A Study of Revelation 17:1-4
If we desire to be wise in the sight of God so that we can understand what God has written, and if we desire to have discernment in spiritual matters so that we can discern between good and evil, then it is of the utmost importance that we have a clear conception of this picture of Babylon that God is painting before our eyes here in Revelation 17 and 18.
Not only is it important from a doctrinal point of view, but it is also necessary for a practical reason. From Revelation 18:4 the voice of God comes to our ears, saying, “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
This is a practical command which tells us that the people of God may never have spiritual fellowship with the people who are of this Babylon. And in order to go out of her, and refuse to have fellowship with her, we must be able to discern her among the many religious movements of our days.
Therefore a clear understanding of the character and manifestation of Babylon, the great harlot, is of extreme practical importance. The angel said to John:
Come, I Will Show Unto Thee the Great Harlot (Revelation 18:4, Revelation 17:1-6, Revelation 16:20, Revelation 11:8, Revelation 14:8, Revelation 16:19)
And there came one of the seven angels (messengers) which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
Now we need to take a step back and look at what we have discovered so far in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
After the 7th vial of the wrath of God has been poured into the air we read in Revelation 16:20: “And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.”
In other words, after chapter 16 there is no history any more. All has been finished. The seven vials have been poured out. Antichrist and all the unsaved in the world have been through the battle of the Last Day, which is Armageddon. The saints have been raptured and stand with Christ to judge the unsaved. All the unsaved have been through the winepress of the wrath of God and now they stand before the Judgment throne. Time has come to an end.
There is no Babylon any more. Therefore it is impossible to conceive of the events pictured in the following three chapters as if these would chronologically follow chapter 16. The way we must see these chapters is as presenting to us a more detailed picture of something we have already been told before in broad outlines. We have here in chapters 17 and 18 a detailed portrait of Babylon and the fall of Babylon.
However the fall of Babylon should not be confused with the literal destruction of the world.
God is describing something more perplexing and puzzling to us than this earth’s destruction on the Last Day.
What could be more perplexing than this earth going up in a ball of fire?
To answer this we must delve into the depths of the MYSTERY with which this global harlot clings to. We have read before of Babylon.
In Revelation 11:8 we have seen her as the outward holy city, but where her name was identified with Sodom, and Egypt, and where our Lord was crucified. Here we saw the first indication of Jerusalem as the city which essentially is Babylonian in character and which persecutes the witnesses of Jesus. Yes indeed, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League has pressured the US State Department to define anti-Semitism in a way that makes Bible believing Christians into anti-Semites, and we could be held guilty of hate crimes and be persecuted for that.
Again we read in Revelation 14:8 the announcement that: “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication”.
And in Revelation 16:19 we read: “And great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.”
God calls her “that great city”, and God calls her “Great Babylon”.
Even though she is an enemy of God, God assigns to her a greatness because first of all she is a great enemy, and secondly God classifies her as having something very special about her.
The Seat of the Beast (Revelation 16:10, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4)
And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat (the throne) of the beast; and his kingdom was (became) full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain.
Is this not a strange verse?
Is not the kingdom of the beast always full of spiritual darkness?
Why then did the kingdom of the beast only now become full of darkness when the 5th vial was poured out upon the throne of the beast?
This can only occur if the beast, which is Antichrist, conquered someone else’s kingdom, and then that kingdom becomes full of darkness.
What is that kingdom that the beast conquers, and where the beast sets up his throne?
We read in 2 Thessalonians 2 where that is:
2 Thessalonians 2:1
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,
2 Thessalonians 2:2
That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.
2 Thessalonians 2:3
Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;
2 Thessalonians 2:4
Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.
This passage says that there will be a falling away from the truth of the Gospel. God is not referring to a few people who are defecting to the cults, but He is referring to a great falling away from churches all over the world. We see here the success of Antichrist to infiltrate the churches with false gospels. In the past centuries Satan has tried to stamp out the church by persecuting the church and physically killing the true believers. Remember for example the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, where in the kingdom of France in one night the Roman Catholic population slaughtered all the protestant people of that nation.
