As we continue to piece together the prophetic puzzle of Revelation, we’re going to take a look at chapter 17 in this posting. I believe that chapters 13, 17 and 18 are related to the same entities, so before we begin a study of chapter 17, let’s do a quick review of chapter 13. I believe that these three chapters all describe events related to the ‘beast…out of the sea’ and the ‘beast….out of the earth’ of chapter 13. When viewed together, I believe these three chapters give us a picture of what the world will look like in the near future. Reviewing chapter 13:
1. John sees a ‘beast coming out of the sea’ (Revelation 13:1). As we’ve previously discussed, this is the rise of the Roman Catholic Church in 538 A.D. This beast is given power to make war against God’s saints and conquer them for 1260 years.
2. This beast seemed to suffer a fatal wound, but the wound was healed (Revelation 13:3). This refers to the French invasion of Rome in 1798 A.D. (1260 years after the rise of the Roman Catholic Church) when Pope Pius VI was removed from the Vatican and thrown into prison, where he died.
3. After the wound was healed, the whole world then follows the beast (Revelation 13:3). Vatican City was re-established as a religious-governmental entity after the signing of the Lateran Treaty of 1929. This establishes Vatican City as the governmental capital of the Catholic Church. As of 2006, there are approximately 1 billion Catholics in the world.
4. In the near future, all of the inhabitants of the earth – those whose names have not been written in the book of life – will worship this beast (Revelation 13:8).
5. After mentioning those that will go into ‘captivity’ and those that will be ‘killed by the sword’ (Revelation 13:10), verse 11 mentions the appearance of a ‘beast coming out of the earth’. As we’ve discussed, I believe this beast to be the Illuminati/Freemasonry world government or New World Order. This beast begins to rise in 1776 when Adam Weishaupt founds the Order of Perfectibilists or more commonly referred to as the Bavarian Illuminati.
6. This world government beast will eventually exercise authority over the inhabitants of the earth and force the world to worship the first beast which is the Roman Catholic Church. (Revelation 13:12).
7. The world government beast will use fire to cause mass destruction and use this destruction to deceive the inhabitants of the earth (Revelation 13:13-14).
8. After this destruction and deception, the world government beast orders the world to setup an ‘image’ (we’ll discuss this image in more detail later) of the Roman Catholic Church (Revelation 13:14). The world government then forces all to worship this ‘image’. Those who refuse will be killed (Revelation 13:15).
9. The world government beast then forces everyone to receive the ‘mark of the beast’ (Revelation 13:16). Without the mark, no one can buy or sell.
So, after reviewing chapter 13, I believe we are currently (December 2006) around the time that this world government beast will use some type of massive destruction to deceive the world. I believe this destruction and deception (fear) will be used in the final push to gain complete control of the world’s government. We are given a lot of information in this chapter, but something is missing. As I mentioned in an earlier post, after the ‘miraculous signs’ and subsequent deception mentioned in verse 13, the world government beast creates an ‘image’ in ‘honor’ of the beast. Why does the world government setup an image? Why is this image setup in ‘honor’ of the Roman Church? It is also interesting to note that the ‘mark’ is enforced by the world government after the ‘image’ is created – we’ll need to stay spiritually sharp and discern this mark. The first beast (Roman Church) is not mentioned again in chapter 13. I believe this is because the Roman church has been replaced by this image. Why do I believe this? Chapter 17 gives us the answers.
Chapter 17 begins with a description of a woman who is sitting on a scarlet beast. In Bible prophecy, a woman represents a church. Revelation 19:7 describes Christ’s true church as a bride – ‘Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.’ The woman of Revelation 17 is not viewed as a bride, but as a prostitute. An angel shows John ‘the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.’ (Revelation 17:1-2).The angel is telling us that this church has committed spiritual adultery, in other words, this church is selling herself to the kings of the earth (for power, wealth – things of the world) and is no longer keeping herself pure (relying only on God’s Word). She is not proclaiming the pure gospel of Jesus Christ, but loves the world and has become part of the world. As Christians, should we love the world and the things in it? No. The Bible is crystal clear – we have been called out of the world and the world hates us for this. ‘If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you’ (John 15:19). ‘Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him’ (1 John 2:15). Keep this in mind as we determine the identity of the prostitute.
