Revelation Chapters 14 through 19, Part 5
by Karl Kemp
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We will continue the verse-by-verse study of Rev. 14:6-19:21 here in Part 5, starting with Rev. 17:3.
(3) and he carried me away in the Spirit [cf. Rev. 1:10; 4:2; and 21:10] into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. [[The "beast" is the "world kingdom," with the seven heads referring to the seven "world kingdoms" of the Bible (Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, Roman, and revived Roman). On the seven heads, see Rev. 12:3; 13:1; and 17:7, 9-11. Daniel chapters 2 and 7 (which are discussed in detail in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture") set the stage to understand the seven "world kingdoms." Revelation 12:3 is a very important cross-reference; for one thing, it shows that the devil is behind the kingdom of the world throughout its history. The "red" of Rev. 12:3 apparently equals the "scarlet (red)" of Rev. 17:3. This color apparently relates to the blood shed by this beast throughout its history, especially the innocent blood of God's faithful servants.
The "woman" is Babylon, the great harlot. The fact that the woman is sitting on the beast (and is carried by it [Rev. 17:7; cf. 17:2, 18; and 18:3, 9]) shows that she, at least in some ways, and to some extent, influences and controls the beast (through such things as false religions, occult powers, and the influence and power of her riches, commerce, etc.). She sits on the beast, however, only until the time when, in the plan of God, the last ruler of the "world kingdom," Antichrist (with the ten horns), totally destroys the woman. (See Rev. 17:16, 17.)
The ten horns refer to the rulers of the ten nations of the revived Roman Empire (see Dan. 7:7, 8, 20, 24; Rev. 12:3; 13:1; and 17:7, 12-17). On the "blasphemous names," cf. Rev. 13:1. This blasphemy has continued throughout the history of the beast - Rev. 12:3 is sufficient to explain this fact (the devil is fully behind this beast) - but the blasphemy during the reign of Antichrist (starting to some extent with the abomination of desolation, but receiving a gigantic boost when he begins his super-evil reign in the middle of Daniel's 70th week [cf., e.g., Rev. 13:2, 5-8]), will rise to unprecedented levels.]] (4) And the woman was clothed in purple and scarlet [Compare Jer. 4:30. On "scarlet," cf. Rev. 17:3. The purple and scarlet dyes used in the ancient world were quite expensive and reserved for those with money and influence.], and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup [This deceptive woman and cup look good on the outside, but....] full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality [[Compare Rev. 18:6. Satan makes the woman as appealing as possible to draw mankind to her (and through her, and through the beast that carries her, to himself). One thing this harlot clearly uses to seduce mankind is riches and the things of this world that money can buy. (If mankind wasn't fallen, deceived, and seduced, it would be obvious that such things can never serve as an adequate substitute for God.) We can see this in the clothes and jewelry of the harlot and in the teaching of Revelation chapter 18. Compare, for example, 1 Tim. 6:5-11 (I'll quote 6:9-11, "But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. (10) For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. (11) But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness."); 1 John 2:15-17 ("Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [Such a person doesn't love God the Father, but the meaning of these words here probably is that he is not motivated by the love of God, by the love that comes from God (cf. 1 John 4:12). Christians are enabled to walk in the love of God by the indwelling Spirit, by the fruit of the Spirit of love (Gal. 5:22). The next verse (1 John 2:16) goes on to speak of the motivation that is of (comes from) the world.] (16) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. (17) And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever."). The "abominations and...unclean things of her immorality" include all sin, not just sexual sins, as demonstrated by this entire discussion regarding Babylon, the great harlot.]] (5) and upon her forehead a name was written, a mystery [As it typically happens in the New Testament, the "mystery" of Rev. 17:5 and 7 doesn't remain a