Revelation 17 posts:
1 – Introduction
2 – Symbolism: Whoremonger and Warmonger
3 – Startling Vision Confronts the Apostle (17:1-6)
4A – Angel Explains the Mystery (17:7-11)
4B – Angel Explains the Mystery (17:12-18)
Appendix 1 – Ancient Babylon, Forerunner to Modern Babylon
Appendix 2 – Harlot/Beast History
Appendix 3 – Shattering Delusions: News Excerpts
4B: Angel Explains the Mystery (17:12-18)
12 “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.
13 “These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.
14 “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”
15 Then he said to me, “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.
16 “And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.
17 “For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.
18 “And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
The ten horns which you saw… (17:12-13)
In the previous verses 7-11, the angel had pinpointed the Beast’s arrival – not in John the apostle’s time when Rome was the ruling power of the day, but in a more distant future era. And he threw in another hint about this Beast’s identity by explaining its dual nature (the 7th and 8th Heads), which looks as if it’s appearing now in the partnership of the Russian and Chinese superpowers. Then the angel gets even more specific in identifying this future Beast – with various details about its “ten horns”: how they get their power, then give their power to the Beast as they unite with him in their hatred of the Harlot.
These special details about the Ten Horns point, accurately it would seem, to the Russian Federation with its satellite republics, known as the Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.), as the fulfillment of this particular symbolism. That may sound peculiar, and to explain it all here would take up a great deal of space. However, a thorough explanation can be found in the post “Ten Horns Coming into View?”.
So from here on, this Post will carry on with the concept/assumption that the symbolism of Beast and Ten Horns represents the Russian Federation (or the near-future version of it).
These will make war with the Lamb (17:14)
We have learned already that the Beast would ascend out of the Bottomless Pit, that the world would marvel at him and worship him instead of God. So this Beast is destined, eventually, to “make war with the Lamb”. Having punished the false church by destroying the Harlot, the Beast powers, in their self-righteousness, may start to think it’s fine to go after the True Church.
What we’re getting here is a flash-forward all the way up to the Battle of Armageddon when, difficult as it may be to understand now, the Antichrist and False Prophet Beasts imagine that they can war against the “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS”. (Revelation 19:16)
In that more distant future (after the fall of the Harlot), the world will see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” and will have witnessed the gathering “together of His elect”. (Matthew 24:30-31) Although such astounding events will cause many to turn to God, it will have the opposite effect in others; many souls will harden their hearts because of an unwillingness to humble themselves, a refusal to change, and their belief that they can hold onto whatever they have acquired in the earthly realm by fighting against what God is doing – His new government, the second introduction of His Kingdom in the Earth.
The first introduction of the Kingdom happened with the appearance of Jesus Christ in Israel 2,000 years ago. The rulers of Israel fought against it desperately. They foolishly sought to kill their Messiah because of envy and because they feared that His presence would cause them to lose their position and power. (Matthew 27:18, John 11:48) When Christ returns to establish His government on Earth, a similar reaction will take place among many of those who have invested their lives in selfish pursuit of this world’s temporary benefits.
And the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings (17:14)
The Lord likes to reassure us, and in this passage about the dreaded Antichrist power to come, when things are looking so bad, He assures us that His much greater power will “overcome” the Beast power, who is engaged in “war against the saints”. (Revelation 13:7,15; 12:17; Daniel 7:21,25; 8:24; 12:7 and others)
And those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful (17:14)
In addition to reassurance, the Lord offers hearty commendation to His faithful followers who stick it out in spite of persecution, for which they “will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)
The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues (17:15)
In verse 9, the angel referred to what we could call the “universal Harlot”, saying that the Woman (the Harlot) sits on “seven mountains”; she’s been around all through history, in other words. But besides sitting on “mountains” (empires that ruled Israel), she sits everywhere in the Earth, as this verse 15 seems to indicate. The influence of her Materialism is spiritual and enticing. As a result much of the world is taken in by her seeming splendor and grandeur. Even the apostle seemed to weaken a bit along this line in his earlier remark, “When I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.” (17:6)
And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot (17:16)
This older translation makes it sound as if the Ten Horns are the ones who do the monumental job of destroying the Harlot. A more accurate translation, however, reads,
(found in newer Bible versions: NIV, ESV, NLT, NAS, and others). The Beast is the one who has the power and weapons needed to destroy the Harlot. He needs the help of his Ten Horns, of course, but the Horns, symbolic of much weaker nations, could not do much by themselves. (See “Ten Horns Coming into View?“ post and Footnote 1 for further explanation.)
