Revelation 17:1-18 Part 5

REVELATION 17:1-18 Part 5 


1)    Then one of the seven messengers having the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying ‘here, I show you the judgment of the great harlot that sits by many waters

2)    with whom the kings of the earth did fornicate and those indwelling the land were made drunk from the wine of her fornications.

3)    And it bore me away in spirit into isolation.  Then I saw a woman sitting upon a crimson beast full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns;

4)    and the woman was purple and crimson clothed, adorned in gold and precious stone and pearls, and having in her hand a gold cup full of abominable things and the unclean things of her fornications;

5)    and a name, a mystery, having been written on her forehead: BABYLON THE GREAT, the mother of the harlots and the land’s abominations;

6)    and I saw the woman drunkened from the blood of the saints and from the blood of Jesus’ martyrs.  And when I saw her I wondered with great wonder!

7)    And the messenger said to me, “for what did you wonder?  I will speak to you the mystery of the woman and the beast bearing her that has the seven heads and the ten horns.

8)    The beast that you saw was, but isn’t; and it is about to go up from the abyss and to go forth into destruction.  Then those dwelling in the land whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world will be astonished when they behold the beast that was and is not and though is!

9)    Here, the mind that has wisdom!  The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, for there are seven kings.

10) The five did fall in ruin; the one is; the other did not yet come.  But when he comes it is necessary for him to remain briefly.

11) Then the beast that was and is not and is eighth and of the seven goes forth into destruction.

12) And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings whose kingdoms had not yet been taken but receive authority as kings for one hour with the beast.

13) These have one mind; and they give their power and authority to the beast.

14) These will make war with the Lamb.  But the Lamb will overcome them; for He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  And the ones called and chosen and faithful are those with Him!”

15) Then (the messenger) says to me, “the waters that you saw where the harlot sits are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.

16) And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the harlot and make her a desolation and naked and eat her flesh and burn her in fire;

17) for God did put into their hearts to do His purpose and be of one mind to give their power to the beast until the words of God are completed.

18) And the woman that you saw is the great city having power over the kings of the earth.


As the apostle/prophet John writes to the Churches here at the end of the age (the latter days), all of our Lord’s elect from the twelve tribes of Jacob are scattered among the Gentile nations; they have been saved from the wrath to come.

Jesus had said that He came to seek and to save the lost sheep of the house of Jacob; and John has been shown that they are safe with the Lamb of God.  In a magnificent forty-year effort, the apostles and elders and deacons of the Church have sought them out; and all that Jesus came to save (the promised seed) are now standing with Him on the new Mount.  They have been marked with the mark of The Christ; while all those remaining in the land are marked with the mark of the beast.

The Word of YAHVEH through the prophets is perfect in all of its parts, that “in the latter days”, “at the end of the age”, a fifth and eternal Kingdom would be set up during the time of four successive world dominions (beasts); and the fifth would break the fourth one into small pieces and scatter the pieces like chaff into the wind – along with the residue of the first three.

This fourth beast/kingdom that John is shown here in chapter seventeen is clearly identified in the prophets.  It has the (perfect) seven heads and ten horns recalled by God (as shown to Daniel in Babylon).  It is the Roman empire with its emperor/gods.  And regardless of the numbers and names of the emperors that we try to fit into the forty years between the resurrection and Parousia of the Lamb, it is a perfect “seven” beast.  And it has ten horns, which are the kings and sons of men conscripted into service by the beast.

As was that of the first three kingdom/beasts of world history, the purpose of the fourth beast was to cut off the promised seed in order to stop the fifth Kingdom from being set up… the motive being the vengeance of the serpent/dragon, and the depraved envy and vengeance of the four beast/kingdoms.  They just did not want to be ruled by God’s Anointed King.  So there was great “turmoil” in all the nations of the earth.  The waters of humanity raged and foamed and rolled in great swells against the Promised One!

You remember, of course, that Jesus walked on the raging sea.  And when He “spoke” to it, the waters were “stilled”.  The shaking stopped… all prophetic of His soon-to-come come authority over the nations.

