The interpretation of the vision given to John by the angel follows the passages we considered in the last chapter. This portion fills the remainder of the chapter (Rev. 17:7-18). The angel gives a literal explanation of certain elements contained in the vision. The interpretation typically doesn’t explain all the elements, but usually enough for a good understanding. What I find in all biblical interpretations, regardless of whether it explains a dream, vision, or parable, is that the content of the interpretation extends beyond the actual sphere of the corresponding element. This is always the case whether it is an angel, a man, or Jesus giving the interpretation. This is the case with what the angel shares with John.[123]

Revelation 17:7-18

“But the angel said to me, “Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. (8) The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

(9) “Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. (10) There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time. (11) The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.

(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.”

Divine Truth: the Word and the Spirit

Before entering into the details it is good to remind the reader of an important understanding. God brings divine truths from His Word to the believer by the teaching of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 2:7-12). “Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received…the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” And earlier in the same chapter (I Cor. 2:7): “But we speak the wisdom of God…the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory.”

There are many people who attempt biblical interpretation and bible teaching. Ministry is often viewed as a potential career choice when trying to decide what to do with one’s life and how to make a living. Many times certain ones with natural speaking talents and good story-telling skills will appear attractive, popular, and successful in this profession. What I want you to understand is that there is no truth of God taught from His word without possession of the seal of the Spirit. Further, there is no truth of God without the workings and doings of the Spirit through the word within the person being used of God to bring the interpretation or teaching. Most of us can’t put our finger on what divine teaching really is, or what it looks like.

Does Christian teaching today have this character? If it doesn’t, it’s not likely to be Christian teaching at all. Is what you hear the hidden wisdom of God that is simply ordained by God for our glory? This is what divine truth is. This character is what forms the nature of divine teaching. “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” (I Cor. 2:10) Revealed what? The things of God that are ordained for our glory!

How do I know that unbelievers cannot receive divine truth, or that tares in Christendom do not teach divine truth? The world or the tares cannot receive the Spirit of truth. They cannot see Him or know Him. They do not have the Spirit of God dwelling in them (John 14:17). That is not to say that all true Christians only teach divine truth. There are many who have been sealed with the Spirit and belong to the Lord, yet do not rightly divide the word of truth (II Tim. 2:14-18). But the point is, tares exist in Christendom in large amounts. Worse yet is that the foolish virgins look exactly like the wise ones (Matt. 25:1-4). Tares are made to look very much like the wheat. Although you may not think or realize this, tares do hold positions in which they teach Christian doctrine. This is the main instrument by which the devil corrupts the professing church – false and misleading teachings and doctrines (Eph. 4:14). The history of Christendom is filled with this very issue. It stands then, that without having the Spirit of God, teaching divine truth is impossible.

If I gave you the term biblical scholarship or Christian scholarship, where would you go in the Scriptures to find God’s idea or definition of this? His idea is found in I Corinthians 2 – the believer has been given the mind of Christ. We have been given the Spirit of God so that we would know the things of God, yes, the deep things of God. If all we do is mimic the scholarship of the world, their methods, ways, and practices, how is this distinctive to Christianity? How is it doctrine and divine truth from God if the world can do exactly the same thing? Hebrew and Greek words, root meanings and linguistics, structure of sentences, etc. Is this how the Spirit of God teaches? We may find Jewish rabbis that do the same, and often better.

All that remains today is the Word of God. Will we be taught the Word of God by the Spirit of God who has been given to us? Do we even know what that looks like, what that is? Can we recognize the truth of God and divine teaching in a time when the professing church will not endure sound doctrine? (II Tim 4:3-4)   It is the discipline and faithfulness of Philadelphia that the Lord points out and commends in the end times – keeping His Word, not denying His name, and keeping the Word of His patience (Rev. 3:8, 10). That is it. That is our present assignment and responsibility according to the measure of grace given to us. Will we be faithful in these few things?

The False Bride of the Lamb

Often when we consider the detail of passages we miss out on the consequences and implications that are being taught. Often in the details we lose sight of the larger significance that is present. When we contemplate the Babylonian harlot we find there is a huge contrast being made. We need to see and understand this contrast. What the harlot pretends to be is the earthly bride of the Lamb. If we look we will see that the true bride of the Lamb is celebrated in the heavens. It is there that we eventually see the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9). But this marriage will not take place until that which is false on the earth, that which pretends to be the bride, is judged and destroyed.

