Chapter 17


Wickedness Personified.


The Mother of Harlots - A False Church. v1 - 6.


1. "Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, "Come, I will show you the judgement of the great harlot who sits on many waters,"


One of the angels who had poured out one of the seven bowls came and spoke to John. He calls him to witness the judgement of the great harlot, who, seated on many waters has an influence over them. We are told in verse 15 that the waters represent nations, peoples and tongues. The terms harlot and harlotry are used frequently in Scripture to describe those who have turn from the true God to idols whilst still making profession to worship Him (Jer. 3:6). The harlot is the personification of idolatry and perhaps represents a false "world church" that will appear in the last times as an amalgamation of all world religions in one ecclesiastical power dominating the nations.


2. "With whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication."


The rulers of the earth submit to her seductions, joining and endorsing her spiritual adultery - idolatry. All the inhabitants of the earth become so intoxicated by sharing her idolatry that they are completely taken over by it (Jer. 51:7), for idolatry involves the activity of demon spirits. 1 Cor. 10:20.


3. "So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns."


The angel carried John away in the spirit to a solitary place in the desert. Tatford says this a reference to a spiritual wilderness.  He was given a sight of this false world church sitting on a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns who was full of all kinds of blasphemy. This is the "beast" of chapter 13:1 who came out of the sea, a confederation of ten kingdoms. The vision denotes that the woman dominates this empire.


4. "The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication."


The harlot has gathered to herself vast amounts of this world's finery and riches and is extremely wealthy; she is dressed and adorned as the queen of harlots. She has in her hand a golden cup filled with the disgusting, immoral filth of her idolatry.




She wore her name on her forehead, just as Roman harlots wore a label with their names on their brows. This name is composed of three parts:


MYSTERY  - as in occult mysticism, secret societies and devil worship that is typical of idolatry,


BABYLON THE GREAT - the source and centre of commerce, politics and religion.  


MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS - she has given birth to all that is opposed to God and His Christ and fills the whole earth with her revulsions.


6. "I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marvelled with great amazement."


The woman was drunken with the blood of all those whom she had tortured and murdered, who belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ, implying that her sin was full and ready for judgement. When he saw this woman and the crimes that she had committed, John was astounded, not in admiration, but in horror.



The Meaning of the Woman and the Beast. v7 - 18.


7. "But the angel said to me, "Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns."


Since John had not understood the vision, the angel explains what the woman and the beast she rides on represent.


8. "The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is."


The beast is the empire of ten kingdoms, or nations, signified by the ten horns. It had been in existence once but had since ceased to be. Yet it will ascend out of the bottomless pit i.e. it will come into being again. The author's view is that this refers to the Roman Empire, which came into being in 753 BC and still existed in John's time, only being ultimately destroyed in AD 476.   It was and is not....   It will be brought into being again by Satanic forces but it will be utterly destroyed and they (its originators) shall be thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20). All who dwell on the earth, whose names were not written in the Lamb's Book of Life before the world began, i.e. all the unsaved, will be astonished when they see the rise of this empire. Here the empire and the instigator of it are seen together, for the empire is synonymous with its ruler and founder Satan.


9. "Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits."


What follows requires wisdom to interpret. The seven heads of the beast are seven mountains that the woman sits on. Many accept that this is Rome, built on seven hills.  Yet there are other cities that claim seven hills: Constantinople, Brussels and Jerusalem. The original Babylon was built on a plain but is referred to in Jer. 51: 25 as a destroying mountain. The seven hills on which the woman sits could possibly refer to seven powers, signifying complete power over the earth, given to her by Satan.


10, 11. "There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time. And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition."


These seven heads have a dual meaning. The first has already been made known, the second is represented as kings or empires. Five of these empires had already fallen, the sixth was still in existence in John's time, the Roman Empire. The seventh that is to come will be the revived version of the Roman Empire that will only last a short time. The eighth is to be considered separately although it rises from the seven, for this "empire" is Anti-Christ himself, who for a time will rule the world, but who will ultimately be destroyed "without human hand".


12. "The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast."


It is to be noted at this stage that the seven heads and the ten horns are part of the same beast. Therefore, the heads and horns are interwoven with each other. The confederation of ten kingdoms has not yet come into existence - it will during the reign of Anti-Christ, an eighth empire. These ten will be given authority to rule as regents of the beast for a short time. It is quite possible that they will never have been world leaders before his time.


13. "These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast."


They will all agree to give the power and strength of their kingdoms over to the beast, in absolute devotion. He will be the dictatorial head of this confederacy, and indeed all the power of the regents will be derived from him.


14. "These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful."


These kingdoms and their rulers will, in obedience to Anti-Christ, join with him to make war against the Lamb, the Lord Jesus Christ, at the battle of Armageddon (Rev. 19:19), where the Lamb shall conquer them, for He is the Lord of lords and King of kings, having supreme power over all things. Those at His side are the redeemed of the Lord, the chosen and faithful ones.  


15. "Then he said to me, "The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues."


The waters over which the harlot sits are the masses of people from every nation over which she has power and influence.


16. "And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire."


Once having risen to power, the confederacy of ten regents will turn against the harlot who until then enjoyed a worldwide dominion and will detest her. They will strip her of all her power and authority, take her wealth, kill her priests and destroy her temples etc... In this way Satan will rid the earth of all other "religion", paving the way for the direct Satan worship enforced by the beast.


17. "For God has put it into their hearts to fulfil His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled."


This was not their own initiative, for God put into their hearts and minds to carry out His purposes. They surrender their power and sovereignty to the beast until all the prophetic words, the intentions and purposes of God, are complete.


18. "And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth."


The harlot not only represents the idolatry and false religion of the "world church", she also represents the city which is the centre of this idolatrous scheme of worship. This city, the idolatrous centre of the world, will be the headquarters of the false world church and as such, for a time, will be revered and feared by the world.


Some commentators assume this to mean that Rome, the centre of the Catholic religion, will be for a time the centre of all false religions, dominating, from a religious viewpoint, the whole earth.

Revelation 17 Bible Study


The Pentecostal Bible Commentary

1 Corinthians

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