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Chap 17 Timeline   Religious and Commercial Babylon Comparison  

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Revelation: Chapter 17

Setting

The final judgment on Babylon was set aside for a later date as indicated by the prophetic passage concerning the woman in a basket that is sent to Shinar (Babylon), Zechariah 5:5-11.  This prophesy occurred after the fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians, which shows that other judgments are still to take place at some future time.  Despite the wonders of the Lord and His revelation, people still rebelled, Psalms 78:32-33, Psalm 60:1-6.  

The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance and Mankind will know that there is a God who judges on Earth, Psalm 58:10-11.  This is the judgment on the totality of Babylon’s influence in the post-flood era in human history.  

At the conclusion of the bowl judgments poured over the earth, Revelation 16:19 states that God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of His wrath.  The events described in Revelation 17 and  Revelation 18 will occur before the pouring out of the 7th bowl and illustrate how the Lord fulfilled His judgment against Babylon.  Judgments of these two parts of Babylon occur at different times, but both meet their ultimate fate during the seven years of tribulation.  Revelation 17 provides an overview of religious Babylon and its judgment, and Revelation 18 focuses on commercial Babylon and its judgment.  A comparison of the two Babylons is provided at the comparison page of this site.

As seen in the chronology of Revelation, John's perspective is on earth as he views the religious harlot, Revelation 17.  The time frame for the existence of this false church begins immediately after the rapture of the church, and possibly before the before the beginning of the tribulation.  It ends catastrophically just before the middle of the tribulation period.  At that time, the false church will be utterly and viciously destroyed by the ten kings of the revived Roman Empire who will exist but not come unto their power until this false church is removed completely.  This is also the time when the Saint’s blood shed by the harlot after the rapture of the church will be revenged, Revelation 6:9-11.

What is revealed to John can be summarized by the following points:

  • She is not even a church, but completely vile and desolate
  • She is a source of mystery, but God is the revelation of truth and is light.
  • She is the mother of harlots and abomination on the Earth
  • She has many offspring through the ages since the tower of Babel, which have caused great suffering.  She has misled people from the truth throughout the world, such as in King Jehoshaphat's day, 1Kings 22:7-38

The time when this false church realizes its full power is after the rapture of the church, Revelation 4:1.  Following the rapture, there will be a great effort to understand and explain the disappearance of 100's of millions of people who claimed the name of Jesus, and this false church will help to formulate and perpetuate a lie that will lead many astray, 2Thessalonians 2:7-12.  This timeframe was alluded to in the study of Daniel 7, and illustrated in a zoomed in view of part of that timeline.  As seen at the bottom of the timeline, the full strength of the harlot is shown to occur only during the first half of the tribulation, as depicted in the purple box in the following partial timeline.

Outline of this chapter

Verses Topic
1-2 The harlot being revealed to John
3-5 The description of the harlot
6 The acts of the harlot against the saints
7-8 The explanation of the vision
9-11 The seven heads
12-14 The seven horns
15-18 The harlot's destruction

The harlot being revealed to John     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 17:1-2, one of the seven angels who had poured out one of the bowls of God’s wrath, shows John the punishment of the great prostitute, or the false religion. The book of Hosea equated harlotry with worshiping idols and running away from God and His ways.  John observes that she sits on many waters, which indicates that she has power over many people around the world and influences the whole world with false religious practices.  He also wrote that the kings of the earth committed adultery, which is a result of her strong political affiliations with all governments. The kings of the world benefit greatly associating with the harlot, by ignoring their responsibilities and turn toward the riches and favors that this leader of the false church provides them.  This is a parallel to the occasion when the Lord spoke the woes against the scribes and Pharisees, Mathew 23:13-33.

The inhabitants of earth are also intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.  These are the individuals whose names are not written in the book of life, and are enthusiastic participants with the whore.  This situation of man's desire to reject the truth and run after another was spoken of by Jesus Christ to the Jews during His first visitation.  At that time they were persecuting Him because he had healed a lame man and made him to walk with his bed on the Sabbath (which was against Jewish tradition and not God's law), John 5:39-43.  

Babylon's influence has been felt throughout history since the worldwide flood which only Noah and his family survived upon an ark that God instructed them to build.  Babylon first enters the scriptures with the description of Nimrod.  He was the third generation from Noah in the line of Ham, and Babylon was one of the centers of his kingdom, Genesis 10:6-10.   It was at Babylon that the Lord observed the rebellion of man under Nimrod.  It was Babylon where the tower of Babel was located, Genesis 11:5-9, the rebellion was centered there and is the place where God judged man. . This was the beginning of all later attempts to introduce apostasy in the world through idol worship and other means to replace the truth of God with a lie.  The Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians of that craftiness of Satan and the concern Paul had that their minds would be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ, 2Corinthians 11:3.  This is seen through many other instances in the Bible.

