The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Revelation 17

Rev 17:1

Rev 17; 18: "Rev 17 presents a lurid picture of a gorgeously arrayed harlot riding on a scarlet beast, which is readily identifiable with the Beast of the sea already described in Rev 13. The harlot's confidence is the prelude to her downfall. The Beast has ten horns that represent ten kings accepting his authority. This confederacy turns against her and ravages her to destruction. They then turn against 'the Lamb' but are overcome. Rev 18 expands the brief intimation of the harlot's destruction into an awe-inspiring description of pomp and circumstance being swept away into oblivion" (WRev).

OT cross-references to the fall of "Babylon" in the NT:

(1) References to ancient Babylon:
(2) References to Tyre:
(3) References to Jerusalem:
THE GREAT PROSTITUTE: Faithlessness to God is spiritual adultery (Jam 4:4; Rev 2:20; Jer 3:1-4). Jerusalem herself is pictured as a harlot: Eze 16; 23; Jer 2; 3; Hos 1-4. Fornication, harlotry in a commercial sense: Isa 23:15-18; cp Rev 18:11-17. "Whilst it is true that language of this kind is used in the Old Testament concerning both Tyre (Isa 23:17) and Nineveh (Nah 3:4), the really eloquent passages of this character in the prophets are applied to unfaithful Israel" (WRev).

See also Lesson, Rev 17 woman.

Contrast between Christ and Antichrist:

1. From heaven
Out of the abyss
2. With 7 horns and 7 eyes
With 7 heads, 10 horns
3. King of kings and Lord of lords
Crowns on his horns
4. His name is called The Word of God
Full of names of blasphemy
5. the Lamb associated with Four Cherubim
Composite beast: leopard, bear, lion, dragon
6. The Father's power committed to the Son
The Dragon gave him authority
7. "A Lamb as it had been slain"
Wounded to death
8. "I am he that liveth and was dead"
Deadly wound healed
9. "He opened his mouth and taught them, saying..."
Opened his mouth in blasphemy
10. Michael: Who is like God? "Who shall fear thee, O Lord?"
Who is like unto the Beast?
11. Reigns 100 years
Power 42 months
12. With righteousness he doth judge and make war
Makes war with the saints
13. Redeemed out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation
Power over all kindreds, tongues, nations
14. Every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth worships the Lamb
All that dwell on the earth worship him
15. His Father's name in their foreheads
The mark of the Beast in right hand or forehead
16. The number of Jesus: 888
The number of Man: 666
17. Great multitude which no man could number
Great multitude which no man could number
18. Which is, and was, and is to come
A Beast which was, and is not, and yet is, and goes into perdition
19. Armies in heaven upon white horses
The Beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies
20. A pure river of water of life
Cast into the lake of fire
21. The marriage supper of the Lamb
All the fowls of heaven called to eat the flesh of captains and kings
22. The cherubim rest not day and night, saying, Holy, Holy, Holy
They rest not day nor night, who worship the Beast
23. Has the keys of Death and Hell
The Dragon shut up, chained, in abyss
24. The true Elijah prophet as forerunner
The False Prophet
25. Fire out of heaven devoured them
Fire from heaven in the sight of men

SITS ON MANY WATERS: "The influence of Jerusalem throughout the Roman Empire was amazing. Every city of any size had its colony of Jews, and through the synagogue these all gave allegiance to Jerusalem, making direct annual payments to the temple and accepting the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin" (WRev).

Rev 17:3

INTO A DESERT: "The woman of Rev 12, identified with Israel by the mention of sun, moon and twelve stars, was last seen being pursued into the wilderness by the Dragon. Now she appears again, this time riding on the Beast" (WRev).

BLASPHEMOUS NAMES: See Rev 13:1. The names of blasphemy stand in direct contrast to the name of Yahweh sealed in the foreheads of the redeemed (Rev 14:1).

Rev 17:4

PURPLE AND SCARLET: These are garments of the Jewish priesthood; Exo 28:5,6,8, etc. Cp also Jeremiah's description of 'the daughter of Zion': "Though thou clothest thyself with scarlet, though thou deckest thee with ornaments of gold, though thou enlargest thine eyes with paint, in vain dost thou make thyself fair; thy lovers despise thee, they seek thy life" (Jer 4:30).

