One of the major challenges in Christendom today is not just the threat of Islam that is taking over church buildings in their hundreds, but also the problem of 'belief crises'. Belief crises is my terminology to describe the phenomenon where professed Christians find it difficult to know what to believe in the Bible. We live in an age where many people who claim to be Christians indulge in selective beliefs and consequently partial commitment to the Word of God. Whilst majority of Christians are uniform in their beliefs on miracles, healing, God-given prosperity, love and service, they differ on what the same Bible teaches about the return of Jesus Christ, the future of the nation of Israel, the condition for salvation, heaven and hell, to name a few. Belief crises is perhaps Satan's most successful weapon against the Church today. And this will get worse as the end of age approaches.
The woman sitting on a scarlet Beast, having seven heads and ten horns. Rev.17:1-4.
The direct effect of belief crises is that Christian folks would not understand the dynamics of the end time just because they never believed in it. As we approach this study on Babylon the Great, it is important the reader believes the Word of God (the Bible) for what it says without giving it some mysterious, figurative interpretations that were never implied either by the study of the root words or by the text itself.
Many Bible scholars, teachers, pastors and ministers are puzzled by the prophecy of Rev.17. Some scholars have good understanding of what it is but would not speak up; some have missed it by miles. We will survey this chapter and try to dig out what it is really talking about. As usual, we would use scriptures to interpret scriptures.
The book of Revelation is a prophecy (Rev.22:7, 18-19). It means the visions of John the Beloved though written in 90AD were declarations of the then future events. They were in most part end time events, meant for our time up to the end of the world. For more background information read the first edition of our expository teaching on It is here.
Rev.17:1 "One of the seven angels who had poured out the seven bowls came over and spoke to me. 'Come with me,' he said, 'and I will show you the judgment that is going to come on the great prostitute, who rules over many waters...'"
When the Spirit of God described this woman as the great prostitute, the human mind might think in terms of a sexual pervert. Although this is inclusive but the Greek word used in this context is 'pornos', meaning a trumpet, and usually translated prostitute, harlot, or whore but figuratively means an idolater. The figurative meaning was implied in Rev.17.
Idolatry involves worshipping of other gods, images and ascribing to man Divine titles and prerogatives. This is what defines the Gentiles, those who do not know God. But why was God concerned about this woman's idolatry? It is just as God was concerned about the idolatry of Judah (Amos 3:2). The idolatry of the heathen does not incite God's wrath, but the idolatry of the children of God provokes God to anger and jealousy. (Jer.2:11, Ezekiel 23). This woman of Rev.17 is not a physical woman, but an institution that is supposed to serve God; she is identified with God but God is disgusted with her idolatry. She appears to the world as a servant of God, but God knows she has departed from the faith unto idolatry.
The human mind might quickly associate this with some river goddess, but this has nothing to do with physical rivers or waters. The Angel who spoke with John interpreted the waters as follows, "Then the angel said to me, 'The waters where the prostitute is ruling represent masses of people of every nation and language...'" (Rev.17:15).
This woman is about the most influential institution or nation on earth. It has almost all nations and languages under control directly or indirectly. This is the institution which directs world affairs; this is the institution that speaks and every other nation or institution or authority listens. The kings of the earth - presidents, heads of state, army generals, world leaders, etc respect her and are influenced by her (Rev.17:2). The Pulpit Bible Commentary stated, "This woman represents the faithless portion of the Church ... that part which, following after worldly things, has thereby rendered to the beast the love and honour due to God alone..."
Rev.17:3 "So the angel took me in the Spirit into the wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that had seven heads and ten horns, and blasphemies against God were written all over it."
In the scriptures, beast is used figuratively to represent world powers. The Babylonian Empire, Medes and Persia and Gracian Kingdom were described as beasts (Dan.7-8 two chapters). Without controversies the same pattern of interpretation was implied in Rev.17. The beast of Rev.17:3 is a world empire or government. At the time John was seeing this vision this Beast was not in existence (Rev.17:8)
"The beast you saw was once alive but isn’t now. And yet he will soon come up out of the bottomless pit and go to eternal destruction. And the people who belong to this world, whose names were not written in the Book of Life before the world was made, will be amazed at the reappearance of this beast who had died."
This explanation given by the Angel shows that the Pagan Rome ruled by the Caesars was not the Beast in question because it was in the days of the Caesars that John was given these visions. The Angel said something remarkable, that is, the Beast had existed and will reappear in future (paraphrased). Can we trace the previous existence of this Beast?
Let us first take a view of what the Beast will look like when it reappears, then we can see what it was in the past. Its future appearance was described in Rev.13:1-2,
"Then I saw a beast rising up out of the sea. It had seven heads and ten horns, with ten crowns on its horns. And written on each head were names that blasphemed God. 2This beast looked like a leopard, but it had the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion! And the dragon gave the beast his own power and throne and great authority."
This Beast existed before not as a single kingdom but as different kingdoms. It is a mixture of the Leopard Kingdom (Gracian Empire), the Bear Kingdom (Medes and Persia Kingdom), and the Lion Kingdom (Babylonian Empire) - Dan.7. If we want to see what the Beast of Rev.17:3 will look like when it reappears we have to check it out in Rev.13. It will be a combination of the tyrannies, cruelty, wealth and pride of the Babylonian, Medeo-Persian and Gracian Empires. That was why it had no specific name but a description (Dan.7:7, 19-28). The Beast described in these scriptures is the same Beast described in Rev.13:1-2, and Rev.17:3. The Angel who spoke to Daniel gave this interpretation, "Then he said to me, 'This fourth beast is the fourth world power that will rule the earth. It will be different from all the others. It will devour the whole world, trampling and crushing everything in its path.'"
We can see from the scriptures that the Beast of Rev.17:3 is the last Gentile world power ruled by the Antichrist; it is not Nero neither does it describe any of the rulers of the Pagan Roman Empire.