The ‘Beast System’ and the beast are only temporary, as we shall see in this Chapter. Its entire rise to authority and ensuing demise lasts for a maximum of seven years, but the devastation and destruction it causes will have eternal effects on the earth’s inhabitants. The Great Harlot or prostitute is the amalgamation of every man-made religion into one single false religion, which is presided over by the false prophet. This Great Harlot is seated on ‘many waters.’ As we have seen before, when the Bible refers to waters, or a sea, it is not necessarily referring to a physical body of water, such as the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea, but as in this case, it is referring to a large number of people. We have come across this concept before, when the Bible describes the Throne Room in Heaven. It portrays the raptured Believers, who are gathered before the Throne of God, as the “crystal sea,” Revelation 4:6. “Crystal” implies that it is the Resurrected Church, which has no flaws.
We know that Jesus died for the sins of the entire world, but that His sacrifice is only valid for those who repent and put their entire lives under His Sovereignty. To these people, Jesus declares that He will remove their sinful “hearts of stone and give them a heart of love and obedience” in its place, Ezekiel 36:25-27. No longer will God’s people seek many gods; they will be content with the One True God. The hard, deaf, immovable heart of stone will be radically transformed into a tender, receptive and responsive heart of flesh (Jeremiah 32:39; Ezekiel 18:31-32). This new life can only be the work of the Holy Spirit. It is the Lord’s work to convict us of our sin, but we must then recognise that we need to turn away from our wrong-doings and by faith, believe that we have been forgiven, as we declare on a daily basis that “Jesus is Lord.” With His transforming Power, we are being made more like Him. When we put our faith into action (‘faith’ is a verb in Hebrew – ‘faith-ing’),’ God will give us new motives, new guidelines, and a new purpose, which are His Will for us. Right now, we are living at the end of the Church Age. ‘Today’ is the season of Grace and Mercy, the era in which we still have time to make our decision; the period in which there is yet time. However, one day that period of Grace will have gone and those who have missed their opportunity will not have another. It is essential that we pray and challenge our family and friends to take this issue seriously, and to consider the alternatives.
It is ‘the harlot,’ who is the very personification of all that is an apostate religious system. Whether this is occult religions, part and parcel of the established church, or anything in between, Revelation 17:1 Amp. There is additional information in Revelation 17:15 Amp “And [the angel further] said to me, the waters that you observed, where the harlot is seated, are races and multitudes and nations and dialects (languages).” This harlot, or prostitute, has had such a profound influence on people, that she has even been able to control nations in her attempt to destroy the Gospel message and to rid it from the earth. She will always fail to remove it entirely, because God is Sovereign over everything that happens on the earth; she has only been able to accomplish her dominance, because the Church has been raptured – removed from the face of the earth and taken to meet Jesus in the air.
The Temple in Jerusalem which is described in the Old Testament, used to be God’s dwelling place, but because of Jesus, the work of the Cross and His Resurrection, we know that His Presence – the Holy Spirit, has come to indwell Believers today. We are described as the Temple of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, to bring Glory to God in our bodies, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. So, when the Christians are removed from the earth through the Rapture, it is the same power of the Holy Spirit, which resurrected Christ, Who goes in them too!
The Antichrist and all his systems, which are ‘already at work in the world,’ can be revealed, but until the rapture, they are restricted from operating fully. “……. [but it is restrained] only until He who restrains is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one [the Antichrist] will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to an end by His appearing at His coming.” 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 Amp
This Harlot has affected earthly powers and authorities in every way. We can even see this developing today, as the inhabitants of the earth have, and will, blindly follow their self-appointed authorities, Revelation 17:2 KJV. “Fornication” here refers to false religion, by choosing to love something, or someone, ahead of God Himself. An analogy might be joining any club. Without God, it substitutes religious rights and membership, over true repentance and salvation. God considers all who worship anything, or anyone, above Him, to be participants in spiritual fornication and adultery; even those who are sincere in their involvement. After all we can be sincere, but we can also be sincerely wrong! Such is and will be the case with these kings of the earth. Paul describes their wrong attitudes, when writing to Timothy, “For [although] they hold to a form of [outward] godliness (religion), although they have denied its power [for their conduct nullifies their claim of faith]. Avoid such people and keep away from them,” 2 Timothy 3:5 Amp. What a challenge it is for us to be totally devoted to Jesus; to be stretched out of our comfort zone and believe Him for supernatural results to our prayers every time!