Even before Israel was called out of Egypt, there were issues with idols.  Abraham’s father, who followed with Abraham partway to the Promised Land, was an idolater, Joshua 24:2-3.  Rachel stole the idols Laban worshiped she fled with Jacob and Leah from him to return to the land of Canaan, Genesis 31:27-32

During the exodus, the children of Israel were struggling with idols at the base of Mount Sinai, while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments from the Lord on the mountaintop.  One of the commandments written by the finger of God was that no one was to neither bow down nor worship other gods, Exodus 20:3-6.  God warned Israel at that same time to not assimilate the worship practices of those whom they would replace in the land as God destroyed them, Exodus 23:23-26

While in the promised land, Canaan, they continued with idol worship.  In the days of the Judges, a man named Micah and his mother cast an idol out of 200 shekels of silver. Micah had a shrine of idols, made an ephod, and made his son as priest, Judges 17:1-6.  An army from the tribe of Dan stole those idols, and the priests, and set up a shrine in the city of Dan, and had Jonathan, the grandson of Moses, and his sons established as priests for the tribe of Dan, Judges 18:27-31.  

One of the reasons the Lord first removed Israel from the Promised Land was because of their idol worship.  Israel suffered a tremendous fall from the pinnacle of belief they experienced when Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem.  Following that time Israel slid backwards until the time that King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in his third and final conquest, based on the vision given to Ezekiel, Ezekiel 8:6-18. The elders of Israel were worshiping other gods in God’s sanctuary, Ezekiel 8:10-12. The sanctuary for the worship of God was profaned by the worship of Tammuz by women at the north gate, one of the Babylonian gods, Ezekiel 8:14-15. At the entrance to the temple were 25 men bowing down to the sun in the east with their backs to the Lord, Ezekiel 8:16.  God’s process of His judgment is viewed in Ezekiel 9.  As in the time of the seven years of tribulation, His judgment starts with the marking of the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in the temple, Ezekiel 9:3-4.  The angels were sent out to kill all who did not have the mark of God on their foreheads, beginning with the elders at the temple, Ezekiel 9:5-6.  

The Lord warned of false prophets, coming in sheep's clothing, Matthew 7:15-20, and He warned that not everyone calling on the Lord’s name will enter the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 7:21-23.  More than likely, this will be due to people not testing the words of people claiming to be Christians, or saying that they speak for the Lord.  These are the days where it is best to follow the practice of the Bereans, Acts 17:10-12.  

During the Olivet Discourse, the Lord also told of false Christs and prophets appearing and performing great signs, Matthew 24:24-31.  Do not go out in the desert or inner rooms.  The Lord's return will be as lightning that comes from the east and is visible in the west.  At that time, the Son of man’s return will appear in the sky and all nations of the earth will morn, and they will see the return of the King, Matthew 24:29-31.  David also warned of the apostasy rising from within Israel, Psalms 81:8-16.  

The warning is also given to the church. The Lord said to Peter that the gates of hell would not stand against His church, or that hell would not prevail or be greater than His church, Matthew 16:18.  Nevertheless, evil men and women will attempt to subvert the church from within.  Jude warned that godless men crept in unawares into the church to change the grace of God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ as the only Lord, Jude 3-4.  Peter warned that there are false prophets among the people and false teachers to deny the sovereign Lord, 2Peter 2:1-3.  Paul warned that there would be those who would replace the truth for a lie, 2Timothy 3:1-7.  John had warned in his epistles of the antichrists that are among us now, 1John 2:18-19, 22-23.  

The Lord spoke to all seven churches through John in the book of Revelation, but only five had words of condemnation for some of their practices.  The influence of Babylon is intertwined throughout mankind’s history since the flood, and in the church through traditions and ceremony.  With the rapture of the church, those condemned practices will likely continue and be embellished by those left behind, 2Thessalonians 2:9-12.  The comparison and contrast between the churches can be viewed on this site by navigating to web pages on Revelation 2 or Revelation 3.

The description of the harlot     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 17:3, John is being carried away in the spirit into a desert.  This experience of John in being carried away in the spirit is similar to the time when he heard the Lord’s voice like a trumpet, Revelation 1:10.  At that time, he was also in the spirit when taken into the presence of God’s throne area Revelation 4:1.  On this occasion, John's location is an obvious allegory of the desert being barren and lifeless.  This is indicative of the harlot’s impact on the world; her only effect on the world is bareness and death.  This is the antithesis of the Lord’s desire, Ezekiel 18:30-32.