Although the prophetic message has just outlined the defeat of the Beast and his Horns by Christ’s supernatural intervention (in verse 14), and although we know that this empire was founded by the evil forces of Darkness, there is another side to this story. And we are getting a look now at why God allowed these Dark forces to rise up in the first place and how they even serve His purpose.
Make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire (17:16)
What a contrasting picture! The once finely dressed Harlot – “arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls” (17:4) – is made “desolate and naked”. Not only is she stripped of her wealth and made desolate, she is also destroyed; the Beast will “burn her with fire” and “eat her flesh”.
What this could mean is difficult to ascertain at this point in the passage. Further ahead however, we read that “her plagues will come in one day” and “when they see the smoke of her burning,” people will be “standing at a distance for fear of her torment.” (18:8-10) It is painful to have to come to the ominous realization as to what this probably means: a nuclear war being unleashed.
For decades nations have invented and stockpiled nuclear weapons, and although most political leaders are horrified at the prospect of ever having to use them, we can be sure that the spiritual forces of Darkness don’t want those weapons to sit on the shelf forever. Much as America might wish otherwise, there is no escaping the sad end result of her aggressive foreign policy based on military action. Sooner or later, it is going to backfire.
Right now, America accurately perceives Russia and China as rising powers on the world stage. However, rather than welcoming and being willing to share power and wealth with them, she has treated them as some kind of threat. (See Footnote 2 about America’s negative reaction to the rising new world order.)
This echoes a similar situation prior to World War 1; Germany was the rising power of the day, and Britain and France perceived that nation as a threat. Like America today, they did not want to share their wealth with the new rival. And World War 1 turned out to be just the opportunity Britain and France needed to weaken Germany (via the post-war Treaty of Versailles): strip her of her African colonies, impose financial tyranny, restrict her industry. Like France and Britain back then, the U.S. is itching for a war, some way to break the power of the rising new world order under Russia and China.
For so long America has become accustomed to bullying her way over the weaker nations of the world. Her over-confidence makes her unaware of the danger; she does not see that the front rising up against her is strong and united. (See relevant article excerpts about the Russia-China military superiority and economic superiority.) And it seems clear enough that this prophetic message is pointing directly and ultimately to the present historical situation and a war that America is going to lose badly; so it behooves us to take heed to it.
But America thinks God is on her side and is not listening. And as she continues foolishly to badger the Russian-Chinese powers, she will reap the result – an unexpected and catastrophic backlash. The Harlot may think she can push the Beast around as she will, but the day of reckoning will come.
In the future, as America’s financial dominance begins to wane, trouble will arise on the horizon. Instead of taking the lower seat, America will become more belligerent, and this could be what will drive the Beast and his Ten Horns to take drastic action against a reckless nation they feel has become too much of a threat to them and the rest of the world.
At one point in her history (about 600 B.C.), ancient Israel was facing imminent invasion by the forces of the Babylonian empire. Knowing that the nation was facing judgment because of its sins, the prophet Jeremiah advised the Israeli kings to “bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live! Why will you die?” (Jeremiah 27:12-13) Israel’s kings refused to submit, and Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed as a result.
And in another example, in the days of Jerusalem’s invasion by the Roman armies, many refused to receive Christ’s warnings and allowed themselves to be deceived by false prophets into thinking God would protect them. (Matthew 24:2,16-20) They refused to take the needed action to escape the oncoming wave of destruction and perished as a result.
Long ago in the Book of Genesis, angels were sent to warn Lot and his family to leave Sodom and Gomorrha, which they did and were spared from the city’s fiery destruction. (Genesis 19, 2Peter 2:6-8) And today, God warns those who dwell in the Harlot nation, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4) How this warning would apply to anyone’s particular situation is a matter for them personally to decide in counsel with their providential Protector.
Similar to ancient Sodom and Gomorrah, and to Israel prior to the Babylonian and Roman invasions, America is in a precarious position. Because of her sins, we can understand that America is in line to receive chastisement. (To understand why this is so and the full scope of the Harlot’s crimes, see Appendix 3.)
America has simply reached the point of no return, and there is no escape from the judgment that is coming. Her only salvation, if she could ever bring herself to do it, would be to humbly submit to the demands of the rising powers of the day. But she does not seem at all predisposed to that course of action.