They dragged them out of bed and killed them, men, women and children. Or think of the Roman Catholic Inquisition which was responsible for burning at the stake many thousands of true believers, most of those were the Protestants whom they hated. But Satan’s objectives were never achieved for the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the true church. But here in 2 Thessalonians 2 we read that in the end times Satan has switched to Plan B: he does not fight the churches but he is joining them. And the result is a great apostasy all over the world.
And who is the man of sin, the son of perdition?
He is Antichrist, the anointed of the Devil. Since Satan is a spirit he needs a body to sit in the temple of God, which in the New Testament time is the church. The outward manifestation of the kingdom of God on this earth is the church. If Satan takes over the churches in the world then he must indwell the preachers in those churches, which means that he must be in the pulpit of many churches at the same time.
Satan cannot be omnipresent, but he has many demons that will gladly indwell the many preachers who are still unsaved.
Unsaved preachers and unsaved pastors?
How does this condition of the church come into being?
Well, for many years Satan has infiltrated the seminaries with plans of salvation that are O-so-close to the true gospel.
They have been tolerant of the Arminian Free-Will gospel that is so popular with people these days, and they have been tolerant of the Charismatic gospel that is so popular with people these last days, and they have been tolerant of the Prosperity gospel that is so popular with people these last days, and they have been tolerant of the Self-esteem gospel out of California that is so popular with people these last days, and they have been tolerant of the Purpose Driven Church gospel out of California that is so popular with people these last days.
All these gospels have made inroads into the Seminaries and have produced many preachers who are committed, but remained unsaved.
Remember the 200 million horsemen of Revelation 9 who are attacking the third part of mankind, and remember the third part of Zechariah 13?
The third part of Zechariah 13 is the church, and this is how satan has prepared the seminaries and the pulpits for many years.
And so we see that Antichrist is not one person, but he is the embodiment of Satan and all his demons in many preachers and teachers who are peddling a gospel that is not the Gospel of the Bible. And so we see where the seat of the beast is. The seat of the beast is in the church, and the church is being enveloped in total darkness.
Total Darkness (Revelation 11:7-8, Revelation 13:7-8)
By pouring out the 5th vial on the seat of the beast, God is saying that the churches which have been taken over by Satan are enveloped in total darkness. This darkness does not come suddenly at the end of time, for we must remember that the seven vials are poured out simultaneously, and thus this darkness is a condition that exists for as long as that church has been taken over.
And does it not fully agree with Revelation 11:7-8 that Antichrist shall overtake the church and silence the true Gospel?
And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
The two witnesses, representing those who preach the true Gospel, are silenced. All that is left of the True-church is an empty shell. All who are left in the organized churches are the False-church and the Show-church. All who are left in these organized churches shall cozy up to the religion of Sodom, and they shall cozy up to the religion of Egypt, the house of bondage. And is it not true that today we see a great deal of interest in the churches to justify homosexuality as an inherited condition; nothing you can do about it.
And is it not true that today we see a great deal of interest in morality preaching, laying down the law again, which people consider “practical preaching”, but which brings us back to the heresy that we will be saved if we live a good life.
Why is this not preached in the churches?
Why is it not preached that the Bible prophesies that the church is in danger of falling prey to Satan?
Why is it not preached that the church shall fall away into apostasy, so that we can arm ourselves for this battle?
And arm ourselves we must, by understanding the truth of the Gospel, and to trust in the righteousness of Christ that He has atoned for all our sins, and to prepare ourselves to bring the Gospel of peace to whosoever is willing to hear, and to defend ourselves with the shield of faith that God has given us, and to believe the hope of salvation for body and soul that God promised with an oath, and to take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, in every occasion where we must take a militant stand against the wiles of the Devil.
Why is it not preached that the church is in great danger?
The evidence for this in the Bible is overwhelming.
And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Is it not crystal clear that the churches will be under severe attack from Antichrist, and that he shall overcome them, and that entire denominations will go apostate?
I will tell you why it is not preached today. Pastors are deadly afraid that the members of their congregations will discover these verses themselves, and then pastors are afraid they will lose their jobs, and lose their pensions, and lose their housing allowances, and lose their car allowances, and lose their medical benefits, and insurances, and their 401-K, and so on. And if you think I am exaggerating, remember that most pastors get these fringe benefits in addition to their salaries.
