|<< Rev 16|
|This is the New King James text of the passages.|
Revelation 17-19 Listen
Let's identify the players (Revelation 17)
1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,
2 with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were 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 sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
4 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.
5 And on her forehead a name was written:
MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
6 I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.
7 ¶ But the angel said to me, “Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
9 ¶ “Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.
10 There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.
11 The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.
12 ¶ “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.
13 These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.
14 These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”
15 ¶ Then he said to me, “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.
16 And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.
17 For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.
18 And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns 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, "Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits." 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, "...And the people of the prince who is to 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, "There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time. The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to 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.
The scenario of verse 12 when compared to Daniel 7:24 (see notes) seems to differ. Let's compare Revelation 17:12 with Daniel 7:24:
Revelation 17:12 The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.
Daniel 7:24 The ten horns are ten kings Who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, And 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/bowl 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.
Babylon is destroyed (Revelation 18)
1 After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory.
2 And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!
3 For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”
4 ¶ And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.
5 For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
6 Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her.
7 In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, “I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’
8 Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.
9 ¶ “The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning,
10 standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, “Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’
11 ¶ “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore:
12 merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble;
13 and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men.
14 The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all.
15 The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,
16 and saying, “Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls!
17 For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’ Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance
18 and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, “What is like this great city?’
19 ¶ “They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’
20 ¶ “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!”
21 ¶ Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.
22 The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore.
23 The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived.
24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on 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 After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!
2 For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.”
3 Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!”
4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, “Amen! Alleluia!”
5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying, “Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!”
6 ¶ And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!
7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”
8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
9 ¶ Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”
10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who 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.
And then the mother of all battles - Armageddon! (Revelation 19:11-21)
11 ¶ Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.
12 His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.
13 He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.
15 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND Lord OF Lords.
17 ¶ Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God,
18 that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.”
19 ¶ And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.
20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.
21 And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds 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 became 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.