Lesson 52 – Revelation 17:6-8
Lesson 52 – Revelation 17:6-8
Revelation 17:6 John describes the persecution on the saints by the harlot as being drunk with the blood of the saints and the martyrs. The reference to saints likely refers to God’s people of all time not just New Covenant saints. The important point is that false religion, represented here by the harlot, is a murderer. It has killed millions of believers over the centuries. While the world becomes drunk with lust for the harlot, the harlot becomes drunk with the blood of God’s people. John is puzzled by the meaning of the vision.
This is clear from the explanation provided by the angel in Revelation 17:7-18. Revelation 17:7-8 When the Lord returns to earth He will be coming back to establish righteousness in the earth but before He does this, He has to destroy all the ungodly and evil of this world. This is the subject of the rest of this chapter.
The power of the Antichrist is in the seven heads and ten horns. The seven heads or seven governments will willingly subject themselves to his rule. But he will also have the power of ten horns or governments that support him. When he first comes to power, he will probably march against three governments and conquer them and absorb them into his own rule or nation. Either this or else three governments will form some alliance or confederation with him as their head. These three plus the seven who willingly submit to his rule will give him the power of ten governments.
The impact of the Antichrist will amaze the world as we saw in Revelation 13:4, 8,12. John understood that the woman represented a false religious system, and that the beast was the Antichrist. What he did not understand was the connection between the two of them.
Revelation 13:18 identifies the woman as the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth. Revelation introduces the fate of Babylon in Revelation 14:8, 16:19; the former is a pre-announcement, the latter the actual judgment. Revelation 17-18 describe the event; but as all the earth’s cities are to fall (Revelation 16:19), it is obviously significant that Babylon is singled out for specific mention. Why should this be? The answer is complex, as the use of “mystery” in Revelation 17:5 indicates.
Babylon is more than a city; it is also a symbol. Both the symbol and the city are detestable to God and will fall in His final judgment of earth. Here is another counterfeit as well, just as the church the Bride of Messiah is described as a Mystery so too is the bride of Antichrist a harlot. There are so many different Evangelical opinions as to what ‘ Babylon’ signifies. Some scholars see Babylon as representing a worldwide apostate religious system, some as a political system, some as an economic system, some as sinful humanity, some as the ancient Roman Empire, and many as a combination of some of these views.
Dr. John Walvoord sums up this diversity by saying, ” Any interpretation of Revelation 17-18 is difficult because expositors have not agreed as to the details of their interpretations.” In view of this wide diversity of opinion let us consider this passage and other Scripture which bear on it. An outline of this passage helps ensure that the interpretation is not out of context:
A. The vision of the woman and the Beast Revelation 17:1-6.
B. The explanation of the woman introduced Revelation 17:7.
C. The Beast explained Revelation 17:8-14.
D. The woman explained Revelation 17:15-18.
E. The doom of the woman announced Revelation 18:1-3.
F. Believers warned to forsake the woman Revelation 18:4-5.
G. The woman’s judgment pronounced Revelation 18:6-8.
H. The kings of the earth lamenting over the woman’s judgment Revelation 18:9-10.
I. Merchants and seamen lamenting the judgment of the woman Revelation 17:11-19.
J. Heaven rejoicing over the judgment of the woman Revelation 17:20.
K. The woman’s doom confirmed Revelation 17:21-24.
L. Heaven praises God for the judgment Revelation 19:1-4.
This outline indicates there is only one vision; everything is a logical and integrated development of a single theme; so the interpretation must have unity. The woman (or harlot) is positively identified as ‘ Babylon the Great’ (Revelation 17:5), and Babylon is named three more times (Revelation 18:2,10,21).
So, unmistakably, Babylon figures in the symbolism used here. ‘ Babylon’ is the Babylonians’ own name for their city (it means ‘ gate of the gods’), but the Hebrew word is ‘ Babel.’ English versions leave the impression that the Bible uses two words, ‘ Babel’ (Genesis 10:10; 11:9) and ‘ Babylon’ (Isaiah 14:4), but they are both the same Hebrew word so the story of Babylon starts as we have already discussed in Genesis.
Babylon in Scripture Babel represents man’s rebellion against government by God; Babel was man saying to God, “You will not rule us; we will rule ourselves”; it is man’s choice of human government in place of a theocracy; it is humanism. The history of Babylon throughout Scripture is consistent with this humanistic attitude. Babylon, time after time, is presented as a center of wealth, luxury, human achievement, and self indulgence. Babylon is also the land of captivity, and is a persecutor of God’s people.
Specific scriptural statements support this Isaiah 13 speaks of Babylon and Isaiah13:11 tells us that it epitomizes ‘ the evil of the world’; Isaiah 14:4 identifies Satan as the power behind Babylon. Isaiah 47:7–10 speaks of Babylon’s pride and independence, luxurious living, and its involvement with the occult; and, use the same symbolism as Revelation 18:7, this helps us in understanding the meaning of Mystery Babylon in Revelation.