Sadly, we are seeing history repeat itself; America has no intention of submitting to the rising Russia-China world order. The same warning that Jeremiah tried to give ancient Israel could apply today. America may think that she has to defend the world for God and democracy and freedom. But military action is not God’s way of doing it. And she is unaware of her perilous predicament, that she herself has become an oppressive Harlot and a reproach to the cause of God. God is not on her side. And the forces rising against her are being favored by the hand of God (as we learn in the next verse).
Because of her sins, America has reached the point of no return. The only wise strategy left now is to surrender. And if she could submit to the “yoke”, her ruin would be less catastrophic. By resisting it so fiercely, as she is doing now and will continue to do probably, the end result will be utter devastation. (See articles here in Appendix 3.) As it was for ancient Israel when she became a harlot, so history will repeat itself… because we humans never seem to learn from history.
For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast (17:17)
Here is an eye-opener! Even though the powers rising against the Harlot belong to the spiritual forces of Darkness – the Beast “will ascend out of the bottomless pit” – they are still working for God. (17:8) Similar examples are there in the Old Testament; God invited the Assyrian and Babylonian kings to invade His backslidden people and be His instruments of chastisement – “a hired razor… the king of Assyria” and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, whom the Lord called “My servant”. (Isaiah 7:20, Jeremiah 43:10)
The Beast and his Horns think it’s their will, but actually, God is the one who’s put this idea into their hearts, because He also hates the Harlot. So He lets them unite and do His dirty work…
Until the words of God are fulfilled (17:17)
These “words of God” could be a direct reference to this and other passages in the Revelation Book. Or, this could be an indirect reference to other prophetic messages from the Old Testament. Ezekiel 38-39 and Daniel 11 both recount the invasion of the Middle East and Israel at the End of the Age. These chapters describe events that probably happen around the same time as the conquest of the Harlot. And likely, both conquests are intertwined with each other (since the U.S. and Israel are so closely linked). So once those events have played out, “the words of God are fulfilled”. The Beasts’ job is finished.
And once they have done their job, and as always, gone too far with their slaughter and mayhem and persecution of the people of God, God will step in and set the Beast empire back on its heels as well.
The Harlot’s chastisement has come at the hand of other human powers. As for the “chastisement” of the Antichrist and False Prophet Beasts and their forces, that will come in the form of supernatural intervention – the Battle of Armageddon.
This terrible struggle between Harlot and Beast illustrates a peculiar feature about the Devil’s domain; all through history it has featured a steady stream of wars, nations devouring one another. Jesus said that a “house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? (Matthew 12:25-26) Harlot versus Beasts, divided against one another. Then later, the Beasts’ kingdom begins to suffer division. So it would appear from this Scripture: “they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.” (Daniel 2:43) No end to the strife, division, and war in the Devil’s domain.
And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth (17:18)
The Revelation 17-18 passage focuses on the Harlot’s modern headquarters. But the Harlot’s influence extends also on a general and worldwide level; there are, after all, cities located in every nation on Earth.
And each city is like a replica of ancient Babel whose inhabitants said they wanted to “build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4) The modern version might go like this: “we don’t need God (we’ve built such a great city); so let’s hide from Him in our cities so we don’t have to do what He’s asking us to do.”
Cities of Ancient Babel and Modern Manhatten
And thus, it is no surprise to read that the Harlot’s presence is everywhere: “the kings of the earth committed fornication” with the Harlot, “and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” (17:2 and repeated in 18:3,9). Other statements elsewhere in the Revelation Book suggest the Harlot Babylon’s existence on an even more universal level, where she is referred to as “great Babylon”.
It helps to keep this in mind, that the terms Babylon and Harlot seem to apply on two levels: 1) the specific American-based Harlot, who is the target of God’s displeasure and the Beast’s anger. 2) the worldwide Harlot and her network of cities; they are the target exclusively of God’s displeasure.
The full range of the Harlot Babylon’s presence is more than the particular version of it that we see being destroyed in this passage in Revelation 17-18. The “greater” version of Babylon is also headed for chastisement. During the final judgments of God (the “bowls of wrath”), we read, “Great Babylon came in remembrance before God,” and as a result “the cities of the nations fell” (16:19, KJV) The singular expression “Great Babylon” expresses a plural reality: “cities of the nations”.
So far, the expression “great city” has signified the network of cities that make up the U.S., along with those cities in other nations that come under the American umbrella. The Roman empire also was a network of cities that followed Rome’s laws, customs, and religion. America itself is a network of cities, and many cities in other nations follow America’s example. The Phoenecian empire, the Harlot of the ancient world, consisted of a network of trading centers located on different coasts all over the Mediterranean Sea. Like these ancient empires, America also is a network of cities, including those cities in other nations who tag along with American policies.
