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Revelation 17-19 Listen
1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
7 And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.
8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
9 And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
16 And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
17 For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
This chapter is full of symbolism, so hang on! The beast in this chapter is the beast (aka antichrist) of Revelation 13:1-10 (see notes). As a matter of fact, chapters 13 and 17 are best read side by side in order to get the fuller description of this diabolical ambassador of Satan. Then there's this adulterous woman. Idolatry and the worship of false gods is symbolized by an adulterous woman all through the Old Testament. As you can see from this chapter, the same goes here. This woman is a world-wide false religious system in cahoots with the beast (aka antichrist). This false religious system will impact the activities of kings and governments. In Revelation 17, this false religious system is in full support of the beast/antichrist. We see some leaders of nations who are beast/antichrist allies in verse 12. They'll all be making war with Christ at the big battle - the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:11-21, see below). By the way, verse 15 shows us how vastly this false religious system will have spread. So let's see if we have this straight: There will be a vast religious system which will support the beast (aka antichrist) and hate Christ. Now is that scary or what? So much for the theory that all religion is good! Notice that the beast does turn on this religious system before it's over with...and Christ destroys the whole thing - beast/antichrist, false religion and all; wait until we get to Revelation 19:11-21 (see below).
Many teachers of prophecy have attempted to identify this religious system represented by the adulterous woman. They surmise that this system will develop over an extended period of time, and therefore must exist in some form in the world today. Notice verse 9, "And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth." John specifically gives a geographic clue regarding the home base of this religious organization; it is located on seven mountains. Here's what the IVP Bible Background Commentary has to say on this issue of terrain, "It was common knowledge that the original city of Rome sat on seven hills; this datum appears throughout Roman literature and on Roman coins and was celebrated in the name of the annual Roman festival called Septimontium." There is no question but that Rome was John's enemy - had him banished to Patmos because of his faith. Furthermore, there is no question that Daniel's prophecies regarding future empires conclude with the Roman Empire. Daniel 9:26 (see notes) indicates that the beast/antichrist will be of the same nationality as those who would destroy the temple in Jerusalem when he says, "...the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary..." This event (destruction of the temple) which took place in 70 A.D. was at the hands of the Romans; therefore, the beast (aka antichrist) will also be a Roman. John received this vision by revelation and did not necessarily perceive the implications himself at the time. However, I'm relatively confident that if you were to have asked John what his revelation meant at the time, he would certainly have told you that this corrupt religious system that will dominate the world at the second coming of Christ will be based in Rome.
So, what about the mention of "Babylon" in verse 5? Babylon became a symbol for morally-corrupt government in the Old Testament. Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel 2 (see notes) began with Babylon and ended with Rome. The "seven mountains" of verse 9 identify the topography of Rome - not Babylon. The city of Babylon rested on flat real estate, all of which was at or near sea level. Babylon is the epitome of a wicked city - in this case, Rome. We see in chapter 17 and Revelation 18 (see below) that this city will host a world-wide, corrupt religious system.
John reveals to us a double symbolism in verses 10-11 regarding the seven mountains of verse 9. Not only is it a geographic hint, but he goes on to say in verses 10-11, "And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition." These mountains also represent kings - five before John's writing, one at the time of John's writing, and one future. It's difficult to get a bead on the five preceding John (theories abound), but the Roman emperor contemporary with John's exile in 95 A.D. would have been Domitian. The seventh who becomes the eighth certainly is a reference to the yet-future beast/antichrist. One thing is certain: The symbolism is quite complex in chapter 17. We also see the beast/antichrist exercising great power over kings of the earth and even appointing what appears to be puppet kings over nations (verses 12-13). Many teachers have sought to get very specific regarding the identity of these nations and their leaders who will be under the control of the beast/antichrist. Let it suffice to say that over a relatively short period of time the beast/antichrist will consolidate a group of nations and will control them as one. The unquestionable satanic personality of the beast/antichrist is clearly stated in numerous places, but never more clearly than in verse 8.
It was fashionable in the decades of the 60's, 70's and 80's to teach that the European Common Market (ECM), just short of 10 member nations at the time, was the kingdom over which the antichrist would gain control. It was believed by many that when that tenth nation joins the ECM, the stage is set for the beast/antichrist, and likewise the rapture of the church. Since that time, significantly more economic unification has been achieved among European nations to the point that today many more than ten nations have joined that economic community today known as the European Union (EU). As a matter of fact, at the end of 2008, there were 27 nations who were members with others in the process of joining. The ECM evolved into the EU and screamed past that tenth member nation without anyone even noticing.
Revelation 17:12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
Daniel 7:24 And the ten horns out of this kingdom ARE TEN KINGS THAT shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.
So, here's the question: Who's first - the 10 kings or the beast? Here's my best conjecture: The kings that arise in Daniel 7:24 are replaced by the puppet kings appointed by the beast (aka antichrist). The subduing of the three kings in Daniel 7:24, meaning "to humble or bring low," seems to indicate a more extreme measure taken by the beast for those three. The bottom line is this: The beast gains control of the ten kings of those ten nations.
Whoa! Who saw this coming? We see beginning in verse 16 that the beast who was in collusion with the false religious system (Babylon) will turn on that very same religious system and destroy it. So, here's how this probably fits with the whole timeline of the tribulation. Chapter 17 deals with the worldwide religious system referred to as Babylon here. The beast (aka antichrist) uses this religious system for a period of time to achieve a worldwide unification behind himself. At some point in time, the beast will turn on this very same religious system and destroy it. When is that?
