Studies In The Book of Revelation
By Jonathan Mitchell
1. Next one of the seven agents – the ones holding the seven bowls – came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here! I will show (point out to) you the judgment (administering of justice; judicial decision and equitable sentence) of the Great Prostitute – the one continuously sitting upon the many waters,
2. “with whom the kings of the Land (or: earth) commit (or: committed) prostitution (or: fornication) – and those continually dwelling down upon the Land (or: earth) [that] are (or: were) made drunk from out of the wine of her prostitution.” [note: see Isa. 1:21; comment: prostitution can be a symbol of idolatry]
These verses give us a clue that this is a continuation of the same vision, as it is one of the seven agents of ch. 16 – one of the actors in this drama – who comes and speaks with John and thus makes him more than a passive observer: John interacts with the vision. We will see in ch. 19:10 and 22:9 that these agents in the vision are John's fellow slaves. John had in fact come to Mt. Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, to a called-out community of first-born folks, and to the spirits of just folks having been made perfect (Heb. 12:22-24).
The agent comes to show John the next scene in the vision: the judgment of the Great Prostitute, and of those who participate with her. This also entails the little wild animal which is supporting and transporting the Prostitute. In this chapter we have both described keys given to their identities, and a brief introduction of what becomes of them. We will first look at the literal interpretation of the symbols "Prostitute" and "little wild animal (beast)," and then consider what this meant to the 1st century Christians, and to all who would read this in the centuries that followed.
Foy Wallace makes some insightful observations: "These remaining chapters of the apocalypse surround only two opposite figures – the old apostate Jerusalem in contrast with the New Jerusalem, the Victorious Church of Christ." "The 17th & 18th ch's. must be considered as one – for the announced judgment upon the Harlot by the angel at the beginning of ch. 17 was suspended by the vision of the Harlot."
3. And he carried me away, in spirit (or: within [the] Spirit; in union with a Breath-effect), into a desert. And I saw a woman continuously sitting (or: seated) upon a crimson (or: scarlet) little wild animal (beast), [which was] continuously loaded (freighted) with names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
4. The woman also had been clothed [with] purple and crimson (scarlet). And having been adorned (overlaid; gilded) with gold and precious stones and pearls, she is continuously holding in her hand a golden cup (goblet) [which] is continuously loaded (freighted; brimming) with abominations (detestable things) and the unclean things (impure aspects) of her prostitutions. 5. And upon her forehead, a name having been written:
A MYSTERY (A SECRET; a matter to the knowledge of which initiation is necessary) – BABYLON the GREAT: The MOTHER of the Prostitutes and of The Abominations (Detestable Things) of The Land (or: earth).
6. Then I saw the woman, being continuously drunk from out of the blood of the set-apart folks and from out of the blood of the witnesses of Jesus, and seeing her I wondered (marveled) a great wonder (or: I wondered, “[It is] a great marvel!”). 7. And the agent said to me,
“Why do (or: did) you wonder (marvel)? I will declare to you the secret of the woman and of the little wild animal [which is] continuously bearing her aloft, [and] which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
8. “The little wild animal (beast) which you saw was existing, and does not exist (is not), and is about to repeatedly climb up (ascend) out of the Deep, and to repeatedly lead under (or: go away) into loss (destruction; state of being lost). And those continually dwelling down upon the Land (earth) – whose names have not been written upon the little Scroll of THE LIFE from [the] casting-down (foundation) of [the] world (ordered system) – will wonder (marvel), continually observing (beholding) the little wild animal, that it was continuously existing (it was), and it does not exist (is not), and it will be present (exist alongside).
9. “Here [is] The Mind: the one continuously having (holding) Wisdom (or: Here [is] the mind [which] has wisdom): The seven heads are seven mountains, where the woman continuously sits upon them,
10. “and they are seven kings: five fell, the one is (exists), the other one came not as yet, and when he may come it is necessary for him to remain (abide) a little while (or: briefly).
