In chapters 17 & 18 we have God’s judgment of Babylon as a “religious system” (Ch. 17) and a “commercial city” (Ch. 18). In chapter 17 we have two main “actors” who will be on “center stage” during the coming “Tribulation Period,” depicted by a “woman” and a “beast.”

Verses 1-2: Then one of the seven angels…talked with me…’Come, I will show you the judgment of the GREAT HARLOT who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.’ This “woman,” who is referred to as a “great harlot,” is a great “ecumenical church” that will develop after the Rapture of the true church to heaven. It is seen here controlling the nations (pictured by the “many waters”) with their intoxicating influences (false doctrines that lead to “spiritual fornication”).

Verses 3-6: “And I saw a WOMAN sitting on a SCARLET BEAST which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet…and on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” The “woman” rides the “beast!” Who or what is the beast? I would encourage you to read verses 7-13 along with Revelation 13:1-8 to see that the “beast,” which has “seven heads and ten horns,” is none other than the Revived Roman Empire (AND the man who is chosen to rule over the empire). Many have attempted to revive the ancient Roman Empire but they always met with failure. At the beginning of the Tribulation it will be under the control of the “woman,” yet it will use this great religious system in its rise to power and once it reaches the zenith of its power it will destroy the great harlot. This is clearly seen in the following verses:

Verses 15-16: “Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues. 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.” Again, the beast needed the woman in its rise to power (just like Constantine used the Christian Church to unite his empire in the 3rd Century) but in the middle of the Tribulation, the beast will be worshipped by the masses (see Revelation 13:4, 8, 11-15) and then the “harlot” (the “false church”) will be utterly destroyed.

Verse 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.” Here we learn that what men failed to do (i.e. unite the Roman Empire) God will accomplish in order to fulfill His sovereign purposes, one of them being to destroy the wicked religious system that controlled the hearts and minds of men, leading them to eternal ruin. But we see here that the “reign of the beast” will come to an end after “the words of God are fulfilled.” Then God will judge the beast when Christ returns to set up His kingdom (see verse 14 and Revelation 19:11-20).

Verse 18: “And the woman whom you saw is that GREAT CITY which reigns over the kings of the earth.” We said that the “woman” is a “great religious system” but here we learn that this system is also connected with a “great city.” What city is this? We have the key in verse 9: “Here is the mind which has wisdom: the seven heads are SEVEN MOUNTAINS ON WHICH THE WOMAN SITS.” The “harlot” has her “headquarters” in a city with “seven mountains.” ROME was built on SEVEN HILLS and thus we believe this is the “great city” being spoken of. And if this is true, then it means that the false, ecumenical church that develops after the Rapture will be headed up by THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. (269.1) (DO)