied millions?
2. These are numbers arrived at by historians who investigated the annihilation of villages, cities, regions, sects, movements, etc., to remove Rome’s opponents.
3. Foxe’s Book Of Martyrs tells of Rome surrounding the French city of Lyon and murdering every inhabitant in the city so she could be sure to stamp out the growing Christian movement in the city. How did Rome accomplish that feat? Remember, at that time the Pope had the largest standing army in the world. Something to keep in mind the next time you read John 18.36, where the Lord Jesus said to Pilate, “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”
4. When John saw, he wondered with great admiration. He was thunderstruck. He was stunned that such a perversion of Biblical Christianity could have come about. How cleverly the enemies of Christ have taken the name of Christ in order that they might oppose the cause of Christ and slay the servants of 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, perceiving that John wonders at what he sees, states
that he will declare the mystery of the woman and of the beast. He does
so, however, by describing the beast first in detail, then the woman and
subsequent action relating to her. Few passages in Revelation have been
the subject of more dispute among scholars who have attempted to interpret
them than this explanation of the angel. Great care, therefore, must be
exercised in determining precisely the component parts of the divine
revelation herein given.”
“And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel?”
The angel, questioning why John marveled as he did, is asking, “Why
don’t you understand? Here, let me explain things so you will
understand.” This is not a rebuke on the part of the angel, just an
expression of astonishment.
3. The angel then says, “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 read from commentator Bob Kollin’s remarks on this subject:
This seven headed, ten horned beast stands for the amalgamation of all pagan religions that have existed through the ages and that will dominate the ten kings during the first half of the Tribulation. Neither the heads nor horns are crowned, indicating that this religious system has no direct authority over any of the world empires or kings of the seventh empire. A false satanically inspired religious system has influenced and dominated the first six empires and will strongly influence and dominate the seventh empire during the first half of the Tribulation. This religious system is hated by the ten kings and will be destroyed by them. The kings give their power to the Antichrist who is called the “Beast” and his Beast kingdom will be the eighth and last Gentile kingdom to persecute Israel.
Heads or Kingdoms / Empires
7. Reconstituted Rome (ten horns)-this kingdom occupies the territories of the old Roman Empire but is considered reconstituted, because there will be ten kings instead of one ruler or Caesar.
This empire will be
ruled by the Antichrist, and according to the Book of Daniel, will
actually be a revival of the Old Grecian Empire within the Reconstituted
Roman Empire. The satanic prince that empowered and controlled Alexander
the Great is considered by many expositors to be the beast out of the
abyss of Revelation 11:7 that will control, empower, and possess, or
oppress the Antichrist. Other possible identities for this satanic prince
are the Prince of Babylon or Prince of Assyria, for the Antichrist will
have a connection to all three prior kingdoms.
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.
1. There is real disagreement among Bible teachers as to the identity of this beast. Some people are of the opinion that this beast is the Roman Empire, which was, and then which ceased to exist, and which will be revived again someday and be the power base of the antichrist, who is the person referred to as the beast.
2. Still other Bible teachers take a more literal view and hold that this verse is speaking about the antichrist and that this verse tells us much about his identity. Notice some things:
a. He was alive, then he wasn’t, and he will be alive again someday. This seems to be a hint that the beast is some kind of resurrected person who was dead during the time John wrote his Revelation, but who was alive previously.
b. The beast shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, or the great abyss. Now, if the beast is some resurrected person of great wickedness, the possibility of this new lease on life might stem from the fact that he was and then was not. In other words, he didn’t die a normal death where his soul would have gone to Hell. In this case, his soul might have gone to the great abyss instead, if those two places are not one in the same.
c. Folks, some are of the opinion that the beast referred to here, that the antichrist, is Judas Iscariot come back to life. Why? Well, Judas was “the son of perdition.” Judas went to “his own place,” which might not have been Hell, but could have been the bottomless pit. Moreover, Judas had been alive but was dead when John penned his revelation.
beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the
bottomless pit, and go into perdition.”
