God’s Judgment of The Harlot, The Beast and The Devil

Book of Revelation – a series presented by pastor Michael Walker

Lesson #20 – Revelation, chapters 17-18

The prophet now receives a composite picture of God’s judgment on the powers of evil. The identity of the harlot, the beast and the devil stand confirmed. His judgment upon them is carried out during the seven last plagues, but under the sixth plague the wickedness of the harlot will reach its height whereas, when the seventh plague takes place, her power and control will fall apart. Judgment against her will be executed. Finally, in the closing phase of the Last Judgment, God will bring an eternal end to all wickedness and usher in eternal righteousness and peace according to His promise.

Chapter 17

vs. 1-2  

This vision concerns the period when the 7 last plagues are poured out. One of the angels commissioned to pour out those plagues came to show the apostle “the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters”, which are the nations who serve her (v.15). Her wickedness will reach its height during the 6th Plague and God’s judgment against her will be executed during the time of the 7th Plague.

The Harlot Babylon

vs. 3-6

These verses summarize the height of her wickedness: – She sits on the scarlet beast that is full of blasphemies. She is clothed in purple and scarlet. She is adorned with gold and precious stones. She holds a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. She is drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs. Her name is “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth”.

Mystical Babylon refers to the religious opposition that is organized against God’s people and particularly at the Time of the End. Whereas the symbol of this harlot woman represents the fallen church, the beast she is seated upon represents the political forces to which she is aligned. While the beast of Revelation 13 is identified with the papacy as a religio-politico power, the beast in Revelation 17 is seen as separate to the woman who is seated upon it. While there need be no doubt that these two representations are the same beast, in this chapter there are two things that are changed: {1] In Revelation 13, the beast has crowns upon its horns, but there are no crowns on the beast in Revelation 17; [2] the beast in Revelation 17 is red whereas the one in Revelation 13 is not.

What do these descriptions signify?

The crowns (diadæmata) represent political rulers/kingdoms which Satan used to empower the papacy in his warfare against Christ; but the situation during the 7 Last Plagues, appears to be ruled by the woman. She is robed in purple, colour for royalty (c.f. Mathew 27:28), and thinks she sits “as a queen” (Revelation 18:7) but Satan is the one who is actually controlling the whole triumvirate system to enforce the Mark of the Beast (Revelation 13:13-17).

The great red dragon (Revelation 12:3,9) who gives his authority to the beast (Revelation 13:2) is the real power behind the harlot woman and the beast. It is evident that in the climax that unfolds during the 6th Plague (Revelation 16:13,14) Satan is having his last fling to become the ruler of this world by destroying God’s faithful people.

Red symbolizes sin (Isaiah 1:18) and both the woman and the beast are so identified. They are both full of blasphemies, indicating both their true nature and their claims. Interestingly enough, red is also recognized as the colour of prostitution (Joshua 2:1,18,21). Just like ancient Israel forsook the true God and prostituted herself with the pagans of Canaan, so the papacy has committed harlotry with paganism by bringing its abominations into the church! Her dogmas have become accepted as from God, when the god who originated them is Satan! Furthermore, she has spawned harlot daughters in that apostate Protestantism has joined itself to many of her false doctrines and practices!

In addition, the Church of Rome has persecuted and shed the blood of those who remained faithful to God. No wonder God’s judgments will fall heavily upon her!

The Mystery of the Harlot and the Beast

vs. 7, 18

The mystery of the harlot woman, called “Babylon the Great” (v.5), is explained as “that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth”. This “great city” (c.f. Revelation 18:16,18,19) will be divided into three parts during the 7th Plague (Revelation 16:19). The message of the 2nd Angel announces ‘Babylon that great city has fallen’ (Revelation 14:8); and in the ‘Loud Cry’ of God’s Last Warning Message to the world, it is reiterated that “Babylon the great is fallen”, hence He calls His people to come out of her rather than share in her sins and receive of her plagues (Revelation 18:1-5). The great city Babylon is also mentioned in Revelation 18:10,21 with reference to her ultimate destruction as God’s Judgment against her is carried out under the 7th Plague. This corporate description leaves us in no doubt as to her identity as fallen Christendom comes under Satan’s control.

vs 8-17, 9,10

In addition to what we have already noted above, the mystery of the beast is further identified. The 7 heads of the beast are synonymous with 7 mountains and 7 kings (kingdoms, c.f. Daniel 7:24) – i.e. political powers through whom Satan has opposed Christ and tried to destroy God’s people. A further clue is that the City of Rome was built upon 7 hills. It would therefore be prudent to recognize the beast as the political wing while the woman who is seated on the beast is the ecclesiastical wing of the three-fold alliance that will be formed as outlined in Revelation 13.

vs 8-11

As to the complexity of the descriptions of when the beast “was, and is not, and will ascend” and “yet is”, in line with the 7 kings of which “five have fallen, one is, and the other has yet to come”, they are of the same (v.11). Commentators have made suggestions with varying permutations including “the eighth” – e.g. [1] Babylon, [2] Medo-Persia, [3] Greece, [4] Pagan Rome, [5] 1260 years Papal Rule, [6] Restored Papacy, [7] 3-fold Union, [8] Satan’s final attempt. Another suggestion: [1] Egypt, [2] Assyria, [3] Babylon, [4] Medo-Persia, [5] Greece, [6] Pagan Rome, [7] Papal Rome, [8] 3-fold Union/Satan’s final attempt. Each of these and other similar permutations are all possibilities as they all fit the historical story-line. The fact is that the Scriptures gives no further indication. However, the focus in this chapter is only on the “eighth” which concerns Satan’s final attempt to conquer Christ’s claim to the Kingdom by destroying the faithful people of God. At this stage in time, the others are of no particular significance.

