Judging the Harlot (Rev. 17:1, 2)
Revelation chapter 17 reveals the great judgment that God will finally pass on the apostate powers that caused pain and affliction on God’s people and His church. Reading the chapter restores our hope that no matter how much we suffer in this world, God will soon deliver justice, and the enemy will be destroyed forever.
In verse one, John speaks of adultery, fornication, or harlotry. In the Old Testament, the wise man Solomon warned against any union with a harlot (Proverbs 5–7). In the vision John relates in Revelation 17, he uses the imagery of adultery to symbolize the height of apostasy. Apostasy existed in John’s day, and it continues to exist in our generation. Babylon the harlot represents the spiritual and moral degradation that plagues the church. Instead of accepting Christ as the lawful Husband, the harlot decided to go to bed with multiple men of diverse backgrounds.
Through the beast, the dragon found the best means to advance his powers of persecution.
The scenes in this vision speak to our generation; the moment we reject Christ in our lives, we adopt the harlot system that prompts us to surrender to the will of different masters. When that happens, we allow money, education, entertainment, and others to take the place of Christ in our lives.
The Prostitute and the Beast (Rev. 17:3) In Revelation 13:1, we learn about the characteristics of the beast. In chapter 17 John sees a woman on a beast. The woman is presented in all manner of adornment: gold, precious stones, pearls, and purple and scarlet attire. This picture points to worldly honor and riches, which the apostate church can command.
In his efforts to lure Christ to his side, Satan promised Him worldly riches and power (Matt. 4:8, 9). The presentation of the woman and the beast mirrors the same things that the world continues to offer, if only we will reject Christ.
As for her residence: the woman sits upon the beast. What about her diet? She feeds on the blood of the saints.
From this vision, it is evident that the woman and the beast are symbols of worldly powers that that continue to work against God’s people. Persecution of Christians is something that still takes place in many parts of the world, but it will reach its climax when the apostate church unites with global political powers to implement religious laws that everyone must follow. The good news is that amid all the tribulations, both the harlot and the beast will be condemned and sentenced to a penalty that will see them destroyed forever (Rev. 2:22, 23).
The Beast Identified (Rev. 13:1–8)
John’s vision in chapter 12 ends with an angry dragon that goes to make war with those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Christ. Chapter 13 of Revelation reveals a beast rising out of the sea. It is here to perpetuate the story of the dragon. John writes, “The dragon gave him his power, and his throne, and great authority” (Rev. 13:2, ASV).
Through the beast, the dragon found the best means to advance his powers of persecution. In addition, he found the best vehicle to rise to power so that he could be worshiped. In the vision of the beast from the sea, John describes a situation in which a worldly power is arising, which Satan will use to execute his plans.
The prophecies of Revelation are closely linked to those of Daniel (Dan. 2:42; 7:7, 8; 9:27; 11:36). Daniel 7 helps us interpret the meaning of Revelation 17. For instance, by connecting Revelation 17:1–5 with Daniel 7:2, 3, we can find an indication that John refers to Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome.
For Christians, knowing the beast and his agents is of utmost importance. Once we know the beast and all that he uses to trap us, we can find the best ways to avoid his traps through the Holy Spirit.
The Fall of Babylon (Rev. 17:12–15)
The culmination of events in Revelation 17 shows that God has been involved in the affairs of the world, not leaving His children alone to suffer at the hands of the enemy.
When the dragon discovers that he is no longer able to execute his advances through the worldly powers and he senses that he cannot destroy the people of God, he launches his attack in a different way.
On the surface, the beast and his followers appear stronger than the Lamb and His army. However, the Lamb finally gains victory over the beast. Christ, the Lamb, is destined to reign. From this vision, we learn that Christ is the Lord of lords and King of kings. No kingdom or lordship can rise against His.
1. What does the fall of Babylon teach us about the character of God and how He intends to conclude the history of this world?
2. When do you think the battle between the dragon and the Lamb will end? Support your answer with scripture.
3. What assurance do we have that even in the midst of tribulations Christ is present among us?