Reading through the Bible together
It’s immediately clear that Rev 17 and 18 are an expansion on the 6th and 7th plagues, which depict the rise and fall of end-time Babylon. Chapter 17 in fact unfolds under the direction of one of the plague-bearing angels. The first six verses introduce the vision of a gaudy woman riding on a beast with seven heads and ten horns. Her name is Babylon. She has an adulterous relationship with kings and intoxicates the world’s inhabitants “with the wine of her adulteries.” She is herself drunk on “the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.”
The rest of the chapter explains the vision. A woman in prophetic symbolism represents the professed people of God—for better or worse. A beast usually refers to political entities. So the picture presented is an unholy alliance between church and state, producing an intoxicating beverage.
This beverage symbolizes the corrupting of the “new wine” (Matt 9:17) of the gospel and the purity of the truth. The world has become intoxicated on the philosophies and teachings flowing from this adulterous marriage between the church and the world. Hers is a religion that argues against our basic sinfulness and need of a Savior, finding a thousand other ways to beat a pathway to Heaven. The religion of the prostitute places man on the throne of his own destiny, deciding for himself what is right and what are the bounds of our freedom. The commandments of God are adjusted and the faith of Jesus is scorned, to suit human pride and endeavor.
Emboldened by her own glamour and the support of the world’s leaders and inhabitants, she leads an international alliance into the Battle of Armageddon. “They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers” who have no weapons but the truth, no defense but their faith. One would think that the victory must go to this illustrious and powerful Axis of Evil. But the Lamb overcomes the beast, and His faithful remnant trounce the worldwide alliance. Jesus conquers by love, rules by serving, and saves by dying. The humble Lamb is Lord of lords and King of kings.
Greater Sydney Conference