Sunday, March 05, 2006


Today's Sermon

Revelation 17 and 18

March 16, 2003

Good morning and welcome back to our study of the book of Revelation. Last time we finished looking at the pouring out of the seven bowls of God’s wrath upon the earth. Today we will look at one of the most curious personalities in prophecy, the Great Harlot of Babylon.

Once again we are treading in areas of great controversy. Once again, if you have a dozen commentaries at home you may well have a dozen different ideas about who she is, who she represents, and what her appearing means to the world. I’m going to help that confusion along by making some hints of my own. As you’ll remember from our earlier studies, we are looking in Revelation at layers of prophecy, layers of fulfillment and layers of interpretation. For instance, I believe with many commentators that while the Beast, his prophet and his image are representational on many levels, they are also going to be literal persons on this world that appear in it historically. I also believe that in every age the enemy has prepared one or more men who could be, should God allow it, the anti-christ and his prophet. I believe that in the last century Hitler and Mousilinni fit that bill. They did not become those prophesied figures, but could have had God determined it was time.

The early church were certain that Nero or Caligula at one time or another was the anti-christ. At various places in history Genghis Kahn was suspected as was the kings of Spain, Britain, France, and Germany. I’m sure there were Confederates who were certain it was Lincoln and northern loyalists who thought is was Jefferson Davis. The list goes on.

The same is true of the kingdom referred to in Scripture as Babylon. At one time the nation of Babylon fit it’s own description. During another era so did Egypt... and Persia... and Greece under Alexander... and of course Rome. Many commentators think that Rome will rise once more to become Babylon. When Spain ruled the seas with her great Armada, she fit the description. When the sun never set on the British Empire it did. For a time under Peter the Great and Catherine the Great Russia did. Don’t forget that during our civil war when England and France were giving serious thought to jumping in and helping the south, Russia had her fleet off California ready to carve an Empire out of our West Coast.

Now Saddam Hussein is trying to rebuild Babylon to its former greatness and I’m sure the devil would like to see him succeed, but I have high hopes that our president will, like Lincoln a hundred and fifty years ago, have the intelligence and fortitude to prevent it.

All of this being said, I believe there will be an actual Great Harlot as well as the nation or group of nations she will represent. I also think the enemy has prepared that woman in each generation. It’s intriguing how often in history the men we can identify as the ones who could have become the ant-christ have had mistresses or consorts instead of wives. I think of Hitler’s Eva Braun, or Mousilinni’s mistress, of Evita Peron in Argentina. There have also been strikingly powerful women come to power in great empires over the years, even in the east in India and Asia. There was Catherine the Great in Russia. Mary Queen of Scotts whose reign of terror in Britain almost wiped out Protestantism there. Within our own nation recently we saw a president’s wife come within inches of taking the reins off our entire health care system into her hands. Many felt she was the one running our nation’s “shadow” government and the real power behind the throne and now she has great political power in her own right. In an interesting setting.
But now let’s turn to the Scripture and learn what John has to say about her.

Rev. 17:1,2 READ

We enter here a parenthetical passage. Once again, John is stepping away from the broad strokes he has been painting to give us more exact detail of what is going own during the terrible pouring out of wrath. At the time the passage starts he is standing before the throne in heaven watching what is happening on the earth as it were from a distance, up above it. We see that the kings of earth, that is, it’s leaders have been consorting with the harlot and that all their subjects, the members of their nations, have been affected. This is not only referring to sexual sin, but to what it symbolizes the betrayal of the trust of their nations by consorting with this woman. In the Old Testament when the nation of Israel began to worship other gods, God would say that they were “whoring” after those gods.

Rev. 17:3 READ

When the Bible says some one is taken away “in the spirit” as opposed to “by the spirit” we are seeing someone placed into a trance. Their body is not necessarily present where their awareness is.

Rev. 17:4 READ

Think for a moment about the significance cups have in the Word. This morning we celebrated the cup that symbolized the New Testament in His blood, which is our assurance of salvation. In the garden our Lord begged his father that the “cup would be taken from him”, but as the song says, “that awful cup, you drank it up” and he did it out of his love for us. That would remind us of the cup of God’s wrath that was to be poured out. Now sin fills a cup and I believe the implication is that that cup is held up proudly, triumphantly, like a torch.

Rev. 17:5 READ

Most King James versions capitalize the word “mystery” here as though it is part of the title on her forehead. The Greek text reads, “on the forehead of her a name written, a mystery” then the title Babylon The Great, etc.

