Study No 17 Revelation Ch. 17 Mystery Babylon and her Beast
As we proceed into this study, we want to remember that Daniel, as he described his vision of the final seven years of history before ‘the resurrection’ of the dead, described three ‘balancing’ world powers. The first was the King of the North, the next was named, The King of the South, and finally the (north)eastern section. In our study today, the same final period of time is being described by John. Since he does not mention anything about a King of the North (etc.) the responsibility is put on us to see what he is calling the main world powers of this last time. This means that we will end up by saying, “So the King of the North, here in Revelation is being called ….” Etc.
Unraveling the mystery.
In our studies so far there were two mentions of a city called Babylon:
The First mention:
Re 14:8 And another angel followed, saying, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."
The second mention:
Re 16:19 And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and Babylon the great was remembered in the sight of God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
In the first mention we only see that it refers to a city as ‘she’. Her involvement with all nations is called fornication. It is stated that she has ‘fallen’. This implies that at some point she was ‘up there’, but now has fallen.
In the second mention we get the clear impression that God’s anger with Babylon is even greater than the anger He has with the beast.
Before we explore this further in chapter 17, I will point out that throughout many years of church history, Bible commentators agree almost universally, that Mystery Babylon refers to the Roman Catholic Church. Why would they say that? What has made them come to this conclusion?
How much of the above is true of the Catholic Church?
Headed by a city. The Catholic Church is headquartered in Vatican City, Rome.
Called a ‘she’. The church in scripture is called ‘she’.
Has affected all nations. The missionary influence of the Catholic Church is global.
- In a later chapter it is said,
She ‘sits’ on seven mountains. Rome is called the city built on seven hills.
She is drunk with the blood of saints and martyrs. Not so popular is the fact that the RC church is responsible for putting to death millions of heretics. (a heretic is usually thought of as someone who does not agree with the teachings of our doctrinal statement. In the case of the heretics purged from the Catholic Church we find that for the most part they believed like we do. We too would be called heretics if our beliefs were to be compared with Catholic teaching.)
It is announced that she has fallen. If this were referring to the Catholic Church it would have to be referring to the initial fall of the church into doctrinal error. This began gradually as we noted in the letters to the churches. According to history, error continued to grow, and then as the errant churches banded together, first with each other under a first pope (606 ad) and then with the Roman authorities (the emperor became pope) this arm of the church found itself in a position of power … great power. Throughout the period we refer to as the dark ages, the (false) church was guilty of shedding much innocent blood – specifically the blood of those they called ‘heretics’. In their eyes they were purging the church and keeping it pure. However, the heretics (the majority of them) were those who rejected infant baptism, insisting that baptism was for believers … not babies. If and when they were caught meeting with a group of evangelical Christians, receiving Jesus as Saviour and then getting (re)baptised they were forcibly brought before their councils for trial. It was considered punishable by death if these new believers did not ‘recant’ and re-affirm their belief in the baptism they first received. Millions died at the hands of the Catholic Church ‘councils’.
The Catholic Church could possibly be considered a ‘fallen true church’.
Many Bible teachers are predicting that the RC Church will lead the way into forming a worldwide ecumenical church – this would be a non denominational church which would be neither Catholic nor Protestant. According to many end-times commentators, Mystery Babylon is the end times corrupt church.
So far we may have no reason to look further for another explanation of who Mystery Babylon is.
Now, in this study we come across a third mention of Babylon:
Re 17.5 and upon her forehead a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Beginning at verse one, let’s look to see if any additional clues are given. Some may fit to further identify the Catholic church … but some may seem very uncharacteristic and may be pointing at something else entirely.
17:1,2. Here she is called a harlot. We also note that her worldwide influence is described as people being drunk with fornication. Drunkenness is usually considered willful. It is called one of the worldly pleasures. Fornication, by those involved in it … consider it an enjoyable pastime. So, from the world’s standpoint, they have been greatly blessed by this ‘mother of harlots’.