You might wonder why they should receive any salaries in addition to the enormous value of all these fringe benefits. But it is no secret that in the United States most pastors live in luxury compared to the living standards of the members in their churches. Gone are the days of living in poverty for the sake of Christ and for the furtherance of the Gospel. And so, because they do not want to lose their lucrative jobs, and because they did not develop any skills to do any other job, they remain silent about those parts of Scripture that might jeopardize their position.
And so, they follow where the money goes. That is why they keep their congregations in the dark about the great apostasy. And as a diversion maneuver they keep their congregations in suspense about great army movements in the Middle East, with spectacular speculations about a single person who is called Antichrist, and who will be defeated by a small Israeli army in a place called Armageddon, near the Mound of Megiddo.
But it is all a diversion maneuver to keep our eyes peeled in the distance to a land far far away, so that it does not affect us personally in the here and now. This is total darkness! This is the total darkness that enveloped the seat of the beast. With this introduction you might now be ready to receive the revelation that God has placed in the Bible in these two chapters about:
Mystery Babylon (Revelation 17:5, Genesis 11:9)
Let us turn again to Revelation 17:5. We presently are living in an era that is unprecedented in the history of the world. An era where even the people in the churches have little tolerance for religious concepts and principles taught in the Bible. It is an era where people do not want to know the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is given to us in the Bible. It is an era where people do dot consider the Bible as the Word of God, God speaking. It is an era where churches are discarding religious practices used for centuries, for a more suitable form of religion that will unite the masses into one watered down and totally ecumenic religious order. It is an era where tolerance for other religions is held as a primary doctrine that may not be violated.
Indeed we are living extremely close to an era that may very well be called
“The Abomination of Desolation”.
The only remedy for the errors of the churches in this era is the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But this light is rapidly fading because the churches do not want a Christ who is totally sovereign and righteous as the Bible describes Him, especially here in Revelation. His sovereignty and His righteousness scares them, and thus they are bowing down to a different Christ, who is more a servant than a sovereign God.
And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
This messenger showed John a woman, who is a whore. A whore, or a harlot, is a woman who sells her body for fornication. But in Biblical language a whore, or a harlot, is someone who commits spiritual fornication. It is someone who goes after other gospels, worships other gods, or engages in other kinds of idolatry. We must understand that especially here in the Revelation of Jesus Christ God uses symbolic language. Therefore these chapters must be understood in accordance with their symbolism the way those symbols are used throughout the Scriptures.
The name of this woman as written upon her forehead is “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT”. The first word is “Mystery”.
What is a mystery?
In the Bible a mystery is not something mysterious, as in the English language, but it is something that has been hidden in the Scriptures throughout the centuries, and it is made known only by Divine intervention at an appointed time, and is revealed only to those whom God through His Holy Spirit desires to give this knowledge. And thus a “mystery” is something hidden, but it will be revealed. Secondly, the word “Mystery” is not found in the Old Testament.
It is a word that is found 27 times in the New Testament. And from the New Testament verses we learn that this word is strictly associated with the many secrets and mysteries of God, already written in the Old Testament, but now revealed in the New Testament as mysteries of God, and mysteries of the Gospel, and mystery of Christ with His church, and mystery Babylon, just to name a few.
Thirdly, in all these 27 times where the word “mystery” is found the spirituality of the things of God are addressed. Therefore, when we read in the title “Mystery, Babylon” we realize immediately that this Babylon could not possibly refer to anything outside the church of God. It must have to do with the church.
The name Babylon derives from an earlier city which was named Babel in Genesis 11:9, where we read, “Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.”
The name “Babel” or “Babylon” means “confusion”. God confused their language and scattered them upon the face of the whole earth. Man’s purpose for the city of Babel was to have their own gods, even heaven itself, and yet maintain their own destiny. Instead God sends them confusion. As we track Babylon throughout Scripture we can expect to see this character of confusion and apostasy remaining with her down to the last mention of her as the great whore in Revelation 19:2.