11. “And the little wild animal which was existing, and does not exist, it is also itself [the] eighth, and is (exists) out of the seven, and repeatedly leads under (goes away) into loss (destruction; state of being lost).
12. “And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who do not yet receive a kingdom, but they are continually receiving authority AS kings [for] one hour with the little wild animal.
13. “These continually hold (or: have) one opinion (or: thought; resolve), and they continually give their power (or: ability) and authority to the little wild animal.
14. “These will wage war (or: do battle) with the little Lamb, and the little Lamb will overcome (subdue; conquer) them because He is LORD of lords and KING of kings, and the ones with Him are CALLED ONES and CHOSEN ONES and FAITHFUL ONES (or: trusting folks; people filled with faith).”
15. Then he is saying to me, “The waters which you saw (or: see), where the Prostitute continually sits, are peoples and crowds (mobs) and multitudes (nations; ethnic groups) and tongues (languages).
16. “And the ten horns which you saw (or: see) – even the little wild animal – these will hate (regard with ill will) the Prostitute, and [she] being made desolate (having been laid waste), they will also make her naked and will eat her flesh (= physical form) and they will burn her down in a fire.
17. “For God gave (or: gives) into their hearts to do HIS opinion (thought; resolve; purpose), even to form (make; do) one opinion (thought; resolve), and to give their kingdom to the little wild animal (beast) UNTIL God’s Words (the Words of God) shall be completed (finished; ended; perfected; brought to their goal).
18. “And the woman, which you saw, is the Great City – the one continuously having a kingdom (or: reigning with dominion) upon (over) the kings of the Land (earth).”
The term prostitute/harlot is a familiar symbol/figure in the O.T. God calls Nineveh a harlot in Nah. 3:4, "the well-favored harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that sells nations through her whoredoms..." Isa. 23:16,17 call Tyre a harlot. And we have noted Isa. 1:21 calling "the Faithful City (Jerusalem)" the same, while Ezk. 16:15 says that she "played the harlot." So both Jerusalem as well as heathen cities were termed the prostitute in the O.T. Jerusalem was characterized thus by turning away from Yahweh to the gods of the nations. The question is, which city is being figured by this woman who is seated upon the animal here in the Unveiling. Some have said it was Rome of the past; others see her as Rome of the future. The preterists understand her to be Jerusalem of the 1st century.
Joseph R. Balyeat, in his book "Babylon, The Great City of Revelation," speaks to the picture of the harlot riding the beast and says that this represents the Jewish religious leaders being dependent upon the Roman Empire in order for them to have any authority. As the beast system supported the prostitute, so the Roman government supported Jerusalem's hierarchy. He points to John 11:48-50 where the chief priests, the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin in speaking of Jesus, say, "If we should be leaving Him thus, all will be believing into Him, AND THE ROMANS WILL COME and TAKE AWAY OUR PLACE as well as OUR NATION." He also notes Lu. 20:8-20, Jesus' parable of the vineyard in which He ends it saying, "He shall come and destroy THESE HUSBANDMEN, and shall GIVE the VINEYARD to OTHERS" (vs. 16). In vs. 19 we read that the chief priests and scribes "perceived that He had spoken this parable against THEM." This, of course, He actually did in bringing judgment to Jerusalem (His vineyard) through the Romans in AD 70.
Before considering the specifics regarding the meaning of "Babylon the Great," I would like to remind you of ch. 11:8, "And their fallen dead body will be upon the broad place of The Great City – whatever, spiritually, is normally being called "Sodom" and "Egypt" – WHERE also THEIR LORD was CRUCIFIED." So Jerusalem already has some symbolic/spiritual names applied to her.
Here John is told that the city's name is "secret," or, "a mystery" – something that only those initiated into the meaning of the Jewish symbols of OT apocalyptic literature would understand – and they would know first of all that it DID NOT refer to the literal city of Babylon (either past or future) – this name is a "mystery."
Wallace observes that in vs. 16 the beast hated the Harlot. But the beast of the 1st century was the Roman Empire, so it would make no sense that the Roman Empire hated Rome (if this was the city meant by this figure). Thus the Harlot was of necessity some other city. However, it is historically clear that there was indeed animosity between the Roman Empire (the beast), and Jerusalem.
