We have seen that there are five enemies of Christ and His church in the world: The dragon (Satan), the beast out of the sea (the anti-christ); the beast from the earth (the false prophet), the great prostitute (symbolically called Babylon) and all those that bear the mark of the beast. These are the ones that make the life of the church in the world so difficult.
You will remember that this is the starting point in John’s revelation of the 7 letters to the 7 churches (Rev 2 &3). Ephesus (2:1-7) was tested by false apostles (2:2) and the false doctrine of the Nicolaitans (2:6) ; Smyrna ( 2:8- 11) was severely affected by the slander of the synagogue of Satan, and by Satan’s severe temptations; Pergamum (2:12-17) was living in the shadow of Satan’s earthly throne (2:13) and affected by the false teaching of the Nicolaitans (2:15); The church at Thyatira ( 2:18-29) was seduced by a false prophetess called Jezebel; Sardis (3:1-6) had fallen into a spiritual state of apathy; Philadelphia (3:7-13) was also battered by a so called synagogue of Satan while Laodicea (3:14-22), under the influence of material prosperity had become lukewarm in her affection for Jesus.
Each one of these seven churches battled for spiritual survival, facing the daily onslaught of Satan, the anti-christ, the false prophet , the great prostitute and those who bear the mark of the beast.
This is the battle which every local church faces in this world. The apostle Paul describes it in Eph. 6. Jesus has warned us concerning this. He who has an ear to hear , let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. The church living between His ascension and His descension must remain alert to these realities. Jesus says at the end of this book: “ I Jesus have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches .” (22:16a)
Last time we considered the 7 bowl judgments (Rev.16), and we noted that with these the judgment of God will be complete. We also saw, that just as in the case of the 10 plagues upon Egypt (Ex. 7- 12), God’s people are spared in this final judgment because they have been sealed with the name of God and of his Christ. [Note: God will not remove His people from the earth at this time as some say, but He will miraculously preserve them, just as He preserved His people in Egypt,whilst He was judging Egypt.]
The sixth bowl judgment makes mention of the final battle resulting in the defeat of Satan and all of those allied with him. This is the battle of Armageddon (16:16) which is both Satan’s final assault upon the church and also the record of his final defeat. From now on it is all downhill for Satan and his unholy alliance. In Chapters 17 & 18 we shall witness the total destruction of Babylon, the symbolic city of fallen man, which has existed in opposition to Jerusalem, the symbolic city of God and of the redeemed man. When the seventh bowl is poured out (16:17-21) Babylon, the great city is “split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell” (16:19) collapsed. Then, in Revelation 19 we read of the fate of the beast and the false prophet. In Revelation 20, we read of the fate of Satan (the dragon) after which Revelation 21-22 concludes with the description of the new heavens and the new earth - the glorious future of the people of God.
THE HISTORY OF THE GREAT PROSTITUTE – BABYLON
Chapter 17 begins with these words: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, `Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who is seated on many waters…”. Here is an important contrast being made between the prostitute and the bride, the wife of the Lamb (Rev. 21:9). The prostitute is the picture of ultimate perversion and wickedness (17:2). She is identified as “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (17:5), who “is seated on many waters” (17:1). In v. 15 the metaphor of the waters is explained: “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.” This is indicative of the fact that her dominion extends to all “peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.” Her sin is depicted in Rev.17:2, in terms of sexual immorality, which is a metaphor used throughout the Old Testament for spiritual unfaithfulness. With her “the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of those whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”
O, what power this prostitute has over the world! The sexual imagery used here is symbolic (spiritual unfaithfulness), but it is also deliberate. How this perverted sexuality (promoted by internet pornography) is breaking communities apart! The church at Thyatira was said to have been seduced by such a woman, Jezebel.
Now, while Babylon has always been the epitome of evil in the OT, in John’s time the city of Rome and the Roman empire had taken that place. Babylon and Rome symbolize the city of man in every age. Cities are the places where such evil is bred. Cities are places of sensuality. Such cities seduce people away from the gospel into the arms of the great prostitute.
We shall now see that such a city cannot stand. The truth is that prostitutes aren’t loved. They are used, and as soon as they have been exploited , they shall be forsaken. We shall see that this is exactly what happens in 17:16, in conclusion of this chapter .
In 17:3 John is carried away in the Spirit into a wilderness , where he now witnesses the destruction of Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations. Her appearance is described in detail in vv. 3-6. She was clearly dressed to kill. John says that she was “dressed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls”. She was “holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality” (17:5). A mysterious title is inscribed on her forehead, “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations .” She is identified as the one responsible for “ the blood of the martyrs of Jesus “(17:6)
She rides on a scarlet beast that was “full of blasphemous names, and it had 7 heads and ten horns.” (cf 13:1). The prostitute and the beast are clearly in a symbiotic relationship. The anti-christ who holds the real power makes sure that this woman is well supplied, and she in turn does her destructive work on his behalf. In John’s day the anti-christ made sure that Rome would prosper, and that she in turn would make sure that the Lord’s people – the true Christians would be killed and persecuted or subverted. Truly, the city of Rome “was drunk with the blood of the saints”. Note, that the Romans were involved in handing Jesus over to the cross.