But YAHVEH had said that the “turmoil” in the paradise land and its capitol city of the world was even greater than that of the nations; for Israel had forgotten Him and prostituted herself with the pagan nations and their gods.  She would not be ruled by YAHVEH and His Anointed!  She would not keep her legs together.  She went seeking her foreign lovers who paid for her favors with every beautiful thing – even though she had a promise from God to give her everything she asked for!

The Word from YAHVEH through the prophets to Israel, and through John’s prophetic Word to the Churches, all agree.  They all confirm that it is Jerusalem that was the great harlot of the nations.  And just as Jesus Christ was the descendant of a harlot, so the “daughter of Zion” – the promised seed – was birthed in great travail from this harlot.

The seed promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was birthed out of Israel into the nations in great travail, just as Israel, itself, was birthed out of Egypt. 

And the seed was preserved and protected by YAHVEH from the beginning… preserved from the vengeance of the dragon; preserved from the envy and vengeance of the beasts.  And finally marked and sealed in the blood of the Lamb and the baptism of Holy Spirit – and scattered into the nations before the full and final wrath of YAHVEH.  And from this small “seed” has grown a great tree over all of the nations (all prophesied by Jesus in His parable of the mustard seed).

The harlot is Jerusalem; and as John looks on in this great and awesome sign in the heaven, she is about to be executed for all her abominations.  And all of those In Christ, receiving this letter, will be comforted and assured in the judgment to come shortly.  The nations were about to be in a raging turmoil such as has never before been seen; and because of the fifth and everlasting kingdom being set up, will never again be seen!  So the Churches were sent this letter to give them confidence in that this was all God’s doing!

Having now identified the beast and the harlot from the Word of God through the prophets of old and the Word of God through the prophet/apostle John (all of which correspond perfectly), it’s now for us to go through the text in order to understand the grand deception that is taking place as John looks on.

YAHVEH laughs at the nations as they gather against Him and His Anointed.  In envy and vengeance they seek to cut the cords that bind them to their Creator – to cut off the seed of His Anointed so that there is no sovereign King over all His domain.  They will copulate with anything; and they will submit to beastly rule.  But they will not have this Man to rule over them!!

But YAHVEH deceives them all!  He will have His Anointed rule over all in the heaven and all on the earth and all in the abyss; and He will eventually cast all who oppose His rule into the lake of fire and brimstone underneath the altar in His tabernacle in the heaven.  And for all eternity He will delight in the presence of all who belong to Him – Jew and Gentile alike!  He will be glorified in that all of them will have been preserved from the beginning!

So now let’s do our best to work through what John is shown here… and the explanation that he hears from YAHVEH’s messenger.

But because John’s letter to the Churches is continuous – with no “chapters” – we have to remember that the portion of the letter that we’re considering now isn’t something new!  Rather, it appears more toward the end of all that John is shown in the heaven… and it is set in the immediate context of the great and awesome sign.

And the sign has to do with the seed of the dragon and the seed of the woman.  YAHVEH, in all His mercy and grace toward His promised seed, protects and delivers them all through His history – for His Own glory.  The vengeful dragon plots to cut off the seed; but at every turn it is deceived; and it fails! 

And the great mystery revealed is that, in the latter days, at the end of the age, all the earth rages against the appearance of the Anointed One and kills Him!  But this is the grand deception purposed from the beginning!  For the Anointed One arises out of death with all of those promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob IN HIM!

And the grand deception continues as the seed are delivered once again… this time from the wrath shortly to come on the harlot nation.  And they are scattered into the Gentile nations to establish the Kingdom of the Savior of the world!

And what John is shown (in chapter sixteen) is the seven-fold outpouring of the wrath of God upon all that remains of Israel.  It is a covenantal divorce and execution.  But the seed, you see, is already planted in all the nations; and Gentiles (according to the apostle Paul) are grafted into the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The deception of the dragon; and the deception of the beast; the deception of the kings of the earth; the deception of the pseudoprophets of Israel; and the deception of all those remaining in the paradise land (all for the purpose of the kingdom of God’s Anointed One and the salvation of the world; and all for the glory of Father, Son and Spirit) is what John is being shown here in chapter seventeen!