In vs. 6-7 John records that when he saw the woman that he "marveled" or "wondered." He did not wonder about the beast, but about the woman. There seems to be a sense of surprise in Isaiah's words, "How becomes a Prostitute the town that was faithful Zion" (CVOT, reading with the LXX).
In ch. 2 of Jeremiah, the Word of Yahweh tells him, "Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem (vs. 2).... Israel was holiness unto Yahweh (vs. 3).... when upon every high hill [the place of the pagan idols] and under every green tree you wandered, playing the harlot" (vs. 20). See also Jer. 3:1, 6, 8.
Ezk. 16:2 reads, "Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations." Then note vs. 15, "But you... become a prostitute..." Then in vs. 26-29 is shows that she engaged in prostitution with Egypt, Assyria and even Babylon, and vs. 35 begins Jerusalem's judgments. Compare vs. 36-41 with Rev. 17:16 – "Then I will hand you over to your lovers [the Gentile nations], and they will tear down your mounds and destroy your lofty shrines. They will strip you of your clothes and take your fine jewelry and leave you naked and bare. They will bring a mob against you, who will stone you and hack you to pieces with their swords. They will burn down your houses..."
Compare also Ezk. 16:44, "like mother, like daughter" to the subtitle of the woman in Rev. 17:5, "The MOTHER of the Prostitutes." And again consider the story of the "Two Sisters" in Ezk. ch. 23. There we see a similar judgment being prophesied against the "Faithful City" – which had become a Prostitute. And then Hos. 1:2 records that "the land is verily committing prostitution rather than following Yahweh."
So it would seem from these passages that, based upon O.T. symbolism and characterizations by the Lord, Jerusalem is a prime choice for being the one who is here figured as "The Great Prostitute."
In Gal. 4:22-31, Paul spoke of "the Jerusalem which now is" as being "in slavery with her children." How was 1st century Jerusalem in slavery? First of all, she was an occupied country, so in that sense she was a slave to Rome. And in Rom. 6:16 Paul says, "Are you not aware that to whom you are presenting yourselves AS SLAVES unto OBEDIENCE, is slave you are, whom you are obeying, whether of Sin into death, or of Obedience into righteousness?" (CLNT)
By rejecting her Redeemer, Jerusalem remained a slave to sin. What is said here of the figure of Jerusalem was said of the literal city Babylon in Jer. 51:6-7, "Flee from Babylon! Run for your lives! Do not be destroyed because of her sins.... Babylon was a gold cup in the Lord's hand; she made the whole earth drunk." Compare Rev. 17:2 & 4; 18:4.
And then Jer. 51:13, "You who live by many waters and are rich in treasures..." Compare Rev. 17:1, 4; 18:10-13. The Jewish Christians would therefore understand the symbolic message about the Babylon here in the Unveiling. They would know to flee out of Jerusalem, for destruction was coming.
Now some think that Jer. 51 means that the Babylon here in ch. 17 is literally a city called Babylon. But please note 17:15 where an explanation of the FIGURE of the "many waters" is explained, that these waters "are peoples, and crowds, and multitudes and tongues." If the waters are symbolic, why should we not conclude that the name "Babylon" is also symbolic? Balyeat notes that Peter, being in Jerusalem, uses this name in the same way that John did here. 1 Pet. 5:13 says, "Greeting you is the church in Babylon, chosen together with you, and Mark, my son." He further observes that this letter from Peter is "to the SCATTERED (dispersed)." The same word "scattered" is used in Acts 8:1 where Luke records the reason for this scattering, "And at that time there was a great persecution against the church WHICH WAS AT JERUSALEM; and they were ALL SCATTERED abroad... EXCEPT the apostles."
This would suggest that the apostles (including Peter) stayed in Jerusalem. So it was from Jerusalem (now significantly referred to as Babylon) that Peter wrote his first letter to those who had been dispersed by the persecution that was happening in Jerusalem. Balyeat also points out that this salutation in 1 Pet. 5:13 also came from Mark, who was also living in Jerusalem (see Acts 12:12).
