James J. Barker

Lesson 31

Text: REVELATION 17:5-18


  1. Chapter 17 deals with ecclesiastical or religious Babylon, and chapter 18 deals with political Babylon.
  2. In these two chapters, the last stage of counterfeit religion is revealed as it will be in existence during the tribulation period.
  3. In Revelation 17:1, John is shown a vision of the judgment of Babylon, which represents God's judgment upon false religion. He is shown this by one of the seven angels which had the seven vials.
  4. John is invited to behold the judgment of "the great whore" (17:1).  In the Bible, the true church is called "the bride of Christ" (cf. 19:7-9; Ephesians 5:22-33), but the false church is pictured as a whore or harlot.
  5. In the Bible, spiritual fornication is idolatry. Instead of worshipping God, people worship idols. You may have heard the news about hundreds of Roman Catholics worshipping a tree over in West New York, New Jersey.
  6. They claim they see a likeness of their Virgin Mary (aka "Our Lady of Guadalupe"). God hates idolatry.
  7. Tonight we will focus on God's judgment upon the whore.
  8. The first time we see the word "Hallelujah" in the New Testament is in Revelation chapter 19, after God "hath judged the great whore."



  1. The evil woman described in Revelation 17 is pictured not only as the source of all evil in apostate Christendom but also as one who is actively engaged in the persecution of the true saints (cf. 18:20, 24).
  2. Revelation 17:6 describes the whore as drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
  3. There will probably be some type of merger of Islam and Romanism during the tribulation (cf. the reference to beheadings in Revelation 20:4).
  4. The Inquisition was started in the 12th century by the Roman Catholic Church in an effort to wipe out those perceived as "heretics." It went on for several centuries, with millions of Christians being tormented and killed (Rev. 17:6). Rome's history is even more bloody than Islam's.
  5. Spurgeon said, "The Inquisition was the masterpiece of infernal craft and malice, and its deeds were far more worthy of fiends than men. If the church of Rome could at this moment change its Ethiopian skin for ever, lay aside its leopard's spots, and become a pure community, ten thousand years of immaculate holiness and self-denying philanthropy could not avail to blot out the remembrance of the enormous crimes with which the Inquisition has loaded it. There is a deep and indelible sentence of damnation written upon the apostate church by avenging justice for its more than infernal cruelties, and the curse is registered in heaven; nor can any pretences to present liberality reverse the condemnation which outraged humanity has pronounced against it; its infamy is engraved in the rock for ever. Centuries of the most liberal policy would not convince mankind that Popery had become tolerant at heart; she wallowed so greedily in oppression, torture, and murder in her palmy days, that the foam of human gore hangs around her wolfish hugs, and men will not believe her to be a gentle lamb, let her bleat as she may. Against her common humanity is up in arms as much as evangelical religion. Her confessional is as dangerous to the mere moralist as to the Christian; her inquisition would be as ruinous to mercantile prosperity as to spiritual activity. Men of all religions and of no religion should deprecate the growth of a system which rendered the Inquisition possible; while followers of Jesus, for their own sake as well as for their Lord's, should oppose it with all their might."
  6. John was amazed (17:7).  It is amazing how a religion can claim to be truly Christian (in fact they claim to be the only true church), and yet be so antagonistic, cruel, and murderous toward genuine Christians!
  7. Referring to the Roman Catholic Church, Lehman Strauss says, "It will stop at nothing to achieve world dominion, not even the death of those who refuse to join its ranks. Nebuchadnezzar had his fiery furnace for those who would not bow down to his image, and Rome has had hers.  Her hatred is against the 'saints.'  Rome makes her own saints, but those whom she has put to death are God's saints.  Sir Robert Anderson, of Scotland Yard fame, estimated that Rome was guilty of the death of 50,000,000 Christians.  The Inquisition, the stake, and the torture chambers are all history" (Revelation).
  8. John Walvoord says, "Apostate Christendom is unsparing in its persecution of those who attempt to maintain a true faith in Jesus Christ" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  9. After John "marvels" (wonders) at what he sees (17:7), the angel states that he will declare the mystery of the woman and of the beast. First, the angel describes the beast in detail, then he describes God's judgment upon the woman.