As John “wonders” at all he’s being shown, the deception is explained to him by YAHVEH’s messenger.  The serpent/dragon is being used (along with all those that followed it); the fourth beast (as all the others were) is being used; the kings of the earth with which the harlot has fornicated are being used; the pseudoprophets and all remaining in the land are being used!  YAHVEH “laughs” at them; for they are all His servants; all of them are under authority.  And their depraved raging against YAHVEH and His Anointed One is turned on them as His beloved Son – the Faithful One – inherits the creation and is given all authority over it all.


Beginning now with verses one and two… here they are again:


1)    Then one of the seven messengers having the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying ‘here, I show you the judgment of the great harlot that sits by many waters

2)    with whom the kings of the earth did fornicate and those indwelling the land were made drunk from the wine of her fornications.


Should there have been written a Biblically-appropriate, covenantally-consistent “Tale of Two Cities”, its subject matter would have been Babylon of old and Jerusalem.

Having been set on the dome of the rock, in the center of all His creation, and with the replica of His tabernacle in the heaven, Jerusalem was commanded to be the real “gateway to God” from which the “Light” shone to all the peoples of the world.

But, instead, it was the prophetic “fullness” of Babylon.

As is shown to John here in these two verses, YAHVEH “recalls” Babylon as He views Jerusalem.  She “sits by many waters” just as is written in the prophetic Word concerning Babylon.  And she has made all the nations (and all those dwelling in the land) “drunk with the wine of her fornications”, just as is written in the prophetic Word concerning Babylon.

We’ve read those passages in the words of the prophets; and the correspondence between the two cities attests to the consistency and perfections of God’s revealed Word.  Jerusalem (the capitol city of Israel and the center of God’s creation) is the harlot and the prophetic fullness of Babylon of old.

What is meant by “fullness”?  In and of itself, Babylon was prophetic of that which was to come.  Everything that Babylon was, prophesied that which Jerusalem would be – except much worse.

Babylon had received much from YAHVEH; but Israel had received so much more!  The twelve sons and tribes of Jacob had witnessed the mighty acts of YAHVEH on their behalf; and they received the direct Revelation of the covenant from YAHVEH; and they had the text of His written Word, including His holy Law; and they were given a man-made replica of the tabernacle of YAHVEH in the heaven.

And YAHVEH had moved the flood of the raging waters of humanity in order to establish them on the dome of the Rock in a paradise land of plenty; and He gave them certainty of a coming Messiah-Savior.

And He even gave them a representative “priesthood” that foreshadowed the Messiah to come!  The priesthood was to represent YAHVEH to the people, and the people to YAHVEH.  And that’s the definition of a “mediator”.  We’ll discuss this some more shortly, for the priests of Israel bore much blame for the judgment to come upon the harlot (verse one)!

But, you see, all of these things were given to Israel and its glorious city of Light on the mount.  And therefore, as the fullness of Babylon, her unfaithfulness to YAHVEH has earned her the name:  the GREAT harlot (verse one).  The original Babylon had been given much by YAHVEH; but it was a foreshadowing of the one to come!  As the first world-wide kingdom in history, Babylon was glorious among the nations.  But it caused all the nations to drink of the wine of its fornications.

And considering all that YAHVEH had given Israel (so much more than even the original Babylon), since she made all the nations drink of the wine of her fornications, and she made all those indwelling the land drink of the wine of her fornication, she was the preeminent harlot.  Therefore the “great harlot” nomenclature here in the first verse.

Now, as I mentioned before, while we’re here in these first two verses I want to call your further attention to the priesthood.  As we all know from Scripture, we who belong to The Christ are “priests”, in that we have access to the throne of grace In Him.  HE is our High Priest/Mediator Who represents us before the throne in the heaven, and Who represents God to us.  And He is the only One.  That’s why we pray in His Name.

As the office of prophet now rests fully in the person of Jesus Christ, so the office of the high priest rests fully in Him.  And as the world dominion rests fully in the Person of Jesus Christ, so the office of high priest rests fully in Him.

But since we have bold access to YAHVEH In Him, each of us is a priest in his own right in the tabernacle in the heaven.  And since we make offerings of thanksgiving and praise before God, and make our petitions for others and for ourselves, and pray for the Kingdom (just as the Lord’s prayer teaches), the priesthood of every believer is manifest.  As priests before the throne of God, we “intercede” for one another and for the Kingdom and for the world.