Revelation 17:3-5 reveals some other things about this Harlot and her craving for power. She is the personification of false religion, which is wholly intertwined with the beast. As we learned from Revelation 13, the beast represents both the Antichrist and his system. This multi-headed and authoritarian creature, on which she is seen as sitting, is scarlet coloured and hates God with an all-consuming intensity; so much so, that it is blasphemous to the extreme. The woman is clothed in purple and scarlet representing authority and regency and she is bedecked in gold, precious stones and pearls. She is trying to emulate God in the way she looks and the only glory she can muster to cover herself is entirely of the earth. She holds in her hand a cup, which is filled with the product of her own filth. She feeds herself on her own disgusting and depraved ways, and she has four names. We shall take a brief look at their corruption.
– MYSTERY. This represents mysticism, spiritualism and stems from the seven great empires (seven heads), which have supported and are supporting her. All abominable religions (eastern, western and everything else), together with their pagan superstitions and activities are rolled into this woman. It is therefore hardly surprising to discover that spiritualists, mediums and people who practise witchcraft have had control over the leaders of many countries and systems, from the time of Egypt until the present day.
– BABYLON. This identifies the harlot with Babylon and every successive gentile empire, showing that the harlot had begun to exert her influence from the very earliest of times. After all, she is the embodiment, the personification of false religion.
– THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS. Every evil and destructive thing on earth results from the operation of Satan, through this woman.
– THE MOTHER OF ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. This reveals her total rejection by God.
This scarlet beast has seven heads and ten horns and represents the final stage of the gentile world, which is headed up by an individual beast. The seven heads represent great kingdoms or empires, while the ten horns represent smaller kingdoms. They are all opposed to everything that is holy and true. This harlot has operated over a long period of time. She does not suddenly ‘pop up’ in the last seven years of time on the earth! This woman sits astride the beast with seemingly everything under control. Has she subdued the empire, or do the empires support her? It seems as if everything is under her dominance, but this does not last long as we see in Revelation 17:16.
These Empires resulted from Israel’s collapse and captivity. It was through the Egyptian Empire – the first head of the beast system – that the family of Israel was enslaved. Deliverance came through God’s appointed leader, Moses, who led them through the wilderness into the Promised Land; the Exodus, where they established a great nation. They rebelled and God allowed the northern tribes to be overrun and sent into captivity by the Assyrians; the second Empire. The third empire was the Babylonian Empire who overthrew the Assyrian Empire, merging it with their own, under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar and his grandson Belshazzar. This Empire succeeded the Assyrians and was the one that enslaved the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin some hundred years later. The fourth Empire was the Medo-Persian Empire, which is graphically illustrated in the Book of Daniel, when the hand of God wrote on the wall: “Mene, mene, tekel upharsin,” Daniel 5:26-31. The fifth Empire was the Greek Empire under Alexander the Great, which was succeeded when it collapsed, by the sixth Empire; the Roman Empire. It was during this sixth Empire that Jesus instituted the Church and John wrote the Book of Revelation, while the Roman Empire ruled the world with bands of steel. John was able to write: “This calls for a mind [to consider that is packed] with wisdom and intelligence [it is something for a particular mode of thinking and judging of thoughts, feelings, and purposes]. The seven heads are seven hills upon which the woman is sitting; 10 And they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one still exists [and is reigning]; the other [the seventh] has not yet appeared, and when he does arrive, he must stay [but] a brief time,” Revelation 17:9-10.
In verse 9, the “seven heads are seven hills.” This points most commentators to say that Babylon is Rome, as Rome is known as the city of seven hills. From Babylon all false religion systems migrated across the world and they will return to Babylon.
The five kings or Empires had fallen. The Roman Empire still existed at the time of John’s writing and the one to come had not yet appeared. Of course, it has yet to emerge, but the ‘season’ and what is happening in the world, tell us that the time is drawing very near for that seventh Empire to appear.