Throughout Scripture Babylon is associated with pride and rebellion against God. God condemned Babylon for her pride. Babylon of old was destroyed and became a desolation and a dry land, and became uninhabited until this very day. This, however, is falling far too short of being God’s final outcome and teaching of Babylon. God has much more in view than a history lesson of a city that was destroyed because of her pride toward God. All the nations of the earth fall under this category. All nations as a whole are proud toward God. There is only one nation that is truly humble and God-fearing, and that is the nation consisting of all those whom God shall save, which is the remnant chosen by grace from all the nations of the world.
A superficial reading of Revelation 17 and 18 may leave the impression that these chapters are describing the destruction of a large city of this world, like New York, which would be code named “Babylon”.
But this is not the case.
There is a spiritual and symbolic teaching concerning Babylon which runs throughout Scripture like a thread, culminating in Revelation 18. All the Old Testament prophecies concerning Babylon will in the spiritual sense only be fulfilled in the confines of the end time Babylon. But there is more.
There is something incomprehensible, something of amazement and astonishment to all who come to a more clear understanding of these passages in Revelation 17 and 18.
Babylon is far more than just a wicked city. And Babylon is in these two chapters being judged at the end of the Final Tribulation Period, at the height of wickedness. Therefore these two chapters in Revelation with regard to Babylon are speaking of the worst conditions possible: There in Babylon spiritual degradation exists to the highest extent. She, Babylon the great harlot, is being judged. And this judgment seems to take place immediately before the coming of Christ. Now let us take a close look at this city, which is here described as a woman.
The Woman in the Wilderness (Revelation 17:3, Revelation 12:1-2, Revelation 12:14, Psalm 2:7, Malachi 4:2, Revelation 1:20, Ezekiel 16:8-22)
So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
Babylon, the woman, is pictured as sitting upon the beast that has ascended out of the Bottomless Pit. And in verse 6 we read that John was amazed and wondered with great amazement at the sight of this woman. John was astonished.
Why was John astonished?
He had seen this woman before. Her general features were still the same, but now she is allied with the scarlet colored beast that carries her.
When had John seen this woman before?
And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered.
As we have seen in Revelation 12, this woman represents the Old Testament church, the Old Testament body of believers all the way from righteous Abel to John the Baptist. The Old Testament church was travailing and in pain of persecution until Christ was delivered from the power of the grave in AD 33.
God says in Psalm 2:7, “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee”.
On that day the Old Testament church transitioned into the New Testament church, which began in earnest 50 days later on Pentecost. She is clothed with the sun, for Christ, who is known as the Sun of Righteousness, has covered her (Malachi 4:2).
She has the moon under her feet, where the moon represents the Word of God, which means that her foundation is the Word of God. She has a crown of twelve stars, indicating that God has blessed the church with a full assortment of pastors and teachers of the Word of God, for God said in Revelation 1:20: “The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches”.
This woman was under heavy persecution from the Devil. But God came to her aid in Verse 14:
And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.
She found refuge in the wilderness of this world, where God protected her from Satan’s relentless attacks on her faith. She was not altogether free from persecution, but it was by God’s grace that she was nourished with the Scriptures without being hindered in this by Satan. There she was, the woman in the wilderness, who was lavished with so many blessings from God.
But look at her now in Revelation 17:3, this same woman in the wilderness of this world, but now she is allied with the beast with seven heads and ten horns. This is the same beast of Revelation 13:1, which is Antichrist. Yes it is the same woman, the church, after having experienced the great apostasy in the time of the end. This Babylon has embraced a full and complete fellowship with the religious and counterfeit attributes of Antichrist.
The great Final Tribulation Period has arrived, because the woman and the beast are now intimately together. The woman is no longer faithful to Christ. Instead she commits spiritual fornication with the beast, and that is why she is called a harlot. And she drags all her spiritual children into the same judgment with her.
Why does she do this?
Because it feels so good.
And is it not true that all these other gospels that have been brought into the church all in the category of “feel good gospels”?
