Revelation 17

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

September 24, 1997


We’re going to be looking at a difficult chapter, and one of the difficulties I have with it is the incredible parallels between this future world false religion and the present Roman Catholic Church.

I want to state first off that I believe there are many wonderful believers in the Roman Catholic Church.

We’ve talked before about the possibility of identifying the seven churches of Revelation 2-3 with the church throughout church history, with the Church at Thyatira being parallel with the Roman Catholic Church:

(Rev 2:18-29 KJV) And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; {19} I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. {20} Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. {21} And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. {22} Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. {23} And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. {24} But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. {25} But that which ye have already hold fast till I come. {26} And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: {27} And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. {28} And I will give him the morning star. {29} He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Even though there are horrible things in the Catholic Church, there are also those who love the Lord, and who are the "overcomers" in the church.

Note, this is the church that Jesus warns about going through the tribulation, as opposed to the Philadelphia church, which will escape it.

17:1-6 Mystery Babylon

:1 one of the seven angels which had the seven vials

This is one of the guys from the last chapter (Rev. 16), an angel which had poured out one of the bowls of the wrath of God.

:1 I will show unto thee the judgment of the great

e – a female , related word to eia, "immorality".

Note: You’re going to see words like " ", "harlot", and "fornication" six times throughout this chapter, and they’re all forms of the same word ( eia, e, s, euo)

In the Bible, God and His people are often characterized as a man and His wife.

When the people go astray, it’s often described as adultery, immorality, or even dom.

2Ki 9:22 And it came to pass, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, [Is it] peace, Jehu? And he answered, What peace, so long as the doms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts [are so] many?

Jer 3:6-8 The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen [that] which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. 7 And I said after she had done all these [things], Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw [it]. 8 And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.

This phenomena, referred to as Mystery Babylon, will be something that will be enticing God’s people away from Him, and even making a living from it.

that sitteth upon many waters:

We’re going to be told what this means in –

(Rev 17:15 KJV) And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.

It may be that the "waters" refers to oceans or seas, and hence, this " " will be a large, possibly world-wide phenomena.

{2} With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication

I think we need to keep the Biblical view here, and see this as some phenomena that causes world leaders to not worship God.

:2 the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.

Apparently it’s not uncommon for a to employ the use of alcohol or drugs in her profession.

Mystery Babylon will have something that puts people into a stupor and draws them into it’s power.

Perhaps it’s related to what the woman herself is drunk with:

(Rev 17:6 KJV) 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.

{3} So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness

Usually the term "wilderness" applies to a specific place in the south of Israel.

Wilderness - eremos - solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited; a desert, wilderness

If we are to take the name "Babylon" literally, I would say that much of Iraq would qualify as "wilderness".

I think it’s also important to note that the term "wilderness" (both in English and Greek) is only found three times in Revelation, here and twice in chapter 12:

Re 12:6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred [and] threescore days.

Re 12:14 And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

In chapter twelve, we discussed the idea that this other woman (Israel) would probably be fleeing for safety in the Judaean wilderness and the country of Jordan.

Is it possible that this is somehow related? Who knows?

:3 and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

We’ve already seen this "beast":

(Rev 13:1-2 KJV) And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. {2} And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.

This "beast" is the Antichrist and his kingdom.

The picture of the woman sitting on the beast could be taken in two ways:

It could mean that she’s controlling the beast, as a rider controls a horse.

It’s more likely that she’s just being supported by the beast –

Re 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.

{4} And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and

Red and purple both being colors of royalty and wealth.

Some have also pointed out that purple was the color for the leaders of the Roman empire, while red is the favorite color of the Roman Catholic church.

Dave Hunt writes,

The Catholic Encyclopedia states,

Cappa Magna - A cloak with a long train and a hooded shoulder cape...[it] was purple wool for bishops; for cardinals, it was scarlet watered silk....

Cassock - The close-fitting, anklelength robe worn by the Catholic clergy as their official garb....The color for bishops and other prelates is purple, for cardinals scarlet....

