Chapter 17

God’s wrath has never been aimed at any but those that oppose Him and this is verified by the opening verse of chapter 17.  A chapter that speaks of prophetic things for man that has yet to come to pass.


Revelation 17:1

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters.

          Who is this great prostitute who sits on many waters? 

To begin with, let's understand that God is not speaking here of earthly carnal things in the sense that people normally relate a prostitute to.  As an example of this, in the past God referred to the nation of Israel as a harlot, an unfaithful wife.

Jeremiah 3:20

But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel," declares the LORD. NIV

Ezekiel 23:37

"For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. Thus they have committed adultery with their idols and even caused their sons, whom they bore to Me, to pass through the fire to them as food. NASU


Notice, “They have committed adultery with their idols.”

It is because of what God is saying in the above scripture that He considers food offered to idols more detestable than the idols themselves.  

Ezekiel 16:20-22

20 And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough? 

21 You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols. NIV 

Notice… “Was your prostitution not enough?”   Yet, concerning all this… God had this to say:

Jeremiah 31:31-32

31 "The time is coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.

32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. NIV  

Well, now that we understand that God is not speaking here of some streetwalker but using the word prostitute to define someone or something as being unfaithful to Him, let us again look at the first verse in Chapter 17 of Revelation.

Revelation 17:1

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters.   NIV

What does a prostitute that sits on many waters mean?  Part of this is answered by verse 15 of this chapter in Revelation.

          Revelation 17:15 Then the angel said to me, "The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. NIV  

          That explanation seems clear enough.  Many waters represent mankind in general, which is also true of the word 'sea' when used in Revelation.  This prostitute, referred to in verse one, is the symbol of pagan idolatry fostered on the world of men… by Satan.  Why, then, is John being shown this symbolic prostitute by one of the angels carrying one of the bowls of God’s wrath?  Obviously, this angel is pointing out this prostitute to John because the bowl of God’s wrath, in this angels hands, are aimed at her, and it is upon her that this bowl of wrath will be poured out.  Why that is so is explained in the next verse.

Revelation 17:2

With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries." NIV  

     It is clear that this symbol of Satan’s pagan idolatry, represented by a prostitute, enticed the world of men away from faithfulness to the one and only God that exists. Now this angel takes John, in the spirit, elsewhere to make whom this prostitute represents even clearer. 

Revelation 17:3

Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. NIV

     The fact that this symbolic prostitute was covered with blasphemous names clearly means she is not part of God's kingdom.  As we will learn shortly, the beast with the seven heads and ten horns represent future Satanic kingdoms or governments which means this prostitute is part of Satan’s world, which is further clarified in the next verse of this chapter.

Revelation 17:4

The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. NIV 

     Gold, pearls, precious stones, all symbolize the enticements of this world used by Satan to deceive the waters, or the general population of earth, away from the Creator.  Verse 4 makes this crystal clear with the words…  “She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.” And just so no one mistakes this prostitute for anything but what she represents, she is given a name.

Revelation 17:5


     This could not be said, in any way, to make her any clearer than what this symbolic prostitute is or represents. That she is called mystery Babylon is because she was born in the first kingdom of Satan, which was Babylon.  Babylon and the prostitute are not themselves mysteries. But the pagan religions she spanned dearly love the mysterious because their religions do not have sensible or rational explanations.  Their foolish and irrational tenants or doctrines are instead explained as mysteries of God.   Still, the angel tells us a bit more so there can be no mistake concerning this prostitute and what she is symbolically responsible for over the whole earth.

Revelation 17:6

I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. NIV  

     Verse six does not need any explanation, for it was through her adulteries that many of the family of God died, including the only begotten Son of God.  However, why John was astonished does need an explanation and that should be predicated on the verses in further chapters of Revelation.  Let us look ahead, then, at the verses that apply most directly to what will be said in the next verses of chapter 17 of Revelation.

Revelation 20:1-3

1 And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.

2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. NIV  

     The verses above are making it clear that there will come a time when Satan is to be bound and locked away for a period of time, when he will be completely out of the picture. During that period of time when Satan is no longer free to move about he will have no power, nor minions, to deceive the nations or waters at all.  At the end of the period of time prescribed by God, Satan will be released for a short time.  Understanding what has just been said in the verses above makes what is being said by the angel to John, easy to comprehend it is also letting us know that this is a prediction for a time way down the line from here and is clearly prophecy of the far future even for us today.  Now that we know this let us proceed with verse 7 back in chapter 17.

