Revelation – Lesson 11
Sometimes it seems like evil is winning, but anything false and evil will ultimately fall from its own false foundation or from God’s direct judgment:
- In chapter 17 – A false religious system falls.
- In chapter 18 — An evil political system is judged and destroyed.
- In chapter 19 — Jesus returns and judges the evil counterfeit trinity – Satan, the beast, and the false prophet.
With the close of chapter 16, the seven bowls of wrath have been poured out. A voice from the throne said, “It is done.” The tribulation is over. Babylon has fallen. But the destruction of Babylon deserves further explanation. Chapters 17 and 18 do not fall chronologically in the ongoing story of the seals, trumpets and bowls of God’s wrath. John is invited into the wilderness to see a vision of the already past destruction of the worldwide religious system and the worldwide political headquarters of the counterfeit trinity.
The destruction of the Antichrist’s evil regime opens the way for the coming of Christ in chapter 19. The time for the glorious kingdom has finally arrived!
DAY ONE: THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS IS REVEALED.
READ: Revelation 17:1-6
A. JOHN IS INVITED INTO THE WILDERNESS.
An angel told John he is about to be given a new revelation, something he has not seen in previous chapters. He will view the destruction of the great harlot and a detailed vision of Babylon’s fall.
In scripture the term “Babylon” is referred to about 300 times. It is used to symbolize a satanic false religious system in some scriptures. It is used to symbolize any evil anti-God city in others. It is also used to depict the actual historical city of Babylon on the plain of Shinar in many places. This varied use of the name Babylon makes this section of Revelation quite difficult to interpret. Although there are many different suggestions among scholars, the end result is the same – Antichrist’s world empire is demolished.
- It seems that most scholars see Babylon as an apostate religious system in the first three and one-half years of the tribulation in chapter 17. This system is destroyed by the 10 kings. In the middle of the tribulation the Antichrist sets himself up as the one to be worshipped. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4)
- Chapter 18 seems to depict Babylon as a political and economic power and the seat of Antichrist’s empire in the last three and one-half years. Some interpret the city as Rome and others as the actual city of Babylon in Mesopotamia. Other cities have also been suggested.
B. JOHN DESCRIBES THE HARLOT AND THE BEAST.
John sees a woman sitting on an ugly evil blasphemous beast. She is clothed in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls. She holds in her hand a cup full of temptations or “abominations.” The cup is full of the unclean filth of her immorality. There is no end to the sinful activities that she has introduced in the name of religion. She is called the Mother of Harlots because the whole unbelieving world has followed her, even the kings of the earth.
The beast on which she is riding has seven heads and ten horns. This is the description of the governmental system of the first half of the tribulation. This evil system was powerful and was a vicious persecutor of the tribulation saints.
The harlot rides the beast, possibly signifying that the religious system is directly connected with the political system of the Antichrist. The harlot actually “drives” the beast in the first half of the tribulation and was useful in forming the one world government. At the same time, the beast “carries” the harlot. The mixture of church and state can produce seriously wicked children.
- What are the four names written on the harlot’s forehead? (Revelation 17:5)
- What was the name written on the foreheads of the true 144,000 believers? (Revelation 14:1)
- What is the color of Satan (Revelation 12:3) and of sin (Isaiah 1:18)?
- What is the attire of the pure bride of Christ? (Revelation 19:7-8)
- Who founded the city of Babylon? (Genesis 10:8-11) What was his reason? (Gen 11:4)
- The people building the Tower of Babel were trying to build a new society without God. In what area do you tend to leave God out of your life?
- Why do you think the anti-God world system has so much appeal to people?
- What worldly temptation is a struggle for you?
DAY TWO: THE ANGEL EXPLAINS THE MYSTERY.
READ: Revelation 17:7-18
A. THE BEAST IS EXPLAINED.
John is first given the meaning of the beast. We would wish that the explanation could have been clearer. Many different interpretations have come from the angel’s explanation.
- The explanation starts with a riddle. “The beast once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss to his destruction.” The explanation of the beast could refer to the mortal head wound of the Antichrist, meaning he lived, died and came back to life again, (Revelation 13:3). His power comes from Satan who will be confined in the abyss for 1000 years. Eventually he will come out to make his last stand and then go to his destruction. Some have suggested that the human Antichrist is actually indwelt by Satan at this point. This could be an attempt to imitate Christ, the one “who is, and who was, and who is to come” (1:8)
- The explanation could refer to the revival of the imperial Roman Empire. Antichrist’s personal revival and the revival of the Roman Empire will impress the world to worship and follow this leader who gets his power from Satan. The revived Empire and the Antichrist will become very strong but will ultimately be destroyed. This would not be a surprise to believers because it was prophesied in the book of Daniel.
