Friends, we’ve seen that Babylon plays a key role in the history of the world. We’ve discovered that Babylon is the second most often mentioned city in the Bible. Only Jerusalem is spoken of more frequently. Furthermore, fulfilled prophecies of Babylon have helped to build our confidence that what God says in His Word will indeed happen just as He says it will in the future!
We’ve got a few more things to learn about Babylon and the Babylonian systems of religion, commerce and politics. But today we’ll limit our focus to the false religious system that is Babylon.
To set the stage, here is a very brief overview of Revelation that will be helpful in understanding the “bowl judgments” mentioned in Revelation 17. First, Revelation means “to take the cover off.” It is the uncovering of the glory of Christ and of what the future holds.
Keep in mind that Jesus Himself spoke the specific outline of Revelation to the apostle John in Revelation 1:19 when He said, “Write therefore the things which you have seen [past], and the things which are [present], and the things which shall take place after these things [future].” Therefore, Revelation records things of the past in chapter 1, things regarding the present (at the time of John) in chapters 2 and 3, and things that follow the church age in chapters 4-22.
Thus, as you can see, chapter 17 falls within the future revelation of events. In fact, chapters 5-18 describe the Tribulation, during which God will pour out wrath in three stages. These stages are called seal judgments (chapters 5-8:1), trumpet judgments (chapters 8:2-11) and bowl judgments (chapters 16-18), each set of judgments containing 7specific judgments and each getting progressively more wrathful than the previous set of judgments. Most scholars believe that the trumpet judgments launch the second half of the Tribulation. We call the second half of the Tribulation the Great Tribulation.
With that foundation, please read Revelation 17.
As indicated in Revelation 17:1, this is the beginning of the pouring out of the seven bowl judgments…the last and most dramatic of the judgments. Remember, these things take place on earth after believers are raptured, as The Rapture follows chapter 3 of Revelation! Thus, while judgment is being poured out on earth, we celebrate the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven! Chaos on earth, a celebration of believers in heaven! (Refer back to the “Plan of the End” diagram in our first week of study.)
Now, let’s discover what’s on tap for those left on earth during The Great Tribulation while believers are rejoicing with our Lord Jesus in heaven. Using Pastor Mark Martin’s teaching, A Tale of Two Cities, as a foundation, we’ll study through Revelation 17, which reveals the doom of the false religious system.
Keep in mind that this is the revelation of Jesus Christ, given to John in a vision. The great harlot is introduced in verses 1-2, and is identified as the “mother of all harlots” in verse 5. Just who is this “harlot”? Harlotry has to do with unfaithfulness, and harlotry in this case is spiritual unfaithfulness. During the Great Tribulation many will be united to false religions, just as one unfaithful in marriage might be united to someone other than their spouse. That is harlotry.
Think about this: The Tribulation follows The Rapture, which means there will be a huge spiritual void at that time! All sorts of hellish “religions” will break out, Satan will bring about unity within those “religions,” creating one world religion, and the antichrist will come to power religiously.
Verse 3 indicates that this harlot will sit on a scarlet beast. The beast has already been confirmed as the antichrist in Revelation 13:1-9. However, the antichrist will then turn on the false religious system that helped put him in power and will demand to be worshipped.
Now we come to the tale of two cities. The antichrist’s political and financial capital city will be none other than Babylon. Where do you suppose his religious capital will be? If you said “Jerusalem,” you are correct! Interestingly, Babylon means “confusion,” while Jerusalem means “peace.” So, the world is either in confusion or in peace!
A quick glance at Genesis 10:6-10 tells us where this harlotry began. Nimrod, whose name means “let us rebel,” was an original antichrist. He attempted to establish a one world religion, cultivated by his wife, Semiramus. She conceived a child out of wedlock and claimed it was God’s chosen son. Pagan practices such as praying to saints, reciting rote prayers, using beads and speaking of the queen of heaven started here. Nimrod eventually attempted to build a tower into heaven, but God destroyed him. These were the roots of one world religion.
Revelation 17:6-8 packs “code” language for the antichrist. Let’s unpack those verses by looking ahead. Verse 17 reveals a mystery and verse 18 contains seemingly confusing information about the beast. Verses 9 and 10 will tell us more about the mystery, but let’s focus first on verse 8.
That verse tells us that the beast was, is not and will come. Huh!?! What does that mean? Well, this is “code” for antichrist. It is his history! “He was” means that there have been previous manifestations of antichrist. We already mentioned Nimrod, who, though not the ultimate antichrist, was certainly a type of antichrist. You can probably think of others throughout history.
Now let’s tackle “he is not” and “he will come.” “He is not” simply means that the ultimate antichrist had not appeared during this revelation to the apostle John. Thus, at that time, “he was not!” Yet, “he will come” out of the abyss. The demon who will become the antichrist will arise directly out of the abyss. Verse 8 also references the unsaved and says they will wonder. However, as believers, we don’t have to wonder…God has given us the answers!
Do you recall the mystery of verse 7? Please re-read the verse, and then read verses 9-10 that unravel the mystery of seven heads. The seven heads referenced in verse 7 are the 7 mountains spoken of in verses 9-10. There is significant disagreement as to what is meant by 7 heads/mountains. Many believe that is a reference to the 7 hills of Rome, thus, the antichrist is the Roman Catholic Church.
However, I suggest that the woman on the beast is much larger and more encompassing than that. Instead, perhaps the 7 mountains refer to 7 kingdoms, or authorities, upon which the woman sat. (Mountains, in the Bible, often represent kingdoms.) Verse 10 tells us that 5 have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. Correlate that to the succession of world empires, and it is logical to believe that the 5 kingdoms that have fallen are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece (all entered into harlotry); the one that is (at the time this Revelation was given to John) was Rome; and the one yet to come is the antichrist.
According to verse 10, this seventh kingdom (the antichrist) will “remain a little while.” That “little while” is 7 years of The Tribulation. (See Revelation 12:12-14) But verse 11 indicates an eighth kingdom and clearly identifies the antichrist. What’s that all about? How can he be the seventh and the eighth? Good question!
Well, watch this…go to Revelation 13:3! The antichrist dies and comes back to life. Thus, he becomes the seventh and the eighth king! God is into the details, and whether or not we have details exactly perfect, He will cause all future prophecy to be fulfilled just as He says it will be!
But we still have one last part of the mystery spoken of in Revelation 17:7 to unravel. Who are the 10 horns? Those are the 10 European nations (ancient Roman Empire) we studied about in Daniel 2 and 7. Verses 12-13 (of Revelation 17) tell us they will unite to make the antichrist a world dictator and will reign with him for one hour!
Finish up your study of Revelation 17 by reading verses 14-18. According to verses 14-17, what happens to the harlot Now the clincher: according to verse 18, who is the woman?
Indeed, the woman is the great city…Babylon. But her end is not pleasant, as we will see in tomorrow’s study! This is indeed a tale of two cities. In Revelation 16, the great city is Jerusalem. In Revelation 17, the great city is Babylon. One day, the New Jerusalem will not only be the great city once again, but will be our eternal home! Maranatha, Lord Jesus!
My dear friends, you’ve just studied through what many describe as the most difficult chapter in Revelation to understand! Who says Revelation is confusing? We just need wisdom and insight, don’t we! (If it still seems confusing, I encourage you to listen to Pastor Mark’s full teaching.)
God is, indeed, watching over His Word to perform it. Tomorrow we’ll take a peek at the false Babylonian economic and political system, and its ultimate destruction. Today, though, pray for the peace of the great city, Jerusalem!