Revelation 17:7

Then the angel said to me: "Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. NIV  

     To begin with, notice that there are no mysteries in God’s Word, for He sees to it that all mysteries are clearly explained to His family.  The beast she rides is Satan’s world or kingdom. It is everything about Satan, including Satan himself. The next verse concerns Satan directly.

Revelation 17:8

The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come. NIV

     Let us look at this verse section by section and relate it to Rev 20:1-3. “The beast, which you saw, once was,” Satan was around from the beginning at the Garden of Eden. But Revelation 17:8 is speaking of the time when Satan is locked up or in the abyss, during the thousand-year reign of Christ, “Now is not”

Revelation 20:3

He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. NIV

     “And will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction.” Satan’s destruction will come at the end of Armageddon, when God will destroy Satan, along with death.  This will take place after

     “He must be set free for a short time.” Now Revelation 17:8 is also telling us that the waters, or general population of the earth, which “Will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come.”

     There is nothing mysterious or mystical about all this. It simply has to do with what will happen at a given time. Satan, along, with his kingdom and even death, is to be destroyed, but that is at the conclusion when God has decreed it to happen. There is nothing that can alter or stop this from taking place just as God is telling us through John in Revelation. When the time for this to happen occurs, it will take place, not one second sooner nor one second later.

     Now let us look at something else said in verse 8 of this chapter in Revelation, “The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast...”

     As we will learn, there is to be a general resurrection of all men; good and bad. The ransom paid by the only begotten Son of God was for all mankind, both good and bad.

1 Corinthians 15:20-23

20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. NIV

     Notice that Adam and Eve brought on death for all men through disobedience, but Christ, through obedience, has bought life for all men.  Whether that life will remain with any given man, depends on what that man does about the offer of eternal life that was bought and paid for by Christ. If one takes the mantle of Christ and follows the commandments given by the Creator's Son, then his name goes into the book of life that God has had from the beginning of creation.  Now there is no literal huge book somewhere in the clouds that contains a list of names.  The book of life is symbolic for the memory of God.  That memory is infinite and does not suffer from forgetfulness. We know that the heavens contain billions upon billions of stars, yet the Bible tells us:

Ps 147:4-5

4 He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.

     All those stars one can see on a clear night, each and every one has been given a separate name by the Creator.

5 Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. NIV

     The point of this is that God has not predestined some people for life and some people for death as many religions claim, using verse 8 to back up this false claim. For that would make God unjust and unrighteous.  What that verse is truly saying is… that symbolic book has been around since the beginning of creation, and God places the names of those that become part of His family in the book after they become part of the family, not before.

     But the angel that has brought John to the desert, in the spirit, which means in a vision, continues the explanation that was to be given to John.

Revelation 17:9

This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. NIV  

     What wisdom is needed here?  Kingdoms on earth are equated with mountains.  Mountains are large and firm, and the kingdoms spoken of in the Bible are just that.  In fact, there are no kingdoms larger or stronger than God's kingdom.

Isaiah 11:9

They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. NIV  

     God’s kingdom, spoken of as a mountain above, covers the entire earth. But, the prophecy spoken of in Revelation 17:8 is referring not to mountains, but to seven hills.  Hills, of course are much smaller than mountains, and far less imposing. Therefore, the seven kingdoms or governments that the prostitute will sit over in the future will not have the same kind of power that was given to her in the past. Her governments will not stand as mighty mountains but as seven small hills.  This will be because “The earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”

     At this point in Revelation 17, since Governments or kingdoms are being spoken of, God blends the past with the future so that we as children in His family can see the continuity of it all.

Revelation 17:10

They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while. NIV

     Before we go on, let us verify that the kingdoms on earth, even though they are part of Satan’s realm, are there because of the authority of God and His only begotten Son.

