A Study of Revelation, All Roads lead to Ancient Rome, the Babylonian Gods
Verse 15 is helpful in interpreting chapter 17 as well as other passages throughout Revelation because it defines “the waters” which the harlot was sitting on (v.1). They represent “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.” The harlot controls and influences a vast number of people. This spiritual beast which began as the apostate church later became the “MOTHER OF HARLOTS” (v.5) and has controlled multitudes since its origin. It controls them both spiritually and physically by using powerful governmental forces to carry out its own desires.
16* “And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.
In chapter 18 we have an extended commentary on this verse. The world in now in the period of time in which the ten horns, or ten kingdoms, are in power. During this period of time there will be multiple kingdoms. The world will not be ruled by some powerful worldwide kingdom. There is no way of knowing how many kingdoms there will be, or how long this period will last, but this is the situation which prevails in the world at this time. This makes the information given in verse 16 refer to events which are still in the future.
There will come a time on earth when the civil powers of government will turn against the religious powers of this world and eventually destroy them. This seven-headed beast with the ten horns represents wicked civil governments which persecute God’s people and oppose his ways. The ten horns are a part of that beast; they represent a time when civil powers will be divided among many nations. There will not be one worldwide kingdom. These ten horns, or multiple kingdoms, will hat the harlot and make her desolate. The harlot represents all forms of false religions. At some time in the future the civil governments of this world will turn against the powers of false religion and destroy them. To “make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire” shows the totality of the destruction.
There are governments today which are presently attempting to do this very thing. A number of countries around the world seek to prohibit, or at least closely regulate, any religious activities which take place within their borders. Many wars fought today are political/religious wars. This struggle may continue for many years, but eventually civil powers will overcome and destroy these religious powers which rob them of some of their authority over their people. Governments can have adverse affects on religious organizations in subtle ways as well as in violent ways. They may enact laws which make it hard for religious organizations to continue to exist. On the other hand, they may allow their citizenry to do many things which are totally contrary to God’s will and sinful in his sight, thereby eventually causing these religious organizations to be overcome by the sinful atmosphere around them.
17* “For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled.
Romans 13:1 says, “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” God’s purpose is being carried out in our world today. Since we cannot see the future it is impossible for us to understand why God deals with people of this world as he does in matters of civil governments. God’s desire for man is that all would be saved, but that obviously will not happen because of man’s refusal to obey his commands. We have no way of knowing what situations in this world will be most advantageous for the spreading of the gospel. We have no way of knowing what governmental powers are needed in order to keep sin form raging uncontrolled. We may believe that we know which types of governments are best for us, but all too many times our decisions are based on our physical desires rather than our spiritual needs which should be considered first. Very likely there are people who are obedient to the gospel because they live in difficult situations. Possibly, they would not be Christians if times were easy. On the other hand, there are probably those who are Christians because they do not face physical persecutions which might be more than they could endure.
Governments of this world are in power because God desires it to be so. They are fulfilling the will of God.
“God has put it in their heart to execute His purpose.” The governments of this world will help the beast, they will do what is necessary for this beast to exist, “until the words of God will be fulfilled.” The kingdoms of this world will support the beast until all things described in this vision have been completed.
Many people write email questions to ScripturesSay.com asking “why?” Why does God make it possible for this spiritual beast to exist in the world since it commits spiritual fornication against him? Why?
Isaiah 55:9 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.
We do not always understand the ways that God chooses to do things.
This beast may exist in order to assist the existence of the true church. A hint of this is found in 12:15-17 where the devil is described as making war against the woman which represents the true church. Revelation 12:16 says; “But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and drank up the river which the dragon poured out of his mouth.” It might be impossible for the true church to exist if all people outside it were completely opposed to God and had no spiritual thoughts whatsoever. Sin would rage so rampant that anyone who ever spoke against it might be killed immediately. Imagine a world where there were no spiritual activities whatsoever. Even though people are today committing spiritual fornication by worshiping God according to the traditions of men rather than the word of God they enable the true church of Christ to exist. Therefore, God allows this beast, the harlot, to exist in order to create an atmosphere conductive to the existence of the true church.
18* “The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
The woman, or harlot which has been the subject of this vision is also described as the “great city.” In 18:2 the great city is referred to as “Babylon the great.” “Babylon the great” was also the name written on the forehead of the harlot (v.5). The harlot is this woman who reigns over the kings of the earth. This makes it easy to see that all of these symbols are used to describe the same thing: the apostate church which commits spiritual fornication against God. The symbol of a “city” is used to indicate a group of people which have a common purpose. Hebrews 12:22 uses this symbol to refer to the church as “the city of the living God.” This city of God represents all those who have one thing in common, they are Christians. This “great city” is used symbolically in the same manner except it is further defined as being a harlot. This would mean the great city represents all those who commit spiritual fornication.
The great city “reigns over the kings of the earth,” in the sense that these kingdoms give their power and authority to the harlot, and she is ruling over them. Her wishes and desires are granted by the kings of the earth.