mystery in that it is explained/interpreted for the saints (cf., e.g., Rev. 1:16, 20).], 'BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.' [[Taking Babylon the great in the fullest sense, she is the "mother" (origin/source) of all the spiritual harlotry and abominations that have ever taken place on the earth, as men looked to, and followed, her instead of God. It isn't hard to understand Babylon when we understand that Satan is behind this woman/city.]] (6) And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. [[Compare Rev. 18:24; 19:2. One of the most grievous sins traceable to Babylon is the slaughtering of God's people. The judgment and removal of Babylon will be part of the answer to the cry of the martyrs for God to make things right (Rev. 6:9-11). The "saints" here in 17:6 probably refer to the faithful people of God who lived in the days before the new covenant was initiated. The new covenant saints are referred to here as "the witness of Jesus." The Greek noun translated "witnesses" by the NASB here is "martus, marturos," which can also be translated "martyr." The KJV and NKJV translate "martyrs of Jesus" here. The English word martyr traces back to this Greek word. Martyrdom was viewed by the early Christians as the ultimate "witness" to Christ (cf., e.g., Rev. 2:13). The NASB and NIV translate "witness" in 2:13; the KJV and NKJV translate "martyr."]] And when I saw her, I wondered greatly. [The NIV has, "I was greatly astonished." The NKJV has, "I marveled with great amazement."] (7) And the angel said to me, 'Why do you wonder? I shall tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. (8) The beast that you saw was and is not, and is about to [is going to] come up out of the abyss [[On the beast coming up out of the abyss, see Rev. 11:7. The beast is Antichrist. The statement that the beast "was and is not" refers to the fact that Antichrist will be killed, after which he "is not," not until he comes up out of the abyss (comes back from the dead). On Antichrist's being killed and coming back from the dead, including the probable timing of these events, see on Rev. 13:3 in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture" (pages 328-331). I assume Antichrist will come back from the dead some few days before he kills the two witnesses/prophets (Rev. 11:7) and then begins his super-evil reign right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week after the devil gives him "his power and throne and great authority" (Rev. 13:2). The devil will not give him this power etc. until after he and his angels are cast down to the earth in the middle of the seven years (Rev. 12:4, 7-9).]] and to go to destruction. [The Bible frequently mentions the judgment and destruction of Antichrist, which will take place at the end of Daniel's 70th week (see Dan. 7:11, 26; 8:25; 9:27; 11:45; 2 Thess. 2:3 [This verse, which refers to Antichrist, speaks of him as "the man doomed to destruction" (NIV).], 8; and Rev. 17:11; 19:20; and 20:10).] And those who dwell on the earth will wonder [I would translate "will be amazed" (or the equivalent). The same Greek verb was translated that way by the NASB in Rev. 13:3. Here in 17:8 the NIV has "will be astonished"; the NKJV has "will marvel." As the following words show, God's people, the elect, are not included here.], whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world [[Although I have seen people try, I don't believe there's any reasonable way to avoid the fact that this verse speaks of these names having been in the book of life since the foundation of the world (really it was before the foundation of the world [cf., e.g., Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:20]). For one thing, it must be noted that this verse is specifically speaking only of those people who live on the earth at the time of the end, during the three and one-half year super-evil reign of Antichrist.
The elect (those whose names have been written in the Lamb's book of life from the foundation of the world) who live on the earth during the second half of Daniel's 70th week must include the elect of true Israel (the woman of Revelation chapter 12) and the elect of the nations (cf. Rev. 15:2-4; 20:3; and 21:27). If the names of the elect of the nations weren't included here, they would worship Antichrist (e.g., Rev. 13:8], which would demonstrate that they were doomed for destruction (see Rev. 14:9-11).
