Revelation 17, 18
“Upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, The Mother of
Harlots and Abominations of the Earth” (Revelation 17:5).
by David Rice
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Revelation comes in three main divisions — the Gospel Age (chapters 1-13), the Harvest (chapters 14-19), and the Kingdom (chapters 20-22). Each of these has four subdivisions. Following is a brief
breakdown, for a sense of the overall plan of the book. There is some overlapping between
these segments, for the Harvest is the closing part of the Gospel Age, and the Harvest also
introduces the Kingdom authority of Christ.
Structure of Revelation
Introduction (chapter 1)
Sevens (churches., seals, trumps., chapters 2-11)
Activity of true woman (chapter 12)
Activity of false church (chapter 13)
Introduction (chapter 14)
Sevens (plagues, chapters 15, 16)
Judgment of false woman (chapter 17)
Judgment of false church (chapters 18, 19)
Introduction (chapter 20)
Exaltation of true woman (chapter 21)
Details about New Jerusalem (chapter 22)
Closing (end of 22)
Revelation Chapter 17
This chapter is introduced by “one of the seven angels which had the seven vials,” who says “I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore [papacy] that sitteth upon many waters [has dominated over many peoples].”
The “seven angels” with the vials come out of the temple (Revelation 15:6) and correspond with the priests of 2 Chronicles 7:2 at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple.
That dedication scene is fulfilled during the harvest from the raising of the sleeping saints forward. The seven angels represent members of the Church class who are given power to implement the judgments of God from a position of heavenly glory. “To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints” (Psalms 149:9).
Those judgments have proceeded from the beginning of the harvest forward. By the time of the full pouring out of those judgments, all the saints will be beyond the vail. However, as indicated in the article preceding, those judgments have been in process from the beginning of the Harvest. The saints already risen have been active with them for some time.
Who might be the angel highlighted in Revelation 17:1? Perhaps it is the one who leads in arousing the Laodicean stage of the Church, inasmuch as much of Revelation has its prophetic vantage point as of the second advent (compare Revelation 1:10). In other words, this angel would be the one elsewhere described as the seventh messenger, or angel, to the Church.
Papacy in Review
A history of this woman is given in the first 10 verses, and the remaining eight describe her downfall and doom. Verses one through six describe her sordid past. She is named “Babylon” because she fulfills the role of spiritual Babylon. Ancient Babylon persecuted and took captive natural Israelites. Spiritual Babylon persecuted and took captive spiritual Israelites, during the 1260 years from 539 to 1799.
The Roman Church has ridden over an aggregation of peoples and governments, represented here as a “beast” with seven heads and 10 horns. The “beast,” as distinguished from its heads, would be the body of the beast, evidently referring to the peoples papacy has dominated.
The interpretation of the seven heads varies among brethren. Our understanding is that these seven heads are seven governments over the Roman people during the Gospel Age that papacy has exercised her power through (or sometimes in spite of). We suggest that they were: Justinian, Charlemagne, Otto the Great, Charles V, Napoleon, Victor Emmanuel, and Hitler’s Fascist coalition.1
The 10 horns represent the powers of Europe who have ruled independent of each other, though sometimes under the general influence of the seven “heads.” However, the various countries of Europe have not attained a unified structure until modern times, presently expressed in the European Union. Some of them share a common currency, the Euro, and agree to some form of political unification. We think that this will increase before the final experiences of this prophecy come due.
This verse is pivotal, for it suggests a time setting for the vision. “There are seven kings [widely influential kingdoms, distinguished from singular horns or individual states]: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.”
We think that the “present” of this narrative refers to the opening of the harvest in 1874. The destruction of the whore is put in the future, “these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate … and shall eat her flesh” (verse 16). Whereas, only a few verses later, Revelation 18:2,4 speak of the “present” of the narrative as a time when the saints are called to come out of Babylon. “Babylon the great is fallen … Come out of her, my people.”
(1) Another view considers these heads to be Babylon, Medo-Persian, the four heads of Greece, and
Rome. That is the proper identification of the heads of the beast in Revelation 13:1, showing that papacy was the accumulation of the power of the governments that preceded her. We think that Revelation 17 differs, in enumerating seven powers of the Gospel Age, in connection with whom papacy has exercised her authority over the “waters,” or peoples, of Revelation 17:15. One editor notes that Victor Emmanuel was antithetical times was also. Nevertheless, papacy “rode” the Roman peoples during all these times, even if the ride was tumultuous on occasion.
