1And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
John herein will be shown the vision representing the judgment against this wicked city. This chapter is an echo of Jeremiah 51 wherein the literal Babylon was prophesied against for daring to make war against God’s chosen people of the Old Testament. That passage is a type, pointing to the eventual antitype of this city for persecuting God’s chose people of the New Testament. In this verse the city is referred to as
- the great whore
- that sitteth on many waters.
I assert, based on all the given information from scripture alone that the whore is Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish nation, who persecuted the Christians all throughout the New Testament.
2With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
These are the princes of the Jewish state. From the near context of the rest of the book of Revelation that identification is made clear:
Revelation 6:15 – leaders of the Jewish state that sided with Rome sought shelter in the surrounding nations.
The Jewish rulers such as Herod took part in the unfaithfulness to God by seeking alliances, protection, economic prosperity, and idolatry from other nations, specifically Rome.
The Jewish people have been corrupted by the greed, the idolatry, and the reliance on Rome because of the choices of their leaders, a perfect parallel to what happened in the Old Testament time and time again.
3So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
John is shown the image of a woman sitting on a beast.
This is the whore the messenger told John that he would show him.
This is Rome given the below properties:
- scarlet (kokkinos) – this color is the color of royalty, not the color red (purrhos) like the rider in chapter 6 or the dragon in chapter 12.
- full of names of blasphemy – the same beast as identified as the sea beast in Rev. 13:1
- seven heads and ten horns – again, the same as the beast identified in Rev. 13:1. Though the dragon of chapter 12 has seven heads and ten horns, the dragon is not referred to as a beast, and it is of a different color
C. The woman sits on the beastEdit
She is a distinct entity from the beast, but also associated with the beast. More on this below.
4And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
A. the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colourEdit
These are the colors of royalty as above. More importantly these clothes represent the association with the beast, i.e. the association of the Jewish rulers like Herod with the Roman Empire.
B. decked with gold and precious stones and pearlsEdit
The economic prosperity the Jewish nation had with by her associations with Rome that led to greed and dependence on Rome rather than God.
C. having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornicationEdit
The abominations are the idolatry and the submission to the worship of Caesar.
5And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
The mother of harlots especially is indicative of Jerusalem. Throughout the prophets of the Old Testament Jerusalem is called a harlot. In places like Hosea 2:5 and Ezekiel 16:44 confirm this idea of as the capital city (Jerusalem) goes, so go the citizens (Jews).
The very image of harlotry is selling yourself for money or other similar concepts. That the Jewish nation sold themselves to nation after nation throughout their history, and finally under the authority of the Herods did the same, is unquestionable. Moreso, the idea of harlotry is someone with lesser power and position selling themselves to someone they perceive with more. Jerusalem perceived themselves as weaker and poorer than Rome and gave themselves over to the more powerful world empire, the empire of iron (Daniel 2), of the fourth terrible beast in Daniel 7 in exchange for material wealth. Instead of relying on God (their metaphorical husband) the Jews went after some other power they thought more capable. The draw of the economic and military strength led to the religious corruption and the worship of Roman idols and later the Caesars.
6And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
From scripture, no other group of people can be pictured here but the Jews. Again Matthew 23. Again read through the book of Acts. Read the epistles. All of them speak of the tribulation, the persecution the Christians faced at the hands of the Jews.
7And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.
The messenger is going to explain the meaning of the symbols to John.
8The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
The Jews would see the might of the Roman army as it marched through their land and it would awe them.
9And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
The seven heads of this beast are equated to seven mountains or dominions. Since the woman is figurative, the mountains on which she sits must be figurative as well so I do not see these as literal mountains whatsoever. However, I do acknowledge that the mountains/heads are part of the beast and therefore are connected to Rome.
The figure here is of Jerusalem (the woman) being cozy with the Roman Empire (the beast) and having Roman authority backing them. But the woman and the beast are separate entities. If the beast is Rome, the woman cannot be as is shown in a few verses.
10And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
The specific identity of these kings has been the matter of much argument from external sources. In the context of what John is writing, the seven kings are associated with the seven mountains (dominions), which are part of the beat (Rome). So it is understood that these are Caesars. I don’t believe that this verse should be used to prove the time of the writing of Revelation (which I’ve already covered extensively before this chapter). I believe it is the time of the writing of Revelation that proves which specific Caesars are in view here. John and those who lived at this time would know specifically. For our purposes, it is enough to know that they were Roman Caesars that lived in or around the lifetime of John.
11And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
Here is explained the idea of “was, is not” in verse 8. It is to the specific representation of one of the Caesars that this part refers, not to the general representation of the Empire or the army.
The beast (as a metaphor) is an eighth king and is of the seven kings mentioned in verse 10. He is the one that “goeth into destruction”. This basileus is the one that actually brings destruction to the Jews because of the fall of the sixth king and the need for the seventh king to become the next Caesar. This eighth basileus will in turn become king or Caesar of Rome.
12And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
The ten horns are similar to the ten horns of the dragon, they are provinces or domains of ten kings which are not independent, but receive their authority from Rome. Ten tributary kingdoms of Rome essentially.
13These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
These tributary kingdoms submitted their authority (power) and resources (strength) to Rome during the Jewish War.
NOTE: These ten horns "give their power [authority]...to the beast" just like the dragon gave its authority to the sea beast in Revelation 13:2. This means they submitted to the beast just like the dragon submitted to the sea beast!
14These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
Rome, with the help of the ten tributary kingdoms will seek to destroy the church, but Christ will triumph instead.
15And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
The waters are here explained as peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. The waters are a metaphor for the prime location Jerusalem had at the crossroads of the Roman Empire to Africa through which all nations had to pass if going by land.
16And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
The ten tributary kingdoms of Rome are jealous of Jerusalem’s wealth and prestige and are happy to see her fall. With contributed troops and resources to the Roman army, the ten kingdoms see Jerusalem fall.
17For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
God’s will is that the ten tributary nations give their authority to the beast (Rome) until God’s prophecies (concerning the final fall of the Jewish nation, the primary persecutor of the church) is fulfilled.
18And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
The final identity of the woman is the great city (Revelation 11:8; Revelation 11:13; Revelation 14:8; Revelation 16:19), spiritual Babylon (1 Peter 5:13), Sodom, and Egypt, physical Jerusalem. Which reigneth over the kings of the earth/land, which is Judaea (not the kings of the whole oikoumene which is Rome).
While there may be room to argue against any single verse or a small groups of verses on the identity of Babylon in Revelation, this identity is at least consistent and requires no external sources to establish the point. No other current interpretative model of Revelation can do that.
In Truth and Love.