For me the Bible's teaching on God's electing (choosing) us before the foundation of the world (based on His foreknowledge), which rightly puts the emphasis on God's role in our salvation, is an important, comforting truth. Some other verses that teach this same truth are Acts 13:48; Rom. 8:28-30; 1 Cor. 1:24; Eph. 1:4, 5, 11; 2 Thess. 2:13; and Rev. 13:8. At the same time, we must maintain the Biblical balance and understand that it's not all God; we have a crucial role to play - God set it up this way. The most important word used in the New Testament to describe our role is the word faith (not a faith that earns salvation, but a faith that receives salvation and cooperates with God's grace in Christ). And God doesn't just give us saving faith to begin with or override our wills and make us continue in faith to the end. In my papers "Once Saved, Always Saved?" and "A Paper on Faith," I tried to demonstrate something of the Biblical balance. It seems to me that many Christians are out of balance, either overstating God's role and understating (or even denying our role), or overstating our role and understating God's role. We desperately need the balanced truth of what the Bible teaches. One verse in the book of Revelation that brings some balance to Rev. 17:8 (and 13:8) is Rev. 3:5. (On Rev. 3:5, see my paper on Revelation chapters 2 and 3; and see on Rom. 8:28-20 in my paper on Rom. 8:16-39.]], when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. [Antichrist "will come," in the sense these words are used here, when he comes up out of the abyss (when he comes back from the dead).] (9) Here is the mind which has wisdom. [On wisdom, cf. Rev. 13:18.] The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits [[We discussed the "seven heads" under 17:3. The "seven mountains" refer to the same seven "world kingdoms" of the Bible. Mountains can symbolize kingdoms (cf. Jer. 51:25; Dan. 2:35). For the woman to sit on seven mountains speaks of the same reality as her sitting on the scarlet beast with seven heads in 17:3, and of her being carried by the beast with seven heads in 17:7. We can also say that the woman has sat on (influenced and to some extent controlled) essentially every kingdom/nation that has ever existed on the earth, not just the seven "world kingdoms" (cf. 17:1, 2, 5, 15, 18; 18:3, 9, 23). When God's people are faithful to Him, they are not influenced by (and they certainly are not controlled by) the woman or the devil behind her (cf., e.g., Rev. 12:3).]], (10) and they are seven kings [Kings and kingdoms are often interchangeable in such prophecies (cf., e.g., Dan. 2:37-39; 7:4-7, 17, 23).]; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come [[The five that had already fallen in John's day were the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Greek "world kingdoms." The "world kingdom" that then was (in John's day) was the Roman Empire/Kingdom. The seventh "world kingdom" was, and in our day still is, yet to come. The revived Roman Empire (the seventh kingdom) seems to be taking shape in our day, but I wouldn't say it's here yet (in August 2012).]]; and when he comes [[This refers to the revived Roman Empire, with its king(s). This kingdom will exist under the leadership of the ten horns (kings/rulers) until they "give their power and authority to the beast [Antichrist]" (Rev. 17:13) in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. I'll qualify this over-simplified sentence as we continue. On this point also see Rev. 17:17. Daniel 7:8, 20, and 24 confirm that Antichrist (the little horn who becomes a very large horn) will arise after the ten horns. (These verses from Daniel are discussed in chapter 6 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture," which is a verse-by verse study of Daniel chapter 7 of 27 pages.)
I'm certainly not saying that Antichrist won't have any authority before the middle of Daniel's 70th week; clearly he will. For one thing, one way or another, Antichrist will have enough authority to make, or to confirm, the seven-year covenant/treaty of Dan. 9:27, which will initiate Daniel's 70th week. Also, although this detail isn't mentioned in the book of Revelation, he will overthrow three of the ten horns (Dan. 7:8, 20, 24). (The three horns will apparently be replaced by three others who are loyal to Antichrist.) This overthrow will apparently take place during the one-month period between the abomination of desolation and the time Antichrist begins his three and one-half year reign in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. (See on Zech. 11:8 in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture" in the chapter on Zechariah chapter 11, on pages 210, 211. Zechariah chapter 11 prophesies about Antichrist quite a bit.)