:4 decked with gold

literally, "gilded with gold"

:4 and precious stones and pearls

pearlsmargarites – a pearl; I guess you could say she was decked with "margaritas" (poor joke)

This whole picture is one of great wealth.

This woman, Babylon, isn’t a poor lady.

She’s apparently made a lot of money in her business.

:4 having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:

abominations and filthiness

These are the two things that are in the lady’s cup, the things most likely that have made the inhabitants of the world drunk.

abominationsbdelugma – a foul thing, a detestable thing; from bdelusso, to make foul, to turn away in disgust from; which is from bdeo, to stink. The things in her cup stink.

filthinessakathartes – impurity, filthiness

{5} And upon her forehead was a name written,

Why is everything written on the forehead? Hasn’t anybody heard of name badges? (poor joke)


The 144,000 have God’s name and seal on their foreheads (Rev. 7:3; 9:4; 14:1).

Those that follow and worship the antichrist will have his mark on their foreheads (Rev. 13:16; 14:9; 20:4)

When we all get to heaven, God’s name will be on our foreheads as well (Rev. 22:4)


Keep in mind, commas were not used in the original Greek, but are inserted by the translators.

This name written on the gal’s forehead could be written this way as well –

"Mystery Babylon, The Great Mother of harlots and of abominations of the earth", or,

"Mystery Babylon the Great, Mother of harlots and of abominations of the earth".

MYSTERY - musterion - hidden thing, secret, mystery; a hidden or secret thing, not obvious to the understanding; in rabbinic writings, it denotes the mystic or hidden sense

This word is not usually used in an evil kind of sense, in fact it’s usually used in things like the "mystery of the gospel", "the mysteries of the kingdom of God", etc.

I think this could either mean that this woman is going to either be a mystery, in that we won’t know what it is until the end, or, this woman is the "hidden" meaning of the name "Babylon".


From The Bible Knowledge Commentary:

Nimrod, who founded Babylon (Gen. 10:8-12), had a wife known as Semiramis who founded the secret religious rites of the Babylonian mysteries, according to accounts outside the Bible. Semiramis had a son with an alleged miraculous conception who was given the name Tammuz and in effect was a false fulfillment of the promise of the seed of the woman given to Eve (Gen. 3:15).

Various religious practices were observed in connection with this false Babylonian religion, including recognition of the mother and child as God and of creating an order of virgins who became religious s. Tammuz, according to the tradition, was killed by a wild animal and then restored to life, a satanic anticipation and counterfeit of Christ’s resurrection. Scripture condemns this false religion repeatedly (Jer. 7:18; 44:17-19, 25; Ezek. 8:14). The worship of Baal is related to the worship of Tammuz.

After the Persians took over Babylon in 539 b.c., they discouraged the continuation of the mystery religions of Babylon. Subsequently the Babylonian cultists moved to Pergamum (or Pergamos) where one of the seven churches of Asia Minor was located (cf. Rev. 2:12-17). Crowns in the shape of a fish head were worn by the chief priests of the Babylonian cult to honor the fish god. The crowns bore the words "Keeper of the Bridge," symbolic of the "bridge" between man and Satan. This handle was adopted by the Roman emperors, who used the Latin title Pontifex Maximus, which means "Major Keeper of the Bridge." And the same title was later used by the bishop of Rome. The pope today is often called the pontiff, which comes from pontifex. When the teachers of the Babylonian mystery religions later moved from Pergamum to Rome, they were influential in paganizing Christianity and were the source of many so-called religious rites which have crept into ritualistic churches. Babylon then is the symbol of apostasy and blasphemous substitution of idol-worship for the worship of God in Christ. In this passage Babylon comes to its final judgment.


Sounds like something Saddam Hussein would come up with, huh?

The philosophy: "I'd rather do it myself." (Gen.11:1-9)

Man's rebellion was in trying to reach God on his own.

This was the Bible's first account of man's post-flood rebellion. Because this is the origin, this qualifies Babylon to be the "mother of harlots".

This same philosophy is the basis of all other "religious" systems, that man can somehow earn his own way to heaven. Only Christianity recognizes that it takes God reaching down to us for salvation.