My own opinion is that the beast mentioned here is not Judas
Iscariot reincarnate or somehow resurrected. Why so? First, he is here
called a beast. If he is Judas Iscariot, why not name him? The reason he
is not named, in my opinion, is that this is not Judas Iscariot. As well,
I am not inclined to think the “bottomless pit”
is the same thing as Hell. Judas Iscariot went to Hell when he died, but
this beast comes from some place else, the place I think God imprisoned
some fallen angels, and at this time he will be released from his
imprisonment to wreak havoc on earth.
So, what is meant by the phrase “was,
and is not” as it applies
to this beast? I am inclined to think that this beast, some powerful
lieutenant of Satan now able to serve him once again after thousands of
years of imprisonment, was active on earth at some time in the past, but
was not active on earth during the time of the Roman Empire, during the
apostle John’s span of life.
One possibility is that this beast is one of the creatures alluded
to in Genesis 6.2, who was isolated from the human race from the time of
the Flood until this future time when his release will coincide with the
outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth.
A second possibility is put forth by Kollin:
beast that was, is not, and yet is, who ascends out of the bottomless pit
is not a person, because people are not in the abyss. The beast is a
satanic prince (fallen angel) who is allowed to vacate the abyss at this
time in history. The beast that “is not” means he is not associated
with the Roman Empire of John’s day but existed or was on the scene of
history prior to Rome. The beast “that was’ (sic) connects him to one
or more of the five world empires before Rome: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon,
Medo-Persia, or Greece. Because the Antichrist will arise from the
territory of the Old Grecian Empire, one explanation for the beast from
the abyss is that he is the Satanic Prince of Greece who controlled and
dominated Alexander the Great as he conquered the known world of that
time. The Prince of Greece would then have been bound in the bottomless
pit since the fall of ancient Greece. However, it is noted that the
satanic prince could be either the Prince of Babylon or the Prince of
Assyria, as the Antichrist is referred to by both titles, King of Babylon
and the Assyrian, and territory from both former Empires, Babylon and
Assyria, fell within the boundary of the Old Grecian Empire. The phrase
“yet is” means that the Beast will reappear on the scene of history to
empower and control the Antichrist as he leads the eighth empire toward
world domination. As has been stated previously, reference to the Beast is
not only to a satanic prince, but also to the Antichrist, and the eighth
kingdom ruled by the Antichrist.
But have no fear that this beast will succeed where before God
caused his efforts to fail. He will ravage the earth and torment the
unsaved who are alive at that time. However, this same beast that will be
released from “the bottomless pit” will eventually go “into perdition.”
Therefore, he will go from the frying pan into the fire, from thousands of
years of imprisonment to an eternity in the lake of fire.
“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.”
a. Who will wonder when they see this beast? Right. Those that dwell on the earth. We already know that this often-used phrase of John’s refers to those who are permanent residents of earth, those who are lost. How do we know? We know because Christians are not permanent residents of this old world, according to First Peter 2.11: “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”
b. But what phrase in this verse truly confirms that those who dwell on the earth are not saved? Right. “whose names were not found written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.”
(17.9) And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
1. Folks, it seems that John has now given us a key to the woman’s identity. Read verse 3 again to see just which woman we are talking about: “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.”
2. Is John revealing the woman’s identity by giving us her geographical location? Does she sit on seven mountains? You do know which city of this world is the city of the seven hills, or the seven mountains, do you not? In my Roman Catholic Bible, the commentary on verse 9 says, “Seven hills: of Rome.”
3. They admit that the location is Rome because this location seems to be undeniable. The Roman Catholic Church is very pleased that the vast majority of her adherents do not read the Bible, or else verses like this one would put her out of business. People would conclude that this woman who is shown by John to be a spiritual harlot is actually that one world church which Rome is presently trying to build.
4. By the way, is Rome succeeding? You had better believe it. Protestantism is running back to Rome, with such notable Christian writers as Geisler and J. I. Packer, such well-known personalities as Pat Robertson, Charles Colson, and such movements as Promise Keepers, Pentecostalism, and the Charismatic Movement, leading the way.
Verse 9 begins with these words:
“And here is
the mind which hath wisdom.”
This phrase provides indication that what we are about to read will be
most challenging, requiring wisdom to get our arms around.