This “time setting” of Revelation would be consistent with a well-known application of the time-setting suggested in Revelation 1:9,10,12, “I John … was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet … And … being turned, I saw.” Here John represents a class of believers living at the end of the age, at the return of Christ (John 21:22), “the Lord’s day” (compare 2 Peter 3:10). In this case, the angel of Revelation 17:1 may represent the seventh messenger.
If this is correct, then Victor Emmanuel would be the sixth head that existed early in the harvest. He was “the first king of a united Italy since the 6th century” (Wikipedia). The seventh, with power only for “a short space,” would be Hitler and his allies, notably including the Italian, Mussolini, who controlled Rome. Thereafter —
“The beast [peoples] that was [active in the French Revolution], and is not [active or troublesome at the opening of the harvest], even he is the eighth [not a political head, but an upwelling of people that consume the whore who had formerly ridden upon them], and is of the seven [reminiscent of Napoleon’s time], and [afterwards] goeth into perdition” as a vibrant, ruinous force (Revelation 17:11).
The 10 horns of verse 12 receive power as kings “one hour” with these people as they rise up. In verse 13 they yield their strength to this upwelling of the people. At this time “the ten horns which thou sawest, and [in the better manuscripts] the beast, these shall hate the whore, and make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh [like the dogs that ate Jezebel], and burn her with fire” (verse 16). Verse 17 says that this is judgment from God. Verse 18 refers to Rome, “that great city” that ruled the earth, and where papacy ruled from. Rome is the city of seven hills (verse 9).
Making War With the Lamb
Because this judgment against papacy is “to fulfill [God’s] will” (verse 17), it may be surprising to read in verse 14 that the unified horns and beast (peoples) “shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them.” If the horns and beast do God’s bidding, how do they also war against the lamb?
At this time, the Bride class are with Jesus in glory. “They that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (verse 14). That is when Ezekiel 38 and 39 will be fulfilled, namely, the attack of Gog against Israel. Gog’s allies include Persia (Iran), Ethiopia or Cush (perhaps northern, Islamic Black Africa, or perhaps Yemen if that was part of ancient Cush), Libya, Gomer, and Togarmah (Turkey).
Notice Gomer. Who is that? Wikipedia (under Gomer) includes this comment. “According to tractate Yoma, in the Talmud, Gomer is identified as the ancestor of the Gomermians, modern Germans.” There are other possibilities. But if this comment from the Talmud is followed, and as much of Western Europe is populated by Germanic tribes from centuries ago, then Gomer may refer to Western Continental Europe. (Even the Franks, whence the
name France, are a Germanic tribe.)
The European Union is more partial to the so-called Palestinians, than further west in the Americas and other countries whose roots are from the British. Continental Europe may combine with Russia in common cause to “resolve” issues in the Middle East by imposing a solution of their choosing that Israel will not accept. The powers further west will be opposed, but apparently will not intervene militarily.
Israel may have the sympathies of many people, but will be left with only one Savior, Jesus, their Messiah, at the necessary time. In this sense, the European union may be found fighting against “the Lamb” and his cause. But the Lamb will prevail, and the kingdom will be established with restored Israel.
The “one hour” of Revelation 17:12 is picked up again in Revelation 18:10, “Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.” The narrative of Revelation 18 is from the beginning of the harvest forward.
Even as troubles mount for papacy during the harvest, they continue to suppose that “I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow” (verse 7). Verse 8, however, assures us that three intense distresses would follow in a brief period, “in one day,” namely death, mourning, and famine.
Then the “kings of the earth” will lament for her passing. They may have yielded to the swelling opinion of the people, but they will long for the stability of former times. The plagues called “death, and mourning, and famine,” are not to be confused with the seven plagues earlier itemized in chapters 15 and 16. In Revelation 18, they are three in number, not seven. They are three descriptions of what will fall during plague seven of Revelation 16.
The lament for Babylon in the aftermath includes a lengthy description of Revelation 18:11-16, followed by a repetition of her demise: “in one hour so great riches is come to nought” (verse 17). However, the saints who suffered under her persecutions “Rejoice … for God hath avenged you on her” (verse 20). In verse 21 a great millstone thrown into the sea is another metaphor for the coming, sudden judgment. Verses 22 and 23 symbolically describe the results. Verse 24 then sums up her most grievous sins — “In her was found the blood of [Gospel Age] prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the [nominal Christian] earth.”
We should observe where the cause of Christ is marked in prophecy and align our sympathies
with his cause. We do not suffer under papacy as our brethren deeply did in past ages. But their blood still cries from the ground.
The Kingdom will not come in through the labors of the nominal systems. It will be established by Christ, at Israel, restored, chastened, and repentant. We long for that time.