The Arminian Free-Will gospel is far more rampant in our day, and the Charismatic gospel, and the Prosperity gospel, and the Self-esteem gospel, and the sacramental gospel, and the Purpose Driven Church gospel are all appealing to people because they feel so good, and they make them feel so righteous, and they make them feel so blessed and they make them feel so secure because they now have done something for their salvation. It is true that this woman is not a picture of the true church, but of the false church, the counterfeit church, which has apostatized from her former husband Christ and is now committing fornication with the enemy. She is the unfaithful woman, the deceitful woman, who has broken the most sacred pledge.
In Ezekiel 16:8-22 we read of Israel as the wife of Jehovah, prepared and blessed by Him, but whoring after other gods. This is a complete picture of the spiritual harlot.
And how is she described here in Revelation 17 and 18?
As a woman and as a city. Satan is a great imitator. Let us look now at:
The Great Imitator (Hebrews 11:9-10, Hebrews 12:22)
Even as the Devil aims at establishing a counterfeit kingdom, so he also establishes a counterfeit church. The church as an institution was designed to be the army of the Kingdom of Christ. But during the little season, when Satan is loosed and the abomination of desolation is set up, that “church” will be used by the Devil as an army in his service. And the result is that a counterfeit church, the harlot church, is established.
The true church is the spiritual Bride of Christ, ingrafted into Him by a true faith, and through Christ stands in a covenant relation with the Lord Jehovah.
But that counterfeit church is the church which still bears the name of church, still appears as the church in the world, still claims or pretends to be the legitimate church, outwardly also looks like the church, has its ministers, baptisms, communion, the preaching of the Word and teaching, and all kinds of institutions and societies, but employs all the blessings she has outwardly received in the service of Antichrist, and not in the service of Jehovah. Her ministers preach for Antichrist.
The office-bearers work for Antichrist. Publicly she displays all the signs of Antichrist, and all her members she educates to work for the dragon and his kingdom. She becomes great and powerful. And the more she labors in the interest of the antichristian kingdom, the more she will enjoy the favor of the dragon: for she is nothing but his harlot, and allows herself to be the instrument of Antichrist. This is plain from the description that is given of her here in Revelation 17 and 18.
For she is called the harlot, and is described as one who commits fornication with the kings of the earth and with all that dwell in the world. That this is true is plain from the fact that she is sitting on the scarlet beast with the seven heads and ten horns, implying that she is borne by the power of Antichrist, and at the same time controls that power with her fascinating fornications.
That this is true is also plain from the fact that of her the terrible sentence is expressed that she is drunken with the blood of the saints. Surely this woman is the church as she appears on earth; but it is the false church, already beginning to be well developed in our own time. It is the church as a whole that has abandoned the truth of the Word of God, that rejects the real truth of the Atonement of Christ, His efficacious atonement on behalf of His people alone, and tramples under foot the blood of the New Covenant.
Every pledge with her Lord and covenant God she has broken. And even those who do remain faithful she kills in her hatred. But there is more. For this woman, representing the counterfeit or false church is also presented to us as a city. And so we learn that the real being of this woman is that of a city, and specifically of Babylon. She has the appearance of Jerusalem, the Holy City, the Bride of Christ; but in essence she is nothing but Babylon. That is her real nature.
Babylon stands in Scripture for all that opposes the Kingdom of God. She is the capital of the kingdom of oppression for the people of God. Babylon stands for the center of the kingdom of the dragon, and the king of Babylon, especially Nebuchadnezzar, stands for the embodiment of Satan in human flesh, Antichrist. And therefore this woman is essentially the center of the antichristian world power.
But this should not surprise us, for the same can be said of the true church. She ultimately appears as the New Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from God. The church that is in our time, is also a woman, the Bride of Christ, and is at the same time destined to be the power in control ultimately of the New Heaven and the New Earth, destined to reign with Christ forever in the glorious city the New Jerusalem.
The real and mystical character of the church is that she is also a city, the glorious city that shall be the center of the New Creation, of the Kingdom of Christ in glory. This is what we look forward to, and this is what the saints in the past have looked forward to. Abraham looked forward to this glorious city, for we read:
By faith Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
But we are in a much more favorable position than Abraham. Already now we are citizens of Jerusalem that is above.
But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.
There is our true citizenship: Mount Sion, the place where God resides. Pray to God that here below we will keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus who awaits us there in the city of the living God.
By Alfred Chompff