Bible Study: Revelation 17 – Mystery Babylon

Revelation is the only book that says we are blessed to read, hear and keep the things that are written, for the time is near. Hence, let us not be like hypocrites without discerning times and seasons. Here we will look into Revelation 17 and understand what it says.

(Rev 1:3) Blessed [is] he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time [is] near.  

(Luke 12:56) “Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how [is it] you do not discern this time?

Mystery Babylon

(Rev 17:1-7) Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast [which was] full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name [was] written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement. 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.

There are some characteristics mentioned in the Bible which helps to identify Mystery Babylon.
  1. Great Harlot
  2. In the Wilderness
  3. Sitting on a scarlet beast
  4. Beast having full of names of blasphemy
  5. 7 heads and 10 horns of the beast
  6. Arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls
  7. Having a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication in her hand
  8. In her forehead: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH
  9. Drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
The angel then explains the meaning shown in the vision regarding the Mystery Babylon which help to identify.

(Rev 17:8-12) “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.

Beast in prophecy refers to Kingdom.

(Dan 7:23) ” 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.

(Dan 2:35,44) The whole statue was crushed into small pieces of iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold. Then the wind blew them away without a trace, like chaff on a threshing floor. But the rock that knocked the statue down became a great mountain that covered the whole earth. … During the reigns of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed or conquered. It will crush all these kingdoms into nothingness, and it will stand forever.

  1. An ancient kingdom
  2. This kingdom doesn’t exist in John’s time.
  3. An ancient kingdom will be revived.
  4. The harlot sits on 7 mountains.
  5. The kingdom had 7 kings in total. 5 had already fallen. 6th reigns during John’s time and the future 7th king is yet to come and will continue briefly. The 7th king is also the 8th and then he will go into destruction.
  6. The kingdom also had 10 kings who don’t have a kingdom. But for 1 hour, they all will receive authority as Kings with the Kingdom

(Rev 17:13-14) “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.”

  1. This kingdom will go against war with Jesus Christ. This means, Christ had returned to this world when the beast will wage war.

(Rev 17:15) Then he said to me, “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.

  1. Harlot rules over many peoples, tribes and nations.

(Rev 17:16-17) “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.

  1. The 10 kings who don’t have a kingdom will hate the harlot and destroy it. It is God Himself will put in their hearts to be of one mind and to destroy the harlot.

(Rev 17:18) “And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.”

  1. The harlot is a City

Interpretation

A great cosmopolitan city will be the capital of a future Kingdom which will wage war against Christ Himself. This city is not worshiping the true God as harlot refers to worshiping other gods.

(Exod 34:15) “lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and [one of them] invites you and you eat of his sacrifice,

The capital city rules over a kingdom which is located in a desert.

(2Sam 1:24) “O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, Who clothed you in scarlet with luxury; Who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.

(Matt 27:28-29) They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, “Hail! King of the Jews!

Scarlet is a symbol of luxury and royalty. It is the color specifically used by Roman soldiers to mock Jesus as well. Hence, the people in the kingdom will live luxurious. The kingdom will have full of names of blasphemy. It is important to understand that Jews crucified Jesus Christ because He claimed to be Christ.

(John 10:33) The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”

(Luke 23:39) Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” 

Blasphemy not just includes speaking ill of God and Christ but also includes anyone claiming to be Christ when they are not.

(Luke 16:19) ” There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.

(Dan 11:38) “But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. 

The city is arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls. What does this mean? As we saw earlier, scarlet is luxury. Purple color symbolizes riches. Gold and precious stones symbolizes honor. Hence, the city is luxurious, filled with riches and has great honor.

(Rev 18:3,5-7) “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.” … For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit [as] queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’

The golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication was in her hand. She made the nations drunk and make them commit sim against God using her riches, luxury and power. A very good example of what is happening today is like US using it’s God given might to put pressure on other nations (to sin) legalizing LGBT.

On her forehead, it is written : Mystery or secret Babylon, it is not the old Babylon but has characteristics of it and it will be great. This Babylon will be the mother of harlots and the abominations of the earth.

(1Chr 5:25) And they were unfaithful to the God of their fathers, and played the harlot after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them.

Spiritual harlotry is referred as a Christian backsliding and worshiping demons and other gods and doing abominations of the earth.

The beast is an ancient kingdom. The heads are represented as a timeline. In John’s time, it wasn’t there. However, it will be revived in future. The harlot sits on 7 mountains which is interpreted as kingdoms based on Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. There are 7 kings in total. 5 had already fallen, 6th reigns in John’s time and the future 7th king is yet to come and will continue briefly. The 7th king is also the 8th and then he will go into destruction. The kingdom also had 10 kings who don’t have a kingdom. But for 1 hour, they all will receive authority as Kings with the Kingdom.

So, here are the important clues and their answers:

  • What are the 5 ancient kings/kingdoms that are fallen during John’s time? Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Grecia. 
  • Who was the 6th king/kingdom in John’s time and was his relation to this ancient kingdom? Rome
  • Who is the 7th king/kingdom? Caliphate.
  • Who will be the 8th king/Kingdom? The final Caliphate. This final kingdom will have 10 kings who will not have authority as kings but for hour, they will be as kings.
It is during the final Caliphate, Christ will return. Then the final Caliphate will wage war with Christ. 
The great city will rule over nations, multitudes and tribes. The 10 kings who don’t have a kingdom will then hate the great city and destroy it.

Conclusion

Who is this great city? Babylon? America? Vatican? Jerusalem? Mecca?
It is not Babylon because … it is in ruins and already destroyed in the past and forgotten. Further, it neither persecuted Christians nor have drunk with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus Christ. Also, the old Babylon was never built on 7 mountains or hills.
It is not America because …  the kingdom must be a revived old kingdom. However, America or any city in it is very recent. While God’s judgment is pending on any nation that forsake Him, America is certainly not the harlot.
It is not Vatican because … it is not riding the nations or kingdoms which are in the desert or wilderness. 
This leaves us with only 2 candidates: Jerusalem and Mecca. Let us study Revelation 18 to fully understand and conclude which city is referred here as the harlot and mystery Babylon.