That’s why we have a prayer of “intercession” most Sundays.  The prayers of praise and thanksgiving and intercession are “priestly” prayers!

Outside the body of Christ there is no access to the throne of God where there is grace and mercy.  This apostle, John, quoted Jesus saying: “no man comes to the Father but by Me”!  He is our one-and-only High Priest Who mediates and intercedes for us.

But In Him we are priests with access to Almighty God.  And the priesthood of Israel was the foreshadowing of the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ and the priesthood of all who are In Him (as the apostle Paul made clear).


Now, before I get back to the priesthood in Israel (and its great fault in foreshadowing the coming Christ), let’s just talk about pastors in Christ’s Church for a bit.  I know this sounds like it’s getting far afield of verses one and two of our text; but just bear with me for a few minutes; because even though many would see a direct link between the priesthood of Israel and the pastor/elder in Christ’s Church, there is a clear distinction between the priesthood of Israel before Christ and the pastorate now in His Church.

The priesthood of Israel foreshadowed the Christ; for HE – The Man – entered once into the Holy Place, into the Presence of Almighty God the Father; it was only ONCE, you see… and the priesthood was then obsolete!  The priesthood as mediator between YAHVEH and Israel is filled up in The Christ.

But, back to pastors… I don’t think many pastors and preachers like to speak to their congregations about who they are and what they are from Scripture.  It may be that some want to appear as something “more” than what they are….  That’s a huge problem in some denominations and in many Churches.

Pastors (and other elected elders – but especially pastors and preachers) are somehow “set apart”, or set themselves apart, from the rest of their congregations.  And that concept is so often “promoted” by them.  In other words they want to appear as “set apart” and “special”.

But what always transpires when pastors acquire this “set apartness” for themselves is “overlording”.  What that means is that pastors put themselves into an intermediate high-priestly position!  And when that happens, the congregation then has a local high priest between them and our High Priest Jesus Christ!

I just can’t think of anything worse for the Church of Jesus Christ than to have a self-appointed mediator between our Lord and His people!  You see, each of us is a priest in the body of Christ; and to have another mediator (a self appointed one) takes away your own priesthood in Christ, and interferes with your own access to God In Him.  Nobody should interfere with that!

But Pastors and preachers are not of a different “kind”, you see!

If I am permitted to use a word that’s usually packed with evolutionary content, pastors are not of a separate “specie” of member!  All of us who belong to Him are members of the body of Christ; and all of us are priests in our High Priest – Jesus Christ; and all of us have equal access to The Father In Him.

Pastors aren’t intermediaries between The Lord and His people!  There are no intermediaries between us and Jesus; He IS the Mediator!

I am not Holy Spirit; and I don’t wield Christ’s “rod of iron” for Him!  I am not a “mediator” between you and Jesus!  Pastors aren’t “mini-lords”; pastors aren’t “mini-priests” (the priesthood of Israel was over and done-with when The Christ came).  Pastors are bond-slaves to Christ and servants of His body!

If you’ve noticed, for example I make certain that there’s no “separation” between us during communion.  There’s no table between the pastor and the rest of us (which would indicate a special office); and I don’t “bless” the bread and the wine (as is seen in many places).  Only our Mediator and Savior can do that.  And there’s no special seat for me in the front; rather, I sit “with” you and commune with you because I’m just another member of His body.

When I preach the Gospel (which is what pastors are to do), I’m learning just like you are.  I just have a gift that’s different from yours.  It’s a high calling, certainly; but what is given to you is also valuable to Christ’s Church.

I don’t have any access to the throne of grace that’s better than yours.  My priesthood in Christ is no better than yours.  My priesthood in Christ is no different from yours!  My prayers have no more “weight” or “influence” with God than yours do.

My gift is “servanthood” rather than priesthood.  My service to Christ and His Church is to study and preach the Gospel.  And when I preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then I’m due “honor”.  That means support.

If I preach something other than the Gospel, then I’m due no honor at all.  I ought to be fired.  And as you can see, the center of that concept is the Gospel… not the pastor!  If I preach and teach well, then I’m due support; but if I preach and teach something different from apostolic doctrine, then I should be shamed and excommunicated!

So, you see, the goal of my gift of preaching and teaching isn’t the “person” (the pastor), but the building up of the Body of Christ in the Truth!