Rev 17:6 READ

We speak of leaders becoming drunk with power. And what greater power is there than the power to take human life? Whoever this woman is or whatever nation or organization she represents will be killing believers copiously to the point of inebriation. So far today we are not seeing that happen on a great scale, but like the rebuilding of the temple, I think it will happen in the foreseeable future.

We may wonder here why John would admire this creature. We are seeing an attempt by the translators to not be repetitious. The word translated admiration is simply wonder, so the verse could read I wondered with great wonder.

Now we have a passage that is a great help. The best way to interpret Scripture is to have it interpret itself and here that happens, the angel begins to explain to John what he is seeing in this section of the vision.

Rev. 17: 7,8 READ

We’ve met this beast before, haven’t we? That old dragon, the devil has raised up his beast in the form of a one world government and a one world religion. Satan’s beast was wounded unto death, then brought back to life and reigned on earth with his worship lead by the prophet and the image. Yet here is a woman sitting atop the beast, even controlling it.

Rev. 17: 9 READ

From this verse comes the insistence that Babylon is the Roman Empire, to the early church the literal one, and to many commentators now, a literal revived one. This is because the city of Rome was built on seven hills. Certainly the Club of Rome would like to see the world seat of government there, and it would be convenient for the Catholic Church. This may yet be the case, though the reference may be symbolic looking toward a future empire that will rule as the Roman one at the time that John wrote this. But again, we see the woman in a dominant position over it.

Rev. 17: 10 READ

So we see first that there were 5 great world leaders up to the time of this writing. The sixth was currently in power. A seventh world leader was described, as yet to come whom would rule for only a short time.

Rev. 17: 11

Now we see that the beast is an eighth world leader who comes from the seventh. It would appear that a leader will arise the whole world is willing to follow and then he will unexpectedly abdicate his throne to the beast. Or it could be the seventh is the world leader who is killed by a blow to the head and then he comes back to life as the eighth. But we are reminded here again of what his final reward will be.

Rev. 17:12

So here we see described 10 world governments who will get their authority from the beast and rule with him for a short time, but again only under the domination of the Great Harlot. From the earliest times believers have speculated who these kingdoms might be. In my own lifetime I’ve heard that it was going to be NATO till they grew larger than 10 nations. Then it was the European Economic Community members, but they too have out grown the number 10. They could be 10 confederations of nations from around the world. The United Nations would be an ideal starting place for such a thing. 10 groups of UN members each represented on the security council for instance, and all under the authority of the Secretary General. Only time will tell. People have thought the same of the League of Nations, groups of barons under the British Empire, etc.

Rev. 17: 13 READ

The word translated “power” in verse 12 and the one translated as “strength” in this verse are the same and mean “authority”. But again, remember, this is all under the domination of the woman.

Rev 17: 14 READ

The angel reminds John, and us, one more time that the battle is already decided, the winner already determined. This verse is also a great one for illustrating the doctrine of election because while the believers are called “faithful” which is by choice, they are also described as “chosen”.

Rev 17: 15 READ

Not only is the one world government under the domination of the harlot personally, by delegation, the whole world is. You’ll remember from Romans 13 that individuals are required to submit to the authority of the government over them, even if that government is sinful and corrupt. The only exception being of course when the government decrees that we are to sin. In that case it is an example of “obeying God rather than man”. But government leaders are held to a higher standard as they are the example to those under them.

Now we see a strange twist to our story:

Rev. 17: 16 READ

No one really likes being dominated for ever, do they? But these kings who have consorted with the Harlot and drawn their pleasure and power from her will turn on her. In chapter 18 we will see much more of the details of this destruction. They will hate the one who gives them what they want. Think of our policy of foreign aid and aid to the United Nations. We have attempted for over 50 years to buy friends and they hate us for it. Nations like France from whom we poured out 10’s of thousands of lives and billions of dollars betray us and turn against us. For years the nations of this chapter tolerate and use the Harlot but in God’s time they turn against her as we see next.

Rev. 18: 17 READ

This should not surprise us. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so His will could be fulfilled. According to the historian Josephus, the Sanhedrian found Christ innocent on a 40 to 25 vote and it was only Ciaphus who called The Lord’s claim of kingship treasonous that allowed him to be taken before Pilate so that God’s plan could be fulfilled.

Rev. 18: 18 READ

Now let’s indulge in a little speculation. Let’s say that God’s time is coming to a close for this planet right now. Let’s suggest that the final one world government is going to rise from the organization of the United Nations. Is UN headquarters in a city whose economic and social power dominates the earth? Does that city indulge in the grossest of sexual sin openly? Are there other nations of the earth and cultures that hate it desperately? Does the money to support the UN come from that city’s nation? Is the symbol of that city the biggest statue in the world? Is it of a woman? Is she holding up something proudly? Would the nations that hate her like to see her burn? And is the most powerful female politician in America elected from that city?