When John first sees her in this vision he says : “… I marveled greatly” (17:6). It is as if John sees here for the first time just how powerful the wicked culture of the city of man can be. The angel however interrupts him: ‘why do you marvel ? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast with the seven heads and ten horns that carries her .’”(v.8)
The explanation now follows: “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 beast , as we have repeatedly said, is the anti- christ, the imitation of Christ, for he was, is not, and is yet to come. [Christ, “who is , and who was and who is to come.” Rev. 1:4 ] We first met him in Ch. 13 where he had received a mortal wound to his head, a which was miraculously healed (13:3) and in that sense he was , was not , and yet has come. The spirit of the anti-christ does not seem to die in this world. He is always resurrected after he has been dealt a mortal blow. In John’s time he persecuted the church by the means of the Roman empire, and in the course of time the Roman empire was judged and came to nothing. But he always comes back in the form of a Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung. Pol Pot, Idi Amin.
Moreover, it seems as if John speaks here of a future manifestation of this anti-christ, more terrifying, associated with the second coming of Christ. It is the event associated with the battle at Armageddon (16:16) on the day of God the Almighty (16:14) when an overwhelming enemy will attempt to swallow up the work of God. This event is referred to in Rev 20:7-10 when the devil comes up out of the bottomless pit, after he had been bound for a thousand years. The beast will come up from the bottomless pit at the same time, and this will be the time of his destruction, along with those whose names were not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world.
So, then, in a nutshell: The battle of Armageddon (the sixth bowl judgment 16:12-16), the seventh trumpet (11:15-19), the judgment of the beast and of the false prophet and of Satan (20:10), all occur at the same time! It will happen at the end of the thousand years spoken of in Rev. 20. What we are saying therefore is that we are now living in these 1000 years – that time between the first and second coming of Christ.
So what can we expect in future ? Satan and his anti-christ and the false prophet will make a spectacular comeback immediately before our Lord’s return. The whole world will marvel at him (v.8). From our perspective we need not be afraid . This is the indication that judgment day is at hand!
In Rev. 17:9, the angel reminds John, “This calls for a mind with wisdom” . Verses 9 & 10 are difficult to interpret.
The angel now explains the matter concerning “the seven heads which are seven hills on which the woman sits”. This is mostly likely an allusion to the city of Rome, known for its seven hills. But clearly the angel has more in mind than this. He says that the seven mountains, “are also seven kings.” Seven mountains and seven kings not only refer to the city of Rome and the Roman empire, persecuting the church even while John was writing, but it relates to the whole world , since the beast was given authority over every people, nation and tongue and nation ( cf. 17: 1 à 17:15 ; see also 13:7)
The angel says that five of the seven kings have fallen , one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.” There are many theories as to who these kings might be . It is perhaps better not to view this succession of kings historically, but theologically. The number 7, is the number of completion. From this perspective the seven kings represent the entire history of fallen mankind . By the time of the coming of Christ, five of these empires have come and gone, with John and his readers facing the sixth empire (Rome), with a seventh yet to come, who will remain for a brief period short time. The angel says furthermore that after these seven kings have come and gone, one of the earlier kings, (connected to the beast) re-appears, as an eighth king , who will be destroyed very quickly - relating again to the battle of Armageddon when Satan seeks to destroy the kingdom of God only to be destroyed himself.
If true, as stated before this means we can expect an unprecedented world wide manifestation of Satanic power. In this the anti-christ will dazzle the world, and many will actually worship him (the beast) , as he seeks to deal the church a final death blow. Expect to see a time of great peace and prosperity in the world, but expect also that the world’s worship of the beast, will lead to an unsurpassed persecution of God’s people.
This same pattern follows with the ten kings depicted in verses 12-14. Like the seven kings, the ten kingdoms, depicted by the ten horns, will be the servants of the anti-christ , but they can ultimately not prevail against the King of Kings.
As this chapter closes, an amazing thing happens. The great prostitute, the city of fallen man is now discarded by the anti-christ in the same way as a prostitute is discarded by her lovers . In v.15, we learn of the prostitute’s fate. “Then the angel said to me, `The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute etc.
When the end finally comes, Satan’s kingdom will be divided against itself and the first casualty will be the prostitute. I remind you that Babylon and Rome fell under the weight of their immorality, when they were attacked by the very nations who profited from the systems that they had created (trade, infra structure, order etc.) So too, the prostitute who served the anti-christ so well, will come to an end at the hand of the anti-christ, who now hates her.
In Revelation 18, we will read of two angels and a voice from heaven, which will explain the meaning of the great downfall of the prostitute.
For us who read this prophecy, this is all very encouraging. Our Christ is in control. The city of man is not our everlasting city. The beauty, celebrity and wealth of the great prostitute, the city of man is a mere illusion
Be warned then , not to allow yourself to be caught up in the externals of what the city of man offers. Unfortunately many have been led away in this way from the bridegroom,
Brothers and sisters let us take note and ask ourselves how we might protect ourselves from all these things which we see even now, so that we might not loose the sight of our heavenly city and our heavenly bridegroom. Amen .
 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22
 E.g. the rapture theory of the pre-millenialists, by which they claim that God will take His church out of the world before what they call “the great tribulation”
 Refer to last exposition for the details to the battle of Armageddon
 Ezekiel 16:15-34
 an image of a temple prostitute, known to John’s readers.
 There was incidentally a story (The Nero Redivivus legend) that went around in AD 67 after Nero had died , that he was miraculously resurrected , only to come back stronger than ever.
 Har Magedon- on the mount of assembly (or Mt Zion) – see previous exposition
 just as it did to understand the mysterious 666 the number of the beast.
 Most commentators try to fit these seven kings into the four great empires of Daniel 7:17; other to the succession of Roman emperors beginning with Caesar Augustus down through eight successive emperors. The problem is that these theories really do not add up .