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Lowell Brueckner

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Revelation 17


Chapter 17

1.  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,

2.  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.”

3.  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.

4.  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.

5.  And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”

6.  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.

7.  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 prostitute and mother of prostitutes

One of the seven angels of the bowls of wrath reveals the fall of Babylon to John, therefore its fall takes place during the time of the outpouring of the bowls. Verse 19 of the last chapter points us to a spiritual principle, concerning God’s measurement of sin. In that verse, Babylon the great has measured up to the full and the time of her judgment had come. Zechariah, in his seventh vision, brings the same principle to our attention, illustrated by an ephah, a Jewish measurement of about one bushel of dry material (Zech.5:5-11). He sees a receptacle which contains that amount and symbolically, it represented the collective sins of a people in Zechariah’s land that had come to its fullness.

The sins of the people in the time of Noah reached this point and in Genesis 15:16, God tells Abraham that the sins of the Amorites was not yet complete. That would happen in another four generations. Daniel told King Belshazzar, “You have been weighed on the scales and found deficient” (Dn.5:20, 22, 27). Belshazzar’s ephah is full of deficiency! Jesus said to the Jews of His day, “Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers” (Mt.23:32).

In the ephah is a woman representing the sin of the people and it is carried into Shinar, originally Babel, and later Babylon. The “ephah people” are taken into the land of false religion and idolatry. This woman becomes a part of the great Babylonian harlot. Scofield comments, concerning Babylon in Revelation: “The professing Gentile church at that time, condoning every iniquity of the rich, doctrinally a mere “confusion”, as the name indicates, and corrupted to the core by commercialism, wealth, and luxury, falls under the judgment of God.”

The harlot has great popular influence, which is symbolized by drunkenness (v.2). People enter into an unreal, fantasy world, which holds them bewitched and deceived. Truth is an unwelcome intrusion into this atmosphere of falsehood and is met by violence. This is a mystery and John, as well as his readers, must be in the Spirit in order to interpret this wonder (v.3). On her forehead is her title: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (v.5).

Babylon is a system that is, in the first place, religious, then financial and political. The title of a prostitute and of sexual fornication is symbolic of a greater evil… idolatry, compromise with the world, and false doctrine. This symbolism will find a fulfillment in any period of church history. The symbol of the true church is that of a virgin (2 Co.11:2) and false religion is harlotry, which has abandoned holiness and truth. False religion is the chief persecutor of the saints and works in conjunction with people in high places. In John’s day, Judaism combined with Rome to fight against the church and false “Christians” were corrupted. They have been carried out of the beautiful atmosphere of purity into a desert of sin and compromise.

As well as being the enemy and murderer of the true people of God, the prostitute is the epitome of self-indulgence and has gone to the top of the world to attain it. She is dependent and enriched by high society and secular government. She comes onto the scene, seated on many waters and riding a scarlet beast. The waters symbolize her popularity among the people of the world. She is elegantly attired and bedecked with jewels.

The church in Thyatira was plagued by the doctrine of Jezebel, which called for compromise with the world system (please review the comments of David Barnhart on Revelation 2:18-29 in my blog). The spirit of Jezebel has continued its influence throughout church history. Do we realize how strong its influence is in our day? How many churchgoing people today deny the virgin birth of Christ and His deity? How many church members believe in the supernatural emphasis in the Bible? We might be surprised at the percentages. This all relates to the power of Babylon working in our day, preparing people for the entrance of world religion allied with the spirit of antichrist. Heed the warnings of Paul: 1 Timothy 4:1-16; 2 Timothy 3:1-17.

The world has known the Babylonian influence almost from the very beginning. Nimrod, the founder, was a hunter of men (Ge.10:9), and that term has produced the end-time scene that we are witnessing. Babylon appeals to men by false teachings, a promise of riches and power and hunts down and kills all opposition. The Babylon religious system has given birth to all false religions. It is the mother of harlots. The Babylonian emperor, Nebuchadnezzar, made room for a special spiritual department in his government. Experts of history tell us that early Babylonian religion had an amazing similarity to Christianity. They even provided the image of a Madonna and son, worshiping it, and allowed for a death and resurrection to the son.

As I write to you, I have been closely following Warren Wiersbe’s comments on Babylon, since he reflects most of my own viewpoints on the matter, and he states: “Today, some believers see ‘the harlot’ and the Babylonian system in an apostate ‘world church’ that minimizes doctrinal truth, rejects the authority of the Word, and tries to unite professed believers on some other basis than faith in Jesus Christ.” Later, he writes: “Perhaps Peter was using Babylon as a ‘code name’ for Rome when he wrote his first letter (1 P.5:13),” I believe also that that which Wiersbe suspects in the last sentence is very possible.

There is no question that John, taught by the angel, in the present tense, saw the woman as Rome, “The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated (Rome always had the fame of being situated on seven hills)… the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth” (v.9, 18). In John’s day, Rome was the center of a religion, which was derived from Babylon, and because the Caesar was a fanatic proponent of Roman religion, he saw John, the last and only living apostle, as a threat, so he exiled him to the isle of Patmos.