In 17:6 we are told that this woman is drunk "from out of the blood of the set-apart folks and from out of the blood of the witnesses of Jesus." We have previously pointed out Jesus' words in Matt. 23:34-36 "that upon YOU may come all the righteous blood shed upon the land..." Also Lu. 12:33-34, "Jerusalem... which kills the prophets..."
Acts 7:52-53 shows Stephen denouncing Jerusalem's abominations, "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom you folks have been now the betrayers and murderers..."
Now let us look at the little wild animal, with its 7 heads and 10 horns, and which repeatedly ascends from out of the Deep (vs. 7-8). We saw it at work against the "two witnesses" in ch. 11:7 – and the location was Jerusalem. We saw it rise up out of the sea of humanity in 13:1-7. We are given more specific information here in 17:9-17:
The 7 heads are 7 mountains (vs. 9).
The 7 heads are 7 kings (vs. 10).
The 10 horns are 10 kings (vs. 11).
These 10 have one opinion, thought or resolve, and submit to the corporate animal (vs. 13 & 17).
These 10 do battle with the Little Lamb (vs. 14), but are overcome by Him, they finally lay waste the Prostitute and burn her (vs. 16).
In ch. 18:9-10 the kings of the land, who have committed prostitution with her and have indulged with her, lament and grieve for her as they distance themselves from her, observing her burning in judgment. Then the merchants of these kingdoms also mourn at their loss of business, as recorded in the remainder of ch. 18.
Our next view of this animal is in ch. 19:19-20 where it and the kings of the land and their armies are gathered together to make war against Him that sits upon the white horse, in the atmosphere (or: heaven). But this little animal (together with the false prophet) is arrested and cast in the lake of Fire burning with Deity.
The preterist view sees this animal to be the Roman Empire of the 1st century, but I suggest that it is also a type of all the governments upon which the "church" rides in the centuries that follow.
As Rome, the ten kings are associated with the ten toes of the image in Dan. 2:31-45. Those toes are a part of the 4th and final kingdom shown in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, as iron mixed with clay. They represent the 10 provinces of the Roman Empire. It is the kingdom of God which destroys these kingdoms – the work of the cross of Christ. His death and resurrection were figured as the Stone which struck the image in the dream – and this happened in the time of the 4th kingdom, the Roman Empire. That Stone, which grew into a great mountain (= kingdom) and filled the whole earth, began as the Rock upon which He is building His church.
The 7 mountains/kings are considered to be the first 7 Roman emperors, the 6th one (the one that "is" or then existed, ch. 17:10) being Nero. Recall our study of ch. 13:18 where the number of the "beast," being 666, was associated with Nero.
With this overview in mind, let us return to vs. 3 and observe that the agent carried John away "in spirit." This should indicate to us that what he was to see would also be "in spirit." Just as Jerusalem was "spiritually called Sodom and Egypt" (ch. 11:8), John is now given a picture of a city which is given another "spiritual" name: Babylon
I find it interesting that the setting of this vision is "a desert." In ch. 12:14 the Woman flew into a desert to escape the persecution of the dragon. Is this by any chance the same desert? It was in the desert that Jesus was tested by the devil. In fact, it was there that the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the inhabited land. I wonder if He saw these as a seven-headed animal. It was also in a desert that Israel was led when she escaped from Egypt. It was there that God led her "these 40 ears in the wilderness, to humble you and to prove you, to know what was in your heart."
But this woman in vs. 3 is not clothed in white garments. Rather, she is wearing the clothing of the rich. Recall the parable in Lu. 16:19 where Jesus portrayed the Jews as "a rich man which was clothed in purple..." Here we see the Jews in luxury and also wearing the colors (crimson, or scarlet) of the animal upon which they ride. This is God's people depicted as being in association with the world systems and wearing their clothing instead of the righteousness of God.