It is during the ensuing 2,000 years (between the sixth and seventh Empire) that the Church of Jesus Christ has extended and expanded worldwide, like no human Empire has ever done, nor will ever do. The coming of Jesus Christ dealt a mortal blow to Satan. During the last two thousand years, the devil has been attempting to rebuild his fallen ‘masterpiece’ and he has discovered that while the Church exists he is stymied. Nothing he has tried, nor been able to do, has been able to remove the Church from the world. He knows that one day, the Church will be removed and therefore, because the Holy Spirit will go with them at the rapture, he will have his opportunity. However, he has ignored the fact that God will never leave Himself without a witness on the earth, and consequently, people will still be without excuse, Romans 1:18-20 Amp
Right now, however, the building blocks of the new system are being put in place so that the Antichrist will be able to reconstruct them at the appropriate time. These building blocks consist of three distinct unit types – politics, commerce and religion. All of these have more complex sub-divisions and we can see these smaller subdivisions moving, almost daily. Historically when one Empire replaced another, the head of state (political system) changed but the underlying systems (commercial and religious) remained the same. The religious system has always been controlled by witchcraft in its most cunning, subtle and vicious forms. Whilst we cannot be certain about which organisation will form the seventh Empire, we should watch the European Union. In 1957 the ‘treaty of Rome’ was signed by half a dozen European countries and now there are over 20 member states. This Empire will have ten horns or national constituents. However, this will not be a reconstitution of the Roman Empire, but of the system that produced the Roman Empire.
Many believe that the new Empire will be the Roman system of the Roman Catholic Church. Today she is being ecumenical, working alongside the Protestant and Orthodox churches to draw them together. When Babylon emerges as the world religion, she will embrace all of every religious system. She will be a force to be reckoned with in wealth and commerce and will join with the state, as the Antichrist envisages the power of unity. It must be noted that there is a big difference between devout Roman Catholics who love and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting Him alone for their salvation, and the Roman system mentioned in this chapter. Also we need to remember that Rome was the source of the Protestant church; they too have great wealth and power today. Those who love the Lord, have their names written in the Lamb’s book of Life and are sealed with the mark of the Holy Spirit, belong to Jesus Christ alone, whichever church they have been attending. No church will ever be perfect and we just need to know that we are in the place where the Holy Spirit has led us. We need to guard our hearts, for out of them comes the wellspring of life. We know that we will cling close to Jesus, whatever problems are taking place in the world and as Christ’s followers, we can care for other sheep whom Jesus loves and has placed in the Body alongside us.
John states in Revelation 17:10 that the new Empire will last for a short time; this appears to be a period of 3½ years – the first half of the Tribulation Period. It is during this time and under this seventh Empire, that the Antichrist brings together the governments, armies, commerce and religions. He will use the harlot system to insinuate himself into the centre of this world religion. The Antichrist will be a man of diplomacy in order to achieve so much, in such a short time, Revelation 17:11-12 Amp.
The Antichrist believes that both he and his system are now worth more than being a puppet to the seventh Empire. So at the mid-point in the Tribulation period, he launches himself and his system as the Eighth Empire. He attempts to force himself onto the world as a self-appointed ‘god,’ by existing through increasingly difficult circumstances for the remaining second 3½ years of this Tribulation Period, before being destroyed when Jesus returns. His backing group are given the promise of great authority in the anticipated successful new kingdom, in return for the use of the strength and power of their armies and economic structures, which they presently control in the seventh Empire. This alliance of armies and rulers will be those whom the Antichrist leads against the Lord Jesus Christ, on the final day of the Tribulation Period. Their destruction will be complete at the Battle of Armageddon as Jesus returns, Revelation 17:13-14 Amp.
When Jesus returns in triumph as Lord of lords, and King of kings, He brings with Him those who are described as chosen, loyal and faithful. These adjectives are used throughout the New Testament to describe the Church, the Bride of Christ. These Believers, who were raptured, will return in triumph to rule and reign with Jesus Christ, Zechariah 14:5 Amp. What a joyful and triumphal return that will be! But in the meantime, in order to achieve his desired status as ‘god,’ the Antichrist will destroy the religious system. He will do this with the backing of the ten rulers. The established religious system – that which is idolatrous and filled with witchcraft – will be incompatible with the ambitions of the Antichrist to be ‘god.’ It will also be a ‘thorn in the side’ of the ten rulers, as they attempt to create their own power base. The Antichrist will be ably assisted in his task, by none other than the false prophet. The destruction of the harlot system, which has outlived its usefulness, will clear the way for the false prophet to announce the implementation of the ‘Mark of the Beast’ and the worship of his image. It is from the third Temple in Jerusalem that the Antichrist begins to exert his influence and his power, Revelation 17:15-17 Amp. If we ever had any doubts about Who is in control of the events during the Tribulation Period, these uncertainties should be completely dispelled by the words of Revelation 17:17. The ten kings only came together in support of the Antichrist in his quest for power and in his desire to destroy the harlot, because “God placed it in their hearts to do so.” Even then, it will only be for the short time that it takes to accomplish and fulfill all His prophetic words.