Let’s make a list of the clues we’re given to identify the woman on the beast:
1. Verse 1 tells us that the ‘great prostitute….sits on many waters’. In verse 15, the angel tells us that ‘the waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages’. It becomes clear that this church exists throughout the world.
2. Verse 2 tells us that she commits spiritual adultery with the kings of the earth – ‘With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries’. This church has not remained out of the world, but clearly is involved in world politics with the ‘kings of the earth’. This verse also tells us that many people in the world believe her false teachings – ‘inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with ….her adulteries’.
3. The woman sitting on the beast was ‘dressed in purple and scarlet’ (verse 4). Looking at the world today, which prominent church dresses itself in purple and scarlet?
4. Verse 4 continues by telling us that the woman ‘was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls’. Even though Jesus warned us time and again about the love of money and the accumulation of wealth, John sees that this church loves wealth and is very wealthy. ‘No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus’ (Luke 16:13-14).
5. Verse 4 continues: ‘She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries’. God is making it very clear – this church’s teachings are abominations. He considers them ‘filth’. They do not adhere to His Holy Word, but must be full of man-made religious traditions. Also, don’t miss that a ‘golden cup’ is mentioned. Which church today uses a golden cup in her teachings or traditions? The Lord is painting a picture for us and it is becoming very clear.
6. In verse 5, the woman has writing on her forehead, ‘MYSTERY – BABYLON THE GREAT. THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.’ The Lord refers to this church as Babylon and tells us that it is the ‘mother of prostitutes and of abominations of the earth’. Babylon was the center of pagan worship and idolatry in its day (we’ll talk more about this later), so we’re told here that the Lord equates this church’s teachings with pagan worship and idolatry. This verse also tells us that this church is the ‘mother’ of other prostitutes. Therefore, the abominable teachings of this church have spread to other churches and their teachings.
7. Verse 6 then tells us that this church ‘was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus’. Which church has killed the Lord’s saints? Which church’s doctrine calls for the death of those that do not accept it’s false teachings?
8. There is a very powerful message at the end of verse 6 that most prophecy scholars miss. John is ‘astonished’ at the sight of this woman. ‘When I saw her, I was greatly astonished’ (verse 6). Why was John astonished? In today’s language, I think it would be safe to say that John was shocked at what he saw. Why? Because from Jesus Christ and His disciples, from this group of men that were poor in wealth, but rich in Spirit – John saw that from this group of men who preached true faith and love in Jesus Christ – he saw that the original church had been transformed into an abomination. Christ’s church had become all of the things that He preached against. Where Jesus preached against the love of money, this church was rich and pursued wealth. Where Jesus preached to love your enemy, this church killed those who opposed it. Where Jesus preached true faith in Him and His offer of salvation, this church preached salvation through works and through the church itself. Where Jesus preached relationship with Him and His Father, this church preached man-made religious traditions. John saw this prostitute doing exactly those things that caused Jesus to rebuke the Pharisees – love of wealth, lots of religious talk and rituals – but no relationship with God. This prostitute became so corrupt that it killed God’s saints and thought that it was doing the Lord’s work just as Jesus foretold – ‘….a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. I have told you this, so that when the time comes you will remember that I warned you’ (John 16:2-4). When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, it was as if He was speaking to this Church’s leaders – ‘Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but He sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies’ (John 8:42-44). Strong words from our Lord, but as true today as they were in His day.
9. We’re told in verse 9 that the woman sits on ‘seven hills’. Which city is known throughout the world as the ‘City on seven hills’? Only one city – Rome.
10. We’re told that the ‘woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth’ (verse 18). So, this church is located in a city. I have read many scholars who believe the woman to be the United States or some other nation or entity – but the Bible is clear, this woman is a church headquartered in a great city, it is not a nation.
When examining all of these clues, which church today is located in nations the world over, has ruled over the kings of the earth and involves itself in world politics, dresses its leaders in purple and scarlet, has strayed from the true Word of God, is extremely wealthy, uses a golden cup in her traditions, has killed the Lord’s saints and is located in Rome? It’s not hard to discern this once you’ve pieced the puzzle together. The woman riding the beast is the Roman Catholic Church.
