The Prostitute and the Beast
1 One of the seven angels who had emptied the bowls came over and said to me, “Come on! I will show you how God will punish that shameless prostitute who sits on many oceans. 2 Every king on earth has slept with her, and her shameless ways are like wine that has made everyone on earth drunk.”
3 With the help of the Spirit, the angel took me into a desert, where I saw a woman sitting on a red beast. The beast was covered with names that were an insult to God, and it had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet robes, and she wore jewelry made of gold, precious stones, and pearls. In her hand she held a gold cup filled with the filthy and nasty things she had done. 5On her forehead a mysterious name was written:
I AM THE GREAT CITY OF BABYLON, THE MOTHER OF EVERY IMMORAL AND FILTHY THING ON EARTH.
6I could tell that the woman was drunk on the blood of God's people who had given their lives for Jesus. This surprising sight amazed me, 7and the angel said:
Why are you so amazed? I will explain the mystery about this woman and about the beast she is sitting on, with its seven heads and ten horns. 8 The beast you saw is one that used to be and no longer is. It will come back from the deep pit, but only to be destroyed. Everyone on earth whose names were not written in the book of life before the time of creation will be amazed. They will see this beast that used to be and no longer is, but will be once more.
9Anyone with wisdom can figure this out. The seven heads that the woman is sitting on stand for seven hills. These heads are also seven kings. 10Five of the kings are dead. One is ruling now, and the other one has not yet come. But when he does, he will rule for only a little while.
11You also saw a beast that used to be and no longer is. That beast is one of the seven kings who will return as the eighth king, but only to be destroyed.
12 The ten horns you saw are ten more kings, who have not yet come into power, and they will rule with the beast for only a short time. 13They all think alike and will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 These kings will go to war against the Lamb. But he will defeat them, because he is Lord over all lords and King over all kings. His followers are chosen and special and faithful.
15The oceans you saw the prostitute sitting on are crowds of people from all races and languages. 16The ten horns and the beast will start hating the shameless woman. They will strip off her clothes and leave her naked. Then they will eat her flesh and throw the rest of her body into a fire. 17God is the one who made these kings all think alike and decide to give their power to the beast. And they will do this until what God has said comes true.
18The woman you saw is the great city that rules over all kings on earth.
In eight brief verses, chapter 15 sets the stage for the final drama, the pouring out of the seven bowls of God’s judgment (plagues, chapter 16). The term “last” (15:1) is “eschatos” in Greek and the basis of the word eschatology, the study of the “last things.”
Chapters 15 and 16 can be summarized as the song of the servant (15:3-4), the seven angels with seven plagues (15:5-8), and the seven bowls of judgment (16:1-21).
Servant song – The song is sung by the redeemed (Jews and Gentiles given the dual reference to Moses and Jesus) and composed almost entirely from Old Testament quotes (see Psalm 86:9-10, 92:5, 98:1-2, 99:3, 111:2, 139:14, 145:17 and 1 Samuel 2:2). There’s an obvious connection with the song of Moses in Exodus 15:1-18. Both songs are canticles of deliverance.
Just as the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, the redeemed will be delivered out of persecution and into heaven. The link also indicates how the judgments in the end times will be similar, yet worse, than those experienced by the Egyptians.
Seven angels – The angels come out of the Tabernacle of Testimony (the tent of witness from the wilderness where the Ten Commandments were kept (see Numbers 9:15, 17:7, 18:2). This indicates that no one can defy God’s law with impunity. The reason for the plagues is that God’s law has been violated and judgment must therefore be dispensed. The angels’ robes are symbolic in three ways: 1. Priestly dress indicates that as the High Priest is God’s delegate among men, the angels come as God’s avenging agents. 2. Royal dress indicates that the angels come as the king’s representatives to do his work. 3. Heavenly dress indicates how the angels inhabit heaven, yet execute God’s decrees on earth.
Seven bowls – The seven plagues (ugly sores v 2, polluted salt water v 3, polluted fresh water vv 4-7, scorching heat vv 8-9, darkness and pain vv 10-11, Armageddon vv 12-16, earthquake and hailstones vv 17-21) are reminiscent of the plagues in Egypt when Pharaoh refused to listen to God (Exodus, chs. 7-12). The bowls are poured out in rapid succession and when the final bowl is poured out, God announces “It’s done!” (v 17), indicating the end of the tribulation (the same statement in Rev 21:6 indicates the end of the Millennium and Great White Throne judgment).
Lord, help me live each moment of each day keeping in mind that you’ll finally say, “It’s done!” Amen.