This is the Biblical principle found in Revelations 17-21 that brings spiritual clarity to the interpretation of the angel – God judges the false pretentious bride of the Lamb and destroys her on the earth before the true bride of the Lamb is celebrated in heaven. The Babylonian harlot thinks she is the true bride of Christ. But she is only a false bride of the Lamb, living on the earth in her wealth and worldly luxury, committing her harlotry with the civil authorities established by God (Rom. 13:1-2, Rev. 17:2). The inhabitants of the earth are intoxicated with her earthly agenda and they lose all spiritual insight and direction. She is a harlot because she should have had a proper relationship with the Lamb and with Him alone. She should have been true to the Lamb. But she has been unfaithful, and she has committed her adulteries with the world. She is in relationship with the world and the kings of the earth.

Judgment starts at the House of God

The comparison and contrast between the false and true bride of the Lamb that is present in these chapters (Rev. 17, 18, 19, 21) ends when the Babylonian harlot is judged, burned, and destroyed (Rev. 19:1-6). At that point there is the greatest of celebrations in heaven. The order of these events is of significance and not a coincidence. Of particular notice should be that this judgment of the whore is carried out to completion before the marriage of the true bride and the Lamb, and before the Son of Man comes forth out of heaven to judge the world. The biblical principle in this order is that judgment starts at the house of God (I Pet. 4:17). This is why God uses the ten formerly Christian kingdoms and their ten kings (the ten horns) to throw the harlot off the beast and to accomplish God’s will in judging her (Rev. 17:16-17). Also we can clearly see in chapter 17 that the harlot is judged and destroyed before the beast and the ten kings go off to make war with the Lamb (Rev. 17:12-14).

If the harlot is pretending to be the bride of the Lamb, and this comparison and contrast is the mind of God taught by the Spirit in these particular chapters, then the harlot could not be interpreted as the religion of Islam. There is no thought in Islam of any association with Jesus Christ. Islam cannot be a bride of the slain Lamb, even a false one. All thoughts of being a bride of the Lamb are only found in Christendom. The professing church alone could represent such deception. In order to pretend to be the bride of Christ the harlot would have to have a Christian profession. She would have to profess Christ. In all her worldly pride, Jezebel, as the Roman Catholic church, has been claiming to be the true bride of Christ for centuries. A harlot, on the earth, exalting herself by her corruptions and abominations, yet associated with Christ, can be no other than Jezebel.

The Six Allegories of John’s Vision

There are many allegories in the vision, but only five that are directly dealt with in the interpretation by the angel. There is a sixth allegory related to the vision by the comparison and contrast the Spirit is making in the general overall background. This, as we have already discussed, is the true bride of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7-9). She has more than one association with the harlot as we will soon see. The true bride of the Lamb is celebrated in heaven only after the false bride of the Lamb is destroyed on the earth.

       The Allegories                                           The Interpretation/Meaning

The bride of the Lamb 1.)    The bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the true church (Eph. 5:25-32, Rev. 19:7-9)

2.)    The heavenly city, the holy Jerusalem, the capital city of the government of God (Rev. 21:9-22:5, 3:12)

The Babylonian Harlot 1.)    The false bride of the Lamb on the earth, filled with abominations and fornications (Rev. 17:1-6, Rev. 2:20-23)

2.)    The great capital city of the Roman Empire; the capital city of the rule and dominion of man on the earth (Rev. 17:18)

The scarlet Beast 1.)    The Roman Empire that was, and is not, and will be present, ascending out of the bottomless pit (Rev. 17:8)

2.)    …is himself the eighth (king, that is Caesar – Rev. 17:11)

The seven heads 1.)    They are seven (physical) mountains – geographical (Rev. 17:9)

2.)    They are also seven kings, all Caesars, who all had come into power and now passed (Rev. 17:10)

The ten horns 1.)    They are ten future kings (Rev. 17:12)

2.)    They are ten kingdoms, formerly Christian, in the western part of the Roman Empire.

The ‘many waters’ The mass of Gentile nations not included in the prophetic earth (Rev. 17:15)

It is remarkable that five of the six allegories involved have a double meaning, and that this was the purpose and wisdom of God. It is equally remarkable how the double meaning of the heavenly bride perfectly answers to the earthly pretentions in the double meaning of the harlot. The Babylonian harlot exercised great affectation of being the true bride of Christ on the earth, with earthly glory and riches.   However, she is a harlot actually joined to the world. In her second meaning she is the capital city of the Roman beast that was, and is not, and will be present. In this second meaning she is the city of Rome (Rev. 17:18).

