Revelation 17 by Jack KelleyBy: GraceThruFaith.com
Revelation 17 by Jack Kelley GraceThruFaith.com
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
With the conclusion of the bowl judgments we've seen the end of the Great Tribulation. Now we'll back up a little and get the detail on Babylon's Destruction. Remember the verse from Rev. 16:19? God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Well, chapters 17-18 will give us the blow-by-blow. Almost since the beginning of time, the story of man on Earth has been the Tale of Two Cities. Babylon is the city of man, and Jerusalem the City of God. It's no coincidence that the final days of the Age of Man are taken up with a battle involving these two cities.
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 on 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 desert. 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. This title was written on her forehead:
I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. (Rev 17:1-6)
As I said in our last segment, there are three facets to the Babylonian world system that have enslaved men through the Ages, religious, commercial, and governmental. We'll deal with the religious first, characterized here by the woman. Notice that she's riding the beast. The rider always controls the animal, and the third mention of seven heads and ten horns indicates that this is the same beast that came out of the water in Rev. 13, the one empowered by Satan, the dragon from Rev. 12. This tells us that the anti-Christ will initially derive his power through his association with the one-world religion. Having fought for most of the past century to divest himself of his relationship with the one true God, man will embrace this false god. Jesus said, "I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him (John 5:43).
The Woman is called mystery Babylon because she's not in Babylon, as we'll soon see. But the Babylonian religion is literally the mother of all the cults and mythologies that have been set up in opposition to the Gospel.
Briefly, back in Genesis 10, when Nimrod founded Babylon, his wife Semeramis sowed the first seeds of false religion by claiming that her son Tammuz was the supernatural offspring of the Sun God, borrowing from the promise first disclosed in the Garden that the seed of the woman would redeem mankind.
According to tradition, when Tammuz was killed in a hunting accident, she went into 40 days of mourning. Near the end of this time she burned a yule log (yule means child in the Babylonian language) as the Sun slowly died. After the longest night of the year, the winter Solstice, Tammuz came back to life in the world's first counterfeit resurrection. In joy, she decorated an evergreen tree, a symbol of life, and passed out pastries with her son's initial on top to commemorate the event. Today we call these pastries hot cross buns, since the Babylonian "T" looks like our "X". As if to validate this celebration, the sun began coming back to life as well.
She memorialized the 40 days of mourning (which we call Lent) by forming a celibate priesthood to lead the people in the worship of her risen son. She declared the high priest to be infallible and herself to be the Queen of Heaven, and the mother-child cult was born. Every mythology from that time forward has carried elements of this story. In the Egyptian version she was known as Isis, in neo-Babylon as Ashteroth or Ishtar, in Canaan as Astarte, in Greece as Aphrodite and in Rome as Venus. She's variously called the goddess of love and fertility. Her main objective has always been to usurp God's role as the sole Giver and Sustainer of Life.
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 will come up out of the Abyss and go to his 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 he once was, now is not, and yet will come. (Rev. 17:7-8) The beast is again identified as the indwelt anti-Christ, this time by using a corruption of the name of God to signify his supposed death and resurrection. And again we see that our names were written in the Lamb's book of Life from the very beginning. It's great to have a confirmed reservation for the most desired place in the entire Universe, made by the Owner Himself.
"This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction. (Rev 17:9-11) The imagery of the seven heads and ten horns has now been expanded to give us added insight. By all historical accounts, the city on seven hills is Rome, current seat of the Babylonian Religion. It had moved to Pergamum during the reign of the Greeks and then to Rome. Later, in the 4th Century AD, it would be blended into Christianity becoming first the Holy Roman Empire, then the Catholic Church. One more metamorphosis (a merger with Islam?) will make it into the woman who rides the beast.
At the time of John's writing history had noted the passing of five World Empires, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. The current Empire was Rome, components of which (Spain, England, and the USA) have reigned to this very day. The one that has not yet come is a revival of Ancient Rome, soon to emerge out of the European Union. The anti-Christ is an eighth king, that is he's not specifically identified with any of the seven, but in his goals and ambitions will belong to all of them. This could be a hint that the anti-Christ will not have previously held a leadership position in the European Union, but will come from outside that group's current political structure.
"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 make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers." (Rev. 17:12-14) Some see the ten horns as the heads of ten regions of the coming One World Government. Some see them as the 10 fully vested members of the EU. Either way they'll have governmental authority over the Earth under the headship of the anti-Christ, eventually massing all the armies of man to oppose the return of the Lord with His Church. The three words used to describe His followers are always and only used of the Church, and He's coming with us, not for us.
Then the angel said to me, "The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. 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 give the beast their power to rule, until God's words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth." (Rev 17:15-18) This is the destruction of religious Babylon foretold in Rev. 14:8. Although the anti-Christ came to power under the auspices of the World Wide Religion, this very religious system becomes a barrier to his ultimate goal of being worshipped himself as the only god. And so governmental Babylon turns on religious Babylon to destroy it. Notice that it's God Who puts them up to this. For "one hour" (the time of the Great Tribulation) the Beast and his 10 kings get power over Earth just so they can destroy the Woman who made their rule possible, thereby fulfilling God's purpose.
At some point along the way, perhaps in preparation for the destruction of the harlot church, world headquarters will move from Rome to Babylon. Zechariah 5:5-11 speaks of a woman in a basket, representing the iniquity of the world, being carried from her current position to a place prepared for her on the plains of Shinar, a reference to Babylon's location in modern day Iraq. Women with the wings of storks, unclean birds, lift the basket into the air and carry it there.
Nebuchadnezzar's Babylon had been conquered by the Persians nearly 100 years before Zechariah's prophecy. Within 200 more years the Persians would lose it to Alexander who intended to dredge the Euphrates and make Babylon into a giant river port for ships from the Persian Gulf and points East. Alas, he died before he could start it. When one of Alexander's successors built his dreamed of port in a natural harbor on the neighboring Tigris River and named it Bagdhad, Babylon dwindled to a town of 10,000, it's massive walls cannibalized for building blocks.
Current conditions in Iraq may just be leading us toward the fulfillment of the Bible's prophecy to restore Babylon to a mighty city in preparation for its ultimate and complete destruction. No other city except Jerusalem is given as much mention in the Bible as Babylon, and in the 6 chapters devoted to its destruction (Isaiah 13-14, Jeremiah 50-51, and Rev. 17-18) never has it been so completely overcome as these passages require. In fact, one of the great surprises from the Gulf War was the vision of Babylon, having undergone a billion dollar reconstruction, sitting there tall and proud on the banks of the Euphrates.
As tempting as it is to read these passages figuratively and see them as representing New York or some other city, and as much as we can all agree that such punishment is certainly warranted for them, there's simply no Biblical reason to do so. The plains of Shinar is a specific geographical location in Iraq, and after the pagan religion moved to Pergamum during the time of the Greek Empire it never came back there as the prophecy requires.
So while there's no specific indication of this in Scripture, I believe the woman in Zechariah 5 to be the same as the woman in Rev 17, returned from Rome to her original home in Babylon in fulfillment of Zechariah's prophecy.
After this I saw another angel
coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was
illuminated by his splendor. With a mighty voice he shouted: