Revelation Chapter 17

The Great Whore

Revelation 17:1

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters,”

We have in Revelation the tale of two cities: The Lord’s Kingdom versus the Beast’s kingdom, or New Jerusalem the Bride versus Babylon the Prostitute, and the Seal of God versus the Mark of the Beast. Babylon is decorated with gold, whereas the New Jerusalem is built with gold. Babylon is decorated with pearls, yet the New Jerusalem’s gates are pearls.

I like to assess John’s imagery comparison as being likened to two rings. One is gold plated, and without close inspection is deceiving, and the other is pure gold through and through, with real value. That is the kind of depiction being rendered here by John. One item has the appearance of value, but the other is True wealth. Those who seek this world system settle for the temporary pleasure of a prostitute. Yet those who live for the world to come await the wedding feast of the Lamb!!

In verse one, Babylon is depicted as being by “many waters”, evoking Jeremiah 51:12-13.

“Set up a standard against the walls of Babylon; make the watch strong; set up watchmen; prepare the ambushes; for the Lord has both planned and done what he spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon. O you who dwell by many waters, rich in treasures, your end has come; the thread of your life is cut.”

Most prospering ancient cities had water. Rome, which is the allusion of the Beast that John is writing about in his day, was beside the Tiber River. But the “many waters” especially reflect an empire’s international power. Rome was a mercantile power, which John clarifies in how he describes the waters in the next chapter, 18.

The woman image? Ancient nations personified their ancestry or homeland as a woman. Their coins and artwork would often depict a city as a wealthy goddess enthroned by a river. Even today, something that makes a city prosperous is transport. Large rivers, highways, and airports make that possible. So it was with antiquity, less the airports, of course. The woman imagery was John drawing on the available imagery of his day. It was not a gender based, or sexist ideal. If we recall, we see Israel as a woman in Revelation 12, the church as ‘the bride’ in another context, and also as 144,000 male virgins. So this imagery is about the ancient culture and worldview, not gender identity. Do we not do the same today in saying, “Do you like my new car? She’s a beauty!” Is a car gendered? Lol. After all, the context of Revelation is ancient Rome as the culmination of all the beasts before it into one fierce resistance to the people of God in the last days.

The Old Testament prophets often portrayed Israel as a woman, an image John used in Revelation 12. But they portrayed Israel either as a pure virgin, or as an adulteress when Israel became unfaithful in their relationship to God, and began to partake in the pleasures of the Beast system of their day. There were two other cities depicted as prostitutes in the Old Testament: Nineveh, who seduced the nations with witchcraft in Nahum 3, and also Tyre, a mercantile empire, who was called “a prostitute with the nations” in Isaiah 23, whose wealth was laid up for the righteous (23:18). Both were evil empires and referred to as a deceitful woman. You see how John used this imagery in the name ‘Jezebel’ in Revelation 2 at Thyatira, to describe the false teachers who were being allowed to teach the church to commit adultery, physically and spiritually against God’s Word, through false doctrine. Nothing has changed today.

Revelation 17:2

“with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”

The kings of the earth will suffer the fate of the prostitute because they have defiled themselves with her ways. Why? Because the rulers owed their authority to Rome, being participants in a system that empowered them, and in return gave their service to the system and empowered the system. The Beast system is sustained by its partakers and servants. The more who serve it, the more power it has in the world. The Beast is hostile to God’s plan. Anything not in subjection to the Word of God is hostile to God! What did Paul say?

Romans 8:7

“For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”

…..and James says:

James 4:4

“Adulterers, do you not know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever decides to be the worldʼs friend makes himself Godʼs enemy.”

Babylon’s corrupting influence was its political and economic power. This influence allowed Rome to spread its immorality and idolatry internationally. Today, we don’t see the Beast as John saw Rome, because times have changed, and the Beast of Revelation is pertinent to every generation after Christ in how it functions, until He returns. The Beast is witnessed in our day through the spread of immorality and idolatry through our modern culture in advertisements, international access to information in realtime, and through the buying and selling of merchandise that’s hostile to God, and in the excessive consumerism of what may simply be a needed life commodity. Look at America! Think of some of the egregious things being created and exploited upon the world through “entertainment”. What about Los Angeles, and the internet’s porn industry? What about the indoctrination and desensitization to sin rendered through Hollywood’s movie scenery and suggestive themes and scripting? Think about how other cultures perceive that stuff as being like John and others viewed Rome in their day. Their pornography was presented thru nude images carved in stone. Everywhere was nudity and provocation of sexual thoughts, much like the Victoria Secret posters adorning the Mall hallways. What about the excessive consumerism and greed? What about the minimization of marital purity, family honor, sanctity of homes, virtue, holiness, morality, or temperance? None of this stuff today is any different than Rome was, except today it is more readily available through modern vehicles like the web and app-based consumerism, and one doesn’t have to be physically present to buy it or view it!!! It’s the same evolving Beast System, just with newer methods!!!!