Colossians 1:16

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. NIV

     Can we know or name the five kingdoms spoken of in Revelation 17:10… that have fallen?  We sure can!  Daniel tells us exactly who they were, and note that he told us who four of them were long before those kingdoms came into existence. Babylon, Meds and Persians, Greece, and Rome.  It should be noted that the Meds and Persians were actually one kingdom at the time so the fifth kingdom is the kingdom of the Vatican.  The Vatican’s teachings are contrary to what God teaches and therefore, by its own actions, makes and shows it to be part of the kingdom of Satan.  The Vatican did not exist at the time John wrote this so it too was part of prophecy. “The other has not yet come;”

     Now before you write us and tell us that the Vatican is still here, remember that the prophecy in verse 10 of chapter 17 of Revelation is for a still distant time in the future. And when the time for the Vatican to collapse comes…collapse it will, simply because its allotted time by God will have expired. It will have to hang out a sign “Lost our lease.”  This is also absolutely true of all the other religions of the world.  If you doubt this, go read Col 1:16 again.

     All this was about the past up to the present and the angel now blends in the future.

Revelation 17:11

The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction. NIV  

     The reason that Satan is now being included as part of the beast, which is rightly so, is because at that time, in the future, the earth will be covered with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.  Therefore, Satan will not find it so easy to deceive; he will not be able to hide behind a false shield of light as he does today.

2 Corinthians 11:13-14

13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ.

14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. NIV

     Just the same, Satan will still try to hide behind the showpieces or puppets of his kingdom.

Revelation 17:12

The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. NIV

     As God sees time, one hour might well be equated as one minute to us.  Nonetheless, regardless of how long that one-hour is, in the eyes of the Creator, for us, it will eventually pass and what is predicted will then most assuredly take place.  Now, all the ten kings over the seven hills spoken of by the angel to John, are receiving their authority to rule under Colossians 1:16 and other scriptures of the Word of God; letting us know that none of this will come as a surprise to God.  In fact, it is because God sees fit to allow it to take place that they have any authority at all.  Because of this…

Revelation 17:13

They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. NIV  

     Because God is granting them the authority to rule for this short time, that authority can be given to any they choose, and as the scripture tells us, they give that authority to Satan.  Remember, Satan has been locked up until now and is just released and that is why they give their authority to him, which is exactly what happened when Adam and Eve gave him authority to begin with.  But, as has been said, that one-hour allotted, by God, to them will pass… but before it does:

Revelation 17:14

They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings- and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers. NIV

     This is clearly speaking of what we shall learn is Armageddon in later chapters, but the reason the faithful followers of Christ is being mentioned above, is because of the next verse which we have already looked at, but we will look at it again for it has meaning relating to verse 14.

Revelation 17:15

Then the angel said to me, "The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. NIV

     These peoples, multitudes, nations and languages, are all part of Satan’s forces or kingdoms that reside on the seven hills.  Now, as has been said before, these seven hills do not have the same power as the kingdoms that were given to Satan to control in the past, and one cannot help but wonder why God would give Satan any kind of power at all.  The answer to that question is supplied with the final three verses of chapter 17.

Revelation 17:16

The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.  NIV

     The seven hills are a period at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ after Satan has been released for the short time spoken of in chapter 20.  During that time, even though the earth would be under the control and peaceful rule of the only begotten Son of God, Satan and his minions will cause deceptions again. We are told he will do this quite extensively… however, not with the same kind of all-consuming power that the devil has today.  Now the people who choose to follow Satan at that time, and according to the word there will be a great many that do, will be required to share the same fate as Satan.  Even so, they will, in the end, turn on him and help bring him to his end by exposing his kingdom to the light.  This helps explain the following verse.

Revelation 17:17

For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God's words are fulfilled. NIV

     In short, this will be the prelude to the final test by the Creator to decide who survives the second death, which we will learn more about in other chapters of Revelation.

Revelation 17:18

The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth. NIV

     That great city will most likely be a city or state like the Vatican is today or another that appears in the future, only time will answer that for us.  It is not important that we know its name or shape at this time, only that it will exist so that the family of God will be able to recognize it when it does arrive.  However, God already knows the conclusion of all this and he tells us about that conclusion in the rest of Revelation.

(As a side note here, it should be obvious to everyone that has been following this series on Revelation that the Bible does an excellent job of interpreting itself and needs no help from men.

It might also be noted that this book of Revelation is not hard to understand at all…

When we let God explain it.)

     Now, many of these events depicted in this chapter will take place at what the Bible terms as Armageddon.

     But much has to take place on earth before then to prepare the earth to exist as the glorious kingdom of God, and we will learn of those events in the next chapter.

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