There are some scholars who believe that ‘Mystery Babylon’ represents a revived city of Babylon. The problem with this is that Babylon was not built, nor can be rebuilt on seven hills. Dave Hunt writes in his book A Woman Rides the Beast – ‘Only one city has for more than 2000 years been known as the city on seven hills. That city is Rome. The Catholic Encyclopedia states: “It is within the city of Rome, called the city of seven hills, that the entire area of Vatican State proper is now confined.”’ People have said that this ‘Mystery Babylon’ is the coming world government. This cannot be true since it ignores many of the clues we’re given in chapter 17.
Dave Hunt continues: ‘Even Catholic apologist Karl Keating admits that Rome has long been known as Babylon. Keating claims that Peter’s statement “The church here in Babylon….sends you her greeting” (1 Peter 5:13) proves that Peter was writing from Rome. He explains further:
Babylon is a code word for Rome. It is used that way six times in the last book of the Bible [four of the six are in Chapters 17 and 18] and in extra biblical works such as Sibylling Oracles, the Apocalypse of Baruch and 4 Esdras.
Eusebius Pamphilius, writing about 303 A.D., noted that “it is said that Peter’s first epistle …was composed at Rome itself; and that he himself indicates this, referring to the city figuratively as Babylon.”
As for ‘Mystery’, that name imprinted on the woman’s forehead is the perfect designation for Vatican City. Mystery is at the very heart of Roman Catholicism, from the words ‘Mysterium fide’ pronounced at the alleged transformation of the bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ to the enigmatic apparitions of Mary around the world. Every sacrament, from baptism to extreme unction, manifests the mysterious power which the faithful must believe the priests wield, but for which there is no visible evidence. Rome’s new Catechism explains that liturgy “aims to initiate souls into the mystery of Christ (It is mystagogy) and that all of the Church’s liturgy is ‘mystery’.’
As for John’s mention of ‘gold, precious stones and pearls’ and a ‘golden cup’, the wealth of the Roman Church is beyond calculation. Dave Hunt writes: ‘That the golden cup is “full of abominations and filth” indicates that her wealth has been acquired through abominable means. Cardinal Baronius, though a defender of the papacy, confessed that in St. Peter’s Chair have sat monsters “filled with fleshly lusts and cunning in all forms of wickedness [having] prostituted the Chair of St. Peter for their minions and paramours.” In his sixteenth century Ecclesiastical Annals, he wrote: “The Roman Church was….covered with silks and precious stones, which publicly prostituted itself for gold….Never did priests, and especially popes, commit so many adulteries, rapes, incests, robberies, and murders…as in the Middle Ages.” Of Rome’s wealth in the Middle Ages de Rosa says: “The cardinals had huge palaces with countless servants. The Curia was made up of men who had bought office and were desperate to recoup their enormous outlay…for every benefice of see, abbey and parish, for every indulgence there was a set fee.”’ (Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast). I recommend Dave Hunt’s book to anyone who wants to read an in depth study of the Roman Church and how its history relates to Revelation 17 & 18.
Let’s discuss the ‘beast’ mentioned in Revelation 17 and its relationship to the ‘woman’. I believe that the ‘beast’ that the woman is riding is referencing both the return of the Roman church ‘beast’ and the coming New World Order. Revelation chapter 13 and 17 both show the Roman Church and this coming world beast working together. Whereas Revelation 13:12 states ‘He [world government beast] exercised all the authority of the first beast [Roman church] on his behalf….’, Revelation 17:3 states ‘I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast’ and Revelation 17:9-12 describes the seven heads of the beast as seven hills (referencing the Roman church) and the ten horns of the beast as ten kings. There is a definite parallel – but chapter 17 gives us more insight into this. Because the woman is sitting (or riding) the beast, this gives the appearance that the coming world government will help restore the Roman church to its former power. The Roman church is going to ride on the coattails of the New World Order as it tightens its grip on the world. What is also very interesting is that the beast described in Revelation 17:3 has ‘seven heads and ten horns’. In Revelation 13:1, the ‘beast coming out of the sea [Roman church]’ had ‘ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns’. Why is the Roman Church and the coming world government both described in this manner? I believe the answer lies in Revelation 12:3 ‘Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on his heads’. Who is this red dragon? ‘The great dragon was hurled down – that ancient serpent called the devil, or satan…’ (Revelation 12:9). So, it becomes clear that satan, the Roman church and the coming world government are all described by beasts having ‘seven heads and ten horns’. Why? I believe the Lord is telling us who is controlling these ‘beasts’ – satan himself. There are some differences in these descriptions. Satan is described as having ‘seven crowns on his heads’ in Revelation 12:3, the Roman Church is described as having ‘ten crowns on his horns’ in Revelation 13:1 and the world government is described in Revelation 17:3 as having no crowns. What does this mean? I believe that this symbolism tells us that satan has dominion over the world and rules over the world (just as we’re told in other Bible verses). I believe this symbolism also tells us that the Roman church exerts control over the kings of the earth (similar to other verses). We’re told in 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.” So, it becomes clear that we will face a Church-State beast that exerts immense power over the world. The important thing to remember is that these beasts are controlled by our spiritual enemy and will remain in control of our enemy until Jesus returns. We’ll discuss this in more detail when we study Revelation 19.