  1. After describing the woman's spiritual fornication in verse 2, verse 3 says she is sitting upon the beast.
  2. Then in verse 8, the angel gives a detailed description of the beast (antichrist). He was, is not, and is about to ascend from the bottomless pit (Greek abyssos, meaning “bottomless,” or “the abyss”) and go into perdition (cf. 11:7). The word perdition refers to eternal damnation (17:8).
  3. “The bottomless pit” is the home of Satan and demons and indicates that the power of the antichrist and his political empire is satanic in its origin.
  4. Revelation 13:4 says the dragon (Satan) will empower the beast.
  5. The power of the antichrist's political empire in the last days is going to cause wonder as indicated in the questions in Revelation 13:4, “Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?”
  6. Walvoord says these prophecies indicate "the overwhelming satanic power of the final political empire of the world."
  7. The book of Daniel and the book of Revelation teach that there will be a very close relationship between Satan and the antichrist and his vast one-world government.
  8. It is because of this close relationship that most expositors see the latter part of Revelation 17:8 as a reference to the revival of the Roman Empire.
  9. The "seven mountains" in verse 9 refers to Rome.  Even the RCC admits this, though they say it is a reference to pagan Rome, not papal Rome.
  10. But papal Rome is pagan!
  11. Throughout its history Rome has been described as the city on seven hills as indicated in its coins, travel and tourism advertisements, and in countless allusions in Roman literature.
  12. This indicates that the seat of the ecclesiastical power will be in Rome (the Vatican), not in a rebuilt Babylon.
  13. The seven heads are said to be symbolic of seven kings described in verse 10. The eighth (and final) king will be the antichrist.
  14. There has been much debate over the identity of these kings.  A possible interpretation would be: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, Rome, the revived Roman Empire, and finally the antichrist.
  15. His "short space" (17:10) refers to the few years of the tribulation period before he is killed at the second coming of Christ (cf. Daniel 8:25; II Thess. 2:8; Rev. 19:19, 20).
  16. In Revelation 17:10, John says, "five are fallen, and one is."  In other words, Rome, the sixth king, was in power when John wrote the book of Revelation (cf. 17:18).
  17. The final form of world government, symbolized by the eighth beast, is the antichrist's world empire, which will emerge during the tribulation period.
  18. Walvoord says, "In summation, what is described in verses 8 through 11 is the final form of Gentile world power in alliance with apostate religion symbolized by the harlot" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  19. Verse 12 indicates the final stage of the world empire will be a confederation of ten kings represented by the ten horns (17:12).
  20. These ten kings, in contrast to the seven heads of the beast, are kings who rule not in succession but simultaneously during the tribulation.
  21. This will be the final form of the revived Roman Empire before it is taken over by the antichrist (17:12, 13).
  22. Up until the 1980's there were ten nations in the EU, and this caused much speculation.  But now there are 27 nations in the EU.
  23. Several important things are mentioned in this prophecy:
  • They will govern under the control of the antichrist.  The emphasis is on the beast, not on the ten horns (17:3, 7, 12, 16; cf. Revelation 13:1; Daniel 7:7).
  • Their sphere of power will be very brief -- "one hour" (17:12).  Walvoord says, "They are a phase of the transmission of power from the various kingdoms to that of the beast itself" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  • Revelation 17:13 says that these have "one mind and shall give their power and strength to the beast."
  • These kings will instigate a war with the Lord Jesus Christ, and they will be defeated at His second coming (17:14; 19:19-21).
  • Daniel 7 should be compared to Revelation 13 and 17.
  • Daniel 7:20 says the antichrist had a look which was "more stout" than his fellow kings.
  • Daniel 7:8 and 24 say that in his rise to power, the antichrist (the "little horn") "shall subdue three kings."
  1. In the first verse of Revelation chapter 17, the harlot is seen sitting upon many waters. This describes the whore's vast financial and political power which she shares with the beast and his government.  However, the beast and the other world rulers will finally decide to destroy the harlot church.



  1. In verse 16, the ten horns (ten kings) turn against the whore and destroy her.
  2. Walvoord says, "The destruction of the harlot reduces all her pomp and gorgeous robes to naught. She is stripped of them, her flesh is eaten, and she is burned with fire. These graphic words clearly picture the downfall of the apostate world church of the future" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  3. What a startling contrast with the early portion of chapter 17 where the woman is pictured in all her worldly pomp and wickedness riding the beast!
  4. Once the antichrist and the rulers of the revived Roman Empire are successful in taking over the world, they will realize they will no longer need the help and power of the apostate church.
  5. The antichrist will help destroy the apostate church and will substitute the worship of himself. According to Revelation 13:8, all men will be forced to worship the beast.
  6. Those who refuse will be executed.
  7. Daniel 11:37 prophesies that the antichrist ("the willful king") will disregard all other deities and "shall magnify himself."
  8. Second Thessalonians 2:4 says the antichrist will exalt himself "above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God."



In explaining God's hand in the destruction of the harlot church, John Walvoord says, "The divine judgment inflicted upon apostate Christendom follows a pattern which can be observed in other judgments upon wicked nations and ungodly rulers. Ancient Babylon was used to bring affliction upon the people of Israel, as were also the governments of Assyria and Egypt. But in due time the same nations who inflicted divine judgment were themselves the objects of God’s wrath. The principle involved is plainly stated in verse 17. Their action, though inspired by a blasphemous attempt to institute a world religion utterly contrary to divine revelation, nevertheless fulfills God’s will that the kingdoms of the world should come under the domain of the beast in fulfillment of prophecy until the end of the age, indicated in the phrase “until the words of God shall be fulfilled.” Thus the plan of the ages unfolds majestically, and Scripture indicates that God sovereignly permits the increment of wickedness until the cup of iniquity overflows" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).

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