“The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman
a. Here is the great difficulty that needs to be addressed when seeking the correct understanding of this and the following verses; the statement I have just read very obviously employs symbolism. No one suggests that the woman who is riding the beast is not a symbolic representation of something.
b. The problem that is created by recognizing this has to do with the “seven heads” and the “seven mountains.” If the symbolic woman is sitting on the seven heads, which are seven mountains, how can the heads and the mountains be literal? A symbolic figure cannot sit upon a literal one. Either they are all literal, the heads, the mountains and the woman, or they are all symbolic.
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
1. Again, there is much disagreement about the proper interpretation of this verse.
2. The Geneva Bible notes indicates that Roman emperors are referred to here.
3. Spurgeon thought this might refer to “the kingdoms which arose at the breaking up of the old Roman empire, and all became vassals of the Papal power.”
4. Sale-Harrison was convinced that this refers to the different forms of the Roman government. He writes, “The ‘seven Kings’ refer to the seven distinct forms of government which characterised the Roman Empire from 32 B. C. to 476 A. D., namely, Kings, Consuls, Dictators, Decemvirs, Military Tribunes, and Imperial.”
5. Most dispensationalists these days are of the opinion that it is world empires that John means here, beginning with the Egyptian and ending with the antichrist’s world empire in the second half of the Great Tribulation.
(17.11) And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
1. This verse, too, is interpreted according to how verse 10 is understood.
2. Notice that we find the word “perdition” again. This word comes from the same root word as “Apollyon” does and refers to destruction.
3. Revelation 17.9-11 is admittedly very difficult to decipher, but there are two commentators who have spent a large part of their lives studying this book of the Bible, Bob Kollin, and John Walvoord. I will read Kollin’s summary of Revelation 17.9-11 and then a paragraph from Walvoord’s book:
The seven heads are
seven mountains on which the woman sits. From this passage, many
commentators believe Rome to be the seat of the Antichrist, rather than
Babylon or Jerusalem. Rome is identified because it sits on seven hills.
However, the context of these verses is kings and kingdoms. Also, other
scriptures refer to mountains as kingdoms. Five kingdoms and their
corresponding kings have fallen: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and
Greece. The ruling government of John’s day was Rome and is the kingdom
that “is.” The kingdom that “is to come” will be the seventh
kingdom or the Reconstituted Roman Empire. When the Antichrist appears, he
will be on the scene for a short time, which is 3 1/2 years or the last
half of the Tribulation Period. The beast kingdom that “was” stands
for one of the five fallen kingdoms identified above. The kingdom that
“is not” clarifies that it is not Rome, the kingdom in John’s time,
but is an eighth empire. This means that ten kings rule the seventh empire
independently for the first half of the seven-year Tribulation. Then the
Antichrist conquers three of these ten kings (kingdoms), with the other
seven giving him their power and authority, and he alone rules this new
eighth empire, which is a product of the seven prior kingdoms represented
by the seven heads.
The final form of
world government, symbolized by the eighth beast itself, is the world
empire of the great tribulation time. The revived Roman Empire which will
be in sway immediately after the rapture of the church is apparently
indicated by the seventh head, while the beast, described in verse 11 as
the eighth, is the world empire, which is destroyed by Jesus Christ at His
second coming. In summation, what is described in verses 8 through 11 is
the final form of Gentile world power in alliance with apostate religion
symbolized by the harlot.
4. Needless to say, “we see through a glass, darkly.” There will come a day when passages such as this will be so much easier to understand, as the Spirit of God provides greater illumination and as these prophecies unfold.
(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.
1. Daniel refers to ten horns in Daniel chapters 7 and 8. This verse and those two chapters are likely referring to the same kings, but who is referred to? Most Bible commentators used to think that the European Common Market countries would fulfill this verse, or that they would comprise the ten nations, which make fulfillment possible.
2. John’s statement suggests that the ten horns of the beast actually represent ten kings. However, again, who are these ten kings? They were unknown to John, having “received no kingdom as yet.” Apparently, they will rule at sometime in the future, presumably during the tribulation period John’s revelation is now opening before us, but only for a short time. I take the reference to “one hour” to be symbolism for a short period. Could it be that they exercise authority during the first half of the seven years of tribulation, but throw in with the anti-Christ and submit to him during the last 3 ½ years?
