Babylon the great riding the
Art used by permission by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1992
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Chapters 17 & 18
A Bible Study
Chapters 17 and 18 are passages that also are the subject of much controversy and speculation and study. The beast is clearly identifiable from Rev. 13, but the woman is not. Some say she is an apostate religious system. Others identify her as a specific country, or coalition of countries. In considering these verses, I am also presenting here the viewpoints of various commentators, including mine. Judge for yourself.
Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says:
'Because you have all become dross, I will gather you into Jerusalem.
As men gather silver, copper, iron, lead and tin into a furnace
to melt it with a fiery blast,
so will I gather you in my anger and my wrath and put you inside the city and melt you.
I will gather you and I will blow on you with my fiery wrath,
and you will be melted inside her. As silver is melted in a furnace,
so you will be melted inside her, and you will know that
I the LORD have poured out my wrath upon you.'" (Eze. 22:1-5, 19-22)
Rev 17:1 - Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters....
"Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds;
you said, 'I will not serve you!'
Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute. " (Jer. 2:20)
"'But you trusted in your beauty and used your fame to become a prostitute.
You lavished your favors on anyone who passed by and your beauty became his." (Eze. 16:15)
"Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness,
because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD." (Hos. 1:2-3)
Rev 17:2-3 ....with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality." And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.
This is obviously the beast described in Rev. 13:1. The "ten horns" are also used to describe the "fourth beast" of Dan. 9.
Rev 17:4-5 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written:
"The harlot - Babylon (the symbol of idolatry) whether a person or world system, stands in stark contrast to the Bride of Christ - unfaithful, evil, the darkness of man's government as visited only be demons and satanic infestation that play on man's carnal inclinations and eventually gain control through surrender of the flesh to demon spirits. This is symbolized in the term 'Babylon' and 'the harlot' - which are symbolic of the world system under the spirit of darkness. (Note 2 Cor. 4:4) Babylon reaches back to a system founded on the worship of demon deities or idols - as opposed to the worship of the Living God. Submitting one's life to something that is the creation of their own hands - carnal submission to something else than worship of God - they submit themselves to demon beings in all areas of their life, experiencing things that are unworthy and unholy. It started with the Tower of Babel, became a city - an entity committed to the way of the world dominated by harlotry and idolatry. People chose to make their life intimate with evil rather than the true God - indulged in ways other than God's. Contrasted to Babylon is the New Jerusalem. The Bride of Christ - populated by those who have kept themselves pure in anticipation of their Bridegroom so they stand in stark contrast to those who have promiscuously given their lives to the world system. Harlotry occurs when people succumb to the lust for power. Political power is very seductive. The 'halls of power' are very intoxicating, almost impossible for it not to be corruptive as there is so much demand for compromise - not necessarily moral, but just to 'get along' in a pluralistic culture. The whole world system is governed by a prevailing spirit that longs to rule and control - exemplified in the 'beast,' the Antichrist. A person involved in fornication compromises their body (and moral integrity) for the sake of gaining acceptance and control of someone's affection or dominant control for temporary sensual stimulation."  The "prevailing spirit" above is the spirit of witchcraft involved in the sin of Saul (1 Sam. 15:23). Compare the woman here with the woman of Rev. 12, who was being attacked by the dragon while this one is sitting on the beast of Rev. 13. She is adorned as a prostitute, gaudily dressed, spiritually enticing men to the Antichrist and destruction. She is the "Mother of Harlots" - remember the "mother-son" religions that started with Nimrod's wife back at the tower of Babel. Remember also that "harlot" was frequently used in the Old Testament to refer to the nation Israel (especially Hosea who God told to marry a harlot to symbolize His never-ending love for Israel even when she was unfaithful). But Babylon is called the "great harlot" and "Mother of Harlots." She has birthed others or is considered to be a "mother" by others like her and so is involved internationally with other powers. Note Jer. 51:11-24 - and especially Verses 7-11 and 13 in reference to her sitting on "many waters" and holding a "gold cup" with which she makes the inhabitants of the earth "drunk with the wine of her fornication," for the cup is "full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication." Here is "a world power that offers leadership and prosperity to the world for which everyone has come eagerly to participate in her culture." 
"Babylon (the symbol of idolatry)....stands in stark contrast to the Bride of Christ - unfaithful, evil...." This statement hits the proverbial nail right on its head! Idolatry is the basic sin - not pride, as some might say. "Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me...." states the first commandment, and those who break it are idolators," preferring another "god" in place of the one true God. Israel was guilty of this sin many times. Even Solomon in his later years turned to other gods, the gods of wives he took from other nations. But in this instance, there is the "abomination that causes desolation," the beast usurping God's rightful place in the temple, as prophesied by Daniel (Matt. 24:15). This "woman" is identified in verse 18.
Rev 17:6a - And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.
Compare this verse with Rev. 18:24.
