Revelation 17:1-18 Part 9

REVELATION 17:1-18 Part 9


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.


Because she was made the very “centerpiece” of God’s creation, created to reflect His glory, Jerusalem is the “mother” of all harlots and all of the promised land’s abominations (verse five).  Just as Babylon before her, she has caused all the nations to drink of the wine of her fornications.

As John is shown God’s perception of her, she has not acknowledged the Creator of this heaven and earth; she has refused to be the image of His tabernacle in the heaven; she did not reflect His glory; she has hated the Revelation of His holiness (i.e. His Law-word); all the wealth and beauty of the nations had been brought into her, and she shone with the glory of the gold and the precious stones and pearls and jewels and costly garments of the earth (all given to her freely); but she chose instead to prostitute herself with heathen idolators.

Rather than be adorned with the reflective glory of Almighty God, she sold her favors to pagans! 

On the one hand, she was gloriously beautiful from all that her Creator had given her (and all of that beauty and wealth had endowed her with great power over the nations); however, she sold herself for gold and stones and jewels and costly garments!

More concise: she had everything from God – for free; but she lusted after that with which she would be paid!

The “woman” that John is shown sitting atop the crimson beast is adorned with the remuneration of her harlotry.  Jerusalem, the capitol of Israel (the land of promise), the center of the nations and the “axis” city of God’s creation is therefore the “mother” of all harlots and all of the abominations in the land.

And because she is the mother of all of the land’s abominations, John saw her “drunkened” with the blood of the saints and the blood of Jesus’ martyrs (verse six).

As John “wonders” at all of this, he sees that the woman is so “high” on her whoredom and what she was being paid for her favors, that she had pursued and oppressed and persecuted, and killed and killed and killed some more, in order to preserve her ways and to persist in chasing after her foreign lovers.  And she had poured out the blood of sacrifices to idols all over the land.

For fifteen hundred years, each and every time YAHVEH sent His Word to her (via the prophets), she ridiculed and persecuted and killed the messenger… ignoring YAHVEH’s call for her repentance and pouring out more of the blood of the righteous on the land!

And having sent three great beasts from the raging sea of humanity against her, YAHVEH punished her and put her under subjection to foreigners and brought her low; but she just went right back to her whoredom anyway!

The dragon – Satan – was full of vengeance from having been cast down from the tabernacle.  Out of vengeance and self-preservation, this creature sought to cut off the seed that God had promised, in order that there would be no kingdom to reflect the glory of Almighty God.

And in its rage and failure, it raised up great beasts full of envy at the glory that God had freely given to Jerusalem and all the promised land.  But each of the beasts failed to cut off the seed, for God had preserved His Own throughout; for the “Seed” was Christ and those for whom He had poured out His blood.

By the love and grace and mercy of God, the harlot had already given birth to the Daughter of Zion; and she was already in the nations spreading the Gospel of God and the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  His work, through Holy Spirit poured out at Pentecost, would be completed; and the earth would one day be that shining reflection of the glory of God in all His creation.  The SON would see to it that His Father was glorified in all that He had made.


But here at the end of the age, the latter days, the harlot’s execution was at hand.  And all the nations with which the harlot had been promiscuous were turned on her through the vengeance of the dragon and the envy of the beast.

The dragon, in all its vengeance, provoked this fourth beast – even greater and more terrible than the first three – to envious rage against the great city that had been made the center of all the nations.

And the beast, with all of its global might, enlisted the nations to rise up against Jerusalem and destroy her – to make her desolate.  It wished to have no other nation – no other city – to have its glory… to have no other city to be dominant in all the earth… to have no other city to exert prominence in the earth… to have no other city to be the kingdom of the world (other than itself!).  So this beast, in demonic rage, would employ all its military might to utterly destroy this “competitor” to its glorious kingdom.  It was to be a great “destruction”.  More about that shortly from verses eight and eleven.

But what John is watching here, and what he hears from YAHVEH’s messenger, is that the dragon and the beast and the nations are doing exactly what God had purposed for them to do!

You see, the harlot was no threat at all to the dragon; she was no threat at all to the beast’s kingdom; she was no threat to the ten kingdoms conscripted by the beast!  How could this little nation that was already in the throes of incredible famines and internal strife (as Jesus prophesied) be any threat to the kingdoms of the whole world?

