Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Revelation 17 (The Babylonian Harlot)

Outline of Revelation

1) The Vision of Jesus (Revelation 1)

2) Seven Churches (Revelation 2-3)

3) Jesus Takes the Scroll (Revelation 4-5)

4) Seven Seals (Revelation 6:1-8:5) – expansion and persecution of the church

5) Seven Trumpets (Revelation 8:6-11:19) – warning judgments

6) The Times of the Trumpets (Revelation 12-14)

7) Seven Bowls (Revelation 15-16) – final judgments

Overview of Revelation 17-20

Chapter 17 – Description of the Babylonian Harlot (Jerusalem)

Chapter 18 – The Fall of Babylon (Jerusalem)

Chapter 19 – The Defeat of Babylon (Jerusalem) and the Beast (Rome)

Chapter 20 – The “Millennium”

Revelation 17

This is a symbolic description of Jerusalem and unbelieving Jews as “the great harlot” and “Babylon.”

“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 judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication’” (Revelation 17:1-2).

Jerusalem is about to be judged. She “sits on many waters.” That is, she does not have her own sovereignty but is dependent upon Gentile nations. Indeed, she trusts these foreign nations, rather than Yahweh. She is a harlot, spiritually speaking (Isaiah 1:21, Jeremiah 2:20-24; 2:30-33; 3:1-3; Ezekiel 16; 23; Hosea 9:1).

“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 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. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. 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 marveled with great amazement” (Revelation 17:3-6).

John sees that the woman (Israel/Jerusalem/Jews) is in the wilderness. Why was she in the wilderness? She was persecuting the church, which had fled to the wilderness (12:14). The Jews were persecuting the church.

The woman is sitting on a scarlet beast with seven heads and tens horns. This is the sea beast (Rome) from chapter 13. Unbelieving Jews are sitting on Rome in that they are trusting Rome, not Yahweh.

The colors of the woman’s adornment matches those of the Temple and the priesthood. The high priest also wore a gold plate on his forehead that was engraved “holiness to Yahweh” (Exodus 28:36-38). Because the priesthood is now unbelieving, they symbolically wear a plate that identifies them as “Babylon, the mother of harlots.” The priests were the ones that led the persecution of the saints. They are “drunk” with the blood of the saints and martyrs.

Most Reformers saw the Babylonian harlot as the Roman Catholic church. We can certainly see similarities between how the Reformers were persecuted and how the first century church was persecuted. In fact, every person in every age who is persecuted can find similarities between their persecutors and the original persecutors of the first century church.

These are typological parallels, and these are legitimate connections. The Reformers were right in seeing typological parallels between the Roman Catholic Church of their day and the Babylonian harlot of Revelation 17. However, they were wrong to make an absolute identification.

“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. 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. Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. 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’” (Revelation 17:7-10).

The Beast (Rome) himself will eventually be destroyed, which will cause the world to marvel. The woman (harlot = Jerusalem) sits on seven heads, which are seven mountains. Rome was built on seven hills.

John learns that these seven mountains are also seven kings. Here, we gain insight into the time that Revelation was written.

John is told about seven kings of Rome. Five kings have fallen, or died. The sixth king is still alive, and the seventh king is not reigning yet.

Starting with Julius Caesar, the sixth king is Nero, and the seventh is Vespasian. When John recorded the book of Revelation, Nero was reigning, which dates the book to between AD 54-68.

“‘And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition. 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. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. 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.’

Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. 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. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth’” (Revelation 17:11-18).

There is a lot of detail here that describes the relationship between Rome and Jerusalem, but we are going to skip over it for now.

1 comment:

Frontier Forest said...

Pastor, you are truly to be blessed! This was John’s didactic promise for all who read, and for those who read AND understand, I am sure you have stored up some mighty everlasting treasures.