The Book of Revelation: Lesson 40 – Chapter 17:1-18

The prostitute in Revelation 17 is in reality “the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” This city is drunk not with the blood of Hebrews as was Babylon, but with the blood of “those who bore the testimony of Jesus.” The question, of course, is what city is this?

As Babylon was the head of the empire that earlier oppressed Judah, so in John’s time Rome was the capital city of the vast and powerful Roman Empire, which was known for persecuting Christians. Early believers would undoubtedly have seen this slutty woman as Rome.

From our current perspective, I believe John is referring to the city that will someday serve as the capital of the empire of the Antichrist. During his reign the earth will be marked by an explosion of evil, with many people being deceived.

Here’s a big word: eschatology. It simply means the study of the last things. In Christian theology, that involves the return and triumph of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom, coupled with the defeat of Satan and his evil forces. So what John is alluding to here is eschatological Babylon. It’s the yet-to-be-revealed head of the Antichrist’s empire.

Like Berlin was to Hitler, this could be an already-existing city that is taken over for satanic purposes. Then again, maybe it’s a city yet to be built. But that’s what I understand this woman in scarlet and purple to be. There is not yet enough historical input to know this city’s identity. It’s referred to as Babylon, but we know that might not be its real name.

However glorious her early existence, her ultimate destiny is not good. That’s made clear in verse 16: “They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”


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