The Seven Mountains

The separate allegory of the seven heads leads us to a similar conclusion (Rev. 17:9). The first literal meaning the angel gives is that the seven heads are, in fact, seven mountains on which the woman sits. This identifies a geographic location relating both to the beast and the woman. Her sitting on seven mountains makes her to be the capital city Rome (Rev. 17:18), the city of the seven hills. Also then, the heads actually belonging to the beast, confirms the beast is the Roman Empire, of which Rome is its capital city.

This is an important point. Error comes in when we do not follow the basic principles of Biblical interpretation in prophetic language. The most basic of principles is that the interpretation actually gives you the literal meaning. The interpretation does not introduce new allegories which in turn demand another distinct interpretation. When the angel draws John’s attention to the seven heads, the seven heads is the allegory/symbol he is about to give the literal meaning of. The first meaning is that they are actually seven physical mountains. We cannot take seven mountains and make an allegory out of it. We would be violating the basic principle of interpretation. Seven mountains is the literal meaning of seven heads. It is not the introduction of another allegory. Seven mountains do not mean seven kingdoms.

Therefore, in its first literal meaning, the seven heads refer to a geographic location where there are seven physical mountains. This location is Rome. One of the literal meanings of the woman is that she is this great earthly city, the capital city of the Roman Empire as well as the capital city of Christendom. We have to be able to see that this is part of the comparison and contrast between the bride of the Lamb and the Babylonian harlot. The bride of the Lamb is the great city, the holy and heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-10). This is the capital city of God’s government over the millennial earth yet to come. The woman is the earthly capital city of man’s unrighteous government of the earth – Rome and the Roman Empire.

1 Peter 5:13

“She who is in Babylon, elect together with you, greets you; and so does Mark my son.”

The spiritual name of the city of Rome is Babylon, and was commonly used from the time of Peter. The ancient city of Babylon had been destroyed and did not exist in Peter’s day. The use of this label for the city of Rome speaks of its idolatrous character, not a physical location in Iraq. The character of Rome is Babylonian and therefore the city is spoken of by Peter as Babylon.[124]

The Wilderness

Except for the literal explanations involving the allegories surrounding the beast, which we will address in the following chapter, the last allegory we will briefly consider is the use of the word ‘wilderness’ (Rev. 17:3). John was carried away in the Spirit by the angel into the wilderness. This is where John sees the woman and the beast. The wilderness is where there are no springs or life from God. It is a dry and desert place. It is a virtual spiritual wasteland. The wilderness, as an allegory, represents the world, and it is used this way in Scripture.

The woman who bore the male Child in Revelation 12 is said to flee into the wilderness after her Child was caught up to God and to His throne. This catching up involves the rapture of the church, the Child’s body. The woman, who bore the Child when on the earth, represents the Jewish remnant in the last 3 ½ years of the tribulation period.[125] In the world the sealed remnant is preserved and protected by God. In the wilderness she has a place prepared by God (Rev. 12:6, 14).

The believer/church is not of this world, as Jesus is not of this world (John 17:14, 16). In the wilderness we have no dwelling place, just as the Son of Man had no dwelling place in this world (Matt. 8:20, Luke 9:58). We walk in the wilderness as strangers and pilgrims, we are currently left in this world (John 17:15). But we are not of the world and should have no relationship with it. We should not emulate the Babylonian harlot in this respect – she is committing adultery and fornication with the world.

Christianity has been corrupted by man. It has never reformed the world, but rather the world has changed Christianity. The world entered into Christianity early on and long ago, and has never left, but only grown stronger within. The corporate body of the professing church is the greatest of all corruptions. It is where the light of God should have been burning strong.

If our eyes are opened by the Spirit to see and comprehend this unholy mess, we should not think that we can fix it and make it right. That is arrogance and the height of the Arminian leaven at work. Religious egotism is the biggest part of the problem. We can’t be humble enough to admit the mess and we aren’t humble enough to understand that we cannot fix it when we see it. Please, consider the harlot. God judges her, and He uses the evil world to do so – the ten kings with the beast do the will of God and destroy the harlot (Rev. 17:15-17).

                                                                Chapter 14: Endnote

[123] John only sees the woman sitting on the beast in the wilderness in his vision. Beyond the scope of the vision are the circumstances of how the harlot is eventually thrown off the beast and destroyed. Also what is additional is the ten kings giving their power to the beast and going off to make war with the Lamb. These understandings are not part of the vision itself.

