Revelation 17

Revelation 17

The Great Prostitute and the Beast

17 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

When I saw her, I marveled greatly. But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”


Revelation 17 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

We have already reiterated it over many chapters, but Rome stood proudly as a pagan symbol against Christ and His church. Here in Revelation 17, she is personified as a notorious prostitute. She represents wealth and power and is “drunk” on the blood of Christian martyrs. She is carried by her source of power which is the beast with both seven heads and ten horns. The heads represent seven hills as well as seven kings that sit upon those hills. The ten horns are the ten kings who join in battling against the Lamb. The waters represent the nations of the world and the woman herself is identified in verse 18 as the great city (Rome).

The symbolism itself is not hard to determine. The angel speaks to John and reveals the interpretation of the vision. But, there are many other layers that are interesting to explore for us today.

The Woman

The primary issue with the woman is not her harlotry, drunkenness, laziness, power, or wealth. Those traits personify her. But the most serious charge at hand is the fact that she has engaged in the deception of the earth and murdered the children of God. This illustrates for us just how much Jesus loves and adores His bride, the church. In order for the bride to be seen in all her glory, the injustice of deception must be set straight. It is not coincidental that her most serious crimes match those committed by the beast and the false prophet in the chapters prior to this.

In Revelation 13, we read that the whole world is astonished by the beast. He has deceived them. Here in verse 6, John writes, “When I saw her, I wondered greatly.” A more literal rendering from the Greek text is, “And seeing her I marveled a great marvel.” The KJV captures this emotion by translating it, “and when I saw her I wondered with great admiration.”

John may have been expecting a “great city” in ruins. Instead, he saw the harlot perched atop the beast, confidently adorned with jewels and looking victorious. It must have been an unbelievable sight because the imagery draws John’s gaze until it is finally broken by the angel’s voice, “Why are you astonished?” This seduction is the same feeling we may get as we watch a luxury sports car drive down our street. Or, it may be similar to a drive down the Vegas strip with all the sights and sounds of money, power, and fame.

The application here is obvious. The enticement of the world’s power slithers among us so subtly it is hard NOT to gaze in astonishment.  This dangerous allure comes complete with every vice that our flesh craves. What is it that breaks our attention when our flesh desires to marvel over the empty things of this life? We circle back to the primary issue at hand. This visual that is pleasing to the eye has deceived the world and viciously spilled the blood of Christ’s church. She is an enemy of God.  She has rested on the power of the beast.

The angel makes it immediately clear to John this is not the end and she most certainly is not the victor.

The Beast

After the angel tells John to “snap out of it,” the source of her power is revealed. There is much more attention given to the beast than to the woman. Let’s take a moment to appreciate the humorous parody in the following verse.

“The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction.

Revelation 17:11 NASB

God is the One who was, and is, and is to come, which makes the beast the one who was, and is NOT, and will go to his destruction. Our God Almighty is the eternal Creator, separate from time and space while the beast is simply a being that exists and is destroyed. This is quite possibly a throwback to John’s amazement of the woman riding on the beast.

The apostle John wants you and I to be prepared. Don’t be shocked when the people and multitudes follow the beast. Don’t be surprised when these powers join together and make war on the Lamb and the people of God. Don’t panic. Don’t fear. Don’t worry. He’s telling us these things so we are prepared, because we will lose the battle, but the One who we cling to has already won the war. Where does your heart and mind need to be encouraged by this simple statement?

Don’t marvel. Our King has already locked up the victory.

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