Lesson 53 – Revelation 17:9-18:8
Lesson 53 – Revelation 17:9-18:8
Last week we discussed the arguments that Babylon was a system of humanism in rebellion to God and that it represented a world view and not necessarily a city. Well I want to suggest that there is evidence that it could also be a city of and that the system could dwell in a revived city of Babylon. Let me quote Henry Morris on his argument for a revived city of Babylon:
Babylon, indeed, will be permanently destroyed, as recorded in the very next chapter (Revelation 18:21), but this has not happened yet. The prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah also refer to this future destruction, not merely to Babylon’s present-day condition, as is evident from the following considerations, among others:
(1) The destruction will take place in the time that the stars and sun are darkened (Isaiah 13:1, 9, 10).
(5) Its destruction will be followed by universal rest and peace (Isaiah 14:7, 8).
(6) Its destruction is directly associated also with the casting of Lucifer into Sheol (Isaiah 14:12–15).
(7) Babylon’s stones will never be used in future construction elsewhere, whereas the present-day ruins of Babylon have been frequently plundered and reused in later constructions (Jeremiah 51:26). (The Revelation Record [Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale, 1983], 348)
The site of modern Babylon is strategically located at the crossroads of Asia, Europe, and Africa and is not far from the Persian Gulf. It is also near the world’s richest oil fields and has a virtually unlimited water supply from the Euphrates. Those considerations led the famed historian Arnold Toynbee to proclaim that Babylon would be an ideal site for an important political and cultural center (Morris, Revelation Record, 349).
Considering the amount of money and energy that is being poured into Iraq by the US and likely the European nations as well when it becomes more stabilized, it is not too far fetched to see Babylon revived into a thriving metropolitan area.
Revelation 17:9-14 The angel tells John and his readers to pay close attention to what follows. It will take much wisdom and spiritual insight to understand it, and perhaps only those alive at the time will fully understand.
Just as so many of the things prophesied about Jesus were so completely misunderstood by everyone at the first coming of Jesus. Most commentators believe that the seven mountains are Rome, which was known to have been built on seven hills, and believe that the woman is the Roman Catholic Church. This is not likely since verse 18 identifies her as the city of Babylon.
The spiritual discernment we are called to have would be pointless if the seven mountains are so obvious in pointing to Rome. The text tells us that the mountains are seven kings. Mountains are used in the Old Testament to represent rule, or power (Psalm 30:7; Isaiah 2:2; Jeremiah 51:25; Daniel 2:35). They represent seven world empires embodied in their rulers.
The angel tells John that five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come. The five Gentile world empires that had fallen by the time of John’s vision are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. The one that existed at that time was obviously Rome. The other one that has not yet come is Antichrist’s final world empire.
The seven heads of the beast symbolize fullness of blasphemy and evil. It is much like our English idiom “the seven seas,” which speaks of all the seas of the world. Verses 9–10 tells us that ‘the woman’ will be a major feature in the six preceding empires of prophecy, and will also be a feature in the ultimate seventh empirical system. However, Revelation 17:11 says that the Beast will, as an outgrowth of this seventh system, set up his own individual eighth empirical system, one over which ‘the woman’ has no control as she only sits on (controls) seven kingdoms (for this is what each ‘mountain’ represents) making humanism the religion, as we discussed last week.
Satan will require the Beast’s final kingdom to have all of mankind worship him, so he can tolerate no other religious system. The ten horns (Revelation 17:12) represents the ten-nation confederacy that will support the Beast, and on which his empire will be founded, a kingdom that will finally reach its end when it attempts to vanquish Jesus Christ in what will be its final battle (Revelation 17:14).
The war of v.14 marks the Beast’s final act and the end of the tribulation period: it is the last act of the rebellion which Babel represents; so when the Beast defeats Babylon he appropriates her rebellion to himself and will, in effect, adopt Babylon’s rebellion against God as his personal cause. Consider the simplicity of the reason given for the Beast’s defeat; he will be defeated because Jesus is Lord of Lords and King of Kings, and because those who accompany Him are the elect and faithful (v.14);
Revelation 17:15-18 – God the Father has ordained that Jesus is the King of Kings—He therefore cannot fail. The angel now moves to explain the symbolism of the vision John had just seen. The harlot who sits on the nations of the world has infected them with her sin (Revelation 17:15; the fact that she ‘sits’ on the nations symbolizes her control over them); the Beast, will despise her and attack her (Revelation 17:16), because she will not submit to the Beast. The destruction described in Revelation 17:16 is very strong: the Beast will take apart the harlot for his own advantage.
The power that the harlot had over men will be assumed by the Beast. The city she represents will be destroyed by fire; so this double destruction epitomizes her complete destruction, both the influence she symbolizes (her philosophy), and the physical location of her headquarters. The Beast will destroy the harlot in order to fulfill God’s plan (Revelation 17:17), though his intention is not to be of service to God.
‘ Mystery Babylon’ as we have said is related to man’s claim of independence. Revelation 17:17 demonstrates the reality of God’s absolute sovereignty, for here He says He will achieve His ends, using uncooperative people, people who are fully opposed to doing His will. The harlot, as we have seen is more than a philosophy, she also resides in a physical city (v.Revelation 17:18).
The section beginning with Revelation 17:1-19:4 comprise a single unit, dealing with the judgment of Babylon. Two reasons are given for Babylon’s judgment: She was home for demonic activity and filled with immorality. Chapter 18 deals with the judgment of the business of Babylon.
Another angel appears in John’s vision and is described as having great power and authority to act on God’s behalf. Like the glow of Moses when he came down from the Mountain this angel is brilliant with glory of the Lord. The angel will speak with a voice that all will be able to hear declaring the fall of Babylon the great.
In Revelation 9:13-16 at the sounding of the sixth trumpet millions of demons were released they joined the demons that were released at the fifth trumpet Revelation 9:1-11. According to Revelation 9:2 they will be imprisoned on earth in Babylon. Every unclean and despised bird will also find their home there. Babylon will also be a prison for unclean birds. This speaks of God’s judgment on the city (Isaiah 34:11).
Babylon’s worldliness will seduce the world with its entertainment and wealth so that the world will love all that is and stands for.
Revelation 18:4-5 There is still time for those who have not taken the mark of the Beast to be saved. Believers are called to come out of Babylon’s system and the city itself. God is always calling His people to leave the world and its systems behind. It is the same call which came to Abraham: (Genesis 12:1). It was the call that came to Lot, before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:12-14). It is the call that Paul makes to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 6:14-15) We are continually called not to conform to the world but transformed (Romans 12:2). It is not a question of retiring from the world; it is a question of living differently within the world.
Revelation 18:6-8 This passage speaks of God’s judgment. The call to bring vengeance on Babylon is not to men; it is an instruction to the angel. Vengeance belongs to God, and it will come. Galatians 6 tells us that God is not mocked what a man sows he will reap. Even in the Sermon on the Mount we find an expression of that law (Matthew 7:2). The double punishment and the double reward come from God’s Law anyone responsible for loss or damage had to repay double (Exodus 22:4, 7, 9).
Consider the prophecies concerning Babylon’s judgment (Psalm 137:8; Jeremiah 50:29). There is no getting away from the fact that punishment follows sin, especially if that sin has involved cruel treatment. Babylon and the pride of the world will be humbled and this is the days of that reckoning. (Isaiah 3:16-17).