What are the "names of blasphemy" with which this beast system is loaded? For one, Roman emperors tended to assume the titles and positions of deity. In ch. 13:1, these names were upon its heads. The head is the place of identity, as well as the thinking part of the body, or the location of one's attitudes and frame of mind. This is in contrast to ch. 14:1-5 where it was the Father's Name that those folks had. Also, in 14:4, these were not defiled with women – which is in stark contrast to the picture of the woman here as a prostitute. Those folks in ch. 14 were not defiled with the world's systems or religions. You will not recognize them as being a part of the beast system, for their character will be that of sacrificial love, the character of their Father.
Blasphemy is a translation of a Greek word which literally means "to speak harm." In the Scriptures, it represents an attitude of disrespect, especially toward God. In Matt. 12:32, Mark 3:29 and Lu. 12:10, we see that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (i.e., against God) shall not be pardoned nor forgiven – one must pay the penalty for this: judgment. Thus do we see here in ch's. 17 and 18 that the woman who associated herself with the blasphemous beast is judged, and in ch. 19:20 the beast also is judged.
But blasphemy is also slander, defaming speech, injurious rumors. It happened to Paul in Rom. 3:8 and in 1 Cor. 4:13; 10:30. In Titus 3:2 Paul admonishes them "to blaspheme no one." In 1 Tim. 1:20, speaking of Hymeneus and Alexander, Paul says, "whom I give up to satan, that they would be child-trained, learn and mature so as to not blaspheme." Michael would not even blaspheme satan, as recorded in Jude 9. In 1 Tim. 6:4 Paul warns that there may be some in the church who may come without sound words, but rather with morbid questionings and controversies, out of which is being birthed envy, strife, BLASPHEMIES, etc. So, with this in mind, I suggest that there is a connection between these "names of blasphemies" and the carnal, "beast" nature within people "within which also you formerly walked, when you lived in these things" (Col. 3:7). But we also see this in the called-out communities, and thus the admonition in Eph. 4:31, "Let all bitterness and anger, wrath and outcry, and BLASPHEMY, be TAKEN AWAY from you, together with all malice..."
Although we have seen the historical fulfillment of this vision as being Jerusalem riding the power of the Roman Empire in the 1st century, we can also understand that the symbolic blasphemous names had their application to this same beast in the centuries that followed, with the church becoming institutionalized and then replacing Jerusalem as being the woman now riding it. After the demise of Rome, the church itself became a power and incorporated the structure of human government that remains unto this day, and instead of being a community united in love, it is now completely divided (the seven heads now internalized), with many heads and power centers. Is there not a name, given by these organizations, upon each head? The spirit of division continued from the very start when carnal people within the church started to place their association and identity with one man or another: "Now I am saying this, that each of you is saying, 'I, indeed, am of Paul,' yet [another], 'I of Apollos,' yet [another], 'I of Cephas,' yet [another], 'I [am] of Christ.' Christ is divided and parted!" (1 Cor. 1:12-13)
Today we have Catholics, Lutherans, some attach the title "Pauline" to the name of their church, and in my town we have "Christ's Church of Flagstaff." The names tend to be exclusive in some way, and thus exclude other groups, and are divisive. We still have the same spirit that Paul found in Corinth – Jerusalem has indeed many daughters – and Christ's bride rides upon these systems and, historically, many civil governments. The history of the "church" has been of those "continuously drunk from out of the blood of the set-apart folks, and from out of the blood of the witnesses of Jesus " (17:6). No wonder John was amazed at what he saw. The castigation of those who differ in their doctrines from what is considered to be "orthodox," or the traditions of the "fathers," is typified by such radio programs and publications of "The Bible Answerman." And sadly, we find this same spirit in the leadership of many local congregations and parachurch groups.
That the color of the prostitute's clothing (vs. 4) matches the color of the beast shows the origin of her pollution. The color of crimson was also a symbol of her sin: "Though your sins be as scarlet... though they be red like crimson..." (Isa. 1:18). The golden cup in her hand is an echo from Jer. 51:7, "A golden cup [was/is] Babylon, in the hand of Jehovah, making drunk all the earth..." (Young).