But they were all deceived, you see.  As John writes (verse seventeen) “God put it into their hearts to do His purpose….”  He deceived them by lying spirits!  God put it into their hearts – all ten of the nations – to be of one mind… to give the power of their individual states to the beast for a short time, until the words of God are completed.


The messenger says to John that the beast “was, but isn’t”.  And it is “about to go up from the abyss….”  This is the “pseudo-resurrection” that we heard last Lord’s Day (from the history) that so amazed those remaining in the land – i.e. the ones having not had their names written in the Lamb’s book of life.

But there had already been a resurrection – a “rising up out of death” – by Jesus the Christ of God.  The priests and the elders and the pharisees and the scribes of Israel denied HIS resurrection, and even paid to have it covered up!  However, as John writes here, all who remained in the land would be “astonished” that the beast (the image of the dragon) had arisen – a pseudo-resurrection – after having appeared as dead.  And they worshiped the beast all the more!

To them, the resurrection of The Christ was the false resurrection; and the resurrection of the beast was the believable one!

However, the pseudo-resurrection of this fourth beast had been prophesied by one of their own prophets!  But they had persecuted and killed all the prophets from God anyway, so what meaning would it have to them that Daniel had been visited by a messenger from YAHVEH and told about this imitation resurrection?  They had poured out the blood of the prophets; so, why would they care what Daniel saw and heard?

But if we were to read the entire explanation of the messenger to Daniel in chapters ten, eleven and twelve of His prophecy, we would see that this explanation of the messenger to John is the same as that of the messenger’s speech to Daniel!

The explanation to Daniel of all that he was shown begins with the Medo-Persian beast, proceeds to the third beast (Greece), and then to the fourth one.  And there is a lengthy account there in chapter eleven of the “coming” history of the Roman empire – all the way to the “abomination of desolation” – the utter destruction of Jerusalem.  It’s all right there in the prophecy!

In that explanation to Daniel is a period of time during which the Roman empire (the fourth beast) would fall into internal civil war and disintegration and abject ruin; but then it “arises” once again into a strong and terrifying power!  And as the messenger explains to Daniel, its heart would be “stirred up against the holy covenant”.

So, once again, what John hears from YAHVEH’s messenger to him, is the same as what Daniel heard from the messenger that was sent to him!  This beast, as God described it, “dies”; and (to those whose names weren’t written in the book of life) there was an “arising” – a resurrection – of the beast to even greater power over the earth!  It was, in the messenger’s language, an “arising from the depths of the abyss”!  And all those remaining in the land adored it even more!  The beast “was”, but “isn’t”; and it arises once again (verse eight) “into destruction”.

God’s purpose was brought to pass six hundred and sixty six years after Nebuchadnezzar (the first beast) came to power in Babylon; and Daniel was shown all of it – the whole purpose.  And John sees the same things here in the text of chapter seventeen of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  The Word of God “agrees” (as we’ve seen so many times).

And as a matter of fact, the messenger from YAHVEH to Daniel even told him of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ – a Kingdom which would break and scatter the fourth kingdom (and all of the remnants of the first three beasts); and a kingdom which would never be defeated, and which would be forever.  And it’s exactly what John is shown in the later chapters of this Revelation of Jesus Christ!

So we can see clearly why God laughs at the raging and foaming “beasts” of the sea of depraved humanity!  God “purposed” from the beginning.  And He brings His purpose to pass – using their own depravity, their own vengeance and envy, against them – deceiving them by lying spirits that commune with their own iniquity.

But by HOLY Spirit these same nations and tribes and tongues will be blessed in the “real” resurrection – the resurrection of the Lamb of God – as promised before to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!

And the four great “kingdoms” of depraved mankind will be replaced by the one “real” Kingdom – that of the Christ!  Remember that Jesus “walked” on the raging sea of depraved humanity – not affected one bit.  And when He “spoke” to it, it became calm…..all prophetic of His coming “holy” Kingdom – one which all the nations of humanity will one day acknowledge.


Now, as we’ve seen many times previously, we have to be very careful when we’re dealing with God’s language.  The words that He uses and the way He uses them form a “consistency” throughout the Scripture.  When we recognize that, and see to it, we get it right; but when that continuity is missed, or purposefully overlooked, well, then there’s all kinds of “guessing” going on!