So, it's clear that Antichrist will reign to some extent before we arrive at the time spoken of in Rev. 17:12-17 (the middle of Daniel's 70th week). The rise of Antichrist is discussed under Dan. 7:8 on pages 64-67 of my book.]], he must [in God's plan] remain a little while. [It is clear, I believe. that he will reign for three and one-half years after the devil gives him his power and throne and great authority right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. He will be destroyed by the Lord Jesus at the end of the seven years (e.g., Rev. 19:20).] (11) And the beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth [[Two extraordinary things will happen to Antichrist that will cause the "world kingdom," over which he reigns, to be so different that it can be considered an eighth from that time on: He will be killed and come back from the dead (see under Rev. 17:8), and he will (in God's plan) be given great authority and power by the devil (Rev. 13:2). From the time he becomes "an eighth," Antichrist will have three and one-half years for his super-evil reign (Rev. 13:5; Dan. 7:25).], and is one of the seven [[The NASB has the word "one" in italics, since it is not there in the Greek. I would translate, "is of, is out of, or, is from the seven." The KJV and NKJV have "is of the seven." Antichrist and his eighth kingdom will emerge from the seventh "world kingdom"; the eighth kingdom is part of, and a continuation of, the seven-headed "world kingdom." But he is called an eighth because his kingdom will be extremely evil and powerful, far more than any previous kingdom.]], and he goes to destruction. [On the destruction of Antichrist, see under 17:8. His kingdom will be destroyed along with him at the end of Daniel's 7th week. This is a significant feature in God's end-time judgment of the world.] (12) And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings [see under 17:3, 10], who have not yet received a kingdom [That is, in the days of the apostle John, they had not yet received a kingdom.], but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. [[The ten horns will be reigning as rulers of nations before they begin the spectacular, super-evil reign with Antichrist spoken of here, as 17:13, 17 (and other verses) confirm. The spectacular kingdom/reign spoken of here will begin right in the middle of Daniel's 70th week (cf. Rev. 13:2, 5). The "one hour" spoken of here refers to the three and one-half year period that constitutes the super-evil reign of Antichrist. Revelation 3:10 speaks of the blessing of being kept out of/from the "hour of testing" (which also refers to the second half of Daniel's 70th week) for those who are faithful to Christ in the days preceding His return. Revelation 14:7 speaks of "the hour of His judgment" having come, and 14:15 speaks of "the hour to reap" having come, with both verses apparently speaking of the "hour" beginning when Christ returns in the middle of Daniel's 70th week. On this "hour," also see Rev. 18:10, 17, and 19.]] (13) These [the ten horns] have one purpose [The two Greek words translated "one purpose" here are also used in 17:17, where they are translated "common purpose" by the NASB.] and they give their power and authority to the beast [to Antichrist]. (14) These will wage war against the Lamb [[Antichrist and the ten horns will wage war against the Lamb (the Lord Jesus Christ) throughout the "one hour" of their reign (which covers the second half of Daniel's 70th week), which includes waging war against His people, including the raptured saints (not that he can harm the Lord Jesus Christ and the raptured, glorified saints; quite the contrary; but, in the plan of God, he will look invincible to many [cf. Rev. 13:1-18; 2 Thess. 2:8-12]) and those saints living on the earth during his reign (cf. Rev. 13:5-17; 15:2; 16:4-16; 19:19-21; and 20:4). Note that the raptured saints are mentioned later in this verse (Rev. 17:14); they are also mentioned in Rev. 13:6; 19:19 (cf. Rev. 19:8, 14).]], and the Lamb will overcome them [[The Lamb could, of course, destroy them any time, but it fits the plan of God to use Antichrist, the false prophet, and the ten horns before destroying them at the end of Daniel's 70th week. He will use them, for one thing, to destroy Babylon the great harlot (cf. 17:16, 17). God's judgment, destruction, and total removal of Babylon is a major feature in God's end-time judgment of the world.]], because He is Lord of lords and King of kings [Compare 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 19:16. 