- The seven hills most likely refer to the city of Rome, which was famous for being built on seven hills. However, the hills are also described as seven kings. This could refer to the world empires that have existed – Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece (that have all fallen) and the present empire, Rome (present in John’s day). The one to come is the revived Roman Empire led initially by the beast and ten kings. Later it will be governed by the beast alone and will exist for a little while before being destroyed by the returning Jesus. (Daniel 2)
- The future kingdom (eighth King) will be that of the “beast.” The ten horns represent the conquered kings who will support the beast and enable him to rise to power in the first half of the tribulation. We are reminded that at the opening of the first seal the Antichrist began his “peaceful” conquest of the nations. He appeared to be the “prince of peace” the world had been wanting.
B. THE WOMAN IS EXPLAINED.
The waters are the unbelieving people of the world. The prostitute or apostate religious system will become powerful with the entire unbelieving world following her. This popularity and power will eventually offend the political powers, and they will turn against her and destroy her in the middle of the tribulation.
The kings will also make war against true believers, but they will have no ultimate power over Christ’s followers. The Lamb of God will overcome them along with the chosen and faithful believers.
The final revelation in verse 18 is that the woman or harlot is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth. She is so identified with Rome or Babylon that the harlot or apostate religion and the city are one.
- Satan and Antichrist will use the apostate religious system to accomplish their own ends (to achieve world power) and then will do away with the harlot. Who gave them this plan? (Revelation 17:17)
- What single purpose unites the 10 kings in Revelation 17: 13-14 and causes them to give their power to the beast?
- Read Daniel 7:7-8. How is this passage a confirmation of what John is seeing in the description of the beast?
- What is given as the reason that the Lamb overcomes this powerful beast and the kings who follow him? (Revelation 17:14)
- How are Jesus’ followers described? (Revelation 17:14)
- Describe what these terms mean to you as a believer.
DAY THREE: BABYLON THE GREAT FALLS.
READ: Revelation 18: 1-8
A. ANGEL CELEBRATES BABYLON’S FALL.
We now meet a powerful angel. He is described as having great authority, a splendid appearance and a mighty voice. These attributes would qualify him as a great leader even in our age. However, believers admire him because he is a spokesman bringing good news from God.
Once again we come to the difficulty regarding the interpretation of the city of Babylon. It was an ancient historical city that was a powerful empire. It also became a symbol of man’s rebellion against God and of the world system of “the beast.”
In Jeremiah 51, the prophet saw the fall of historical Babylon. Old Testament prophets seem to say that the historical city itself will never be rebuilt. John now sees the fall of spiritual and political Babylon. The church is the habitation of God while Babylon is the habitation of Satan and demons.
The angel gives Babylon’s list of offenses. She has become a habitation of everything that is evil. She has tempted the nations and kings to commit spiritual adultery with her. She has encouraged merchants to become corrupt and greedy. She is ripe for judgment.
B. GOD’S PEOPLE ARE WARNED TO STAY AWAY.
A second voice warns God’s people to come out of the wicked city for two reasons:
- There would be a temptation to partake of her sins. The world’s temptations are always enticing, especially when the majority of people are indulging and encouraging you to join them.
- There would be danger in being a part of the destruction that will come to the wicked people. God’s people could become part of the “collateral” damage when judgment falls. There is always a danger of injury or death when we are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like the story of Lot, we must cooperate with God in removing ourselves from the very presence of evil in order to avoid the coming danger.
The sins of the wicked city are piled high. The judgment will be severe because her sins against God’s people have been severe. She will be repaid in kind and amount in proportion to what she has given. The judgment will be swift. She has arrogantly declared that she will never mourn or never suffer for her crimes. She feels safe and secure and invincible as she meets her doom.
- Who are the inhabitants of Babylon? (Revelation 18:2)
- What is the meaning of the indictment in 18:3 that the kings of the earth have committed adultery with her?
- How widespread was Babylon’s influence? (Revelation 18:3)
- How do we become “intoxicated” with sinful things of the world?
- Read 1 Timothy 4:16. What is the antidote for falling into the world’s snares? How will you apply this?
DAY FOUR: KINGS AND MERCHANTS MOURN.
