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.
The destruction of the religious and political systems that oppose God are spelled out in chapters 17-18. Chapter 17 describes the religious and political systems in the end times, and chapter 18 describes God’s judgment against them.
Two of Satan’s associates are mentioned – the shameless prostitute and the red beast. In verse three the shameless prostitute (the religious system of Babylon) is sitting on the red beast (the political system of Babylon), indicating that religious Babylon holds great sway over political Babylon. But a reversal occurs in verse 16 when political Babylon turns on religious Babylon and brings about her ruin.
There are clues indicating that the shameless prostitute represents all phony Christians (see vv 1-6, 9, 14-15, 18). All false Christians trace their lineage back to the “mother of prostitutes” (v 5, NIV). In the end times, apostate religion will exercise considerable influence (“sits on many oceans” (v 1), indicates control over peoples and nations) over political affairs in the world and be responsible for the death of the saints who bear testimony to Jesus (v 6).
The red beast is a political leader over a coalition of ten nations (v 12). His source of power is both human (see Rev. 13:1) and satanic (v 8). He dominates the world economy in the last days and even though apostate religion helps put him in power, he despises the false church and ends up destroying it (v 16).
Of interest, it’s been suggested that the seven kings (vv 9-10) could represent the seven Gentile kingdoms of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, with the seventh yet to be identified. The first six kingdoms all persecuted God’s people. The seventh will likewise persecute God’s people. The seventh king will be closely followed by an eighth king, the beast (v 11).
Lord, even though apostate religious and political systems oppose you, we know that you will not tolerate evil forever. Thank you that the day will come when the false religious and political systems that go up against you will be “thrown down, never to rise again” (Rev. 18:21). Amen.