Here again (vs. 5) we have a name written in the forehead, showing identity and mindset. It is a symbolic name, called a "mystery," making it clear that it is not to be taken literally. In contrast, the "mysteries of the kingdom" were to be revealed only to the disciples (Matt. 13:11), and Jesus spent three years initiating them into those mysteries. Paul referred to himself as a steward "of the mysteries of God" in 1 Cor. 4:1. It was he who made the most frequent use of this word in the NT.
Jerusalem of the 1st century was this "Babylon the Great," but after the destruction of the mother, her daughters – which eventually became many denominations – continued to be drunk from the blood of His set-apart ones, as well as of those from other religions. All the earth has become drunk from religion. Wars are to this day fought from a mindset of a union of religion and government. Saul exemplified this spirit of 1st century Jerusalem; the crusades of the church in the middle ages embodied it; and today we see it in the terrorism of the jihad. The little beast comes from deep within all of us, and in the history of humanity it repeatedly ascends out of this Deep (vs. 8).
We saw how the Jews used the Romans to slay Jesus. Then there was the parallel case in ch. 11:7 where the two witnesses were killed by this same little animal: prophetic of the history of the institutional church. It is this system of domination and control upon which the false church rides, and which leads its people into loss and destruction. It was the leadership in Israel which caused all the sheep to be lost (see Ezk. 34), but this condition brought the true Shepherd onto the scene. Let us bring Him into the scene of Israel's lost daughters, to bind the wounded of today's churches, and to give light to those who sit in darkness.
Now what about the last statement of vs. 8, where those who are earth-bound in their citizenship, who were not predestined to be a part of The LIFE of the Lamb in this age, and who wonder as they observe that this little animal was existing, presently (at that time in the 1st century) did not exist, and yet was destined to exist "alongside"?
To understand this we must consider its meaning in the 1st century as it applied to the called-out communities of that time. If we see that this little beast was Rome, with its 7 heads which are 7 mountains (vs. 9; figure of the Empire), and the 7 kings (vs. 10) being the succession of emperors in that time – the one that then existed would have been Nero, the 6th (five had fallen before him) – then I think this passage becomes a little clearer. Vespasian followed, but he only "remained a little while."
But vs. 11 speaks of this entire little animal as being "itself the eighth" and as "existing out of the seven." If we see this enigmatic verse as giving us an "idea," then what is the significance of it being "the eighth"? As the Scriptural week consisted of seven days, the eighth day would be the beginning of a new week. Thus the number 8 has come to be seen as signifying "a new beginning." So in our present context, it would then seem that this beast (who is of the same spirit or nature of the seven – symbolizing the complete beast) has a new beginning. If this thinking is correct, then we can see where the beast of the church age is prophesied to come into being.
The 10 horns, representing the 10 provinces of the 1st century Roman Empire, would be prophetic of the "provinces" – later known as "denominations" – of the organized church system in the next age, in which we now live. Ten represented a real number of those provinces then, and is also a figure, an idea, of the division within Christ's church now. Before the Reformation they would have been representative of the regional bishops. They did not then receive separate kingdoms, but "they are continually receiving authority AS kings" – and this the bishops did have. Later, the denominations assumed the same authority, and today some individual churches are as little kingdoms.
But what of vs. 13, their holding one opinion, one thought or one resolve? Was this not in regard to giving their power and authority to the beast system? In other matters there have always been disagreements and opposing resolves between different groups, whether they were political or religious in nature. But the one opinion has always been: to support the system; to support the denomination; to support the local structure.
