The Revelation of Hope
Introduction – In this Session we will begin Revelation 17. This is such an exciting section of Scripture because of all of the awesome spiritual symbolism that we will unpack in this chapter. As we move through this chapter we will reminded of spiritual symbolism and allegory that was explained in detail in earlier chapters. We will use these as a foundation to interpret Chapter 17.
Chapter 17 introduces us to the Woman on the Beast and interprets her identity to us as the Roman Empire. We can see this from the internal evidence already found in Chapter 17. Since we have already established our hermeneutic for interpreting Revelation, we will move on into this Chapter and begin our study of the contrast of 2 brides. The false/adulterous bride embodied in the Roman Empire and the people in agreement with that world system and True Bride of Christ described in Revelation 19, who agrees with her Lord of Lord and King of Kings.
a) Chapter 17 begins with a John having a dialogue with one of the 7 angels who is about to speak to John in figurative and symbolic language about the identity of the Woman and the Beast. Later in Revelation 17:7 this same angel begins the interpretation of the symbolism from verses 1-6. Chapter 17 is an easy section of Scripture to interpret because it interprets itself, once the identity of the Woman and the Beast has been identified.
b) The angel is showing John the “judgment” of the great prostitute that sits on many waters. The Greek word for judgment is KRIMA – a decree, judgments, condemnation of wrong, the decision (whether severe or mild) which one passes on the faults of others, the sentence of a judge. What we see here is the angel showing John the reason for judgment through the use of spiritual symbolism that communicates vast amounts of information through that symbolism. To understand Revelation in context is to understand the symbolism.
c) Great Prostitute – Greek – MEGAS PORNĒ – a woman who sells her body for sexual uses, metaph. an idolatress, of “Babylon” i.e. Rome, the chief seat of idolatry (Strong’s) – The identity of the great prostitute is easily understood as Rome. In Revelation 13 we looked at these concepts in detail. We see in Scripture that any nation that does do not worship God, but idols is considered to be in spiritual adultery. Israel was in spiritual adultery in many seasons of her history, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Hosea use this type of symbolism to record those eras. At the time of writing of the Revelation, Rome was engaged in the worst type of spiritual adultery which was the worship of a man, the Caesars of Rome.
d) Many waters – Many times in Scripture, waters are described as the mass of people groups. Rome at this time governed the whole of the civilized world. Since we studied this in detail in Revelation 13, I will not spend much time on the
exegesis of this symbolism. See Isaiah 17:12, and Isaiah 57:20.
a) The spiritual symbolism continues in verse 2 and we are given the description of the wide influence of spiritual adultery that Rome exerted on the ancient world. First of all, whenever Rome conquered an area, they introduced Roman culture, Roman currency, The Greco-Roman Pantheon, and Emperor worship. Given the massive influence of Rome ruling all of Europe, including the British Isles, Asia Minor, the Middle East and North Africa, Rome definitely caused the kings of the earth to commit adultery. Even Jerusalem was involved in this spiritual adultery when their leadership declared their allegiance to Caesar, and not to Jesus in John 19:12 and 15.
b) Being spiritually blinded by idolatry is described as drunkenness/intoxication. It is a spiritually delusional state to be caught in deception and be influenced by any other spirit than the Holy Spirit. All truth leads to clarity of mind as those who have the Holy Spirit are promised a Spirit of courage and a sound mind. See 2 Timothy 1:7.
c) Wine is the Biblical type and shadow for being under the influence of spiritual deception or judgment. Again, I have explained this detail in other Sessions so we will move on. The wine of her adulteries and her committing acts of adultery use the Greek Words relating to PORNEOin this verse. We see a verb and a noun used in this context. We see the active pursuit of deception, lies, immorality, resulting in the state of being influenced by them.
a) It must have been a really wild experience for John to be in a vision and then suddenly be transported to another spiritual realm within that vision. This is a reminder that it is error to read Revelation with a literalist hermeneutic.
b) We were introduced to this Beast in Revelation 13. Let’s walk through the symbolism as this will help us in our interpretation of verse 3.