1 Tim. 6:15, 16 refer to God the Father, who has the preeminent role in the Trinity. See my papers "Who Do We Worship?"; "Who Do We Pray To?" "The Name Yahweh and God the Father and God the Son"; and "More on the Trinity."], and those who are with Him are the called [[On "called," cf., e.g., Acts 2:39; Rom. 1:6; 8:28-30 (on Rom. 8:28-30, see my paper on Rom. 8:16-39); 9:24; 1 Cor. 1:9, 24; 2 Thess. 2:14; and Heb. 1:15), and see under Rev. 19:9 in this paper.] and chosen [On "chosen," see on the book of life under Rev. 17:8 in this paper.] and faithful. [Significantly, those who are with Christ are the glorified saints, who were raptured to meet Him in the air in the middle of Daniel's 70th week (as pictured in 1 Thess. 4:16, 17; cf. Rev. 12:5). The raptured saints are also pictured being with Him in Rev. 7:9-17; 14:1-5; 19:14, 19, and apparently 14:14-16; cf. 12:12; 13:6.]] (15) And he said to me, 'The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. [See under Rev. 17:1-5.] (16) And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate [[It's important to see that the same Greek verb (actually it's a participle formed from the Greek verb) translated "desolate" here is also used in Rev. 18:17, 19; these verses in chapter 18 refer to the same desolating judgment of the great harlot/great city that 17:16, 17 speak of. It isn't obvious in the NASB translation that the same Greek verb was used; it has "has been laid waste" in 18:17 and "she has been laid waste" in 18:19. The NIV has, "they will bring her to ruin" here and "[she] has been brought to ruin" in 18:17, 19.]] and naked [cf. Ezek. 16:30-43, especially verse 39; 23:22-30, especially verses 26, 29, and 30] and will eat her flesh [cf. Psalm 27:2; Mic. 3:3] and will burn her up with fire [cf. Rev. 18:8, 9, 18; 19:3]. [[I assume Antichrist (the beast) and the ten horns will hate the harlot from the time their super-evil three and one-half year reign begins. For one thing, Antichrist won't want anyone competing with him, much less controlling him in any way. This will apparently include his being against all religion (cf. Dan. 11:36-38; 2 Thess. 2:4). He will want to be worshiped from the time of his abomination of desolation, which will be manifested about a month before the middle of Daniel's 70th week. It's a common Biblical theme for God to use a kingdom (like the Assyrian or Babylonian kingdoms) to judge other kingdoms/nations, then to judge that kingdom (cf., e.g., Isa. 10:5-34; Jer. 25:1-38).]] (17) For God has put it in their hearts [the ten horns] to execute His purpose by having a common purpose [cf. Rev. 17:13], and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God should be fulfilled. [[This is an important verse to help us understand God's end-time judgment. He clearly uses Antichrist and the ten horns to destroy Babylon the harlot, which is a major feature in His end-time judgment of the world. He devotes some three chapters of the book of Revelation to that judgment. Compare, for example, Dan. 8:23-25; Zech. 11:15-17. He also uses Antichrist for His "hour of testing" of Rev. 3:10. Revelation chapter 18 continues with the theme of the judgment of Babylon the great.]] (18) And the woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth. [[As we discussed under Rev. 17:1-5, Babylon the harlot is a woman and a city, even as (new) Jerusalem is a woman (the bride of Christ) and a city. Babylon is also called "the great city" in Rev. 18:10, 16, 18, 19, and 21.
I'll quote what Alan Johnson ("Expositor's Bible Commentary," Vol. 12 [Zondervan, 1978], pages 562, 563) said under 17:18. "The 'woman' and 'the great city' are one. Yet this city is not just a historical one; it is the great city, the mother city, the archetype of every evil system opposed to God in history.... Her kingdom holds sway over the powers of the earth. John's concept of the city in Revelation entails much more than a historical city even in its political and sociological aspects. The two cities in Revelation are communities; they are the city of God, the New Jerusalem (3:12; 21:2, 10; 22:2ff.) and the city of Satan, Babylon the Great (11:8; 14:8; 16:19; 18:4, 20, etc.). [I believe "the great city" of Rev. 11:8 and 16:19 is Jerusalem.] The meaning cannot be confined to Sodom or Egypt or Jerusalem or Rome or any future city. Instead, John describes the real transhistorical system of satanic evil that infuses them all."]]
We will continue this verse-by-verse study of Rev. 14:6-19:21 in Part 6, starting with Rev. 18:1.
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