3. My friend, Dr. Ken Connelly, makes a good point when he suggests that since Daniel’s prophesy features a figure with two legs and feet of iron mingled with clay representing the end time empire, it might be wise to consider that the antichrist’s political regime would be comprised of an eastern and a western region. This is something the student of God’s Word should keep an eye open for.
4. Is it any surprise in light of the great schism of 1054 A. D. that divided the Roman Catholic Church in the west from the Eastern Orthodox Church that the early Reformers connected this prophecy about the ten kings and the antichrist to the pope and the Church of Rome? I think the early Reformers were wrong in their understanding of prophetical things, but I certainly see why they made the popes or the Catholic Church the antichrist.
These have one
mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
1. Unity among political kingpins? Strange is not it. But then, enemies often do unite in their opposition to God.
2. It is amazing how frequently this cycle is repeated. Herod and Pontius Pilate were enemies. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians were enemies. However, all of these united to crucify the Son of God.
3. It really ought to warm the heart of every Christian worker or pastor to see folks who do not like each other and who are never united in anything except in their opposition to the one who seeks to do God’s will, no matter who that one might be.
4. People who do not see such alliances develop are spiritually naive. Folks who do see such alliances and who actively support them, or support them by not condemning them, are showing their true colors . . . are they not?
5. As Jesus once said, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” There is no neutral ground in Christianity. The strong and bright light of Biblical truth makes all things either black or white.
(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.
1. What insanity it is to think of the antichrist and his allies making war against the Lamb of God. They cannot possibly win this war. The Lamb shall overcome them because it is not possible for Him to suffer defeat of any kind.
2. It is not possible for the Lord of lords to be defeated and have Satan reign as lord over Him. Moreover, it is not possible for the King of kings to have another rule over Him as king. It simply is not possible.
3. How interesting it is to note that the Son of God is referred to as the Lamb in this verse, which foretells the victory of Christ over the beast. It is ironic to think of “the Lamb” winning this battle against the dragon, is it not? It is ironic until you realize that the basis for Christ’s victory was His death on the cross. And on the cross, He was the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
4. In His victory, He will be accompanied by His faithful followers, those who are described as the called, and chosen, and faithful. Who are those that are called, and chosen, and faithful? Learn some things about them. Turn to Romans 8.28-30:
we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to
them who are the called according to his
whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to
be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn
among many brethren.
whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he
also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
5. Romans 8.28-30 is a passage that connects eternity past to eternity future by referring to a certain category of individuals, believers, who are the objects of five actions taken by God, foreknowing, predestinating, calling, justifying, and glorifying. Let me briefly consider them:
a. Foreknowledge – Notice that verse 28 refers to those who love God and who are, verse 29, foreknown by God. In First John 4.19 this same John writes, “We love him, because he first loved us.” To be sure, John 3.16 reveals that God loves the world. But this is a particular love, a love that produces the response of love. To know the essence of God’s foreknowledge you must see the love of God’s foreknowledge, because foreknowledge does not simply mean to know something ahead of time. As well, we do not see here that God knows ahead of time things about Christians, but that He knows Christians ahead of time. Thus, what Paul is pointing out by using this word is that God, outside the boundaries of time, brought into existence a prior love for some of those not yet created that is different from His love for others not yet created. Is this ahead of time love the result of what God knew certain people would do, how they would respond to the gospel? No, for that would make God the one responding to the actions or decisions of a sinner, rather than God as the Grand Initiator of all that is right and good. As James wrote, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” James 1.17. Thus, foreknowledge speaks of a knowledge that is bound up in love. It is a knowledge that came into existence before time and creation.
b. Predestination – Some people are horrified by this word, but Paul put it to good use in Ephesians 1.4-6, where the word reveals God’s decision concerning the destinies of those He has foreknown:
as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we
should be holy and without blame before him in love:
predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself,
according to the good pleasure of his will,
6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
What has God determined the destiny of those He has foreknown to be? He has determined that the destiny of those He has foreknown will be conformity to the image of His Son. This word “predestinated” is never used in connection with those who suffer eternal punishment, so God cannot be accused by the stupid of predestining anyone to perdition. Neither should we sit still when anyone stupidly accuses us of believing that God would predestine anyone to perdition.