GOLD, PRECIOUS STONES, AND PEARLS: The stones of the High Priest's breastplate.

CUP... FILLED WITH ABOMINABLE THINGS: Cup of jealousy (Num 5; Eze 23:25,32-34). "Fill up measure" (Mat 23:28).

ABOMINABLE THINGS: "Bdelugma": used in LXX for idols (2Ki 23:13), and their worship (Deu 18:9). It signifies an object of disgust. Used in Mat 24:15 re Jerusalem.

Rev 17:5

ON HER FOREHEAD: A parody of High Priest, on whose forehead is written "Holiness to Yahweh" (Exo 28:36).

THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES: The language of Ezek 16:44-52.

CH: "This is the perfection of that 'mystery of iniquity' that was working even in Apostolic days (2Th 2:7). The very appearance of the papal system, its monasteries, convents, priests and nuns speak of mystery. It is said that the word 'mystery' was originally engraved on the Pope's tiara, but was removed by Julius III because of embarrassing Protestant comment. The Tridentine Council described the papacy in the terms of this verse, stating: 'The Roman Church is the Mother and Mistress of all the churches.' Gibbon, also, in the 51st chapter of his history, referred to: 'The creed of MYSTERY and superstition which in the 7th century disgraced the simplicity of the Gospel...'

"The word [Babylon] sig 'confusion' (Gen 11:9). The doctrines and institutions of Rome are an adaptation of pagan teaching and rites to Christianity. As such they spell confusion. Rome's ceremonies and beliefs can be traced to Babylon" (ApEp).

Rev 17:6

BLOOD OF THE SAINTS... : "However true this might be of Rome, it was much more true of Jerusalem: 'Upon you will come all the righteous blood shed upon the face of the earth' (Mat 23:35). 'I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute' (Luke 11:49) -- words spoken about Jerusalem. The word 'prophets' here and in Rev 18:24 is specially significant. Rome slew apostles. But were not the prophets, both OT and NT, sent to Israel?" (WRev).

Rev 17:7

The seven heads are seven kings (v 10).

Rev 17:8

WAS... IS NOT, AND WILL COME: A parody of the One whose position he usurps: the One who was, and is, and is to come (Rev 1:8). Cp Rev 17:10n.

WILL COME UP OUT OF THE ABYSS: Identifying it with the beast of Rev 11:7.

DESTRUCTION: "Apoleia". "Perdition" (KJV). This is its destiny, identifying it with 2Th 2:3-8.

Rev 17:9

THE SEVEN HEADS ARE SEVEN HILLS ON WHICH THE WOMAN SITS: "Rome is not the only city in the world built on seven hills. Is not the same true of Jerusalem? What expositors very often overlook is the fact that the hills of Rome are hardly hills; they are certainly not mountains, which is the word used in Rev 17:9. Indeed, the highest of the seven hills of Rome is a mere 150 feet. Italy has the Apennines, so even by Italian standards these are only trivial undulations. In sharp contrast with Rome, Jerusalem is built on seven mountains. The city stands at an altitude of 2400 feet above sea-level" (WRev).

Rev 17:10

FIVE HAVE FALLEN: The oppressors of Israel: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece.

ONE IS: Rome, first century oppressor of Israel.

THE OTHER... A LITTLE WHILE: The final despoiler of the LD, continuing only a short time (3 1/2 yrs?).

Or... the first seven Caesars of Rome: Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius: already dead. The sixth, Nero, was alive when John was given the Revelation; and the seventh was Galba, who reigned only 7 months (June 68 -- Jan 69). This order of the Caesars is that taken from standard works: Suetonius (Lives of the twelve Caesars); Dio Cassius (Roman History 5); Josephus (Antiquities 19.1.11 cp. 18.2.2; 18.6.10). The beast's war with the saints for 42 months (Rev 13:5-7) = the Neronian persecution. Note how Rev 13:12,14 interchanges the head with the whole beast. Mosheim confirms this: "The dreadful persecution which took place by order of this tyrant, commenced at Rome about the middle of Nov 64... this dreadful persecution ceased only with the death of Nero... in the year 68 [June], when he put an end to his own life" (Historical Commentaries 1:138,139).