What John witnesses needs to be kept in context with the revelation given to Daniel in Daniel 2 and Daniel 7.  This beast, though not experiencing its full power at this time in the first half of the seven years of tribulation, is the 4th kingdom and the revealing of the final beast when it attains its full power in the second half of the tribulation.  The characteristics of the beast that the Harlot rides upon are:

  • She is sitting on a beast covered with blasphemous names
  • The beast has seven heads
  • The beast has ten horns (This is the same beast introduced in Revelation 13, which is the dragon, or Satan in Revelation 12)

It is noteworthy in the comparison of the beasts representing the harlot, and that of the Antichrist, the ten horns do not have crowns as in Revelation 13:1.  The following table helps provides more details in the differences in the beasts portrayed in Revelation, and contrasts them.

Characteristics of the Dragon and the Beasts

Dragon (Satan)
in chapter 12

Beast from the sea (Antichrist)
in chapter 13

Beast that the harlot rides upon
in chapter 17

Origin

ancient serpent

Called from the sea by the dragon

Found in the desert

Number of heads

7

7

7

Number of horns

10

10

10

Number of crowns

7

10

0

Special notes

Took 1/3 of the angels in heaven with him

Blasphemous name on each head

The beast is covered with blasphemies, and has seven heads that are seven hills on which the woman sits and seven kings

The time period in which the harlot reigns is in the first half of the tribulation period, and when the revived Roman Empire comes into fruition, being an amalgamation of iron and clay without strength as seen in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel 2:40-43. The Antichrist, the same as the little horn in Daniel 7:24-25, receives his full power from Satan at the mid-tribulation period, Revelation 13:1-2. The ten leaders exist and have some form of power before the little horn, Daniel 7:7-8, but do not have their authorities as “kings” during the days of the harlot and therefore they have no crowns.  The Harlot is destroyed by the Antichrist (the beast) and the ten horns, which occurs in the mid-tribulation period, Revelation 17:16. God will put in the hearts of the ten kings to subjugate themselves to the Antichrist, Revelation 17:17.  The three horns, or kings that are supplanted by the little horn, therefore occurs sometime in the second half of the tribulation.

In Revelation 17:4-5, John continues to observe the physical characteristics of the harlot, which are:

  • She is identified as mystery Babylon
  • She is dressed expensively,
    • purple
    • scarlet
    • gold
    • precious stones
    • pearls 
  • She has a golden cup filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries
  • Her title on her forehead declares her to be the mother of prostitutes

This mystery is now revealed, which also captures the vision the prophet Zechariah had concerning the woman in a basket with a lead led who was sent to Shinar (Babylon).  She was declared as wickedness.  She is carried away in the basket by two women with wings of a stork, all are considered unclean.  The two women are building a building for the woman in the basket and when the time arrives, the first half of the tribulation, she will be set in her place, Zechariah 5:5-11.  She will be in this elevated position until she is destroyed as shown later in Revelation 17.  

God called into memory Babylon at the end of pouring out the bowl judgments.  He then gave her the cup of His wrath, Revelation 16:19.  Revelation 17 and Revelation 18 provide the extent and permanency of God's judgments upon religious Babylon and commercial Babylon, respectfully. It is also important to understand that the harlot is the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations that have occurred on the earth.  This harlot represents all of the past, present, and future ecumenical activities that are not of God.  This form of religion, which is never called a church, is manifest in different ways through all of the world's religions (which Christendom is not a part).  The harlot is the amalgamation of all these false religions. This form of religion takes on the form of godliness of the church but denies the power through Christ, which Paul wrote about, 2Timothy 3:1-5. After the rapture of the church, this “new religion,” or the harlot, will take on worldwide powers and prominence that it never had before.  Just as the Antichrist is revealed when the Holy Spirit no longer holds him back, the harlot will assume powers she does not have today, but it appears to only occur after the rapture of the church.  After the rapture, there will be a sudden vacuum in the knowledge of God’s truth, which is the basis that establishes this false religion, 2Thessalonians 2:3-7.

The acts of the harlot against the saints     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 17:6, John observes that the harlot is drunk with the blood of the saints. The scene accentuates her great excesses against the truth, and her direct role in the death of the saints.  Again, all of the harlot's activities occur during the first half of the seven years of tribulation. The blood she is drunk with is from the saints who were slain for the testimony to Jesus.  Recall that with the opening of the fifth seal there were (Tribulation) Saints under the altar who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained, Revelation 6:9-11.  These saints where slain by the Harlot, and at the opening of the fifth seal, they are heard asking the Lord how long before their blood would be avenged. The saints slain by Satan, the Antichrist, and the false prophet are seen in Revelation 12 through Revelation16, and are called out as blessed in Revelation 14:13.  More information is available on these the three groups of saints, the church, tribulation saints and great tribulation saints on the site following the link to discussion of the saints.  John is reveals his astonishment at this vision.  It appears that John still does not fully understand the meaning of this revelation and thus the angel needs to provide further explanation.

