Rev 17:1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters.
John spoke to one of the seven angels with one of the seven vials (bowls). Which angel? And by extension, which vile or bowl? The fact that John was speaking to one of the angles of destruction previously described in Chapter 16 shows that the forthcoming events are linked to the events described earlier; we are not looking at a new phase in history but a continuation of previous judgements. At the end of the chapter the fall of Babylon is described.
The expression 'great whore' is a figurative expression of idolatry (Isaiah 57:3). The expression 'sitteth upon many waters,' may seem like a contradiction since water does not naturally support body weight. The expression may be to emphasize the insubstantial foundations of the woman's world. Her world may be compared to that of those who built their houses on sand.
The expression 'many waters' and other details in this passage refer to Jeremiah 51 where the fall of Babylon is described. Babylon was the principal city of the world's first empire. The vision is therefore that of the fall of another empire: the world's last.
The great city that rules over the 'kings of the earth' represents the aspiration of political leaders who do not know God; their loyalty is to the ideal of world government. There are several scriptural references to the 'kings of the earth,' perhaps Psalm 2 is the most obvious. These kings represent anti-Christian powers.
...Rev 17:2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. 3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
It is important in interpreting Revelation to use scripture to interpret scripture. The 'kings of the earth' is a reference to Jeremiah 51:7 where the 'kings of the earth' are those who were under the influence of the spirit of Babylon. By extension in this context the 'kings of the earth' may not extend to the entire world but only to those who are under the beast's (whore's) influence i.e., those seeking an alternative kingdom to that of Christ.
The fornication in view in this text is the allure of world government. This is the ultimate form of idolatry in which man is his own god. The opening statement in this passage refers to political leaders who saw ancient Babylon as the model for political organisation of mankind. In the Babylonian context the 'earth' was the extent of the 'civilized world' i.e., Babylonia. In our day 'globalists' have the same agenda but their ambition is to control the entire world.
Several organizations are in competition to achieve global governance: the freemasons, the illuminati (perhaps), the Bilderbergers, the World Economic Forum, Communist China, the United Nations, and political Islam.
'The wilderness' recalls the territory in which the Hebrew people sojourned after leaving Egypt. The land includes the Sinai Peninsula after crossing the 'Red Sea.'
The colour scarlet is symbolic of blood, so we are considering some entity which persecutes the saints. There are many such entities throughout the world but few associated with 'the wilderness.'
We have encountered the 'beast with seven heads and ten horns' before: Revelation 13. Following the fall of the Roman empire in AD476, the only civil structure that was left was the Church of Rome. The territory of the western Roman empire ultimately divided into ten kingdoms (hence ten horns on the beast), seven of which were under Christian kings, the remainder under pagan kings. The last of the three pagan kings were conquered. The Roman empire was then fully re-constituted in territorial, political and religious terms under one church leader.
What we see in Revelation 17 is the return of the beast, to re-build the Roman empire. The ten kings may represent ten nations which will contribute to the authority of the re-emergent beast (as did the ten kings whose authority was endorsed by the church as above) or they may symbolise the ideological connection between the two beasts; hence the actual number of nations within the confederation may differ; we shall soon see. The beast of Revelation 13 had both temporal power as well as spiritual (religious) authority. So also, likely will be the next version of the Roman empire.
Rev 17:4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication.
The territory of the wilderness through which the Hebrew people journeyed remained economically poor until the 1973 oil crisis. In the following few years, many middle eastern countries became very rich.
Rev 17:6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
Christians are the most persecuted people in the world, and most of the persecution is due to one particular political and religious system.
Rev 17:7 And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. 8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
The expression 'bottomless pit' has been used before in Revelation 9. There, the angel who opened the pit released spiritual forces conquered the Byzantine empire. The implication is that the next version of the Roman empire would rise in a similar way.
Rev 17:9 And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
Sometimes Bible commentators have chosen to misread 'seven mountains' for 'seven hills' and pointed to the city of Rome as the new Babylon. There are two cities lying amid seven mountains: one in Scandinavia (Bergen) and the other to the east of the Red Sea.
Rev 17:10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
The kings represent kingdoms. The five fallen are: the Babylonian empire, the Medo-persian empire, the Greek empire under Alexander the Great, the Roman empire including its legal extension the Babylonian empire, and finally the Ottoman empire. The sixth 'king' is whoever claims to be the political and religious successor to the Ottoman empire. The seventh is one yet to come.
The expression 'a short space of time' is used a few times in prophetic literature. It speaks of a pause before a divine judgement. In Jeremiah 51:33 the context is the promised fall of Babylon, which happened about 113 years after the prophecy. In Hagai 2:6 the expression refers to the fall of nations surrounding Jerusalem, and the subsequent yet future establishment of the temple in Jerusalem. No clear time line is indicated by this expression but the themes of divine judgement and the establishment of the messianic kingdom are present. See also Psalm 2 and Zechariah 14 for further descriptions of the final confrontation between the 'kings of the earth' and the 'King of kings.'
