Chapter 17 is a continuing of the destruction of all of God's enemies. I must admit I have spent weeks reading and studying, almost daily, in preparation and even after doing so, I feel so inadequate to talk about this chapter. Keep in mind this is a continuation of the 7 bowls being poured out we studied about in Chapter 16.
The main focus of this chapter is the fall of Babylon, not the literal city, but the real day equivalent of who represents God's enemy. In John's time, it may have been Rome- since the city of Babylon was abandoned between 500-600BC. The angel gives John unimaginable details of how this empire falls.
Let’s first discuss why Babylon? Why use the name of this city since it was not in existence when John was writing this incredible book we call Revelation? Babylon is mentioned 287 times in scripture, which is far more than any other city. Revelation 14:8 and 16:19 have already declared Babylon’s fall, but this chapter, and Chapter 18 carefully detail the fall.
Babylon was a literal city located on the Euphrates River not far from Baghdad in current day Iraq. Genesis 11:1–10 shows that right after the flood, Babylon was the seat of the civilization that expressed organized hostility toward God. So that dates the city's origin to around 4,000 years ago.
For centuries, this evil empire fought against God's people and represents God's enemies today.
Babylon was later the capitol of the empire that cruelly conquered Judah. Back then, the Jews believed Babylon was the essence of all evil and the foe of God's people.
In John’s Day, Rome epitomized all the evil seen in and through Babylon. Many Bible scholars believe it was Rome that John was referencing. Today, I believe there are several cities one could pick that would describe anti-God that fits the description of the Babylonian empire. Sadly, many of those cities are right here in the United States. I am not saying that a U.S. city is the Babylon John was writing about but certainly the description given in Revelation 17:4-5 could fit. Today’s Babylon could also be the world system. What we do know is Babylon and its evil empire and systems will be destroyed by God.
Let’s read Revelation 17:1-5, "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 sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine (or blood) of her adulteries.” Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries."
Verse 6 stated she was drunk with the blood of God's people who gave testimony of Jesus Christ. The empire of Babylon for thousands of years slaughtered God's people. The Jewish people have hated what Baylon stood for.
When John saw the “woman or prostitute” called Babylon (anti-Christian world system) sitting on this beast with 7 heads and 10 horns, he was astonished….This is the same beast described in Revelation 13:1 which is the antichrist and his dictatorship. This world system will have influence over the world like never before and I believe we already see some of this in place today. This system sits on many waters (or presides over many nations) so the system has an international character and is unified in false or (have it your way) religions. We see this casual disregard of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ today, especially here in America. Verse 15 reads…"The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages." This certainly implies a larger system or governing type body. And so, the false religions will dominate the world during the tribulation period and probably not tied to any one church. But the system will have a beautiful and enticing appearance. Notice how John describes it: Verse 4, "The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, as if to brag about the filth she held."
People will be drawn to it. When John says he was amazed in verse 6, he was amazed because this wasn’t the normal religious persecution seen in his day, this was gross religious error and a blood thirsty false religion – whose sole purpose is the destruction of Christians and Christian churches. A hate for Christ like nothing ever seen before.
There is a unification of hatred and antichrist seen here in these final days. Many biblical scholars believe the 7 mountains represent kingdoms or nations that will come together for this same purpose. Some scholars believe there is a connection to Rome which was originally built on 7 hills.
Regardless, the combined empires will be under the rule of the Antichrist. It will be bigger than any current day religion and many nations will join it. Today the pressures we see all over the world to accept other “non-Christian” religions are growing. We see the demonizing of the Christian church, and a push to water down the true gospel of Jesus Christ that sin is sin!
To address the 7 kings and kingdoms in verse 10… "Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come." This may be one of the more difficult passages in the book of Revelation. Some explain these seven kings, five past, one present, and one to come in the succession of Roman Emperors in John’s era, but there are historical difficulties with this approach. More likely, five have fallen refers to the five world empires before John’s day: Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Medo-Persia, and Greece.
One refers to the world empire of John’s day: Rome. "The other has not yet come" refers to the one world empire to come: a revival of the Roman Empire. "When he comes, he must continue a short time." This seventh will quickly be taken over by an eighth—and will become the state of the Antichrist (Revelation 17:11).
This is obviously a very difficult passage and through all my studies, I have learned one thing…There are many opinions by excellent Bible scholars so I will leave it to you to read and study this with much prayer.
The Ten kings to come, will all be kingdoms or nations that will be allies of the Antichrist noted in verses 12-15 and they will make war against Christ. They will come out of one great kingdom. This may be a 10-nation agreement joining with the Antichrist. Some scholars believe this could be something like the European Union having this potential. Whatever the nations are, they will give their power and authority to the beast and will join with the Antichrist in the war against Christ noted in Revelations 16:12-21 in the 6th and 7th bowls.
I will end by reading verse 14 - "They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
Well – praise The LORD! We will be with Him!
Do not fear because God has directed all of this. We see in Verse 17 states, "God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by handing over their royal authority." God will direct the judgment against Babylon. God will sometimes use a wicked group (here, the ten kings) to be an instrument of His judgment against another wicked group like Babylon.
I hope this has been helpful! This has been challenging for me and I have learned so much. The more I learn the more I realize I do not know. What I do know is these things will happen but Glory to God, if we love and serve Christ and have accepted Him as our Lord and Savior, we will be saved from the tribulation to come!