The explanation of the vision     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 17:7-8, John receives the explanation of the vision from the angel, where the beast

  • Once was
  • Now is not
  • Will come out of the Abyss and go to his destruction

Those not written in the book of life will be astonished when they see the beast.  Yet, those who hold the truth of God, have His anointing and will not be led astray by these things, 1John 2:26-27.  

Some interpreters hold that this beast represents the Antichrist.  J Vernon McGee and others hold that the beast has a duel representation, one being the Antichrist and the other being the Roman Empire.  The latter appears to provide the best explanation.  The timeframe of this vision is probably soon after the rapture, or at least at the beginning of the tribulation period and therefore the attributions of the beast would be of the rebuilt Roman Empire.

  • Once was – It was the Roman empire of great prominence in its day of the Caesars
  • Now is not – at the time of this writing, though efforts exist to rebuild the Roman empire through the European Union, it has not fully come to the power that it will have
  • Will come - The rebuilt Roman Empire and the ascension of the Antichrist

An important understanding of this section is the division of peoples during the tribulation period.  The choice of accepting the Lord or rebelling against Him, is one that all living in the world will be forced to make within this short period of time, and this singular decision will have immediate consequences on earth as well as eternal consequences.  Those who choose to rebel against Christ will not have their names listed in the book of Life.  They will be the ones looking forward to the rebuilt Roman Empire.  This empire will be based on demonic powers that originate from the Abyss that was opened after the sounding of the fifth trumpet by an angel given the key to the shaft of the Abyss, Revelation 9:1-2.  The beast will be finally destroyed at Armageddon, as described in Revelation 19.

The seven heads     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 17:9, the angel is alerting John that what he will reveal to him calls for wisdom, or spiritual discernment by those who have the mind of Christ, 1Corinthians 2:14-16.  This is the same phrase used “This calls for wisdom” when the reference was made to the calculation of the number of the beast, Revelation 13:18.  This is the challenge to the reader to dig hard into these passages to glean all that is available to the person who through fervent prayer and study seeks to know more of God.

The seven heads are seven hills upon which the woman sits. As a matter of history, the city of Rome was originally built upon seven hills, and expanded over time.

  • Palatine
  • Aventine
  • Caelian
  • Capitoline
  • Equiline
  • Quirimal
  • Viminal

Though other commentators have pointed to another city that may be similarly built on seven hills, no other alternative fulfill Daniel's prophesy concerning the destruction of Israel, and the "prince to come" will be from those same people, Daniel 7:26-27. General Titus of Rome was the one responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and so the Antichrist will come from Rome.  An important distinction to make clear is that though the Roman Church today is located in the same location as the Antichrist, the harlot that will arise during the first half of the tribulation is not necessarily the Catholic Church today, but rather an amalgamation of all religions to create this ecumenical beast to create and sustain the lie that will deceive many.  The membership of this false religion is composed of those left behind after the rapture of the church; they had not and will not accept the truth found in God’s word, the Bible.  

Babylonian practices have crept into all of Christendom in a wide variety of ways.  One need only look at the origins of the practices observed the church today in its celebration of Easter or Christmas to see that pagan rites had been intertwined with the purposes of the holidays, which had been to celebrate either the resurrection of the Lord or His birth, respectively.  There are many other examples one could explore.  Though today the Christian's focus is on the Lord, the meaning of the pagan rites of the egg, or of greens have not been obliterated but over time, they will remerge to one day regain their original purpose at the expense of what Christians hold today.