Do we not see the same characteristics in the Rome of our day? She is now the proponent of an ecumenicalism, which even reaches outside of Christianity to other major religions of the world. The modern professor of Christianity tends to ignore history. The Roman Catholic Church, which has approximately 1.3 billion members as of 2017, has achieved her wealth, power and popularity, since the Fourth Century, at the same time that she persecuted millions of true believers. Never forget, she is drunk with the blood of the saints!

8.  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.

9.  This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated;

10. 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.

11. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.

12. 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.

13. These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast.

A scarlet beast plus ten kings

The scarlet beast has all the marks of Satan, including his typical color and the ascension from the bottomless pit. He comes straight from the devil’s realm and he is the antichrist. Chapter 17 adds more detail to the description of the same beast in chapter 13; you may want to read that chapter again and refer to my comments.

It is convenient for the beast to allow the prostitute to take advantage of his authority in the end times, as she has done with governments throughout history. His motive is to unite the religions of the world behind his reign. In spite of the religious exterior, the world in his day is typified by blasphemy and a lack of the fear of God. The antichrist must create this atmosphere, in order to bring about universal acceptance of anti-God man-worship.

The beast existed at an earlier point in history, then disappeared off the map, and returns via the bottomless pit, a supernatural plan from hell. In the mind of the sovereign God, he reappears for his own destruction.  The population of earthlings are intrigued by his reappearance, recognizing his prominent place in past history.  

Besides symbolizing seven mountains, according to the revelation given by the angel, the seven heads of the beast show the history of world empires (v.9-10). A dream of Nebuchadnezzar depicted these empires from his day forward (Daniel 2), just as Daniel’s dream of four beasts did, at a later date (Daniel 7). However this is a fuller revelation that takes us back to the Egyptian civilization. Five kings have fallen: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. The Roman Empire is now in power in John’s day and the last is still future for John and for us. It will only rule for 3 ½ years (Rev.13:5).

Heaven sees these seven representatives of man’s rule and authority as one. The antichrist is one of them, becoming the seventh empire, completing the number of heads on the beast. However there are ten horns on the beast, as well, and these form a rule, which is unique and different, a manifestation that appears in the end times (v.11). They unite with the antichrist after the Abomination of Desolation . The ten horns are contemporary kings in Daniel’s 70th Week, ruling together and giving their authority over to the beast (v.11-12). They all have the same mentality, which I think will be a display of a kind of humanism, at its highest level with supernatural power, supplied by Satan.

In the book of Daniel, we learn that these ten kings actually extend from the fourth kingdom seen by Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel, that is, the Roman Empire (Dn.2:40-41 and Dn.7:7-8, 11-12). It will be separated in time by many centuries, but it will reappear as a revival of the fourth empire. We may well be experiencing the beginning of its rule in the form of the European Union. We must leave the details in God’s hands, but at the same time, we should be attentive, as it unfolds.     

Please read again comments from Warren Wiersbe: “Recall that at the opening of the first seal (Rev.6:1-2), Antichrist began his ‘peaceful’ conquest of the nations. He organized a “United States of Europe”, brought peace to the Middle East, and appeared to be the great leader the troubled world was seeking. But in the midst of the seven-year period, this ruler broke his covenant with Israel (Dn.9:27) and began to persecute the people of God as well as the nation Israel… In this way, ‘the beast’ was both ‘one of the seven kingdoms, but also ‘the eighth’. His kingdom was nothing but revival of the Roman Empire (one of the seven), but it was a new kingdom (the eighth).”

14. 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.

15. And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”

Hatred against the prostitute

Ultimately the ten kings and the antichrist will make open war against the Lamb and they will fall, as we will see in chapter 19. We will also see His absolute authority in the same chapter as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. No one on earth or from the bottomless pit can stand against Him. He is the mighty, undefeated Champion and His followers are chosen by God for their faithfulness, because they have been called out of the world and empowered by the Holy Spirit. There has never been an army like His and they follow Him in chapter 19.

In verse 15, we have a clear definition of the water upon which the prostitute sat. They are from the four divisions of the population of the world, of which we have read on other occasions… peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. This is why the beast needed an alliance with her, in order to gain the backing of the people. They are characteristically religious and Babylon has known how to capitalize on that fact. She has found a way to make all the religions one, through a powerful ecumenical movement. It’s already taking place in the 21st Century.

The prostitute and the beast work in harmony during the first 3 ½ years of Daniel’s Seventieth Week – as a convenience, religion and government unite. However, a tremendous change takes place, when the antichrist assumes his seat at the Abomination of Desolation, in a devilish quest for full, unchallenged worship. Already, the enemy has placed a disdain for all religion at governmental levels. We see it taking place around the world where that, which relates to God, is being removed from public attention. At the same time, free rein is given to blasphemy, perversion, and the destruction of human life. Religion must still be tolerated in our day, but there is an underlying hatred for it.

It is this hatred that will cause the destruction of Babylon. The 10 kings and the beast will strip her of adherents and leave her desolate and alone. They will take away her possessions and riches and finally burn her to the ground. The great harlot will exist no longer.

The Scripture teaches time and again that God is absolutely sovereign. Even these events are in His hands and in fact, he has sown the seed in the hearts of all involved in order to bring them to pass. In the end, it all serves His purpose. It all fulfills prophecy, which He is even now revealing to us, as we study this final prophetical book. These things will happen, exactly as God says that they will.


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