Does that mean that the Bible is predicting what I’m suggesting? Of course not, but it could be. Just as it could have been Rome and could be again, or the British Empire or any of a dozen more rich former world empires. Let’s look at what more John has to say:

Rev. 18:1 READ

As we find out more details, a new angel is present. Satan may pass himself off as an angel of light, but this is the real thing. The whole planet is illuminated with his glory and with his power. The only thing man made we could compare this to is the explosion of multiple hydrogen bombs.

Rev. 18:2 READ

In terms of sheer power this is one of the most striking verses in the Bible. Notice the words used: “mightily and strong”. Notice the word fallen is repeated. Also the description words “devils, foul, and unclean.” I might note that in this county more than others vultures and ravens are protected as though they were song birds.

Rev. 18:3 READ

We see that the national leaders of the world have sold out their national sovereignty and their people’s best interest for the political power to be gained by joining the one world government over which the Harlot dominates. We see that merchants in poorer nations have become rich by providing her with luxuries.

Now another voice speaks and this is not directly to John, though he recorded it, nor to the kings, but to the remnant within the nation represented by the harlot.

Rev. 18: 4-8 READ

The believers are not told to move out of their nation, but to separate themselves from her sin. Though if I lived in that great city in those days, I’d certainly think about finding a place in the country. Once again, as I’ve pointed out many times, God makes the punishment fit the crime. This is judgement from God, though we can see in verse 8 the results that would come from nuclear, chemical and biological man made attacks.

Rev. 18: 9-10 READ

I’m reminded here of how Saddam Hussein, and Yasser Arrafat and Momar Kadhaffi, all of whom shelter and supply and train terrorists all sent their deepest heartfelt condolences after the 9-11 attack. It’s interesting that they all stand far off in this verse rather than rush in to loot what they’ve just destroyed as though there were some fearful contamination present.

Rev 18: 11-13 READ

Note that almost every product described here as used by the Harlot is a luxury. We see an incredibly rich nation drawing on the resources of the whole world to satisfy her desires. It is a picture of a true global economy. The passage ends with an importation of war materials and possibly the soldiers to do the fighting. One of the signs that any empire is breaking down is when it begins to draw on other nation’s warriors to fight its battles for it. In these modern times the importation of slaves might also describe illegal immigrants sneaked into the country to do the jobs no regular citizen wants to do at much cheaper wages. The reference to traffic in men’s souls is a reminder that the beast under the domination of this nation will have his own religion that will lead people to the worship of Satan instead of God.

Rev. 18: 14-19 READ

Again notice that twice in this passage, the shipmasters stand far off as though fearing contamination. Notice the great city burns. Notice that all this destruction takes only one hour. We should also notice that the city described here, what ever it is must be on a sea coast with harbors and docks for doing a great merchant trade.

Now having seen the destruction of the great city of the Harlot from fallen man’s point of view we see it from the view of the angels.

Rev. 18: 20 READ

The martyred saints under the altar had asked how long they would have to wait on God’s vengeance, they were just answered.

Rev. 18:21 READ

This will be a huge round flat stone, possibly with a hole in the middle. It is intriguing to speculate what it is the angel dashes into the sea and whether it comes from this planet or not.

Rev 18:22 READ
The city prophesied of will be one famous for it’s music, both instrumental and vocal. The destruction will be so total there will be no more industry or craftsmanship of any kind.

Rev. 18:23 READ

The lights will go out, totally. No power, not even a candle. The Scripture says that in the end times it will be as in the time of Noah, that people will be marrying and giving in marriage. Even that will cease. We are at the very end of things. Also, the sexual sins of the city have been a repudiation of marriage. Now God seems to be saying, “you don’t like my plan for humanity, OK, it’s gone.”

A very interesting choice of words here is scoreries. The one world religion at the end of time will have brought those back, as we see happening now. Also the word for scorceries in Greek contains the same root as our word pharmacy, implying that drugs are involved. The city to be destroyed may be a center of drug abuse and addiction. Notice too, that as Eve was beguiled then deceived Adam, the nations will be deceived by the Harlot.

Rev. 18: 24 READ

Lastly, the great city, at the end will become a place where saints are martyred. Moreover, it will be a place where the decisions are made that will lead to that happening all over the earth, to the point where God’s punishment comes down on it justly for ALL martyrdom. Once again the souls under the throne are answered.

Now we ask ourselves: As the angel commands those of the Remnant, have we come out from her? Are we refusing to be partakers of the immorality of our age? Will we be among those who rejoice?
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