In Revelation 17:10, the angel describes kings, which relates back to Revelation 17:7 where the mystery is described of the woman (the harlot) rides the beast with seven heads and ten horns.  The heads represent seven kings.  The angel goes on to explain that five kings have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come.  When this last king arrives, it will be for a little while (the last half of the tribulation when the Antichrist attains his full Satanic power).  Some hold that the kings may represent different forms of government, and others argue that they represent individual Caesars and kings.  Since the context of this passage is on individuals, Revelation 17:11 must reference an eighth individual.  There have been several attempts to list the Caesars who ascended to power and then were killed; with Domitian as the Caesar who "now is" since he was in power during the time that John had received this revelation while on the Isle of Patmos.  However, under close scrutiny of all who came into power before Domitian, it does not appear to fit this prophetic pattern presented.  This may be one of several instances where we will not know exactly how this is fulfilled until we get nearer the time of its fulfillment. Certainly, there is no widespread consensus on this explanation

In Revelation 17:11, the discussion continues to consider the beast.  The beast who once was, now is not, is the eighth king.  The beast not only represents the Roman Empire, but also the individual emperor.  The seventh head includes the Antichrist.  The beast itself is the Antichrist as shown in Daniel 7:11, Daniel 7:19-26, Revelation 13:1-8, Revelation 19:19-20.  The implication is that the form of government will not only be a restored Roman empire, but also a restored form of emperor rule by the Antichrist.  It is hard to conceive of this in today's world with pressures to democratize the world, however, scriptures point to a single man ruling, whose power is from Satan, and the association with the Roman Empire and all its horror is more than allegorical.  The beast or eighth king belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction, Daniel 7:11, Revelation 19:19-20.   In one sense, the Antichrist uproots three of the ten horns in Daniel, leaving seven kings; he becomes the eighth king and so also belongs to the seven.  The Antichrist will go to his destruction at Armageddon and be thrown alive into the lake of fire with the false prophet.  They will be the first to occupants of the eternal damnation; the lake of fire.  They will even precede Judas Iscariot who betrayed the Lord with a kiss, Luke 22:48.

The seven horns     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 17:12-14, the ten horns represent ten kings.  During the days of the harlot, the kings will not have received their kingdom.  However, with the destruction of the harlot, they will possess their kingdoms as kings for one hour.  They will receive authority as kings along with the beast.  The reason for the indication of one hour rather than for some timeframe indicating the latter half of the tribulation is that they will give their power and authority to the beast.  Then together they will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them, as also seen with the opening of the sixth seal, Revelation 6:12-17.  With the Lamb will be his saints, Daniel 7:26-27, Revelation 19:11-16.  As mentioned before, it is noteworthy in the comparison of the beasts, that the ten horns do not have crowns as in Revelation 13:1.  This event occurs in the first half of the tribulation period, and when the revived Roman Empire comes into fruition, being an amalgamation of iron and clay without strength as seen in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel 2:40-43.  The antichrist, the little horn in Daniel 7:24-25, receives his full power from Satan at the mid-tribulation period, Revelation 13:1-2.  The ten leaders exist and have some form of power before the little horn appears, Daniel 7:7-8, but do not have their authorities as “kings” and therefore no crowns.  The harlot is destroyed by the Antichrist (the beast) and the ten horns, which occurs in the mid-tribulation period, Revelation 17:16.  God will put in the hearts of the ten kings to subjugate themselves to the Antichrist, Revelation 17:17.  The three horns or kings that are supplanted by the little horn, Daniel 7:8, therefore this event occurs sometime in the second half of the tribulation.

The harlot's destruction     Chapter Outline     Top

In Revelation 17:15-18, the angel provides John and us with more explanations of the revelations in this chapter.  The waters are said to signify peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. There are ten national leaders who act like kings during the first half of the tribulation, but will not have their kingdoms until the destruction of the harlot, and the reign of the Antichrist. There is so much hatred by these ten toward the harlot, that they exercise terrible acts of violence to destroy her.  This is similar to what was exacted against Jezebel in the Old Testament, 2Kings 9:30-37.

The beast and the ten horns hate the harlot with an uncontrolled hatred.  Once their hatred is focused on the destruction of the harlot, the worship once directed to her will be redirected to the image of the Antichrist. They ruin the harlot completely, leave her naked, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.

After the harlot's destruction, God will put in the hearts of the ten kings His purposes, as also shown in Daniel 7:7-8. The ten kings, represented by the horns, will give their power over to the Antichrist at the middle of the tribulation. This extended authority of the Antichrist will continue all the way through the end of the great tribulation, which is the second half of the tribulation, as also shown in Daniel 9:27.  Again, since this is the first half of the tribulation, the harlot will rule over the kings of the earth until the ten horns and Antichrist destroy her.  Until her destruction, she will rule over the great city, which is assumed to be Rome.  This is consistent with the rest of this chapter and from the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 2, and the announcement of a second angel proclaiming that "Babylon the Great has fallen", Revelation 14:8.  More is written on the little horn (the Antichrist) on this site in Daniel 7, Daniel 11Daniel 7 timelines, and in Daniel 11 timelines.


Copyright (c) 2001, 2005, 2008, 2014, J.E. Huntley.  All rights reserved.
last edited August 2014

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