So now the scene is set for the final act of the Tribulation Period. The Church Age finished with the Rapture of the Believers. What of those who came to know Jesus as their Saviour belatedly and perhaps somewhat against their better judgement, when they were faced with the claims of Christ? Well, they will have been bodily destroyed by the harlot system. “I also saw that the woman was drunk, with the blood of the saints (God’s people) and the blood of the martyrs [who witnessed] for Jesus,” Revelation 17:6 Amp. Life will not have been easy for these people. They will have been hounded by the system, devastated by the loss of families and friends, yet will remain absolutely convinced that Jesus Christ is Lord! So compelled by their own personal knowledge of Him, they will be passionate to tell all whom they meet. Their witness to these facts will lead them to martyrdom, but their deaths will be to the Glory of God, and will be yet another nail in the satanic coffin of the Antichrist and his system.
So what does this mean for us today? How can we apply this knowledge to ourselves, as we live in a society where broadly speaking, any religious conviction is tolerated, as long as it is not ‘fundamentally’ Christian? If Jesus truly is the Lord of our lives, He will have changed our hearts and our attitudes from the inside out. We will know without a shadow of doubt, that there is only One Way to God and that is through Jesus Christ. ‘Jesus answered, “I am The Way and The Truth and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” John 14:6. We will be cognizant that the death He died, He died for us and in our place, so that we might be free from the fear of death and understand that when the time comes to die and our lives on this earth are at an end, there will be an eternal place prepared for us in the Presence of God. There will also be a divine fervency to see all people saved, so no-one has to go through this abominable time.
The Believers who die during the Tribulation Period will only be a maximum of 7-year-old Christians, but they will know God intimately. They will have counted the cost of becoming Believers, and will have lived each day as if it were their last.
Finally, what does Revelation 17:18 mean when it says “And the woman that you saw is herself the great city, which dominates and controls the rulers and the leaders of the earth.” The honest answer is that we just do not know. Some have said that it is the rebuilt and repopulated Babylon, part of the country of Iraq; others say that it might be Rome, and yet others that it is Geneva, the seat of the World Council of Churches, or even the Vatican! Likewise with the previous speculative attempts to discover the identity of the Antichrist as perhaps Putin, Tony Blair, the Pope, or even Henry Kissinger, we should not worry about something, which is yet to be revealed. When the time comes for us to know, we shall be made aware, but until then, it is best to listen and focus on how God is directing our lives. It is always good to be ready to give our reasons for loving God and how we became a Believer. It is through our testimony that people are going to be set free, and to live lives in the fullness which God intends!
29 Revelation 17 – The judgement of the Great Harlot – Challenge Questions.
It is suggested that you answer all the questions in your homework but only do those marked with ‘*’ in your group to save time and give more time to prayer.
1. *Read the Notes and the Bible Verses referred to in them. Highlight the points that ‘speak’ to you and be prepared to share with your group.
2. Can you see building blocks in our society today towards the one world religion? What are they?
3. Do you think that the world Babylonian system will be from the Roman Church or the European Union – the treaty of Rome, or maybe both? Or name an alternative.
4. *If we were to hold our lives up against the Believers during the time of the Tribulation, how would we compare?
Read Revelation 18:1-24
5. Describe the angel in the first verse. What is he foretelling? Revelation 18:1-2
6. *Describe the state of Babylon at this time. Revelation 18:2-3
7. God is calling His people out; where else in the Bible does God call His people out, giving them an opportunity of safety?
8. What will be the outcome for Babylon in these verses? Revelation 18:4-8
9. *Who will be upset by her destruction and why? Revelation 18:9-19
10. Who performs the destruction and judgement? Does God ever require us to repay evil?
11. How long will this destruction take and who has caused it? Revelation 18:10,17,19.
12. *What action does the ‘mighty angel’ take and what does he declare at this time? Revelation 18:21-24
13. *What had been the work of this city and why was she being judged by God? Revelation 18:23-24
14. Do you feel there will be other cities or systems that will be judged by God for their greed like Babylon?
15. *What do you feel is our responsibility in this world to the poverty we see on our screens