Statue image of Greek Goddess Aphrodite

Revelation 17:3-4

And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.

Here we see the prostitute’s wardrobe, in that she is, as they say, ‘dressed to kill!” Proverb’s poetic style of writing speaks of her in this way…

Proverbs 7:21-23

“With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.”

In 17:3, we see John connecting the whore to the Beast through the imagery of the ‘seven headed dragon’ with ten horns from chapter 12, who is the power source of the Beast, Satan himself. The whore represents the enticing nature of the World System, and all its trappings, and this imagery is also connecting her with Rome from Revelation 13:1. Rome represents what in John’s day? The culmination of all prior Beasts into one final Beast that will persecute and entice the people of Christ until He returns.

When we use proper hermeneutics, and check these texts against the background of the Old Testament, (which is all that Revelation is made up of), we see in Daniel 7:20 and 24, it identifies this “Beast” as the final evil empire to be destroyed by God Himself. As we saw in chapter 12, when Christ ascended, Satan was cast down to the earth filled with rage, because it marked the end of his days, and began the great tribulation of the saints until the eschaton of Jesus Christ. Revelation 12 depicts the suffering of the saints under his regime and they defeat the Satan, by loyally yielding to Christ’s law through martyrdom, in following His example.

The whore is clothed in purple and scarlet. Those dyes were costly and were not something low class prostitutes would possess, being that those kinds of prostitutes were sex slaves, forced into prostitution by their masters. But this whore is clothed in the finest attire, which denotes high class prostitutes of their own free will, and prospered financially performing for wealthy clients.

The gold, gems, and pearls denote more wealth and are symbols of a brazen consumption, intending to be seen of all. You see this same lustful lifestyle today in many nations where people seek celebrity and fame and wealth to be great among men, but God says for it to not be named among those professing to be His children, for He will not hold blameless anyone who does so. Television’s false prophets of material prosperity better take heed!

She is decked out with extravagance! She has an outward adornment that lacks the inward righteousness of God’s Kingdom. She is a contrast to the New Jerusalem image. God’s Kingdom is gold, not overlaid with it to appear beautiful. His foundations are gemstones. His gates are pearls. His people are pure throughout, rather than the adulteress who covers herself with embellishments to look to be something she is not. She is deceived by the world, and in so being, deceiver of others.

When Peter was contending with the Christian women of pagan culture in the church, where pagan women around them dolled up to imitate their false deity goddesses, he said this, ….

1 Peter 3:3-4

“Let your beauty not be external – the braiding of hair and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes – but the inner person of the heart, the lasting beauty of a gentle and tranquil spirit, which is precious in Godʼs sight.”

The wealth that really counts won’t come from trading virtue to the Beast in order to partake in its status and consumerism. It comes, as Jesus declared in Revelation 3:17, in relinquishing dependence on worldly wealth in this life, to buy from Jesus the True, tested gold that really matters: the abundance of life beyond this fallen world, in the next one. Never forget Jesus’ disciples who had to forsake all to follow Him, even their physical lives. Despite the false teachers of this day who are preaching another gospel that defies this truth, real disciples must follow this example as well. So don’t get caught up in being pressured by the world system to obtain its status symbols. Don’t let its advertisements pressure you into thinking you need everything it is selling you to look, feel, and be your best. It is vanity and causes us to forsake the cause of Christ, in sowing into the lives of the truly broken, and needy. Use your resources for the Kingdom of Heaven. To sow to the materialism and vanity of this life is to take the mark of the beast upon us, and appeal to our flesh. But to sow to the work of Christ is self denial for the furtherance of His will and Kingdom now! That denotes having the Seal of God upon our minds!!!

Revelation 17:5

And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”

In antiquity, prostitutes often wore their names on their foreheads, (especially lower class slave prostitutes.) But this image is more-so alluding to the Mark of the Beast from Revelation 13:16-18. It is a contrast with the Name on Jesus in Revelation 19:13, that we will cover later.

