Tuesday, February 9, 2010

#Revelation 17> Things Which Shall Be Hereafter> Bowl Judgments ( #Prophecy )

3. The things which shall be hereafter (4-22)
     A. Judgment on the inhabitants of the earth (4 - 19)
           6. The Bowl Judgments (15-19)

Whereas chapter 16 gave the overview of the seven bowl judgments, chapters 17 through 19 describe the seventh bowl in greater detail. In this passage, John sees a vision of the fall of the "Babylon the Great". But who is the woman of chapter 17?

Many theories have been raised about the identity of this woman. Some see the harlot as apostate Israel, others as Catholicism, or the church after the rapture of true believers. Many, however, agree that she appears to be some system of false world religion. But what can we gather from the text itself?

First, she is described as "the great whore that sitteth upon many waters. The word "whore" (porne), and act of "fornication" (v2), in the Bible, often picture spiritual adultery. The symbolism of spiritual adultery, however, is not used to describe heathen nations, but people who claim to know God, while really worshipping other gods (cf. Ezekiel 16, 23; Hosea). The woman, then, seems to represent an unfaithful wife, or false religion.

Verse 15 reveals that the waters where the harlot sits "are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues". This is confirmed by Verse two, which indicates that the "kings of the earth committed acts of immorality with the harlot. Thus, we seem to have the picture of an unfaithful world religion.

Next, John sees the woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The beast is undoubtedly the revived Roman empire (cf. vv 8-13; Daniel 2, 7), described later in the chapter. That the woman sits upon this beast shows they are not the same, but that they are related to one another. Association with the blasphemy of the Roman empire seems to further confirm the picture of the woman as a false religious system, with political ties.

Upon the forehead of the woman the name "MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH", was written. Genesis 10 states that Nimrod founded Babel. When the whole earth spoke one language, people began moving east. God had commanded them to fill the earth. However, they decided to build a city and a tower which would reach to heaven, and to make a name for themselves, lest they be "scattered" upon the face of the earth. This was rebellion against God, who confused their speech. Thus, the city became known as "Babel" (confusion), and later "Babylon" (Genesis 11). Throughout the OT, Babylon has been a root of rebellion and spiritual confusion. Once again, the symbolism seems to connect the woman with a system of false religion.

In verse six, John sees the woman "drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus". This makes it clear, that the woman is not a true religion, but apostate. John wonders in amazement at this revelation, and the angel gives him further information about the beast and the woman.

The beast "was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition". In Daniel, the vision of the beasts (2) and man (7), showed the successive world kingdoms leading up to the return of Christ. Daniel said that Babylon was the first kingdom, and that three more would follow. The fourth kingdom would be the kingdom Christ destroys when He establishes His 1,000 year reign on earth (2; 7). Historically, Medo-Persia succeeded Babylon, Greece followed Medo-Persia, and Rome came after Greece. Thus, Rome is the fourth kingdom. Since Christ must destroy the fourth kingdom, there must be a revival of the Roman empire. Thus, Rome "was", today "is not", and in the future, "is about to come up out of the abyss".

The beast which comes up out of the abyss refers to Satan, the dragon, who will energize the revival of the beast, which is the Roman empire (Revelation cf. 9:1-11; 13:4).
What are the seven heads of the beast? Some see them as seven different forms of Roman government (kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, and tribunes would describe the five which have fallen; imperial would denote the form which existed in John's day; and there would be a seventh future form under the anti-christ) others as prominent kings throughout the history of Roman rule. One view, sees the heads as prominent leaders of the yet future, revived Roman empire.

Another idea, is that the seven heads refer to seven successive world kingdoms of man, which culminate in the revived Roman empire. In this view, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece would be the five kingdoms which had passed off the scene, Rome would be the one which existed at the time John wrote Revelation, and the seventh kingdom would be the revived Roman empire. 
The "ten horns" describe a confederation of ten kings, who will receive power with the beast, but give it to the antichrist (v12-13). At the battle in Armageddon, this world government will make war with the Lamb (Revelation 16), but Christ will overcome them when He returns with His saints (v16; chapter 19).

At some point during the tribulation--perhaps the middle, when anti-christ sets himself up as God in the temple--the confederation of ten kings will turn on the harlot, making her "desolate and naked", eating her flesh, and burning her with fire (v16). This occurs to fulfil God's will (17), and seems to be the event which unites the ten kings in their desire to give their kingdom to the beast.

Verse 18 gives one final bit of information about the woman. She is also a city which reigns over the kings of the earth. This seems to connect the apostate religious system with the capitol of the revived Roman empire (which used to be Rome), and further convinces many that the harlot will be the papal system of Catholicism.

Whoever the woman is, she seems to be an apostate religious system which corrupts the world, has her seat in the capitol of the revived Roman empire (the beast), and falls under the judgment of God (Revelation 16, 18-19).

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