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 who had 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 angels 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 Chapter 17 the fall of Babylon is described.
The expression 'great whore' is a figurative expression of idolatry (Isaiah 57:3). The expression 'many waters' and other details in this passage refer to Jeremiah 51:55 where the fall of Babylon is described as though being overtaken by a flood. The fact that 'the whore' is sitting on 'many waters' is a reference to 'many nations' (Isaiah 17:13) and a sign of upcoming judgement ('waters' reflects Noah's flood). 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' has been discussed previously. Formerly it represented various pagan-dominated cities (Jerusalem, Nineveh, Babylon both literally and as Europe figuratively). The 'great city' rules over the kings. This is the reverse of the proper order of governance: kings should rule over cities. The 'great city' represents the aspiration of political leaders who do not know God; their loyalty is to the ideal of world government.
...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.
There are several scriptural references to the 'kings of the earth,' perhaps Psalm 2 is the best known. These kings represent anti-Christian powers. The 'kings of the earth' is also a reference to Jeremiah 51:7 where the 'kings of the earth' are those who were under the influence of the spirit of Babylon; they invaded and took Jerusalem. 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 - a new Babylon.
The word 'fornication' in this context 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, 'political' Islam and a recently emerged 'BRICS' grouping: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. There is no shortage of candidate organisations and movements competing for world domination.
'The wilderness' describes the territory in which the Hebrew people sojourned after leaving Egypt. The land is in the Sinai Peninsula.
The colour scarlet is symbolic of blood. So, we are considering some entity which is violent. Which 'candidate' countries or movements already have blood on their hands?
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 by an army 'borrowed' from the related Byzantine empire. The Roman empire was then fully re-constituted in territorial, political, and religious terms under one leader.
What we see in Revelation 17 is the return of 'the beast' which is a reincarnation of demonic imperialism, copying the Roman empire. The ten kings may represent ten nations which will subjugate themselves to the authority of the re-emergent beast. The beast of Revelation 13 had both temporal power and 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 for 40 years has since become rich. This should give us a clue as to the future.
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. Again, which nations or religions have blood on their hands?
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 which conquered the Byzantine empire. The implication is that the next version of the Roman empire would rise in a similar way.
An interregnum period is foreseen between the next 'beast' and the previous beast. This point is developed further below.
Those who 'wonder' are those whose names are not written in the book of life. The names of Christians are written in the book of life. So ,Christians will understand these times when they come.
The 'perdition' connection is considered below.
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 in Sinai.
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 and historical extension - the Babylonian empire, and finally the Ottoman empire. The sixth 'king' is the political and religious successor to the Ottoman empire. Just as the Ottoman empire was coming to an end, a new empire was being formed.
In October 1917 the Russia revolution led to the eventual formation of the Soviet Union. The Communist's final victory did not take place until 1921. The Soviet Union dissolved exactly 70 years later. This number of years is of biblical significance. So why did so many countries languish for up to 70 years under communism? Divine judgement for anti-Jewish persecution both in Russia and eastern Europe perhaps
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.
If we take the Soviet Union to be the sixth 'king' then there is currently an 'interregnum' until the seventh and eighth 'kings' appear. An 'interregnum' also appeared earlier in Revelation. Following the fall of the Roman empire in AD476, the ten successor kingdoms were not consolidated under a common ruler for several years. After this time another 'beast' emerged. So we see a repeat of an historical pattern.
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 when 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 to establish the messianic age. This explains how after successfully betraying Jesus, he tried to offer his fees back, since what had happened (the crucifixion) was presumably not what Judas 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).
• 1 Timothy 6:9 describes those who have an extreme love of wealth as going to perdition. The 'whore of Babylon' has great wealth (Revelation 17:4).
• 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 by God. The false prophets had the same message. This is expounded upon later in Revelation 18:7 where the whore never sees herself as being a 'widow' i.e., never facing loss or 'judgement'. 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.
The 'kings' give their power to the beast. In the same way the 'kings' of the 10 kingdoms gave their authority to the newly re-emerged Roman empire - Revelation 13 (verse 4 in particular). There are sufficient clues in these chapters to recognise clearly these events when they take place, provided of course that one's name is written in the Book of Life.
In Revelation 17 we see a 'third beast' which resembles the first and second Roman empires. The first Roman empire (western half) divided into ten kingdoms upon dissolution. The second Roman empire occupied the same territory as the first. The third empire will be a re-construction built on ten kingdoms i.e., as a reversal of the fall of the Roman empire.
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 15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
In this scripture we see a repeat of the battle of the Milvian bridge where Constantine defeated paganism. May we anticipate a future Constantine acting as a proxy for Jesus who will defeat the 'beast'? Or will Jesus come literally in person and fight '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 final incarnation of the Roman empire will die self-destruction. A kind of political suicide. The first Roman empire was based on a unifying government as distinct to a unifying culture, religion, ethnicity, or 'race.' In Danial Chapter 7 it was predicted to be made from 'iron mixed with clay'. This is prophetic language that indicates the lack of social cohesion within the empire.
The last Roman empire 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. This goes back to the Tower of Babel: made from materials which would not stick together, to achieve a goal that cannot stand up to God.
The diverse political, cultural, and religious structures cannot co-exist. The cracks between the bricks will become evident sooner rather than later. 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 the fall of the Tower of Babel.
The evolution of the last 'Roman Empire' will follow that of the first. The 'four horses of the apocalypse' represent conquest (white horse), famine, economic collapse, and death (other horses).
Jesus will return to sort out the mess and establish his Millennial kingdom. The devil will be bound and prevented from establishing any more empires for a while. After this he will be allowed to try again. This time there will be a war and the final judgement.
Then the kingdom of Christ will come in its fullness.
Later prophecies after Revelation 18 lie too far into the future to be considered with any accuracy.