Rev 17:11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
This verse is somewhat cryptic and it may be that we need to wait (a short space of time) before its meaning becomes fully evident. The forthcoming empire and its ruler become indistinguishable. The leader (king, possibly a form of anti-Christ) and those who follow become as one.
There are several references to 'perdition' in the New Testament. These are helpful in providing clues to the circumstances of the last empire and its king. The following analysis is based on a presumed consistency in the use of language and theological concepts throughout scripture, and the consistent application of divine judgement in similar situations and considering similar types of people.
• John 17:12 states that Judas Iscariot was destined for perdition. Judas betrayed Jesus. Judas Iscariot's motives are not clearly defined. However, it has been speculated that Judas wanted to 'engineer' a confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders, force Jesus to reveal himself as the Messiah, the king of Israel, and hence force a confrontation with the Romans and establishing the messianic age. This explains how after successfully betraying Jesus, he tried to offer his fees back, since what happened (the crucifixion) was not really what he had intended.
• The 'Man of Lawlessness' (Pauls' second letter to the Thessalonians, Chapter 2). He has previously been identified as John of Gischala. Gischala provoked a fight between the Jews and the Romans (AD70), and the Jews lost. In the same way the woman on the beast wages war against Christ and loses (Revelation 17:14).
• In 1 Timothy 6:9 describes those who have an extreme love of wealth going to perdition. The 'whore of Babylon' has great wealth (Revelation 17:4).
• In Philippians 1:28 states that the adversaries of the gospel will go to perdition. 'Scarlet' is the colour of the blood of the saints, implying persecution of those who follow Christ. This is also matched in the description of the whore and the beast in Revelation 17:6.
• Hebrews 10:39 speaks of those who have heard the gospel but rejected it. This corresponds to the beast being full of blasphemous names. This parallel suggests that the final king may be an apostate, or an anti-Christ.
• 2 Peter 5:7 speaks of those who reject the possibility of a coming judgement. This is expounded upon later in Revelation 18:7 where the whore never sees herself as being a 'widow' i.e., never facing loss. This implies that the final king and his 'beast' do not contemplate ever coming to an end. They too go into 'perdition'. 'Perdition' is getting a little crowded.
Rev 17:12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. 13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
If we use 'scripture to interpret scripture' and assume for a consistency in the use of language and imagery throughout scripture, then we are guided to Daniel 7 where this imagery of the beast first appears. In that context the beast represents the first four great empires Babylonian, Medo-perisan, Greek and Roman. The last empire dissolved into ten kingdoms after AD476.
In Revelation 17 we see a revived Roman empire. Later, another version of the Roman empire appeared. In AD800 Charlamagne was crowned by Pope Leo III. This was advantageous for the pope since Charlamagne now came under papal authority and Charlamagne could claim divine authority to rule. The consequent 'Holy Roman empire' was later termed 'the Second Reich.'
It appears that the devil was misguided in trying to establish a third Roman empire during the Second World War, modelled after the third beast of Revelation: right idea, wrong place. A residual form of the Roman empire nonetheless exists today: the European Union. This was is misguided: wrong idea, wrong place.
In Revelation chapter 17 we see a 'third beast' which resembles the first and second Roman empires. The first Roman empire was territorially divided into 10 kingdoms. The second Roman empire occupied the same territory as the first. The third empire will be a re-construction out of several kingdoms i.e., as a reversal of the fall of the first empire.
The number 'ten' may be figurative or literal; we shall have to wait a 'short space of time' to see.
The 'kings with no kingdom' seem to refer to persons who have political influence and global aspirations but are not necessarily national leaders. Perhaps they are religious leaders who want a global or regional religious and political empire. The kingdom which thy seek is world government.
Rev 17:14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
In this scripture we see a repeat of the battle of the Milvian bridge where Constantine defeated paganism. May we anticipate a future Constantine who will defeat the 'beast'?
Rev 17:16 And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. 17 For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
The fall of the real 'Third Reich' will be characterised by self-destruction.
The first 'Reich' was the Roman empire. It was based on a unifying government as distinct to a unifying culture, religion, ethnicity, or 'race.' In Danial chapter 7 it is described as built from 'iron mixed with clay'. This is prophetic language that indicates the lack of social cohesion within the empire. The last 'Reich' will destroy itself due to the same lack of social cohesion between the ten 'kingdoms,' and the dominant power. 'Multiculturalism' and international political consolidation fail again.
Presently there are several competitors for differing models of regional and world government: the United Nations, European Union, China, the World Economic Forum, and no doubt various 'secret societies.' The aspirations for global governance by the Islamic world do not at present take the form shown in Revelation 17.
All attempts at achieving global government will fail since the divine order for human governance is the independent nation, country, kingdom, or tribal 'homeland' based on national self-determination. This has been the case since to fall of the Tower of Babel.
Later prophecies after Revelation 18 lie too far into the future to be considered with any accuracy.