“A HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY READERS!!!”
“Babylon, the Prostitute on the Beast!” This is an attention-catching title to chapter 17. What is it referring to?
We have seen that there are five main enemies of Christ – in the Book of Revelation: the Dragon, the Beast from the Sea, the Beast from the Barth, Babylon the prostitute, and those men who bear the mark of the beast. This chapter deals with the identity and the history of this ‘Babylon’.
Like many examples of prophecy in the scriptures, it often begins with a down-to-earth concrete example and then the ‘principle’ is expanded more widely to represent the bigger global picture. If we look at 17:18, we see that this ‘woman’ is “…the great city that rules over the kings of the earth”. In 17:9 it is: “… the seven hills on which the woman sits”. Furthermore, in verse 6, we read: “…the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus”. Clearly the first century city of Rome was the thought uppermost in the visionary’s mind. Rome was reputedly built on seven hills, and it ruled, by its empire, over all the kings of the earth. It fiercely persecuted and murdered the followers of Jesus who refused to worship the emperor and who instead resolutely worshipped the true God.
The scarlet beast – wearing the dragons’ colours! – is the Beast from the Sea. Representing oppressive empires, it had seven heads and ten horns. These heads were probably originally seven kings or Roman emperors who had already reigned and then died. The ten horns were ten future kings who would each, for a short time period, receive all the power and authority of the beast, in order to wage a holy war against Jesus and his faithful followers.
Rome was a city of enormous military might that imposed its will upon all the peoples held captive in its empire. In many senses, it acted just like a great beast, devouring Christians, and attempting to destroy and devour the fledgling early church. But Rome was also filled with hedonistic, pleasure-seeking citizens, chasing vanity, luxury, entertainment, and sensual gratification. It was the world centre of seduction, attempting to entice believers away from their true allegiance to Christ and into a culture of idolatry mixed with sexual promiscuity at places such as the Temple of Diana. In that sense, Rome was a prostitute!
So we have the prostitute and the tyrant stacked one upon the other, symbolised by the harlot riding the beast. In real life, if the totalitarian government didn’t frighten you into denying Christ, then the temple prostitutes of Diana might seduce you! The two worked together as a team.
Rome was also a more up-to-date example of spiritual ‘prostitution’; the previous version was the ancient city of Babylon itself. Have a look at the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel for the huge numbers of judgments aimed by God at that god-hating city!
There is much going on ‘in plain sight’, but even more ‘under the surface’. These antichristian forces combine together to make constant war against Jesus (‘The Lamb’) and against his faithful followers (us) who have been called and chosen. This ‘Lamb’ is also “Lord of Lords and King of Kings”, he is God and has all the power of heaven at his disposal. We must remember that those forces battling on our behalf are far greater than those fighting against us. The ‘Prostitute’ “sat by many waters” (verse 1), which represents “…the peoples, multitudes, nations and languages” (verse 15); in other words, this mythical woman’s role is to deceive the godless nations of the earth into fighting against God without even knowing it!
Eventually, as we see in verses 8, 16 and 17, the need for sensual temptation will disappear, and the ‘woman’ will be dispensed with, just as the ancient city of Rome descended into apathetic decay and the empire was overrun by a new, fiercer, and more totalitarian empire from afar. Spiritually, Rome had had its day and done its job.
If you are a believer whose name has been written in the Book of Life from the creation of the world (i.e., not those people mentioned in verse 8), then you need not fear this long-term attack, since you are on the victory side. But be on your guard against all kinds of temptations!