It is good to point out that foreknowledge and predestination are two things God does before time, in eternity past.
c. Calling – There are two kinds of calling that are found in the Bible, termed by theologians a general call and an effectual call. When the Lord Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen,” He was referring to a general call to salvation issued to every sinner. What Paul is referring to here in Romans 8.30 is what is called an effectual call. That is, everyone who is called by means of an effectual calling responds. Thus, every person foreknown in eternity past, and predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ in eternity past, will receive the general call to the gospel that everyone receives. But additionally, and what is mentioned here in Romans 8.30, that person will receive an effectual call. Why the necessity of an effectual call? Because Jesus said, in John 6.44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” My friends, but for the effectual call to salvation no sinner would ever come to Christ.
d. Justification – Justification refers to that moment when the sinner is actually reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ, Whose propitiating sacrifice on Calvary’s cross completely satisfied God’s righteous demands that sins and offenses against Him be punished. With justification, the justified one benefits from Christ’s work of suffering the righteous punishment for his sins. As First Peter 3.18 declares, “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” Everyone who is foreknown is predestinated. Everyone who is predestinated is called. Everyone who is called is justified.
e. Glorification – This is the end of the golden chain that connects eternity past to eternity future. As foreknowledge and predestination take place in eternity past, with calling and justification occurring during the time of the elect’s life here on earth, glorification fulfills God’s glorious plan and design for us by completing the entire process of salvation. Glorification includes a glorified body suited for timeless eternity, standing in the very presence of the Savior whose sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension to the Father’s right hand made our salvation possible, and ruling and reigning with Him.
f. One final comment concerning these five words. “The aor. speaks of God who sees the end from the beginning and in whose decree and purpose all fut. events are comprehended and fixed (Hodge).”
6. In addition to being “called,” they are “chosen.” What does “chosen” mean? Does not this word mean “picked,” “selected”? I am reminded of our Lord’s words to His disciples in John 15.16: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you . . . .”
7. Is it any wonder that those who have been foreknown, who have been predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ, who have been effectually called, who have been chosen, will be faithful? Folks, the Lord Jesus Christ just cannot lose. In addition, those who are with Him, which probably refers to the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, cannot lose either.
8. Look ahead with me.
a. Turn to Jude 14 and 15:
Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold,
the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,
15 To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.
b. Now read Revelation 19.11-16 with me:
I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him
was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make
eyes were as a flame of fire,
and on his head were many
crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
he was clothed with a vesture
dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
the armies which were in heaven
followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the
nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the
winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
9. You see? Jump ahead to the final chapters and you see the Lord cannot lose. Neither can we lose, because He has already won. It has been ordained. This is why John wrote, “the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings.” And “they that are with him.” Are you “with him”?
And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore
sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
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.
1. Now the angel interprets some things for John, and for us, again. Just like we supposed in Revelation 17.1, the waters that the whore will sit upon are not literal waters, but symbolize the vast Gentile hordes. So, our understanding of verse 1 seems to be confirmed.
2. Verse 16 points out that the allies of the antichrist shall destroy the whore, that one world church which they used to advance their own interests. Why would they do such a thing? They probably have concluded that they do not need her anymore. Their control over mankind is so complete that religion, false religion, is no longer a necessary tool for control of the world population.
3. I suspect that Satan is working both ends against the middle. On one hand, he is empowering the false prophet to consolidate his power and to strengthen the great whore so her influence over the people and her opposition to the 144,000 whose religion is genuine can be enhanced. On the other hand, the political influence of the antichrist will be strengthening as the ten rulers consolidate their power.
4. At the midpoint of the tribulation, when the antichrist’s political power is supreme and he no longer needs the false religious organization symbolized by the great whore, his underlings will utterly destroy her, symbolized here by the words “these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.”