And that’s certainly been the case with two verses in this chapter – not just these two; but certainly these two… verses eight and eleven.  Each of these verses is a part of the explanation to John by this messenger; and each contains a word which connects the explanation to the prophets.

Listen to the two verses again:


“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” (verse eight).

Then the beast that was and is not and is eighth and of the seven goes forth into destruction” (verse eleven).”


The seventh “head” of the beast – emperor Vespasian – puts the disintegrated empire back together again in an imitation resurrection; and the beast then “arises” to go forth into “destruction”.  But it is the “eighth” – Titus, the son of Vespasion – who leads the resurrected empire into “destruction”.

The word I’m referring to, of course, is “destruction”; and every reference that I’ve checked into has it wrong.  They all (even the reformed commentators) use the common language and the common understanding in referring this word to the future breakup of the kingdom of this world by the preaching of the Gospel.  They take this to mean that this “arising” of the fourth beast marks its own destruction!  But that’s totally non-sensical!  And it doesn’t comport with the prophetic Word.

Millenialists, in their efforts to make all of this to occur far off in the future, usually fail to check the continuity of God’s language.  As in the case with Daniel, so it is with the messenger to John.  The explanation comes directly from God through the messenger; and the explanation is perfectly consistent with the prophets!

The beast arising and going forth into destruction has nothing whatever to do with the future destruction of the beast (or the Roman empire, or any other tyrant nation).  It isn’t the beast that is destroyed!

In God’s language (consistent throughout the Scripture), destruction is a prophesied “event”.  When the messenger from God speaks to John regarding destruction, it is referring to the prophecy previously spoken by YAHVEH concerning an event that will take place; and the beast of Revelation, in all its pseudo-resurrected power, is the instrument through which this event will take place!  And the “event”, here in the text of The Revelation, is imminent.  It is “about to arise” and go into destruction. 

Verses eight and eleven (as consistent with God’s language in the prophets) have to do with an event that is about to take place and is connected to the imitation resurrection of this beast.  And it isn’t the beast that is to be imminently destroyed!  The newly arisen beast is about to proceed to an imminent event called “destruction”.

As I read a few of the passages from the prophets, take note of the fact that “destruction” is a stand-alone event having to do with Israel and the city of Jerusalem.  So, when the messenger speaks to John in explanation, and it tells him of the beast’s “going forth into destruction”, it has to do with proceeding to the event that was previously prophesied!  It is “a destruction” that the prophets heard YAHVEH speak!

Listen first to three verses from Isaiah chapter thirteen:


4)    The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together.  YAHVEH OF HOSTS musters the host of the battle.

5)    They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even YAHVEH and the weapons of His indignation, to destroy the whole land.

6)    Howl; for the day of YAHVEH is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.


“A destruction”, you see, isn’t a description; it is a proper noun.  It is an event-entity of its own… one to which the messenger to John refers when it says that the beast arises to “go into destruction”.  It is the prophesied destruction.  And it has to do with the “whole land”.

YAHVEH OF HOSTS is the One Who musters (gathers together) the nations to destroy the whole land.  That’s what the text of Isaiah says!  And we saw earlier in the preaching of the Revelation that John saw “lying spirits” go forth to the rulers of the ten nations so that they would be of one mind with the beast, until the words of God are completed!

Here’s another from Isaiah.  This is chapter twenty eight at verse twenty one:


21) For YAHVEH will rise up … He will be wroth…; that He may do His work, His strange work, and bring to pass His strange deed.

22) So therefore don’t be scoffers (at these words), lest your bonds be made strong; for I have heard from YAHVEH LORD OF HOSTS a decree of a destruction of the whole land.


Isaiah warns all Israel not to be “scoffers” at what he has heard from YAHVEH.  It may sound very strange to their ears; but they must not be scornful of the words as if they were the rantings of a lone prophet; for a destruction of the whole land has been decreed!

So what John is hearing from this messenger (verses eight and eleven) is exactly what Isaiah wrote.  This fourth beast is gathered up with the nations against YAHVEH and His Lamb for a “purpose”; and the purpose is a destruction.  The beast arises into the event which was prophesied – in order that the words of God are completed!!