“Absence in the Greek of the definite article before the word ‘eighth’ suggests that the beast itself was the real authority back of the seven heads, and that it is therefore more than merely another head, the eighth in a series. It is their summation and climax – the beast itself. In the Greek the word for ‘eighth’ is masculine and hence cannot refer to a head, the word for which is feminine” – SDA Bible Commentary, Vol.7, p.856.

v. 11

The “bottomless pit” from which he ascends is significant of the spiritual desolation that will exist when Probation closes and the 7 Last Plagues are poured out. Under the 7th plague, Satan’s kingdom will be destroyed.

vs 12-13

The 10 horns that are featured on the Roman beast in Daniel 7:7, the Satanic dragon in Revelation 12:3, and the composite beast in Revelation 13:1 serve to confirm the historical composition of international powers under Satan’s control in his warfare against Christ and His people. Since the focus in Revelation 17 is yet on the future because it states: “who have received no kingdom as yet”, it will be after the Close of Probation, that they represent the nations of this world when they are finally united under the power of Satan’s rule to achieve his objective. “Power” (Gk: exousia) – i.e. “authority”. The Greek literally reads: “These have one purpose, that is, they shall give their capacity and authority to the beast” (7BC, 857). This decision will be brought about by the 3 evil spirits that influence the nations by their miracles of deception (Revelation 16:13,14). After the Close of Probation, Satan will be at liberty to annihilate God’s remnant people – BUT then God will step in and deliver them.

v. 14

“When the protection of human laws shall be withdrawn from those who honour the law of God, there will be, in different lands, a simultaneous movement for their destruction. As the time appointed in the decree draws near, the people will conspire to root out the hated sect. …. In every quarter companies of armed men, urged on by hosts of evil angels, are preparing for the work of death. It is now, in the hour of utmost extremity, that the God of Israel will interpose for the deliverance of His chosen.” – E.G. White, The Great Controversy, p.635

The reference to “one hour” could mean 15 literal days in prophetic time; but the context is more suggestive of a brief period (c.f. Revelation 18:10,17,19) as it refers to the finality of Satan’s warfare. The terminology is similar to what Jesus used when He declared: “For the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” – Matthew 24:44.

vs 16, 17

It will be at that point in time during the 7th Plague (Revelation 16:15-21) when the 3-fold union will fall apart and the wicked turn in against one another! Verse 16 is the summing up of the harlot’s final end along with the power of earthly kingdoms!

Chapter 18

God’s Judgements Finally Carried Out        

vs 5-7

Harlot Babylon’s sins have not by any means gone unnoticed by God. The sentence against her will finally be carried out (c.f. Daniel 7:9-11). The description under the 6th Seal also comes into focus as it describes the scene at Jesus’ 2nd Coming (Revelation 6:12-17) as nature itself is in turmoil. We may picture the drama when the wicked are about to destroy God’s saints:

“With shouts of triumph, jeering, and imprecations, throngs of evil men are about to rush upon their prey, when, lo, a dense blackness, deeper than the darkness of night, falls upon the earth. Then a rainbow, shining with the glory from the throne of God, spans the heavens and seems to encircle each praying company. The angry multitudes are suddenly arrested. Their mocking cries die away. The objects of their murderous rage are forgotten. With fearful forebodings they gaze upon the symbol of God’s covenant and long to be shielded from its overpowering brightness” – Ibid, pp.635,636.

Jesus enters the arena as He comes to rescue His saints (Matthew 25:31-34).

“The wicked are filled with regret, not because of their sinful neglect of God and their fellow men, but because God has conquered. They lament that the result is what it is; but they do not repent of their wickedness. They would leave no means untried to conquer if they could” – Ibid, p654.

“The people see that they have been deluded. They accuse one another of having led them to destruction; but all unite in heaping their bitterest condemnation upon the ministers. Unfaithful pastors have prophesied smooth things; they have led their hearers to make void the law of God and to persecute those who would keep it holy. Now, in despair, these teachers confess before the world their work of deception. The multitudes are filled with fury. ‘We are lost!’ they cry, ‘and you are the cause of our ruin;’ and they turn upon the false shepherds … The swords which were to slay God’s people are now employed to destroy their enemies” – Ibid, pp.655,656.

“God’s chosen people will stand unmoved. Satan and his host cannot destroy them, for angels that excel in strength will protect them” – E.G. White, Testimonies to the Church, Vol.9, p.17.

v. 7

She who sat “as queen” thought she would rule forever in her luxury but Mystery Babylon’s claim to greatness and power will collapse as the 3-fold union falls apart (c.f. Revelation 17:16,17). God who judges her is in control and is far greater than she!

vs 9,10 11-19

The “kings” (kingdoms) of earth bewail her downfall. Likewise, the “merchants” (powerful, influential in the world) also stand amazed at her downfall, no doubt that they too must share her same fate! All their wealth and prestige lay in ruins! None of these things could save them! They stand aghast that all is lost and they also will perish forever! They will all perish in the fire of eternal destruction that they will rise to face at the end of the Millennium (Revelation 20:9,10,15).

vs 21-24

The destruction of the harlot Babylon shall be so violent that it is likened to a great, heavy millstone being cast into the sea where it sinks never to rise anymore. She who has lived in luxury, served by the great men of the world will no longer exist. So violent will be her end!

vs 20

In contrast, the redeemed will rejoice along with the unfallen beings of the universe as they share the victory that Christ has won! No longer will they dwell amidst a world that  is deformed with sin and corruption! No longer will they be faced with the challenge of falsehood and deception! No longer will they suffer persecution, hatred and death! Falsehood and wickedness will be no more while Truth and Righteousness will continue for eternity!

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