5. When this is accomplished, the false prophet will control all worship and all worship will be directed to the beast, the antichrist.
(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.
1. Notice who is sovereign over all. Even the wicked actions of the Christ-haters will be turned about by God to fulfill His will and bring Him honor and glory.
2. When will man realize that you simply cannot defeat God? Such insight escapes the unaided mind of man. Sin so distorts the perceptions of man that he never really sees how immense God is and how very puny man is in comparison.
3. Why is it that man cannot see the utterly futility of opposing God, the senselessness of being estranged from God, the recklessness of being opposed to God? Why will these men not comprehend that even in their rebellion they will not thwart the grand plan and purpose of God?
4. Part of the answer is found in First Corinthians 2.14-16:
the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they
are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them,
because they are spiritually discerned.
he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no
who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have
the mind of Christ.
5. But another part of the answer is found in Job 9.10, where Job comments about what he has learned about the doings of God: “Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number.”
6. Then there is Paul again, in Romans 11.33: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”
7. From these verses, we see that there are really three reasons why the wicked people spoken of in Revelation 17.17 end up accomplishing His will after all:
a. First, according to Revelation 17.17, God “put in their hearts to fulfil his will.” If this is not evidence of God’s sovereignty then I do not know what is.
b. Next, we saw in First Corinthians 2.14-16 that natural man cannot comprehend spiritual things. Therefore, these wicked lost men cannot recognize spiritual reality because they are blind and deaf to spiritual truth. Thus, no unsaved person can comprehend God’s doings.
c. But the final reason these men did not see where their actions were leading is because God is so magnificent, God is so profound, God is so utterly beyond His creation (including us, of course) that none of us can truly grasp His doings. Even when we are illuminated by the Spirit of God to understand some things we will still be in the dark about so much more than we will ever be able to comprehend.
8. My friends, God’s will triumphs over all . . . completely, utterly, absolutely, finally. It is folly to oppose Him.
(17.18) And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
1. “And the woman which thou sawest is that great city”
a. The woman is the great whore, the tribulation time false religion who is the culmination and climax of all that is religious harlotry and spiritual adultery. In embryonic form in this age in which we now live the great whore is embodied by the Roman Catholic Church, whose spiritual ancestry can be traced back to Nimrod’s Babylon, fountainhead of idolatry worldwide.
b. But is the city mentioned here specifically the modern day city of Rome? Probably not. After all, Revelation 17.5 does identify her as “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” Has the mystery been fully revealed to us at this time? No. So, we cannot say with certainty that we are dealing with a literal city rather than a symbolic one.
2. “which reigneth over the kings of the earth.”
a. Critical to our understanding of this phrase is the time frame that is referred to. The time frame of this phrase is our future, during the seven years of tribulation that comes after the Rapture. So, this is not a reference to the religious system that reigned over the kings of the earth, which would certainly identify the great whore as the Roman Catholic Church. No other religious system has accomplished the feat of ruling over kings, as has the Roman Catholic Church.
b. The great whore
is not the Roman Catholic Church, but what the Roman Catholic Church will
come to be, since this statement refers to a religious system that “reigneth.”
That is, during the last half of the tribulation, the context in which
this verse is set, the great whore will be reigning, she does not yet
 Bob Kollin, Revelation Unlocked, (Springfield, Missouri: 21st Century Press, 2003), page 165
 The New American Bible, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1971), title page
 See footnote for Revelation 17.1-6 from The New American Bible, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1971), page 1393.
 See footnote for Revelation 17.5 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 2016.
John Walvoord, The Revelation Of Jesus Christ, (Chicago,
Illinois: Moody Press, 1966), page 249.
 Kollin, pages 309-310.
 Kollin, page 168.
 See footnote for Revelation 17.9 from The New American Bible, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1971), page 1393.
 Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon Devotional Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), firstname.lastname@example.org
L. Sale-Harrison, The Remarkable Revelation, (New York:
Sale-Harrison Publications, 1930), page 172.
 Kollin, page 169.
 Walvoord, page 254.
 Matthew 12.30
 Matthew 22.14
 See comment on Romans 8.30 in Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 367.