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“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. 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. “Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits. “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. “And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition. “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. “These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. “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.” 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. “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. “And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth“
 

The angel first gives John the vision (vv1-6) and then the interpretation of the vision (7-18). The angel offered to explain the vision of the harlot and the beast that carried her. He explains the “beast” in verses 8-17 and the “woman” in verse 18.
 
17:7
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.
The vision of this harlot shocked John and evidently caused him great confusion. His mouth drops open as he sees these events unfold. He does not know what to make of all this. Then the angel explains that the beast is the autocrat of the Revived Roman Empire and the great whore represents one world religion.
“And the fourth kingdom [the Roman Empire] shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. “Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay” (Daniel 2:40).
“After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns” (Daniel 7:7).
17:8
“The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition.
The beast will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go into perdition. The bottomless pit is the residence of Satan (11:7). Satan is the source of this beast. The essence of the idea of world government is satanic and demonic.
The words “was, and is not, and will ascend” are another indication of the revival of the Roman Empire (13:3). John writes in AD 96. The word “was” refers to the old Roman Empire. The words “is not” refer to the present situation that the Roman Empire has not existed since AD 476. The words “will ascend” refer to the Revived Roman Empire. The entire world will be in awe of this supernatural resurrection of the Roman Empire.
Ultimately the Revived Roman Empire will go into “perdition.” The word “perdition” means destruction. This is an allusion to the defeat of the Revived Roman Empire by Jesus in His Second Coming.
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.
The universal system of government in the Tribulation will carry people away by its wonder. Unbelievers will stand in awe of the revival of the Roman Empire.
The word “written” indicates in the Greek that God wrote the names at a point in the past and they stand written. The Book of Life is a registry of members of the human race. God blots these names out of the book of physical life if a person does not become a Christian. This book is how it will look in eternity. It is a way of describing those who do not accept Christ as their Savior. Christians will never have their names blotted out of the Book of Life (Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23; Philemon 4:3). Note other references to the Book of Life in Revelation (3:5; 13:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27.)
17:9
“Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.
If we are to understand this vision, it will call for “wisdom” (13:18); otherwise, we will misinterpret the vision.
The angel interprets the “seven heads” as “seven mountains.” Many people interpret this as Rome, which people commonly call “the city of seven hills.” These people infer that Rome will become the capital of the coming world empire. However, this passage is not dealing with a literal city or mountains but with kings (v.10, 12).
The great whore seated implies the establishment of her world religion. There will be an amalgamation of religion at all costs in the Tribulation.
17:10
“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.
Five world governments ruled the world until the Roman Empire: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece. The Roman Empire is the sixth kingdom. That is the government expressed in the words “one is.
“The king who “has not yet come” but when he comes “must continue a short time” refers to the Roman Empire marvelously supernaturally revived by Satan in the end time while the eighth beast [the Antichrist] is the final ruler of that empire.
The book of Daniel gives two separate object lessons of this truth (Daniel 2, 7). In Daniel 2, a great statue whose feet have ten toes representing ten kings. In Chapter 7, four animals represent four kingdoms.
17:11
“And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.
The eighth king, is the ruler of the Revived Roman Empire. He comes out of the seven kingdoms, the Revived Roman Empire. Jesus will destroy him and his kingdom at His Second Coming.
17:12
“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.
Clearly, the ten horns are ten concurrent kings, not ten successive kings. This is an alliance of kings who will support the final world dictator (v.13). These European nations will unite politically, militarily and economically. This is the final stage of internationalism or globalism.
“Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast shall be A fourth kingdom on earth, Which shall be different from all other kingdoms, And shall devour the whole earth, Trample it and break it in pieces. The ten horns are ten kings Who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, And shall subdue three kings’” (Daniel 7:23).
17:13
“These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.
When the Antichrist assumes power, he will unite the world into one global power. They will have “one mind” or one purpose. He will dominate all the other nine kings and demand worship for himself (cf. Daniel 11:36-38; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:8, 15). Universal world power has always been the aim of man from the tower of Babel to the present. This power is an allusion because they will make the major mistake by taking on the Lamb.
17:14
“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.”
When Jesus comes back, He will come with the saints [the church]. These people along with the Tribulation saints are His “called, chosen, and faithful.” This anticipates chapter 19 where Jesus defeats the dictator of the world government.
Jesus goes to war with the leader of the Revived Roman Empire and his world confederation. He defeats this confederation at His Coming.
“And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. “Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure” (Daniel 2:44-45).
17:15
Then he said to me, “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.
The angel now interprets the “waters” on which the woman sat. They are “people, multitudes, nations, and tongues [languages].” All the nations and people of the world will embrace one universal ecumenical religious system.
17:16
“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.
The beast will destroy world ecumenical religion toward the middle of the Tribulation (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15). To this point in the Tribulation, the order is church-before-state [the whore sat on the beast]. Now the leader of the Revived Roman Empire destroys the whore and the order becomes state-before-church. A new world religion that worships the beast as the false messiah will come into place at that time. Apostate religion no longer dictates domestic or foreign policy but serves the state. The fall of the harlot then is the destruction of worldwide ecumenical religion. The next chapter will describe the fall of economic and political Babylon in the Tribulation. The final form of Babylonianism is a combination of world government with world religion.
The beast and the ten kings’ hatred of the woman imply that there is a distinction between political and religious Babylon and their two judgments.
17:17
“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.
The oneness of world religion and world government will not tolerate anything but absolute submission to the Revived Roman Empire. God will use this rebellion of the beast to fulfill His purpose. He uses evil for His own purposes (Jeremiah 25:9-14).
God from eternity unfolds His plan precisely and magnificently so that there is no question as to who is in control of time and space. God sovereignly entwines His purposes with events of history.
17:18
“And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth
The angel gives a final interpretation of the harlot. He describes her as a “great city” that “reigns over the kings of the earth.” This is a reference to international religious Babylonianism as the center for world religion.
Babylon stands for more than a city; it stands for a system of religion in the present chapter and a system of politics in the next chapter.
Principle:
The Christian can rest in the sovereign plan of a transcendent God to fulfill His purposes in time.
Application:
Fake Christianity is always the worst enemy of true Christianity. Debauchery of Christianity confuses people more than outright rejection of Christianity. This religious system will announce itself as the answer to world peace and prosperity. Man will answer man’s problems. There is no need of a transcendent God. This is spiritual adultery and a revival of the spirit of Babylon. It is a manmade salvation. People seek security in manmade federations.
“All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:28).
The spirit of Babylon always sways the masses. People make a panacea out of a super-church. This church is presently in the making. This church is a whore because she perverts mutually exclusive truth for syncretism of truth. This is to say no truth, except the truth of religion, as a great gob of different ideas is the truth.
God will bring these false systems into His purposes. He will show the evil of that system and demonstrate the truth as it is in Christ.
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