3-6 A vivid description
She is sitting on a beast that has 7 heads and 10 horns. The beast is red. Later we find she is sitting on the beast that looks like a leopard, lion and bear. But in this verse the message that John gets … she is in league with the devil. (slide)
She is a virtual display of wealth and extravagance. She is holding up a golden cup … of filthiness. She displays it. She is proud of it. She is a promoter of this style of life.
Then we read, ‘She is drunk with – responsible for – the blood of the saints’.
If this ‘woman’ is NOT referring to the Catholic Church, or an End Times Ecumenical church … we will have to let scripture bear this out.
John is amazed by what he has seen … and needs further explanation … as I suppose do we.
Verse 7 and 8 - the angel explains:
7 ¶ ... "Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her.
8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.
The beast that carries her:
Existed (was). Ceased to exist (was not), Then out of the bottomless pit it is reborn … and then returns ‘to perdition’. None of this fits with the red dragon, Satan. We are not talking about the devil himself as he has not yet been to ‘perdition’. Has not been killed or ceased to exist even for a time. So the beast upon which the woman rides, while it is said to be red in color, actually it is the other beast who is literally indwelled or possessed by the devil – the red beast.
9-13 The seven heads are said to be seven mountains on which the woman sits.
9 This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated;
10 they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while.
11 As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.
Then we are told that there are seven kings … five are in the past, one in John’s present time, and one for the future (who would last only a short time) and then the last (the end times) beast is actually called ‘the eighth’. (in the first picture we were given, there were seven heads … one died and came back to life)
The ten horns, we are told, are ten kings, but it appears they are ‘future’ kings who in fact will only have power as kings for a short while in the end time.
So what about this seven headed beast … is it the antichrist?
I believe it is not. It is a beast (system) that has a long history. A simple explanation is that it represents times in history when a nation had sway over controlling the earth. For example … Five previous dominating kingdoms or dynasties have passed (fallen) and one ‘is’ … that is, with the passing of the Greeks, the Romans were now the sixth power … they would fall … there will be a seventh who will not last long compared to the time periods of the other six. … And there was to be an eighth.
So, a world dominating power is what the beast represents. In every case when one main kingdom ruled over the whole known world, it did so by brute force. As might be expected these kingdoms, having not much of a check and balance, were very corrupt and cruel. A beast is a good description for that is what they were.
There has been some speculation that not only is there a sequence of world dominating powers, but that the last beast has seven heads all at the same time, as well. In other words, the last beast is conglomerate of seven kingdoms. While there seems to be no real evidence for this, some have made reference to the G7 as being the seven headed beast. If this is correct we could say that the seven countries of the G7, collectively are ruling the world.
But the second beast … that looks like a lamb … and performs miracles … and forces everyone to worship the big beast … is likely the antichrist, but some commentators refer to the second beast as 'the False prophet'. In Chapter 20 we will discover that the beast and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire 1000 years earlier than anyone else ... including the Devil. This sounds as though the first beast, the one with the seven heads and 10 horns .... although it is a huge conglomerate power ... must be, or could be, headed up by one man.
As the angel continues to relay information to John we notice he ‘fast forwards’ to the very end and describes the battle of Armageddon. (14)
In verse 15 the angel backtracks a bit to tell us that the waters upon which the harlot sits are actually people all around the world.
The next …rather shocking piece of information … is that at some point (probably right near the end … but before the battle of Armageddon) the 10 horns destroy the woman. As we will see in the next chapter this will be a literal, physical destruction that required a conglomerate of ten nations.
Equally shocking … God is involved with ‘adjusting their freewill’ to include their doing something that actually administers God’s own judgment and wrath on Babylon. 16-17
A final caption: This woman, that ‘Great City’ … ‘reigns over’ kings … ALL the kings of the earth. (Who is it?!!!)
Read chapter 18 and jot down your questions.