{6} And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus

martyrsmarturos – this could be correctly translated as "martyrs", but it’s usually translated "witnesses".

The original idea was that of a "witness", but in the early church, being a "witness" often meant laying down your life for what you believed, and hence our concept of "martyrs". Both concepts are evident in this passage.

The concept here is that the woman got her kicks, or her "highs" off of the deaths of God’s people.

Apparently, the Catholic church has had quite a bloody history, you only have to study the "inquisitions". Some have suggested that the Catholic church has been responsible for the death of more believers than any other organization in history.

Canon Llorente, who was the Secretary to the Inquisition in Madrid from 1790-92 and had access to the archives of all the tribunals, estimated that in Spain alone the number of condemned exceeded 3 million, with about 300,000 burned at the stake.

A Catholic historian writes,

When Napoleon conquered Spain in 1808, a Polish of ever in his army, Colonel Lemanouski, reported that the Dominicans blockaded themselves in their monastery in Madrid. When Lemanouski's troops forced an entry, the inquisitors denied the existence of any torture chambers.

The soldiers searched the monastery and discovered them under the floors. The chambers were full of prisoners, all insane. The French troops, used to cruelty and blood, could not stomach the sight. They emptied the torture-chambers, laid gunpowder to the monastery and blew the place up.

:6 and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.

Or, "I wondered with great wonderment".

I think it almost sounds like John is caught breathless at this woman’s attraction.

Chuck Missler has suggested that John’s wondering is because this is supposed to be a church, yet it’s become this .

:7-18 The Interpretation of the Woman

:7 I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast

This angel (from verse 1) is now going to explain the woman and the beast.

{8} The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition

We’ve developed this before (especially in chapter 13).

Two things here –

1) There is a play on words, contrasting the beast with God Himself, whom the beast will try to proclaim himself to be.

God is often called the one "which was, and is, and is to come". (Rev 4:8)

2) It describes the history of the empire that the beast will rule over, what we’ve seen as a revived Roman Empire (Dan. 2; Dan. 7).

The beast "was" in that he was existing prior to John’s time.

The beast "is not" in that there will be a time when the Roman Empire would not be around.

Even though the empire was existing in John’s day, note how he corrects the phrase at the end of the verse –

the beast that was, and is not, and yet is

The beast shall come and "ascend …", in that the Roman Empire will be revived, and it will also be energized with demonic activity, as we’ve seen that the antichrist would receive power from Satan himself. (Rev. 13:4), yet eventually, the antichrist would end up in the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20).

:8 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

We’ve seen that this will happen before:

Re 13:3 And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast.

I almost see a kind of warning to John, who has been wondering with great wonderment at the woman.

The angel seems to be rebuking him and saying, "Yes, and those who are going to follow the antichrist will be wondering too …"


Be careful of admiring the things of the world.

(1 John 2:15-17 KJV) Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. {16} For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. {17} And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

A man named Achan (Josh. 7) admired the stuff of Babylon (a "Babylonish garment") and ended up bringing "sin in the camp", bringing defeat for Israel with their enemies.

{9} And here is the mind which hath wisdom.

This kind of brings to minds what John said in …

Re 13:18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number [is] Six hundred threescore [and] six.

The angel is going to be trying to explain the picture.

:9 The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.

mountainsore – mountain, but it’s also translated "hill" three times in the NT (Mat. 5:14; Luke 4:29; 9:37)

Here’s where some Bible teachers lock this woman into the Roman Catholic church.

Historically, Rome is known as the "city of seven hills".

The Roman authors (Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Claudian, Starius, Martial) called their city this way.

It has been noted that the city of Contantinople (modern Istanbul) was also built on seven hills, but that wasn’t the case in John’s time.

The names of the seven mountains were these, Capitolinus, Palatinus, Aventinus, Esquilinus, Coelius, Viminalis, and Quirinalis.

The four first of these were taken in by Romulus, the first founder of it, and the three last by Servius Tullius, when he enlarged it

Dave Hunt writes:

The Catholic Encyclopedia states, "It is within the city of Rome, called the city of seven hills, that the entire area of Vatican State proper is now confined."