We are told the beast of Revelation 17 ‘once was, now is not, and yet will come’ (Revelation 17:8). I believe this is most likely a reference to the return of the Catholic Church to power. This is similar to the description of the Roman Church in Revelation 13:3 ‘One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed.’
The angel gives John additional information in Revelation 17:9-11 – ‘This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. 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. The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.’ We’ve already discussed how the seven hills refer to the city of Rome. What about these seven kings? Since the French invasion of the Vatican in 1798 A.D. and the removal of Papal power, there have been a total of seven Papal names: 1. Pius 2. Leo 3. Gregory 4. Benedict 5. John 6. Paul 7. John Paul. Remember, John is seeing this ‘in the spirit’, which means that he is not necessarily seeing this vision during his time on earth (around 95 A.D.). I believe that John is seeing this vision during the time of Pope Paul VI. The only remaining Papal name would then be John Paul before the eighth ‘king’ appears. Verse 11 tells us that this eighth king belongs to the original seven kings. After John Paul II’s death, Pope Benedict XVI has been elected Pope. So, we remain with only 7 papal names since the initial removal of papal power. Pope Benedict XVI is not a young man, so at some point in the near future, we will see another new Pope elected. Will this new Pope have a new papal name, different from these seven? Time will tell. Regardless of when this happens, I believe that the Pope with the eighth papal name will be the one in charge when the Roman church returns as a ‘beast’. ‘The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king.’ I also believe we’ll begin to see the bowl (or vial) judgments of Revelation 16 poured out onto the earth once the eighth ‘king’ comes to power (we’ll discuss the judgments of Revelation later). It is also possible that this eighth king is in power during the destruction described in Revelation 18.
In Revelation 17:12-13 we are told ‘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. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast.’ I believe these verses make it clear that the world will have ten kings who give ultimate authority to this worldwide government and to the Roman church. I don’t believe that these ‘kings’ represent nations (I’ve read many scholars who believe this) because we’re told they are ‘ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom.’ So, these ‘kings’ are not kingdoms, but people. I have seen studies on the Illuminati that show the world divided into 10 areas. It’s possible each of these areas will have a president or ‘king’. This is something we will need to watch carefully as world events unfold. All Christians should pay close attention to the next verse (14): ‘They [the kings of verse 12] 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.’ As Christians, we can expect persecution from these kings and the New World Order. We should not fear this however, because ultimate victory is ours through Jesus Christ – our Lord and Savior.
I believe that Revelation 17:16-17 gives us the clue as to why an ‘image’ is mentioned in Revelation 13:14. ‘The beast [New World Order] 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. 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.’ It becomes clear that this new world government will eventually come to hate the Roman Church. We’re not told why, simply that this will happen. Maybe the government begins to believe that the Church wields too much power and influence. It’s also possible that this government decides that the Roman church has served its purpose. Regardless, each of these ten ‘kings’ give their power to this world government beast according to God’s plan. It is highly probable that the world will be divided into 10 kingdoms and at some point, the leaders of these 10 kingdoms will give their power to this coming world government (NWO). In these particular verses I believe that we are told God’s plan for the Roman church – judgment. I also believe that out of this destruction by fire, the world government will then create an ‘image’ of the Roman Church in order to maintain order. Does this mean all of Rome? Revelation chapter 18 gives us the answer.