But even those cities outside the orb of American influence are wallowing in decadence and corruption, bowing to the religion of Materialism. And after “that great city”, the American Harlot, has received her chastisement, then it will be the turn for the rest of the world’s cities, the rest of the Harlot, Great Babylon, to receive theirs. (See Footnote 3 about the modern city system.):
~ Continue to Revelation 18: Second Angel’s Proclamation (Post 5) ~
Footnote 1: Translation Quirks
Before the Modern Age and the rise of the American and Russian superpowers, scholars tried to interpret the Harlot in terms of the Roman empire. Rome’s collapse came from the attacks of various barbarian tribes and nations, and these attackers were thought to be the fulfillment of the Ten Horns symbolism. Since there was no major superpower involved in Rome’s collapse, translators may have decided in this particular verse 16 to make it sound as if the Ten Horns had led the attack on the Harlot in order to make the passage agree better with the prevailing scholastic opinion of those days.
Well, it’s difficult sometimes to avoid pounding a square peg into a round hole, to arrange the facts to fit one’s theory. Hopefully, this Post is free, as much as possible, from such confirmation biases.
Footnote 2: America’s Perception of the World Situation
from The American Empire: A Finale by Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com, 23 March 2009
The fear that the end is upon us, that the entire economic structure of the West could come tumbling down, has our ruling elites in a panic. And yet even as the banks fail, people are thrown out of work, and the economic gears stop turning, still the machinery of empire will continue, albeit somewhat less efficiently than before.
That’s because our rulers are held captive by their own mindset–they are still living in the heyday of their power and cannot reconcile themselves to the fact that an era is coming to an end. They are determined to hold on to the insignia of power, even if their ramshackle empire is a bit frayed around the edges [in the wake of the 2008-9 Recession]. They are still living inside the bubble of fake prosperity and breathing air permeated by their own hubris. Like drug addicts who cannot and will not kick their habit, the leaders of the American government, my government, are too far gone to ever change. Their very idea of themselves is imbued with a sense of entitlement and aristocratic noblesse oblige. They feel that they are doing us all a very great favor by consenting to rule over us and determine the fate of entire peoples, indeed of the entire globe.
(from “Battle of the Ages to stop Eurasian integration” – Pepe Escobar, 16 January 2020)
For the US, this is indeed an existential battle – against the whole Eurasia integration process, the New Silk Roads, the Russia-China strategic partnership, those Russian hypersonic weapons mixed with supple diplomacy, the profound disgust and revolt against US policies all across the Global South, the nearly inevitable collapse of the US dollar. What’s certain is that the Empire won’t go quietly into the night. We should all be ready for the battle of the ages.
from Beyond City Limits – The age of nations is over. The new urban age has begun by Parag Khanna, from Foreign Policy, 6 August 2010
The 21st century will not be dominated by America or China, Brazil or India, but by the city. In an age that appears increasingly unmanageable, cities rather than states are becoming the islands of governance on which the future world order will be built. This new world is not — and will not be — one global village, so much as a network of different ones.
…globalization allows major cities to pull away from their home states, a reality captured by the massive and potentially dangerous wealth gap between city and countryside in second-world countries such as Brazil, China, India, and Turkey.
…cities are the real magnets of economies, the innovators of politics, and, increasingly, the drivers of diplomacy. Those that aren’t capitals act like they are…
…Cities are spreading like a cancer on the planet’s body. Zoom in and you can see good cells and bad cells at war for control… Cities — not so-called failed states like Afghanistan and Somalia — are the true daily test of whether we can build a better future or are heading toward a dystopian nightmare.
…cities are now competing for global influence alongside states.
…Then as now, nations and empires did not restrain cities; they were merely filters for cities’ global ambitions. The supply chains and capital flows linking global cities today have similarly denationalized international relations…
…By 2025, China is expected to have 15 supercities with an average population of 25 million…
…Cities are where we are most actively experimenting with efforts to save the planet from ourselves…
What happens in our cities, simply put, matters more than what happens anywhere else… They are both the cancer and the foundation of our networked world, both virus and antibody. From climate change to poverty and inequality, cities are the problem — and the solution…
[In the future Age of Peace, there will be no “problem cities”, those large urban centers with their towers of Babel, and huge divide between rich and poor, thank God. We can look forward to a more de-centralized organization in the Age to come – along with wise government, a fair system of justice, fair representation, and leaders concerned for the welfare of Earth’s citizens.]