Here’s another one… this one from the prophet Jeremiah at chapter four:


5)    Declare in Judah, and publish in Jerusalem and say, Blow the trumpet in the land; cry aloud and say: Assemble yourselves, and let us go into the fortified cities.

6)    Set up a standard toward Zion: flee for safety, don’t stay; for I will bring in evil from the north, and a great destruction.

7)    A lion is gone up from his thicket - a destroyer of nations; he is on his way, he will go forth from his place to make your land desolate, that your cities be laid waste without inhabitant.

8)    For this gird yourselves with sackcloth; lament and wail; for the fierce anger of YAHVEH is not turned back from us.

9)    And it shall come to pass at that day, says YAHVEH, that the heart of the king shall perish, and the heart of the princes; and the priests shall be astonished, and the prophets shall wonder.


Do you hear the same language as is here in our text?  The messenger to John speaks the very words of the prophet Jeremiah!  There is the astonishment and wonder of the princes and priests and pseudoprophets and all those remaining in the land at the rising up of the beast.  But it is the destroyer of nations called up by YAHVEH OF HOSTS!  A “destruction” will be brought upon the whole land.  The beast will go into “destruction”… the event decreed by God.

Lastly, the prophet Joel cries out to Jerusalem and all Israel with the Word of YAHVEH (chapter one):


14) Sanctify a fast, proclaim an assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land unto the house of YAHVEH your God,

15) And cry out unto YAHVEH, `Alas for the day!  For the day of YAHVEH is near!  And it comes as a destruction from the Almighty One’.


So, you see, as the messenger to John explains what has been shown to him (verses eight and eleven), as the beast arises and goes “into destruction”, it is the event of prophetic destruction that was decreed by YAHVEH all through the prophets!

It has nothing whatever to do with the beast’s destruction; it has everything to do with the harlot – Jerusalem and all those remaining in the land.  YAHVEH has decreed a destruction of the land… the whole land.

The cries and pleadings of the prophets of YAHVEH have fallen on deaf ears; for the priests and princes and (false) prophets of the land adore the image of the beast (which is the image of the dragon); and all remaining in the land are in wonder and astonishment at the beast’s imitation resurrection!

All those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the creation have hated the Lamb of God and denied HIS resurrection; but they have all adored the beast and are astonished and “in wonder” at its imitation resurrection – all to the purpose of the completion of the words of God!

Beginning to see, now, the “grand deception” that John is hearing from this messenger?

What’s about to happen is a destruction of the whole land of Israel – an “event” such as has never before occurred, and which will never take place again; for, as the later chapters of The Revelation reveal, there is an all new city of God descending from the heaven in the Parousia of Jesus Christ.  And He is its perfect temple.  It is the Kingdom of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

John describes it as God shows it to him; and we’ll read it and hear it in the coming months.

As this beast arises from its lair and pounces on its prey and eats her carcass with its giant, iron teeth; and then seats itself on the ark of the covenant, underneath the wings of the golden cherubim, in the holy of holies in the temple, on the dome of the rock in Jerusalem, YAHVEH laughs!

The beast and all of its conscripted nations attacked because of the Christ (verse fourteen).  Jerusalem’s connection with the Christ – the Lamb of God – was the underlying reason for the “destruction” of the harlot.

It’s the “enmity” decreed at the beginning of Genesis!  The “vengeance” of the dragon – finally accomplishing its goal of the complete destruction of Jerusalem and all Israel in order to cut off the “Seed”!  It’s the dragon’s “war” against the Lamb of God.

And emperor Vespasius (the seventh “head” of the beast) and his son Titus (the eighth, and of the seven), and the ten conscripted nations, didn’t stop with just making Israel a wilderness filled with bodies and blood; for there was a vicious, empire-wide purge of Jews.  This beast was nowhere near satisfied when Israel as a nation ceased to exist!  It was ravenous!  The war against The Lamb expanded world-wide!

The historian – Cornelius Tacitus – later wrote of the intense, bitter animosity of Rome and the nations toward anything that was Jewish.  It began before Israel’s destruction, and it continued long after.  In many cities of the empire, entire Jewish communities were tortured and slaughtered.  In Alexandria, Egypt he writes that fifty thousand corpses were heaped up in the Jewish quarter as the streets ran with their blood.  As verse sixteen says, the ten nations “hated the harlot” and made her “a desolation”.