My service to Christ and His Church isn’t to “drive” His flock; but to “lead” it.  And the very essence of that is to open up the Word of God so that you, and I, receive the knowledge and virtue of Christ that is available to all of us in His body!

So, pastors are to be “servants”… servants of Christ by being servants of those who belong to Him!  And you… priests before God in your own right, can be led by Holy Spirit and the Word of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

There are other functions in which the pastor is to engage (as clearly intimated in Scripture); such as calling your attention to danger (as a watchman on the wall raises an alarm).  However, it’s your place to “hear” the alarm. 

It’s also my job to carry a big stick (the Word of God) to ward off attacks from wolves and other beasts.  There can be outright attacks, or there can be wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing; but nobody can be allowed to confuse the Lord’s people about Who our Lord is, and about our place in His body!  That’s the pastor’s duty… to bring the Word of God to bear against the philosophies and idolatries of men.

To some that sounds like it’s not “loving” – that we shouldn’t be condemning; that we should be teaching the love of God to all.  But it’s just not so!  To turn the words of that idea around on itself, it’s not “loving” of the body of Christ to allow it to be confused by perversions of the Gospel or the philosophies of men.

Once again, it is for you to “hear” when the pastor raises the staff of the Word of God against those perversions.  Take note of them; and be built up in faithfulness and obedience to our Savior and King.

Now that our High Priest has come, the priesthood is over.  The fullness of the priesthood is the Person of Jesus Christ our Mediator; and there is none other!!


Now.  That short diversion finished, the last thing I want to do this morning concerns that priesthood of Israel as a “foreshadowing” of the High Priest to come; for the priesthood of Israel was to represent YAHVEH to the nation, and to represent the nation to YAHVEH.  Until the Son of God/Son of Man came, the priests of Israel were Israel’s “mediators”!

And remember what we heard earlier… that our High Priest is our “representative” before the Father; and He is The Father’s “representative” to us.  And because of Him, and In Him, and only In Him, we have access.  He is the “Mediator” for all of His people; for He is The Father’s Sacrifice to Himself for us.

Through faith in Him we have access to Him in His holy tabernacle… and there is no veil!  When we come together in public worship; when we come before Him in prayer and thanksgiving; when we contemplate His glory and all that He has done on our behalf, we come directly into the Presence of Almighty God In Christ.

That’s what was to be foreshadowed by the priesthood of Israel.

But, you see, the priests of Israel were perverted from the beginning!  Rather than representing the tribes before YAHVEH, they represented themselves!  They became a “special” class and perpetuated themselves.

Rather than representing YAHVEH to the people, they represented themselves to the people; and that left the people sick and broken and crooked and destitute (prophecy of Isaiah).

Rather than point the tribes of Israel to the coming High Priest and Mediator Himself, they put themselves at the top of Israel’s ecclesiastical hierarchy.

And nowhere is that seen more clearly than in Jesus’ trial in Matthew chapter twenty-six; for it was the high priest emeritus and the then-present high priest of Israel who tried Him and sentenced Him to death… and then convinced the representative of the beast to put Him to death by crucifixion.

In God’s perception, Israel’s priests never did represent YAHVEH to the people; as a foreshadowing of the Christ to come, the priests never gave the bride a view of her coming bridegroom.  Therefore the bride to be became a harlot in search of other lovers.  That’s how God reveals her faithlessness.  In His perception, that’s a direct allusion to Israel’s harlotry!

As with Babylon (recalled by YAHVEH), the sounds of the joy and anticipation of the bridegroom and the bride were extinguished.

However, as we’ll see in the later verses, it was all a grand deception; for the daughter of Zion had been birthed in great travail from the harlot.  And in later chapters we’ll see the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the promised seed scattered into the nations – rejoicing as the “bride of Christ”.  And the great harlot eaten and burned by the beast and her former lovers.

Then we’ll see God’s further Revelation as the great fountain of water flows from the new Jerusalem on the new Mount Zion into the nations as our Lord gathers His people from all the peoples and tongue and tribes. 

And as Isaiah prophesied, all the beasts of the earth – the lions and the leopards and the bears – will lie peacefully with the Lamb; for He will bring them all under His fifth Kingdom dominion.