Revelation 17

The Great Prostitute

Following the account of the pouring out of the Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath, the Revelation continues the description of the city from which the Beast will rule known as Babylon the Great. In this chapter, Babylon the Great is also described as the Great Prostitute, which is a reference to how, after Jerusalem comes under the rule of the Beast (the antichrist), she will sell herself to the kings of the earth and will be used by the nations to commit sins against God.[1]

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery: babylon the great the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth. I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Rev. 17:1-6

In the description of the Great Prostitute, the woman is described as sitting by many waters, which is a literal description of how the kingdom of the Beast will consist of the nations that encircle the Mediterranean Sea, and a symbolic description of how Fallen Jerusalem will rule over the Gentiles nations. (In the Revelation, water or oceans represent the Gentiles.[2]) When the woman is described as sitting on the Beast, it is a word picture that describes how Fallen Jerusalem will derive her power and wealth from the Beast who will rule his kingdom from the city. When the woman is seen drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, it is a description of how the Beast will conduct his war against God’s people (the Great Tribulation) from Fallen Jerusalem.

When John saw Fallen Jerusalem portrayed as the Great Prostitute, he was greatly astonished, which prompted the angel to explain to him the mystery of the woman. The rest of this chapter contains the angel’s explanation of how Jerusalem will become the Great Prostitute known as Babylon the Great.

Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.” Rev. 17:7-8

The history of the Great Prostitute begins with a description of the rise of the Beast, which was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss. This is the same description of the Beast that we read about in Chapter 13. As we discussed in that chapter, the description of the Beast rising from the dead can refer to either the Beast who will suffer the fatal wound, but whose fatal wound will be healed, or the kingdom of the Beast, which will emerge from the ruins of the Ancient Roman Empire. In both cases, when the Beast comes back from the dead, it will astonish the Inhabitants of the Earth.
Next, John was given more information concerning the seven heads of the Beast, which are described as seven mountains

Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains[3] on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth[4] and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. Rev. 17: 9-11 *NASB

Earlier, we discovered that when the word mountain is used symbolically in the Scriptures, it represents a kingdom. (See Revelation 8: the Second Trumpet) Accordingly, when John is told that the seven heads of the Beast represent seven mountains and seven kings, it is a reference to the seven kingdoms that will precede the kingdom of the Beast and the seven kings that will give their power to the Beast. (Ten kings will start off following the Beast, but he will subdue three of them. (See Revelation Chapter 13)

In the description of the seven mountains, the seven kingdoms are described as five that have fallen, one which is, and one that has not yet come. The kingdom, which is, refers to the Ancient Roman Empire that ruled over Jerusalem at the time of the writing of the Revelation. The five kingdoms that have fallen are the five kingdoms that preceded the Roman Empire and that also, once, ruled over Israel. Namely, the kingdoms of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. The kingdom that will remain a little while is a description of the rule of the British Empire, which was given governorship over Jerusalem following the fall of the Ottoman Empire in World I, but whose rule ended prematurely when Britain pulled out of the Holy Land following World War II. (The passing over of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled over Judea in the centuries leading up to the First World War, is consistent with how the Revelation is written, which describes the events of John’s lifetime and then skips to the final events of the Last Days.) The eighth kingdom to rule over Israel will be the kingdom of the Beast that belongs to the seven, which is to say that the kingdom of the Beast will rule over Jerusalem as the seven previous kingdoms had.

Following the description of the seven kingdoms that will precede the kingdom of the Beast, John was given more information concerning the kings who will give their power to the Beast.  

“The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” …” The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled.” Rev. 17:12-17

The ten kings who will follow the Beast will be given authority along with the Beast and will form the army that will eventually attack Jerusalem, which is identified as the prostitute. Once the Beast conquers Jerusalem and makes it the center of his rule, the city will become the Great Prostitute who will lead the world astray in her adulteries

The above verses tell us that the ten kings who will give their power to the Beast will submit to the Beast for the one purpose of destroying Israel. The lack of loyalty to the Beast, himself, will lead to the rebellion of three of the kings who will be subdued by the Beast.