READ: Revelation 18:9-20
A. GUILTY KINGS ARE TERRIFIED.
Babylon has been destroyed. It was the headquarters of the Antichrist’s empire, whether it is Rome (capital city of the revived Roman Empire) or rebuilt Babylon in the land of Shinar or some other place. The picture is not pretty. What was once a powerful headquarters that was an ally and economic foundation for all the kings of the earth is now a heap of burning ruins. The destruction has been swift and complete.
Judgment has come because the Babylonian system has polluted the whole world. People became intoxicated with the riches and pleasures the world had to offer. Sin has been offered in a fascinating package that promised no consequences. The people participated fully and are now left in mourning and fear. Who will the leaders of the nations turn to with their cities destroyed and their world leader defeated and his headquarters destroyed?
B. MERCHANTS MOURN THEIR LOSS OF WEALTH.
John records a long section telling of the collapse of the market that fed the merchants with wealth and luxurious living. With destruction all over the earth and with the major economic center destroyed, the markets collapse. There is loud wailing first for themselves and then for the great city that could be brought to absolute ruin so quickly.
C. SEA CAPTAINS MOURN LOSS OF TRADE.
Obviously the city that was the center of world trade has impacted the sea captains as well. Their grief is loud and obvious. All of their trade is lost.
D. HEAVEN IS CALLED TO REJOICE.
On the opposite side, there is a call for saints, apostles and prophets to rejoice. Finally the evil world system has been judged and has gotten what it deserved. God is patient with his vengeance, but when it comes, it is swift, just and complete.
- What emotion is expressed in verse Revelation 18:10? Why do you think they are so afraid?
- What stands out to you in the list of “goods” in verses Revelation 18:11-13? Does this list compare with the material possessions we count dear?
- What does their lament tell you about the size and importance of the city that was destroyed?
- What city in our day might be compared with “Babylon” for its financial importance?
- What material loss might cause you to mourn and weep?
- Do you think it is appropriate to “rejoice” when God’s judgment comes to some evil person or some evil system?
DAY FIVE: A MIGHTY ANGEL DEMONSTRATES BABYLON’S JUDGMENT.
READ: Revelation 18:21-24
A. BOULDER THROWN INTO THE SEA.
A mighty angel acts out the final judgment of Babylon. He picks up a large stone and throws it into the sea. It sinks, of course, never to be seen again. The city of Babylon is hurled into the sea of God’s wrath and is never to be seen again. This demonstrates that the destruction is permanent.
There are several obvious consequences of this great loss:
- Music will never be heard again.
- Tradesmen will never be found working here again.
- The grinding of the millstone will be silenced forever.
- Lights from lamps will never shine here.
- Brides and grooms will never rejoice in this place.
We might be tempted to mourn over the loss of a great city that produced great music and merchandise and had widespread influence over the trade of the world. This city was able to control all of the nations of the world. From man’s perspective, this was pure greatness.
B. DESTRUCTION IS JUSTIFIED.
If we are tempted to grieve over this loss, the angel tells us why Babylon deserved judgment. She was built with the massive shedding of innocent blood. Antichrist built his anti-God society by killing God’s people and many other innocent people on the earth. God hates the shedding of innocent blood. Woe to the people in any age who participate in this activity.
- What other cities were judged, never to be seen again? (Genesis 19:24-28)
- What loss would come to your mind if your city were completely destroyed?
- What attribute of God does the swiftness of destruction bring to mind?
- Babylon’s influence was felt worldwide. Where has your influence been most significant?
- Are you most upset with the loss of creature comforts or the loss of innocent life in our culture?
Judgment for unrepentant sin is inevitable. God’s justice demands it. God gave every opportunity for the world’s inhabitants to turn around and submit to the one true living God, but many chose the pleasures of sin and the freedom to be their own god. They cast their lots with Antichrist. Now the earth is cleansed and ready. We can hardly wait for the next chapter when the King of Kings arrives on a white horse. Voices from heaven shout “HALLELUJAH!”
PRINCIPLE FOR THE WEEK
The Day of The Lord is a time of cleansing so that great blessing can follow.
Cleanse your own life of any hidden sin so that God can begin to bless you greatly,
About the author
LaWanda Neel is a lifelong Bible student. She has served as a Teaching Leader for Bible Study Fellowship and has conducted studies for neighborhood and church groups. She is now retired and lives with her husband in Lakewood, Colorado. She spends time reading, studying, teaching, writing, traveling all around the world and entertaining her five grandchildren. This is her third Weekly Word series for Thrive Ministries. Contact her for questions or comments at [email protected]View all articles by: LaWanda Neel
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