Jeremiah 50:29 tells us more by indicting Babylon for its arrogance against the Lord, demonstrated in the desecration of His temple (Jeremiah 51:11). These same prophecies speak of the desolation of the historical Babylon, Isaiah 13:19–20 and Jeremiah 50:3,13,39; 51:62 make it clear that Babylon will be forever desolate. Babylon ended as a city that was occupied by people sometime during the about 140 AD and has been desolate ever since.
So it we need to consider something or somewhere else for the ‘ mystery’ Babylon of Revelation. Revelation 17:5 identifies Babylon as a mystery, indicating that it is not the Babylon which still existed on the Euphrates, 50 miles south of modern Baghdad, when John wrote. So ‘ Mystery Babylon’ has to be symbolic, in much the same way that “The Church” is an institution and not a geographical location. This seems especially true in view of the prophecies of the perpetual desolation of the historic Babylon.
However, we can expect ‘ Mystery Babylon’ to possess many of the characteristics of the ancient city, since the name indicates they have the same spirit. The essential biblical features of the original Babel/Babylon were:
1) It represented a humanistic attempt at one-world government (Genesis 11:4).
3) It was clearly materialistic (Joshua 7:21); in fact, it is a classic demonstration of what Jesus called ‘ mammon.’
5) It persecuted the saints (Daniel 3:6).
6) It was a center of idolatrous worship (Daniel 3:6). If we compare the features of Mystery Babylon with the features of the original Babylon this will help us interpret Revelation’s symbolism. The features depicted at the end of its history are:
3) Initially, it will control the Beast and his federation of nations (Revelation 17:3,9).
6) It will be hated by the Beast (Revelation 17:16).
7) It will be desolated by the Beast (Revelation 17:16–17).
8) It will be a center of occult practice (Revelation 18:2).
9) It will glorify itself (Revelation 18:7).
10) It will exemplify sensuous living (Revelation 18:3,7,9).
11) It will entice even the saints of God (Revelation 18:4).
12) It will have corrupted the whole earth (Revelation 19:2).
13) It will regard itself as invincible, yet God will overthrow it in a day (Revelation 18:7).
14) It will be a center of world trade (Revelation 18:11–17,19).
15) It will be a center for the performing arts (Revelation 18:22).
16) It is abhorred by God and Heaven (Revelation 18:20). Mystery Babylon and historical Babylon have much in common, but they are not the same. According to items 6 & 7 the ‘ woman’ represents something distinctly opposed to the Beast. This helps us to further see that the Beast and Babylon are not the same. What man tried to establish at Babel was a one-world government, run by the people for the people, completely independent of God.
The present United Nations believes that man can resolve all his problems without assistance from God. The Beast will want the whole world under his authority and, in his absolute dictatorship, will tolerate no freedom of choice. He will derive his power from Satan (Revelation 13:2), and he will move to bring the whole earth under Satan’s subjugation (Revelation 13:4).
This, in fact, will be his covenant with Satan from whom he derives his power and authority. It is therefore easy to explain how the Beast will hate a philosophy which teaches that man is free and answerable only to himself, and also to explain why he will seek to destroy any organization that fosters that message. Man’s declaration of independence can be described as “the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.”
This desire for independence was the basis of Satan’s original sin (Isaiah 14:13–14), as well as the root of man’s original sin (Genesis 3:5–6). This is the epitome of wickedness and leads to all the characteristics found in the list above. This independence is also what the Beast will hate and have to destroy in order to overcome the world for Satan.
Rebellion against the authority of God is something Heaven will rejoice to see destroyed, for since its beginning in the garden and then later in Babel it has separated man from its Creator, something which is so deep that the world persecutes, even makes martyrs of those who subject themselves to God.
Man’s desire to control his own destiny does not stop with rebellion against God, he also does not want Satan’s control (though he likes to choose from Satan’s pleasures, just as he wishes to appropriate God’s blessings), and the Beast therefore will have to quell this impulse in man. “Mystery Babylon,” then, is the spirit of independence which has infected man from Eve onwards, and was first evidenced in an organized form in the building of the tower of Babel (Babylon).
This “Mystery Babylon” is clearly one which the Beast will not be able to tolerate, for his mandate will be to subject the whole earth to Satan. “Mystery Babylon” is not only a humanistic philosophy, but also has a physical locale. So Revelation portrays the movement of man’s independence from any supernatural control headquartered in a specific city, which is what the Beast will destroy in one hour.
Perhaps this will be the one allusion to the United States since The United Nations is headquartered in New York and is an excellent example of all that Babylon stands for. The UN represents the epitome of humanism in our day, and New York is a universally recognized center of world trade and the performing arts, banking, commerce and world power. But it could be some other world city that might house a similar European association.