Rev 17:6b-13 And when I saw her, I wondered greatly. And the angel said to me, "Why do you wonder? I shall tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. The beast that you saw was and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and to go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth will wonder, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while. And the beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction. And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. These have one purpose and they give their power and authority to the beast.For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.
"Mountains" is a customary word in Jewish culture for "exalted political power." "Kings" can refer either to individual kings or kingdoms, as above. But only kingdoms are referred to as having "fallen." In regard to the six kings that are listed above, the USA could be the seventh as it appears to meet all the other criteria of the "harlot" listed in this chapter - except unlike the predecessors, it is not a persecutor of the Jews - yet. The USA has had such a tremendous impact on western history - has had incredible dominion and influence over the world - coupled with the USA's enormous world suprmacy. The President of the USA is the de facto President of the western world. Could the USA be the seventh power that spawns the Antichrist? The seventh king starts off basically "neutral" but through a revival of paganism in its midst it becomes the empire of the Antichrist. The fact is that the USA has turned away from its Christian foundations and has embraced wholesale secularism. It is called to a position of leadership in the world but may be the spawning ground of the greatest ungodly force the world has ever known. The US certainly has the power and influence to be either on the side of the angels or the Antichrist (but there is also Russia or Germany to be considered). 
"The five kings that have fallen are: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. Rome was the sixth. All of these were persecutors of Israel The seventh king must have the same characteristics as the preceding six - must be a persecutor of the Jews. Germany (and specifically Hitler) comes to mind. Watch for Germany to become a dominant world power again, as the USA declines. The spirit of Hitler will rise again (vs. 11) and his image will be put in the temple. Israel will make a 'covenant of death' with him. Verse 12 represents a 10-nation confederacy that will rule with the beast 'one hour.'" 
Rev 17:14 These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful."
Because of the rapture we will be with Him - HALLELUJAH!!!
Rev 17:15-18 And he said to me, "The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. 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. 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 should be fulfilled. And the woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth."The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth."
....therefore I am going to gather all your lovers, with whom you found pleasure, those you loved as well as those you hated. I will gather them against you from all around and will strip you in front of them, and they will see all your nakedness. I will sentence you to the punishment of women who commit adultery and who shed blood; I will bring upon you the blood vengeance of my wrath and jealous anger. Then I will hand you over to your lovers, 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 and inflict punishment on you in the sight of many women. I will put a stop to your prostitution, and you will no longer pay your lovers. Then my wrath against you will subside and my jealous anger will turn away from you; I will be calm and no longer angry. Because you did not remember the days of your youth but enraged me with all these things, I will surely bring down on your head what you have done, declares the Sovereign LORD.(Eze. 16:37-43)
The phrase "the great city" occurs ten times in Revelation. The first time is Rev. 11:8,
Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city,We may ask: is John using this phrase to apply to various "great cities," or just one? It seems that he would use it to apply to only one city, and that is the premise I will use here. In the first usage, he identifies "the great city" as that "where also their Lord was crucified" - obviously Jerusalem. Therefore, I can only assume that the phrase "the great city" in other parts of Revelation also refer to Jerusalem, including in chapters 17 and 18.
which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt,
where also their Lord was crucified.
"The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. 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." The beast (the Antichrist and the system by which he rules) will make an unholy alliance with the harlot (Jerusalem - where the Antichrist evidently will establish his headquarters sometime during his rule - and where he "displays himself as being God" [1 Thess. 2:4; Matt. 24:15; Dan. 9:27] ).
But the beast and those who are with him will hate the harlot, as the Muslims hate the Jews.