She is the mother of prostitutes and the earth’s abominations? What is being portrayed in that statement? That everyone who sleeps with her and is enticed by her appeals is guilty of rejecting God for the pleasures she offers. She is the system of compromise! As James said, “Friendship with the world’s pleasures makes one an enemy of God!” Ouch…..

Revelation 17:6

“And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly.”

This terminology applies to Rome as well, in that Rome made others drunk with her immorality. Drunkenness is the antithesis to being sober-minded, as commanded. To be sober is to be alert to God’s Word as our protection. Rome had become drunk with the blood of the saints, which is merely a term used literally in saying Nero martyred many, and that by the time of the eschaton, the Beast will have snuffed out many lives that God wanted to save, as well as persecuted and slayed His very elect.

The Beast is the antiChrist system, and it despises God’s Law. At the time of this writing, Domitian had possibly only martyred a few saints, but in the days and centuries ahead, Christians were often slain for their allegiance to Christ, as a means of public entertainment. How desolate is a person who gets aroused by the death of another person? “The human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” That is what scripture declares in Jeremiah 17:9. The world’s false message says to “follow your heart.” One doesn’t have to look into history far to see the unimaginable outcomes that the soul of a man is capable of when left to his own guidance.

Roman coins depicted an adorned woman seated on seven hills, to portray Rome, the City on Seven Hills, as the ‘eternal city.’

Revelation 17:7-9

But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated;

In John’s vision, the angel prepares to make plain to John what the image represents. Notice, regardless of the modern false prophecy nonsense being perpetrated on the minds of people, that this has nothing to do with Russia, China, and any other modern kingdom. John uses an allusion to show the imitation of Christ that the system of Antichrist tries to portray, in saying, “the beast was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit…..”. It is in contrast to “He who was, and is, and is to come.” Jesus never ceases, but the Beast rose, ceased to be, and reforms to rise again. This beast John sees rises this last time, and continues to wreak havoc until it is judged by God in the end. It continues throughout the great tribulation, from Jesus’ ascension, until His return. Those who are not found loyal to God, and written in the Book of Life, (or sealed by God), will be awestruck at the beast’s resurgence in this new beast, realized in the Roman Empire.

This calls for a mind of wisdom to perceive that the seven heads are seven mountains which the whore sits upon. What was Rome known as? “A City Seated on Seven Hills”, and that fact was celebrated as a yearly feast by them. Well so much for Russia and China and Iran, ….blah blah blah….LOL. It is pretty self explanatory when it is viewed through the writer’s cultural context, huh? So-called preachers who are in bed with the whore of Babylon today would hate this teaching, and their book sales would be diminished, but God’s Truth will prevail, when actually considered. I spend multiplied hours writing each of these chapter blogs, and studying this out for absolutely no funding. I feel rewarded when someone simply reads it and considers it. I’m not making a penny! I’m just wanting to kill the idolatrous so-called Christianity in the west, and cut out the proverbial tongues of the false prophets who prey on people for money and status, through their ridiculous and irreverent theories. I want people to be freed of the lies of this modern gospel, and actually study their own Bible. Those who have ears to hear will certainly hear God ring true. Most will keep following the bigger herd.

Revelation 17:10-12

“..they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast.”

John proceeds to expose this Beast image as Rome, which the whore sits upon. Rome is a type and shadow of the Beast that rises from the abyss, and continues to wage war on God’s people and plan, until God’s final destruction of the wicked. Remember the Beast of the Sea in chapter 13? Remember how the ancient near east perceived the ocean as the abyss, or bottomless pit? Yeah… These seven heads are the seven hills of Rome, and also in the plurality of many allusions we see in Revelation for a given image, these seven heads are also representative of seven kings, five of whom fell, one currently is (at John’s writing), and one is yet to come.

Before we clarify these passages, and the fact that the “new Nero” was there, I want to drive home the fact that Revelation is full of allusions to this imagery being about Rome as the Beast, such as chapter 18:12-13, detailing the precise imports of Rome in that day, and that this depicted prostitute is revealed as a maritime power of import and export on the waters, which Rome certainly was. In 17:18 we will see this city rules over the kings of the earth. To John’s audience, the Seven Churches of Asia Minor, whom Revelation is written to, Rome was definitely seen as the City ruling the kings of the earth. So everything in the narrative points to Rome as the depiction of this final world system that persecutes the Church.