Rev 17:11

AN EIGHTH KING: (CH) "The Holy Roman Empire was a revival of the Emperial form of government that existed prior to control by the Goths. Thus this 8th head 'is of the seven', that is, a revival of one of the seven. As each head dominated the beast in turn, so the head and the beast is treated as one. This Papal head is to go into perdition" (ApEp).

Rev 17:12

TEN HORNS... TEN KINGS: Ten Arab nations of Psa 83?

ONE HOUR: Or, "one day". A short period.

Rev 17:13

Vv 13,14: 1st century: Roman persecution of followers of Christ. Last Days: The quarrelsome Arabs all agreeing with one another!

(CH) "The horns co-exist with the 8th-head form of the beast. This was the Holy Roman Empire, which comprised a fusion of Catholic countries. As there is a latter-day manifestation of the beast (Rev 16:13), so there must be a revival of this system at the Time of the End.

"Current movements in Europe, particularly those associated with the Common Market and the Treaty of Rome, are suggestive of a latter-day manifestation of the 8th head of the beast with 10 horns" (ApEp).

Rev 17:14

THEY WILL MAKE WAR WITH THE LAMB: CH: "The Beast, the dragon and false prophet, comprising western and eastern Europe in confederacy with the Papacy, will all be represented at Armageddon. The horns are the 'kings of the earth' of Rev 16:14, to be gathered to battle by the Communistic spirit of unrest that shall move all the world.

"Russia in Constantinople (the dragon power) will be the dominant Power. The judgement of Armageddon will overthrow this alliance, and will bring to an end opposition to the rule of the Lord Jesus. A European confederacy of Catholic countries (the Apocalyptic 'beast') will oppose the rising power of Israel under Christ, and will 'make war with the Lamb.' Christ's forces will issue forth against Catholic Europe ultimately bringing it into subjection, as predicted in Rev 19:19-21.

In this place reference is made to the 'beast', 'the kings of the earth' (or horns of the beast), and the 'false prophet'. But not to the 'Dragon' (ct with Rev 16:13), for the Dragon will be completely destroyed at Armageddon, though the beast, the false prophet, and the horns will survive it. The two former will finally also meet their doom when the horns make war with the Lamb" (WRev).

CALLED, CHOSEN AND FAITHFUL: They have the character of Abraham. He likewise was called (Isa 51:2; Heb 11:8), and chosen (Neh 9:7),
and faithful (Rom 4:13). The faithful from Abraham onward are subject to separation and dedication.

Rev 17:15

First century: Rome and its provinces make war on Jerusalem.

PEOPLES, MULTITUDES: = inhabitants of Palestine.

NATIONS AND LANGUAGES: = the Jews of the Dispersion.

Rev 17:16

THEY WILL BRING HER TO RUIN AND LEAVE HER NAKED: "This follows the 'war with the Lamb' (v 14), and since the Lamb overcomes them, the prophecy appears to mention these details in the wrong order. But it is noteworthy that in the First Century the Beast (Rome) and its provinces did make war with the Lamb first... the persecution of the Faith in the time of Nero, but Christianity emerged stronger than ever. Immediately after this, when Nero was dead, the three-and-a-half years' war in Galilee and Judaea began. It ended with the utter destruction of Jerusalem. It is important to note that even if this view be adopted, it should be regarded as a primary fulfilment only. The true fulfilment is yet to come" (WRev).

BURN HER WITH FIRE: Eze 23:25; Lev 21:9 (the punishment for harlotry in a priest's daughter).

Rev 17:18

THE GREAT CITY: Also in Rev 18:10,16. Cp Rev 11:8: "the great city" where Christ was crucified.

THAT RULES OVER THE KINGS OF THE EARTH: CH: "Rome was the city that reigned over the kings of the earth in the days of John. The picture drawn in this verse was a familiar symbol of Rome. In the days of Vespasian... a woman sitting on seven projectiles representing mountains was stamped on coins as a symbol of Rome.

"On a medal dated 1825, issued in the time of Leo XII, the Roman State was represented by a woman holding a crown in her left hand and a cup in her right, with the caption: 'She Sits Upon The Universe' " (ApEp).

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