Chapter 18Rev 18:1-5 - And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.This "angel" - which could refer to the function of "messenger" - had "great power.... and...glory." Again, this could be the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Chapter 10). Angels coming from God's immediate presence can reflect His glory (as Moses did when coming off Mount Sinai - 2 Cor. 3:7). But this passage refers to the angel's glory as "...his glory," which seems to imply that the glory was intrinsic, in which case it would have to be Jesus Christ, since only God has intrinsic glory as an attribute. "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen..." the angel cries, using the Hebraic form of strong emphasis, repeating it twice - implying finality. (Note Rev. 14:8) This chapter appears to be a recapitulation of former visions - but more emphatic. The world system is in complete disarray because of the destruction that comes from the bowl-judgments. Chapters 17-18 is the aftermath of this pouring out and the world is in a state of destruction and bewilderment and dismay at the loss.  Here in "one day" - "one hour" the political entity is destroyed by God. In Chapter 17 the harlot is destroyed that enticed and seduced God's people with a false religious system of works (as contrasted with the Biblical system of grace). The political system that destroyed the harlot in Chapter 17 is in turn destroyed by God in Chapter 18. The economy of the beast empire comes tumbling down overnight, impacting the entire world.  "...and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird." Desolation now where formerly there was opulence, luxury, wealth. Now there are demons - it is a void, full of darkness, nothingness, lonely - a residence for only hateful things. The reason Babylon was judged is again stated, and the call is given to "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities." God does not forget - He wants to give the people time for repentence. "But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds." (Rom 2:5-6)Rev 18:6-10 - "Pay her back even as she has paid, and give back to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her. To the degree that she glorified herself and lived sensuously, to the same degree give her torment and mourning; for she says in her heart, 'I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning.' For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the Lord God who judges her is strong. And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying,' Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.'"God is paying Babylon back double for what she has done. There could be a question here of whether this is just, whether the recompense is proportionate to what has been done. But this is just the emphatic Hebraic way of saying that the measure of God's judgment against Babylon will be total and complete. Nothing will be missed or passed over. Babylon has boldly and arrogantly boasted to herself, "I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning." "Embodying and incarnating the Antichrist power she declares that what they do will be done with impunity . This is also deceptive - the heart of the Antichrist is that which is dishonest and fraudulent - closely linked with the 'deceiver,' the 'father of lies.' So involved with deception is the Antichrist that he finally becomes a victim of his own deception. So Babylon becomes deceived."  The other kings of the earth who see Babylon's visible destruction, and participated in her sins suddenly grow very fearful, though God's judgment is not yet directed against them. They understand that her destruction will have dire ramifications for them.Rev 18:11-19 - And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes any more; cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet, and every kind of citron wood and every article of ivory and every article made from very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble, and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and cargoes of horses and chariots and slaves and human lives. And the fruit you long for has gone from you, and all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and men will no longer find them. The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, saying,' Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls; for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!' And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea, stood at a distance, and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying,' What city is like the great city?' And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning, saying, 'Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!'If Babylon falls then so do other nations. Many other nations' economies are linked up with the US economy - their money is based on the US$ and is worthless outside their own country. "...no one buys their merchandise anymore." This list describes the crassest kind of materialistic culture, including the "bodies and souls of men." Matt 16:26 - "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" Though they ascend to a place of power, respect and prestige, what have they gained if it has cost them control over their own soul? (Luke 21:19) Be sure your soul is not dominated by things or beings (visible or invisible) around you, but choose to submit (Rom. 12:1-2) your soul (mind and emotions) to the Lord. (Isa. 26:3; Phil. 2:5) Hellenistic influence on western culture finds its roots in the intellectualization of things under the Greek culture, then carried on through the Renaissance ("Enlightenment") to the scientific method in use today (Materialism). Everything is empirically responded to - we are "cold analysts" (objectively) observing everything "at arm's length" - committing ourselves to nothing, no absolutes. Science has infected the Church to the point where there is a reticence to experience what everyone needs: our minds and emotions exercised in godliness. Our summons in the Holy Spirit is not only to "clear thinking" but to "rejoicing" (Neh. 8:10) - so that we are people who possess our souls in contrast to those who sacrifice their souls for the sake of a temporary ascendency in earthly power.  "Alas, alas... (Woe, woe...)....For in one hour such great riches came to nothing....she is made desolate." (Verses 16-19) This suggests a radical act by God, a catastrophic judgment as all the power and wealth of Babylon crumbles instantaneously when God speaks.Rev 18:20-24 - "Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her." And a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, "Thus will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer. And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer; and no craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer; and the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer; and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer; for your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery. And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth."We are not to mourn or weep over the destruction of Babylon! God has taken vengeance agaist Babylon on our behalf in a divine work of vindication. Remember again the breaking of the fifth Seal, and the crying out of the martyrs in heaven, "How long, O Lord....?" (Note Deu. 32:34-36; Habb. 2:12-14; Rev. 15:3-4) We may be under the sword, our head on the block, under enormous persecution and it may look as if what the Church stands for is at the mercy of the world system around us, but we must have faith in God and His timetable and stand firm. What we are going through is part of the purging process of allowing evil to take its full course (remember Rev. 17:17), to come into full judgment - when the wine in the cup of God's wrath finally fills up. (cf. Gen. 15:16b) We must endure patiently because of God's promise to avenge us. And how decisive will be her judgment! (Note Matt. 18:6) "Thus will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer." Compare the last verse of this chapter, "And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth" with what Jesus told the religious leaders of His time:
"Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation."(Matt 23:34-36; Luke 11:50-51)
These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written:
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does the Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son." Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman. (Gal 4:22-31)
Hagar was the mother of Ishmael, the progenitor of modern-day Muslims.
Jerusalem which now is - i.e., the Jerusalem of the Jews,
having only a present temporary existence, in contrast with
the spiritual Jerusalem of the Gospel, which in germ, under the form of the promise,
existed ages before, and shall be forever.
(from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)
 Jack Hayford - Living Way Ministries
 R. C. Sproul - Ligonier Ministries
 Marvin J Rosenthal - "Zion's Hope"