Though Jews and Gentiles from this era referred to Rome as “Babylon”, due to the similarities, Rome indeed fell. So it shows that Rome was the resurgence of the Beast that would be carried throughout history in other world kingdoms until Christ comes. It is a spirit that possesses kingdoms throughout this age. The Antichrist spirit is the seed in these empires that rises up and contends with God’s people, who are commanded to stand and not strike back. It is their victory over the world system, by refusing to think like it, and submit every thought unto the obedience of Christ.

So who are these seven kings? Historically, the obvious king “who is” was Domitian at John’s writing. If we’ll recall from chapter thirteen, we discussed Nero’s reign, suicide, and the ancient Jewish and Christian expectation that he would return from the dead. John here speaks of this in a parody of Christ, as we afore mentioned. “He who was, is not, and is to come.” Well, to revisit the past lesson, if we count back from Domitian, and exclude the three usurpers to power, there were a total of seven legitimate rulers, and Nero was among them. The man in question was ‘an eighth, but belongs to the seven.’ Nero was expected to regain his place from the past. When Domitian took reign, he was as vile and wicked as Nero, so much so, that many thought he was Nero resurrected.

The ten horns of verses 12-18 are ten kings, as made clear in verse 12. This is taken from Daniel 7:7,20, and 24 and reapplied. These refer to the “client rulers” under Rome. Rome seduced these client rulers to do their bidding, such as Herod the Great. Herod would serve Rome to serve his own interests. Remember when Pontus Pilate wanted to pass the buck on making a decision over Jesus, and he sent Jesus to Herod for judgment? Herod was a client ruler in the time of Christ.

They reigned for ‘one hour.’ These client rulers, as we will see, turned on Rome and served their own interests. The hour, like any other number in Revelation is not literal, but allusion. It merely means they are given but a moment on God’s watch. Their time is fleeting in the plan of God. It is their 15 seconds of fame, or their 30 pieces of silver, however you want to look at it. “Life is like a vapor”, James said.

Revelation 17:13-14

“These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

Here they wage war against the Lamb, but He is King of kings, ironically, a title once given to the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar (see Ezekiel 26:7). This was also commonly used for the Parthian ruler’s title in other A.N.E. literature. In the ancient near east, not even Rome’s officials referred to themselves as King of kings. They insinuated that they ruled other nation’s leaders, but none used this specific title. So anyone heralding such a claim would have been deemed a major threat to the Roman Empire. Rome would have been very afraid of the prospect of a heavenly King of kings, because it would be a clear opposition to their agenda.

Revelation 1 says Jesus is the ruler over all powers, even in the earth. Only Jesus is truly Lord of all. Jesus’ host, or more modernly defined, His army, is not fierce or well armed. They are described as “called, chosen, and faithful.” Their victory is certain. They’re called faithful, unlike the earthly kings in 17:16, and unlike Babylon the Whore. Faithful is a term that the false gospel today avoids. This battle is the Lord’s and we don’t even raise a sword in chapter 19.

Revelation 17:15-17

“And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire”

Here, the end for Babylon is fitting! Her own client kings turn on her. Her allies and bedfellows forsake her. She is stripped and burned, which is a standard penalty in the ancient near east for sexual unfaithfulness. Burning was also the standard fate of conquered cities, as well as the most serious acts of promiscuity.

Revelation 17:17-18

“for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”

We see the sovereignty of Yahweh displayed in these passages, using their evil against them to bring about His own plan. Here He uses the revolting client rulers to execute His justice on the Antichrist spirit of the Beast and its Whore. This type of imagery provokes remembrance of times like where God used Assyria to judge Israel, and Babylon to judge Judah, yet He then judges those empires for their own arrogance toward Him. They thought they were doing their own bidding, but God had purposed to use them in their antics to execute His sovereignty over all. It reminds me of Paul saying….

1 Corinthians 2:8

“None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

God causes His enemies to defeat themselves, while carrying out His plan of salvation! What a God! Babylon and Rome claimed to rule the kings of the earth, and even now, arrogant world system leaders insinuate as much, but God is the True ruler of history. Someday all will acknowledge His rule and sovereign control, evident even now. As a faithful believer, you may watch the news headlines, and even in your own perplexing life situations, wonder where God is, but keep a faith-fueled perspective. Those things are not forever. God is in control. Our timing is anxious, and often misled by human frailty and emotion, but His timing is always perfect, and He is always right on time. Be faithful, for He who promised is Faithful.

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