c) The vison takes place in a desert or deserted place – This symbolic language for the spiritual waste land where the enemy dwells. Greek – ERĒMOS – solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited, deprived of the aid and protection of others, especially of friends, acquaintances, kindred, of a woman neglected by her husband, from whom the husband withholds himself, of a flock deserted by its shepherd – We see a False Bride here embodied by those who have joined themselves to one who has no love, concern or care.
d) Woman sitting – Greek GYNE KATHĒMAI – Verb – to have a fixed abode, to dwell, to sit down, seat one’s self –
e) Scarlet Beast – This symbolism is easily interpreted as the generic beast of Revelation 13, the Roman Empire, being under the influence of the devil/satan.
f) The seven heads are interpreted for us in Revelation 17:9 – This is Rome, the city on 7 hills.
g) 10 horns are speaking about the 10 Roman Provinces at that time. It is important for us to mention Daniel 2:42-45. In the time Jesus was born, Augustus Caesar
divided the Roman Empire into 10 provinces (toes), and Jesus is the Rock cut without hands that smashed the 10 toes. His kingdom through the ages will have dominion in increasing measure until His return.
h) The blasphemous names speak of all of the blasphemies of idol worship, Emperor worship, sexual immorality, unjust economies, slave trading and cultural degradation of the Roman Empire. What is awesome is that in first 3 centuries of the Church of Jesus Christ, she converted the Woman who sits on the Beast! The True Bride conquered the False Bride!
a) Dressed in purple – This color is reserved for royalty and the rich. We see a false or counterfeit identity of this unfaithful woman contrasted to the True Bride of Christ who is a royal princess arrayed in White!
b) Scarlet – Red can either speak of anger, passion, or redemption. This false bride/adulterous woman is inflamed with the ungodly passions of the spirit that animates this beast.
c) Glittering with gold – false glory
d) Precious stones – Gem stones speak of wealth and riches. Gem stones are used as descriptive language of the One who sat on the throne in Revelation 4. Also the tribes of Israel were represented by gem stones on the breast plate of the High Priest as a symbol being close to the Lord’s heart. This woman is arrayed in false wealth and riches, and is not a gem close to the Lord’s heart. She has no covenant.
e) Pearls are used in the context of wisdom and as a descriptive for the kingdom of God in Scripture – see Job 28:18 and Matthew 13. This woman has no wisdom or an enduring kingdom from God.
f) Her cup is filth. Cups speak of destinies: Jesus referred to his destiny as being the Lamb of God as a cup given to Him by the Father. Cups also speak of fellowship in Scripture as well. Psalm 116:12 speaks of fellowship with God as the cup of salvation. What we see here in the symbolism is that this woman has false fellowship and destiny of destruction.
g) Her title tells the whole story. Rome is the embodiment of everything contrary to the goodness of God.
a) Verse 6 tells us that the woman persecuted the Bride of Christ to point where she was drunk with their blood. This would have been very welcome news to the First Century Church that suffered immensely under her rule.
b) To summarize, this woman was defeated by the decree of the Lord Jesus and the power evangelism of the early church. This would have seemed an impossibility to the Apostolic Church who received the Revelation of John. If they looked at the power of Rome, its massive military, economic strength, and wide spread idolatry and immorality, they could have easily been discouraged. However they chose to believe in their identity as God’s very own as well as believe His decree of judgment on her, and live in fidelity to Him. The Church in every age is responsible for the continuing defeat of this spirit of adultery in every age.
Source Material: Don Walker – The Beast of Revelation White Paper Josephus.org David Chilton – Days of Vengeance The Apocalypse Code – Hank Hanegraaff G. Davis Dean – The Revelation of Jesus Christ Blue Letter Bible.com Preterist Archive.com Charles Taylor – Commentary on the Book of Revelation George Eldon Ladd – Commentary on the Book of Revelation George Eldon Ladd – The Gospel of the Kingdom Loraine Boettner – The Millenium Harold Eberle – Victorious Eschatology Holman Bible Dictionary Strongs Concordance NIV – Interlinear Greek New Testament- NASB – Interlinear Greek New Testament Jonathan Welton – Raptureless George Peter Holford – The Destruction of Jerusalem Wikipedia Rapture Fever – Gary North The Prophets Dictionary – Price Vines Expository Bible Dictionary