There is actually quite a lot of possibility with the Roman Catholic church.

The woman sits on "many waters", and the Catholic church certainly fits that description.

It deals with the "kings of the earth", as does the Catholic church, even having it’s own embassies in most countries of the world.

The woman was arrayed with expensive clothing and jewels, and the Catholic church is certainly not a poor church.

The woman was involved with the death of Christians, and according to Chuck Missler, there has not been an organization or country that has put to death more believing Christians than the Roman Catholic church.

{10} And there are seven kings

This is a poor translation, it should read "and they are seven kings"

Is it possible that something could have TWO meanings?

This is exactly what John is saying.

In other words, the "heads" have another meaning besides being "seven mountains".

The heads also refer to seven kings.

:10 five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.

I mentioned this back in chapter 13, that I believe the best way to look at this is to look at the world governing empires, Biblically, through history.

When we’ve peeked into the book of Daniel, we’ve seen Daniel focus on four world empires, one of which seems to pass away and reappear at the end of time.

Those empires were: Babylon, Medo-Persian, Greece, and Rome, with the Roman Empire re-emerging at the end of time.

But Daniel doesn’t deal with the other two great, world dominating empires already mentioned in the Bible, which are Egypt and Assyria.

If you put them all together, it works like this:

The five fallen empires include Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persian, and Greece.

The empire that "is", is the Roman Empire.

The empire that’s to come is a form of the revived Roman Empire.

{11} And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.

The antichrist is going to be an addition to these world empires, but he’s actually one of the seven, the last one.

{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.

These ten kings are ten horns that are on the last of the seven heads.

They are going to be some kind of confederacy which will form to create the last world empire, and they will give the beast his kingdom.

You can read more about this in Daniel 7.

In the past, we’ve thought this had something to do with the "Common Market" countries, now known as the "European Union".

The problem is that the current "EU" now has either 16 or 17 member countries, and is considering adding even more.

But it’s interesting to look at the connections between the Catholic Church, and the European countries, and you could see the woman riding the beast.

One hour – I think this is a relative term, relative to world history.

{14} These shall make war with the Lamb

We mentioned this last week, but one of the most amazing things to me is to think that the world’s nations are actually going to organize and be ready to attack Jesus Christ when He returns.

(Rev 16:13-14 KJV) And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. {14} For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.

(Rev 19:19 KJV) And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.

:14 and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings

Of course.


Jesus will win.

We already know the end of the story.

There are times when we feel very uncomfortable in the world. After all, we don’t belong.

But we do belong to the winning team.

:14 and they that are with him

I like the fact that we’re associated with Jesus.

It seems that there’s quite a move within the Catholic church to make Mary a "co-redemptrix" with Jesus, putting her on an equal level with Jesus.

I’d rather stick with Jesus.

are called, and chosen, and faithful.


You are the called, chosen, and faithful.

How do we get to be called that? Faithful?

By just sticking with Jesus!

(John 15:4-5 KJV) Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. {5} I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Don’t be discouraged when you slip and fall into sin from time to time.

Just get back and stick to Jesus.

{15} And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest

We’ve already touched on this.

{16} the ten horns … these shall hate the

There will be a time when the ten kings that make up the antichrist’s empire will turn on the woman.

{18} And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.

Again, some think this is another reference to Rome, which would certainly qualify as "the great city" in John’s day.

Other suggestions are: Jerusalem, or even Washington D.C.

Think about it … it has it’s possibilities.


What about my Catholic friends?

Make sure they understand the gospel, according to the Bible.

We are not saved because we go to the right church and take communion.

We are not saved because we’ve led a good life.

We are saved because Jesus Christ shed His blood, to pay for our sins, and when we’ve received His free gift of forgiveness, we have eternal life.

Encourage them to read their Bible.

The main problem with Catholicism is that the traditions of the church are taken to be as authoritative as the Bible.

Just get them into the Bible.

The rest is up to the Lord.

Perhaps they should stay and be an "overcomer" in the church, or perhaps God will call them out of the church, into a more stable spiritual place.