And so thus do we have vs. 14 where these of the dominating system, the world – be it political or religious, make war with the Little Lamb and with those who are WITH Him: with Him in spirit; with Him in their being His will; with Him in His reign/kingdom. Those with Him also have one resolve, one thought: "Your kingdom come! Your will be done!" And so it will be, for vs. 14 tells us that He "WILL overcome them, because He IS Lord of lords and King of kings." His reign and kingdom will overcome the systems and organization of the world.The chosen and faithful ones who are with Him are the same ones that John saw in ch. 14:1-5. They are the same ones of whom Paul spoke in
Rom. 8:28. Now [look], we have seen, and thus know and are aware, that to those habitually loving God – to the folks being called and invited according to [the] purpose (or: for, in and with the people progressively experiencing love for God – in, with, by and for the people being invited down from an advanced placing, congruent with a design and corresponding to a before-placing and a prior setting forth) – He is constantly working all things together into good (or/and: is progressively working all humanity together into that which is advantageous, worthy of admiration, noble and of excellent qualities). [with other MSS: Yet we know that God is continuously joining everything together (is habitually working together with everything) into goodness by those habitually loving God…]
29. because those whom He foreknew (whom He knows from previous intimate experience), He also marked out beforehand (determined in advance) [as] copies (joint-forms) of the image (material likeness; portrait; mirrored image) of His Son (or: He previously divided, separated and bounded patterns of the image of His Son) into the [situation for] Him to be (or: to continually exist being) the Firstborn among and within many brothers (= a vast family of believers)!
30. Now [in fact, consider this]: those whom He at one point before-marked-out (or: designates beforehand) [A reads: knew from prior intimate experience], these He also at once called (or: calls; invited), and whom He called (or: calls; invites), these He also in one stroke rightwised (or: makes right, frees from guilt while making them fair and placing them in right relationships in the Way pointed out). Now further, those whom He rightwised (or: rightwises; turns in the right direction; frees from guilt), these He also instantly glorified (or: makes of reputation which calls forth praise; gives a splendid appearance; gives honorable thoughts and imaginations).
Now here in ch. 17, vs. 15 can speak of the Roman Empire, in the literal fulfillment. But these waters can speak of the whole world of the age to come, in the figurative fulfillment. And just as Rome laid Jerusalem waste and made her naked; ate her flesh and burned her down in fire; so also have the daughter religions warred against the various power systems of the historic church, history being filled with religious wars which are the figurative fulfillment of vs. 16. Even in our day one Christian faction does media battle against another, or against all others. So even yet, "Christ is parted!" (1 Cor. 1:13).
But NOTE! This has been, and yet is, God's will and purpose, "UNTIL God's Words shall be completed!" (vs. 17). Have we seen the finished perfection of His Words? In one sense, yes (and here the full preterists agree): it was all finished in AD 70. Yet there is still further application, for Scripture speaks of "the ages," and "the ages of the ages," and of "the ages to come." Many presume that these are idioms descriptive of eternity, but these are clearly "time" words, and speak of ages which both begin and end, of ages past and of future ages to come, and thus do we have a plurality of ages.
Vs. 18 has been hard for some to see in light of our above interpretations. The question is, when did Jerusalem ever have a kingdom, or hold dominion, upon the kings of the land (or: earth)? The participle "have" is in the present tense, which I have thus rendered "continuously having." Was this true of Jerusalem in John's day? Wallace explain this in the following manner:
"The last statement of vs. 18 'which reigneth over the kings of the land' did not refer to the empire of the Caesars, nor the city of the emperors. The word 'reign' here denoted a dominion. The 'earth,' as defined at the beginning and later repeated, referred to the LAND of Judea, inclusive of Palestine. The city of Jerusalem was the royal city where the kings of Judah reigned. The phrase 'the kings of the earth' was used in the sense of Acts 4:26-27: 'The kings of the earth stood up, and rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou has anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together.' "These 'kings of the earth' were of Judah, and Jerusalem was the capital city of the land, standing in the same relation to these 'kings of the earth' as Rome sustained to the emperors.
"The second psalm represents Jerusalem as ruling with a rod of iron over 'the kings of the earth' who had set themselves against the Lord's anointed One. In the "Wars," Book 3, Sect. 3,5, Josephus adds that 'the royal city Jerusalem was supreme, and presided over all neighboring country as the head does over the body.'" End of quotation.