[124] After God wrestled with Jacob, He changed his name to Israel. This nation would come from his twelve sons. However, the name change speaks more to the general character of the nation of Israel as reflected by Jacob’s life and experiences. All Jacob’s behavior, his wanderings, his wrestling with God, his fear of his brother, his fear of his father-in-law, and his desire, conniving, and deceptions to gain earthly blessings, are types and shadows of the experiences and behavior of the nation of Israel in general. Jacob is Israel’s greatest type as to character and behavior in Scripture, and the name change confirms this.

Jacob wrestling with God is not some great example of faith, and not an example to be emulated in the church (Gen. 32:24-26). The church is to walk by faith, and faith is the evidence of things unseen. The wrestling was a ‘human effort in the flesh’ that is typical of the entire history of the nation of Israel, as well as typical of their religion. The angel Jacob wrestled with was right there and He wrestled with Jacob and Jacob would not let go until he received a physical blessing. Jacob wrestles and struggles all night and to the morning – this is a picture of Israel’s entire history before God. This is not a principle of faith, but a walk by physical senses. Everything in Jacob’s experiences leading up to this wrestling match was unbelief. Everything in his experiences that follows the wrestling match is fear and unbelief.

Jacob wrestles for himself and he struggles in the flesh. Jacob paid the price for this by being made to limp the rest of his life. Because there was nothing here of faith or communion with God, God refused to tell Jacob His name. Jacob’s name change to Israel is simply God recognizing and acknowledging Jacob’s relationship with God. It is a relationship in the flesh and one that is a constant struggle. In changing his name to Israel God is painting the picture of the future history of the nation. That history is nothing more than God testing the principle of responsibility with man in Adam and in the flesh.

This story represents God’s dealings with a person that does not walk with Him. It represents how Israel, although highly favored and privileged by God as a nation, failed in their responsibility to walk in faith with God (Rom. 9:30-32, 10:1-4, 8:8). Israel never aspires to walk in the steps of the faith of Abraham, their father in the flesh (Rom. 4:12-22). Instead, Israel always lowers herself to the character and behavior of Jacob, with a walk by sight and in the flesh.

It remains that Jacob’s name change to Israel speaks of character, behavior, and experiences that awaited the nation of Israel. Jacob serves as a remarkable type. In their history as a nation Israel always struggles and wrestles with God. It is only at the very end that Israel will receive a blessing from God – in the millennium, and this after wrestling in the flesh all the night.

So then, Rome being labeled Babylon speaks of its Babylonian character – idolatry is the abomination of Babylon and becomes the character associated with the name. In the times of the Roman Empire, Rome was the capital city enforcing its idolatries. Its most egregious idolatry is when the professing church corporately became Jezebel with her head located in Rome (popery – Vatican).

[125] The Jewish remnant is what God sovereignly saves out of apostate Israel during the coming tribulation. The overall condition of Israel and Judah at this time is described by the story Jesus tells in Matthew 12:43-45. Israel was delivered from the unclean spirit of idolatry by their being scattered into the world and by Judah being taken captive to Babylon. Their house has been swept clean and empty of idolatry for some time now, albeit a house in desolation because of unbelief (Matt. 23:37-39). What is certain is that their last state will be worse than the first. Seven other spirits with him is the completion and perfection of their idolatrous state under the Antichrist.

The woman on the earth in Revelation 12 represents the sealed and sovereignly preserved remnant of Israel. Her fleeing into the wilderness is her hiding in the world where God will protect what He has chosen and sealed. The Jewish remnant is important because it is what God sovereignly saves out of Israel. The remnant is what He will pour out His Spirit on in Israel before the great and terrible day of the Lord (Joel 2:28-32). The remnant is what God will place and restore in the Land. The remnant is what God will build a new nation from. The remnant is to whom all the promises and prophecies concerning Israel are actually promised to, and in whom the promises of God to Israel will be fulfilled. When Paul says, “And so all Israel will be saved…” he is speaking of this Jewish remnant only, not the idolatrous nation of Israel (Rom. 11:26-27). Concerning the promises and prophecies, and for the sake of the fathers, the Jewish remnant is the election (Rom. 11:28). You will find them called the elect in the prophecies of Jesus in the gospels. It is the Jewish remnant that will not be deceived by a false Christ, even when the remainder of the nation goes after the Antichrist. The elect remnant will not be deceived by false prophets that will come. This is what God will do, it will be His work alone, so that God alone receives the glory.