I found it very interesting to read some of the historical documents that have survived – especially one by a man named Severus; for he wrote an account of commander Titus’ reasoning for a “total” elimination of Israel and Jerusalem and the temple on the mount – and Jews everywhere.

How Severus got this information about Titus’ motivation, I don’t know; but it is most telling, for it so “fits” the explanation of the messenger to John here in the text.

According to this historian, Titus thought that, even though the two “religions” (judaism and Christianity) were “contrary”, they nevertheless had proceeded from the same “authors”; and that the Christians had “sprung up” from the Jews; and that if the root was “extirpated” (that means abolished, or abrogated), then the “offshoot” (Christianity) would perish!

This is interesting because this beast was deceived into believing that Christianity was an offshoot of judaism!  And if judaism was eliminated (being the “root”) then Christianity would wilt and die! 

And that same deception is current in much of today’s thinking.

And it’s not hard to reach the conclusion that the world’s hatred of Israel is still motivated by its hatred for Christ and His Kingdom!  And that shows that the world (in its deception) still believes that Christianity is an “offshoot” of judaism.

However, the reasoning and the motivations are all wrong!  Christianity is the revealed Word of God from the beginning.  And although the Seed was preserved from the twelve tribes of Jacob, judaist Israel was the harlot – apostate from the Christian Gospel!  The Seed was always Christ and His people.

The beast and the nations were deceived into executing the harlot for her adultery… leaving the Lamb of God and His Kingdom and His Church to flourish in all the nations through the preaching of the Gospel!

The Lamb of God “overcame”; for it was the purpose of YAHVEH – from the beginning.  The dragon and the beast and the nations and the pseudoprophets of Israel were all deceived into doing the purpose of God until all His words were completed (verse seventeen).

With that said, we’ve finished all that we’re going to do with the chapter; and we’ll go to chapter eighteen in two or three weeks.  But I want to spend a couple of minutes with you regarding the preaching and teaching of the Gospel of God concerning His Son Jesus – the Christ.

There has always been this “tension” in the Church about preaching – what it is, its content, and how it’s to be done and what is to be accomplished with it.

Most will tolerate preaching if it’s just exemplary, or if it’s moralistic; they don’t mind it at all if it’s entertaining.  But mankind, dead in sin, hates Biblical preaching, because it’s “contradictory” to depraved human reason.  The very Word of God contradicts everything that cursed mankind thinks about himself and the world around him.

And that contradiction to human depravity has given forth a centuries-old tension about the nature of preaching.  How do we approach non-believers?  What is the content of the preaching?  What happens when the Gospel is preached?  By what means does a dead man become rebirthed into Christ?  Who is it that is heard in the preaching? The answer to that is all through the Revelation of course – as we’ve heard.

But one little statement written by the apostle Paul to the Churches in Rome (in about 45AD) puts it as succinctly as possible.  And it’s so clear as to be unmistakable.  Although disputed by theologians throughout the history of the Church, here’s what Paul wrote at chapter ten and verse 14:


14) How then shall they call on him who they have not believed (faithed)? and how shall they believe him who they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? (one who proclaims the Gospel).


The proclamation of the Gospel of God concerning His Son Jesus is the Word of God… the Word Who has been made flesh.  And it is He, Jesus Christ Himself, Who is heard when the apostolic doctrine is preached!  That’s what Paul tells the Churches. How shall they believe Him Who they have not heard?  If it is not Him Who is heard by the preaching and teaching, then they will not be rebirthed; they cannot believe – cannot “faith”.  They must hear HIM in the proclamation!

You see, the great mystery to which Daniel was exposed was the faith of the Gentiles through the proclamation of the Gospel!  It was the purpose of YAHVEH from the beginning; and as the covenant cut with Abraham revealed, that the nations and tribes and tongues of all the earth would be the beneficiaries of the love of God through faith – which is a gift of God through the proclamation of the Gospel.  And in the preaching of the Gospel they hear HIM – Jesus, the Word of God.

As John heard this messenger say (verse seventeen) His words (through the prophets) are, indeed, being completed… even as we speak.