A Surprise Attack

In the description of the kingdom of the Beast, we are given a possible scenario for how the Attack on Jerusalem will take place. Earlier, we read that the Attack on Jerusalem will come as a complete surprise to the people living in the city who will be forced to flee to the wilderness without gathering any of their possessions.

“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out.” Mk. 13:14-15

The above circumstances seem hard to imagine in the modern era of military satellites that would make the surrounding of a city, without being detected, nearly impossible. We must, therefore, assume that the armies that will attack Jerusalem will already be in proximity to the city based on some other “peaceful” pretext before the attack begins. One such scenario can be inferred from the description of the Ten-Nation Coalition, whose armies will come from the territories surrounding Israel and whose formation will most likely be promoted as a “peace-keeping” force in the region. This development would allow for the armies of the Beast to be placed in and around Jerusalem for its “peace” and “safety” without causing any alarm. From this position, the gathered forces will be able to suddenly surround and attack Jerusalem, as described in the Gospel accounts.

Although the Attack on Jerusalem will occur at a pre-determined day and hour that no one knows but the Father,[5] the people living in Jerusalem have been given the signs to watch for that will warn them before this attack takes place. The Lord has forewarned His people that when they see the Abomination that Causes Desolation at the Temple and Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, they are to flee to the mountains.

The Great City

The final verse of this chapter ends by telling us that the woman, with the name Babylon the Great written on her head is the great city.

The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” Rev. 17:18

When the woman known as the Great Prostitute is described as being the great city, it corresponds with how both Jerusalem and Babylon the Great are also identified as the great city and confirms how, under the rule of the Beast, Jerusalem will lead the rebellion against God as Babylon the Great and will commit adultery with the kings of the earth as the Great Prostitute.

I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months. And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified (Jerusalem).
Rev. 11:1-3, 7-8

The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Rev. 16:19

Order of Events of the Last Days

1. Wars, Rumors of Wars, Earthquakes, and Famines 
(Seals 1-4)
2. The Martyrs Pray for Judgment and Revenge (5th. Seal) – The 144,000 are sealed
     – 1/3 of earth is burned up in world-wide drought (1st. Trumpet)
     – 1/3 of sea turns to blood, Satan’s kingdom defeated (2nd. Trumpet)
     – 1/3 of waters are poisoned, Satan cast out 3rd. Trumpet)
     – 1/3 of Israel is struck, the Attack on Jerusalem (4th. Trumpet)
3. The Great Tribulation – the full number of God’s people are killed
     – The Plague of Locusts (5th. Trumpet)
     – The Plague of Fire, Smoke, and Sulfur (6th. Trumpet)
     – The Seven Bowls of God’s Wrath (Bowls 1 -5)
     – The kings and generals are gathered at Armageddon (6th Bowl)
4. The Great Earthquake and Severe Hailstorm – the Battle of Armageddon (6th. Seal, 7th. Trumpet, 7th. Bowl)
5. Silence in Heaven 
– the enemies of God are defeated (7th. Seal)
6. The Reign of Christ on Earth

[1] In these verses, Israel is described as the prostitute, which is consistent with how the Bible compares Israel’s historical relationship to God to that of a married woman who is unfaithful and engages in prostitution.
– Israel is the young woman married to God. Isa. 54:5, Ezek. 16:8
– Jerusalem is the bride who once loved God. Jer. 2:2
– Israel is the adulterous wife. Hos. 1:2, Jer. 3:20, Ezek. 16:32
– Israel/Jerusalem is the prostitute. Isa. 1:21, Jer. 2:20, Ezek. 16:15
– Israel commits adultery with the nations. Ezek. 16:23-29

[2] Rev. 17:15

[3] The NIV translates this word as hill, but in all other instances in which this same original Greek word is found in the Bible, the NIV translates it as mountain. For example, See Revelation 8:8 where this same Greek word (oros SEC 3735) is translated a huge mountain that will be hurled into the sea.

[4] Some translations insert the word king after the word eighth, but the word king is not in the original.

[5] Matt. 24:36-41, Mk. 13:14

Revelation Chapter 16
Revelation Chapter 18

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