So how about the figurative aspect of vs. 18? Has the visible church, the historic system of this age – which followed the age ending in AD 70 – held sway or exercised dominion over the kings of the earth? I think history answers an emphatic, "Yes!"
Teachers such as Malcolm Smith connect the figure of Babylon in the Unveiling with the historic figure of Semiramis, wife of Nimrod in Gen. 10:10 and 11:9, and history (or, legend) has it she reigned as queen over Babylon for 102 years. Her title was "The Queen of Heaven," and she is credited with being the mother of heathen idolatry which worshiped female gods, and later, the female form (as in our culture). Nimrod is supposed to have met her when she ran a brothel.
Where is says that she is "drunk with the blood of the saints," Smith suggests that this is a spirit that is out to destroy the life of God's people. He sees in this figure the spirit that sits on the backs of governments, yet which is also the spirit of religion, which Christianity also has embraced.
George Hawtin also taught on this subject, and in his booklet entitled "Mystery Babylon," he makes the following comments: "It is spiritual Babylon that separates Christian from Christian, destroying unity and dividing purpose, and making all speak a different language... making them foreigners and strangers, none speaking intelligibly to the other." "The spirit of Babylon goes much deeper than sects and denominations. It is a mystery the spirit of which seems to be deep-rooted in the heart of man.... you will find it in your heart, if you look close enough." "We must have the name Babylon erased from our foreheads by the mind of Christ and a new name written there, even the name of the City of God." "The kingdom of God comes not with observation. It is only Babylon that can be observed."
"To have the name of God in the forehead is to have the mind of Christ. Therefore to have the name Mystery, Babylon, in the forehead is to have the very mind of this mysterious system that loves the visible and loves to point to some earthly thing and say, 'This is the tower that leads to heaven.'"
"Mystery Babylon... is... something so deep-seated that Christians are unable to think except in terms of 'established orders... creeds, assemblies, doctrines, meetings, communions, baptisms, programs... preachers, missionaries, tracts, healings, gifts, personal work... church buildings... etc., etc.'" End of quotation.
"He that is joined to a harlot is one flesh..." (1 Cor. 6:16). "You have been joined by the carnal mind to this woman so long, that you don't know how you can live without her.... 'Beware lest any man spoil you... after the traditions of men...' (Col. 2:8)."
On this chapter Ray Prinzing has the following to say: "The word 'Babylon' means: confusion. It matters not which segment of the world's institutional structures we consider, be it economical, political or religious, there is one word that can be written across the whole, CONFUSION. It is the MIXTURE of good and evil that brings such confusion. So interwoven is truth with error, helping others while building a kingdom for self, good works that are a blessing to many, while fostering one's own name and reputation, that it is difficult to know which is right and which is wrong."
"This system has catered to, excited and serviced all the lust of the flesh. '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' (1 John 2:16). Men have worshiped at the shrines of desire – desire for fame, fortune, pleasure, etc. God has used this as a means of EXPOSING ALL THAT IS IN THEIR HEART. 'Out of the heart of men proceed evil thoughts, ADULTERIES, fornications...' (Mark 7:21). When desire and opportunity meet, that which is within shall be manifested." "Gen. 11 gives the record of ;how people found a plain in the land of Shinar and proceeded to build a city and a tower, but God intervened, confounded their language, and scattered them.... The Heb. word for 'confound' used here is 'babal' meaning: to mix, to mingle, and thus literally, to mix self in. The more self-centered each man became, with his own expression, the less they could communicate with others, so frustration took over, and they left off building, and went every one his own way... Self seeks to be surrounded with ease and prosperity.... [then] men come to this next expression of self, 'let us build us a city and a tower'.... concurrent with the building comes the thought, 'let us make us a name'.... [the next thought being;] self-preservation, 'lest we be scattered.'" End of quotation.
Ray appropriately cites Dan. 4:30, the statement of Nebuchadnezzar as he was walking about the royal palace, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?" Knowing about the foolishness of this statement, we might not actually say such a thing, but we are made of the same dust that he was. And for us, too, pride goes before destruction.