In order to properly set the order, it is important to once again remember that chapters 17 and 18 are not sequential with the opening of the seal, trumpet and vial judgments which we saw through chapter 16. As a matter of fact, consistency causes us to separate chapters 17 and 18 as two different events during the tribulation. Here's what we know about the beast from Daniel 9:27 (see notes), Matthew 24:15 (see notes) and II Thessalonians 2 (see notes): At the midpoint of the tribulation, the beast will commit the abomination of desolation by promoting himself to "God" status. He will insist that he, himself, become the focus of all worship by all people. It makes sense, therefore, that it will be at this point that Revelation 17 is fulfilled - the destruction of the religious vehicle that helped him up to that point. In other words, this worldwide religious system will assist the beast in obtaining his goal of unifying the world behind worship of himself. Once accomplished, he will then view the very same worldwide religious system (religious Babylon) to be a hindrance rather than a help. He'll destroy it at the midpoint of the tribulation...simulataneous with the "abomination of desolation."
In contrast, the destruction of commercial Babylon is seen in Revelation 18. The events of the destruction of commercial Babylon fit at the Battle of Armageddon...at the end of the tribulation. Therefore, the events of Revelation 17 and 18 are likely separated by a time span of 3 1/2 years.
1 And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.
2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.
6 Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.
7 How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.
8 Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
9 And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,
10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.
11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:
12 The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,
13 And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.
14 And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.
15 The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,
16 And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!
17 For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,
18 And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!
19 And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.
20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.
21 And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.
22 And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee;
23 And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.
24 And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.
We saw that Babylon in chapter 17 is not the literal name of the city, but rather the false religious system that will prevail at the time of the beast/antichrist's rule; the seat of that false religious system seems to be carefully identified geographically as Rome. This religious system is world wide and will have impacted rulers of nations everywhere.
In chapter 18 we see "Babylon" being referenced again, but with a little different function. It outlines the commercial ventures of Babylon. It would certainly appear that chapter 18 is referring to a literal city named "Babylon" conducting trade with the world. It therefore seems prudent to understand that chapter 17 references a religious "Babylon" while chapter 18 references a commercial "Babylon." While the usage of "Babylon" is intended to convey their corruptness, the chapters should not be regarded as a continuous event...related, but not continuous.
Saddam Hussein had begun a rebuilding project in Iraq of that great city of Babylon. He had great plans for Babylon to recapture its former glory. The war in Iraq and subsequent capture execution of Saddam Hussein terminated this rebuilding. American troops use the magnificent facilities that had been built there as strategic positions as they engage in the war. Could it be that this formerly-great city of Babylon will, in fact, be rebuilt to its former glory? Well...here we do see a city named "Babylon" as the center of commerce under the hand of the beast. While the religious system of chapter 17 tagged with "Babylon" is obviously worldwide and is likely terminated at the midpoint of the tribulation, it would appear that commercial Babylon, as described here in chapter 18, endures until the end of the tribulation. At that time, it will be destroyed by Jesus himself at the Battle of Armageddon in Revelation 19:11-21 (see below).
We've got some rejoicing to do! (Revelation 19:1-10)
1 And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God:
2 For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.
3 And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.
4 And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.
5 And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.
6 And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
9 And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.
10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
The false religion is dead...happens in chapter 17. The destruction of the enemy is imminent. There's rejoicing in Heaven. And then there's the marriage supper of the lamb. This marriage supper seen in verses 7-9 is the Kingdom of God on earth. It was first introduced as such by Jesus in Luke 14:15-24 (see notes), and again in Matthew 22:1-14 (see notes). It is explained in detail in Matthew 25:1-13 (see notes). The bride = saints who return with Jesus in verse 14, represented there as the army who accompanies Jesus at his return.
This "marriage supper" is definitely a reference to the millennium - the one-thousand-year period that follows the tribulation when Christ will rule and the throne of David will be renewed. This is that time prophesied by the Old Testament prophets - the kingdom of God on earth. It is also the event about which Jesus spoke with regard to the foolish/wise virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 (see notes). But first, there's a battle to fight - the Battle of Armageddon.
11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God;
18 That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.
19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.
20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.
Yup! Here's the closer! It's the great Battle of Armageddon we've all heard so much about at the end of the seven-year tribulation period. It's not much of a battle really - I mean for all the hype it gets. The enemy forces are assembled beginning back in Revelation 16:12-16 (see notes), which happens to be the only time the reference to "Armageddon" is actually used. The armies of the beast (aka antichrist) gather together; Christ descends with his army and consumes them with the sword of his mouth. Swooooooosh, and it's over! We know the horseman to be Christ from his description in verse 11, "...he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True." Another identifying phrase is found in verse 13 where he is described as "The Word of God." You will recall that John himself wrote of Jesus Christ in his own Gospel in John 1:14 (see notes), "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." No question - it's Jesus Christ himself on that horse leading the battle. The armies on white horses here are probably the Believers who are in Heaven. That means we'll be in the army along with Christ. From this time forward through eternity, Christ will rule the earth.
What happens to the beast/antichrist and false prophet at this point in time? Verse 20 makes clear their fate - an eternity in the Lake of Fire. They'll have company there as we see in that same verse - all the God-hating people of the tribulation period. In addition, we'll see in Revelation 20:11-15 (see notes) that all those who have not received Jesus Christ as personal savior will join them as well.
Incidentally, the association of "Armageddon" with the Valley of Megiddo has been speculated by many students of prophecy over the years. We don't actually know where Armageddon is located. Megiddo itself is located over 50 miles north of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. As a matter of fact, we do know that Jesus' return takes place at the Mount of Olives according to Zechariah 14:4 (see notes) and Acts 1:9-12 (see notes). Not that it matters...really...but Megiddo is a long way from Jerusalem. If the Beast is defending his position in Jerusalem, it does not seem likely that he would station his armies 50 miles north to do so. Therefore, Armageddon seems more likely to be the identification of a position lying closer to Jerusalem.