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Bible Commentaries

The Bible Study New Testament

Revelation 17

 

 

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Introduction

Christ and the Fall of Babylon. Chapters 17-19 (1 John 2:17)

This is the sixth parallel section. The central idea is: "The world and everything in it that men desire is passing away." We once again return to the First Coming. Chapter 17 shows the nature and history of the prostitute; chapter 18 shows the inevitable, complete, irrevocable downfall and ruin of her; chapter 19 shows heaven celebrating God's victory over the prostitute.


Verse 1

Come, and I will show you. So far five enemies of Christ have been introduced to us: the dragon (Satan); the beast from the sea (anti-christian government); the beast from the earth, who is the false prophet (anti-christian religion and philosophy); the prostitute Babylon (anti-christian seduction); and the men who have the mark of the beast (who are rebels against God). We saw the doom of those who have the mark of the beast in chapters 15 & 16. We will see the doom of Babylon in Revelation 18:2; the doom of the sea beast and the false prophet (earth beast) in Revelation 19:20; and the doom of the dragon (Satan) in Revelation 20:10. How the great prostitute is to be punished. Note that she is a prostitute, not an adulteress! She is not an apostate church, but rather the world as it symbolizes LUXURY, VICE, and GLAMOUR (1 John 2:16).


Verse 2

Committed immorality. The whole world is an IDOL to those who do not have the right attitude toward God. Industry, commerce, art, culture, and all the other such things can be used by the Devil to seduce people, even believers, and turn them away from God. Two people can live side by side in the same house, and look out upon two completely different worlds!


Verses 3-6

There I saw a woman sitting on a red beast. These verses form a picture-symbol. The red beast is the sea-beast of Revelation 13:1. It is the governments of the world as the center or focus of the spirit of persecution. The woman sits on this beast - the two work together. But do not identify this woman with the woman of Revelation 12. The two are enemies!!! This picture-symbol paints a lurid picture of those, who like Judas, sell out the Lord for thirty pieces of silver. This "selling out" of the Lord and persecuting his people go hand-in-hand. We said Babylon symbolizes anti-christian seduction. The gold cup invites you to drink, and implies something of great value. But it is full of obscene and filthy things. Some things are evil in themselves, and other things which are good can be used in evil ways. The gold cup symbolizes everything as it is used to separate people from God. Compare note on Revelation 18:4.


Verse 7-8

7-8. I will tell you the secret meaning. The woman sits on the red beast (Revelation 17:3), and they are one in purpose and intent. Worldly people drink the wine of her immorality and experience her pleasures; and the world as a center of persecution works in close cooperation with the world as the center of luxury, anti-christian culture and pleasure. Both Babylon and the beast are "past, present, and future." Their form changes; their substance stays the same. Babylon will be destroyed and the beast will go off to be destroyed, but not until both have fooled all who do not have their name written in the book-of the living. See Revelation 13:8.


Verses 9-11

The seven heads are seven hills. Note that both the beast and Babylon ARE IN EXISTENCE as John writes this! The seven hills clearly speak of Rome, as Revelation 17:18 also shows. Imperial Rome, center of the Empire. John sees this city filled with glamour, romance, appeal - all the things to attract kings and rulers. It was insane in its search for pleasure. Christians were torn to pieces to please the crowds. The prostitute was drunk with the blood of God's people (Revelation 17:6). They are also seven kings. The five who have fallen and the one who still rules can be fit into history. Old Babylonia, Assyria, New Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greco-Macedonia - have all fallen. Rome still ruled, as John wrote this. The seventh king/kingdom which will remain only a little while is not so easy to identify with history. Johnson thinks it was the Eastern Roman Empire as it was revived by Justinian in the early part of the sixth century. Others identify this with Constantine the Great; still others with the Germanic nations that conquered Rome. Perhaps this seventh king/kingdom is symbolic of all the anti-christian world powers that will oppress God's people until the time of the Second Coming. Is itself an eighth king. The beast itself is the final form of world power, who will be destroyed by Christ's Second Coming. Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Again we say that the forms change but the substance stays the same. The beast seems to revive after every defeat (Revelation 17:8) but always goes off to be destroyed.


Verses 12-14

The ten horns. The ten "horn-kings" who "rule as kings for one hour with the beast" symbolize all the important and influential men of every activity [art, education, commerce', industry, government, etc.] to the degree that they serve the central authority. Their goal is to honor themselves, and to do this they give their power and authority to the beast to help it fight against Christ and his church. See Revelation 17:14. But the Lamb and his followers constantly defeat every form of anti-christian power. It may not seem that way on the surface of things, but just when the beast seems to be winning, his doom is already there.


Verses 15-17

For God placed in there hearts. The prostitute sits on the waters, which symbolize the nations, peoples, races and languages - that are always working to oppose the church of Christ. The world in general, especially the great men of influence, drink from her gold cup and become drunk with the wine of her immorality. They carry her and give themselves to everything she has to offer. But the world, in a sense, destroys itself. The very people who make up the "anti-christian world" hate the prostitute and utterly destroy her. God is using these Very rebels as his own agents. They give their power to the beast, until God's words come true. Then they turn on her and destroy her, but it is too late! They are punished by the results of their own foolishness. Compare Judas, as he throws down the thirty pieces of silver and goes out to hang himself. Compare Matthew 4:8-10 and notes.


Verse 18

Is the great city. Rome. See Revelation 17:9.

The Prostitute is "The Great Babylon" - the symbol of anti-christian seduction [the glamour, romance, and appeal of this world (1 John 2:15-17)], at any moment of history. "Babylon" is the world as a center of industry, commerce, art, culture, etc. A WRONG ATTITUDE toward these things (compare 1 Timothy 6:10) will cause a person to turn away from God. Babylon's FALL happens again and again throughout history, but perhaps the fall of the last Babylon [Babylon in its final form?] will be simultaneous with the Second Coming of Christ, [Anti-christian religion is symbolized by the False Prophet.].

 


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Bibliography Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Revelation 17:4". "The Bible Study New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/revelation-17.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

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