REVELATION CHAPTER 17

Babylon the Great Harlot and the Mystery Explained

Succession Arrangements Continued

 

"....and the peace of God which is beyond our understanding will guard your hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7

 

"Their corpses lie in the main street of the great city known by the symbolic names Sodom and Egypt, in which their Lord was crucified." Revelation 11:8

 

 "At the end of the Passover meal after everyone has received the wine of the Cup of Acceptance, the host announces the completion of the meal and the recommitment to the Covenant by calling out 'teltelestai' which means "it is finished" or "it is fulfilled."  Christ in the Passover

 

"A jar full of sour wine stood there; so putting a sponge soaked in the wine on a hyssop stick, they held it up to his mouth. After Jesus had taken the wine he said, "it is fulfilled'; and bowing his head he gave up his spirit." John 19:30

 

"The 7th angel emptied his bowl into the air, and a great voice boomed out from the sanctuary, 'The end has come (IT IS FULFILLED)."  Revelation 16:17

 

*Old Testament reference: "The Great Harlot" Ezekiel chapters 16 & 23

 

In Revelation 11:8 the "Great City" was identified symbolically as both Egypt and Sodom.  After the sacrificial "pouring out" of the 7 chalices by the 7 angel/ministers of the Heavenly Temple it should be clear why this "Great City" is identified as both Egypt and Sodom. 

Question:  Why is this "Great City" identified with Egypt after the Chalice judgments? See Rev. 11:8. 

Answer: Egypt because of the "plagues" contained in the chalices, which correspond to the plagues of Egypt (see the Chart comparing the Chalice and Trumpet judgments to the Plagues of Egypt).

 

Question:  Why is this "Great City" also identified with Sodom (see Rev. 11:8). Hint: What happened to Sodom?

Answer:  The "Great City" is like Sodom because Sodom was destroyed by fire and like Sodom, the destruction will be complete!  After 31/2 months of the Roman siege and the intense suffering of the population, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by fire on the 9th of Ab 70AD the same day Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon was destroyed in 586(7)BC.

 

The "Great City" where Christ was crucified (Rev. 11:8) had become a "false prophet" in her testimony to the world that Jesus was not the Messiah, and in her apostasy she had become a "great harlot" and a "false bride." This "Great City" that will be destroyed by fire and who has become a "False Bride" identifies both Biblically and historically with the city "once full of fair judgment," the city of Jerusalem.  In this chapter the "Great City" will be symbolically identified as "Babylon."  The city of Babylon, whose name means, "gate of heaven," had at one time received the blessings of God only to reject Him in favor of state-worship and false gods. God brought judgment on Babylon and the Persians destroyed the city in the 6th century BC.  Jerusalem was meant to be the true "gate of heaven"; God's holy witness to the nations of the world.  But Jerusalem, whose name means "will provide peace" rejected God and the "peace of God which is beyond our understanding" when she rejected Jesus, the Messiah, God come in the flesh.  "The faithful city, what a harlot she has become: Zion, once full of fair judgment, where saving justice used to dwell, but now assassins!" Isaiah 1:21 (circa 740BC)

 

Please read Ezekiel chapter 16

Ezekiel 16:35-36 (Yahweh to Jerusalem) "Very well, whore, hear the word of Yahweh!  The Lord Yahweh says this: For having squandered your money (literally "poured out [ekcheo] your bronze" [meaning "lust"]) and let yourself be seen naked while whoring with your lovers and all the foul idols of your loathsome practices and for giving them your children's blood for this I shall assemble all the lovers to whom you have given pleasure,... (v.58) "You have brought this on yourself, with your lewdness and your loathsome practices" declares the Lord Yahweh.  (Yahweh's message to Ezekiel 5 years before the destruction of Jerusalem in 586(7)BC)

 

Please read Revelation 17:1-7 Babylon the Great Harlot; the False Bride

Revelation 17: 1-2 "One of the seven angels that had the seven bowls came to speak to me and said, 'Come here and I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute (harlot) who is enthroned beside abundant waters, with whom all the kings of the earth have prostituted themselves, and who has made all the population of the world (those who dwell on the land) drunk with the wine of her adultery.'"  This is the 11th time the phrase "those who dwell on the land" is used in Revelation. As you will recall, I have mentioned that this phrase is symbolic for apostate Israel and is used 12 times in Revelation; once for each of the 12 tribes of Israel: Rev. 3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10 [twice]; 13:8, 12, 14 [twice]; 14:6; 17:2,8). 

 

Question:  In what verses was "the city" symbolized as Babylon in previous chapters and what was the judgment prophesized for "the city"?  Hint chapters 14 and 16. 

Answer: John has already been told that "the city" is symbolized as Babylon by the second of the three sets of angels of the Temple in Revelation 14:8 "a second angel followed him (the first angel), calling, 'Babylon has fallen, Babylon the Great has fallen, Babylon which gave the whole world the wine of retribution to drink.'" And again he was told in Rev. 16:18c-19 "The Great City was split into three parts and the cities of the world collapsed; Babylon the Great was not forgotten: God made her drink the full winecup of his retribution."  The original city of Babylon no longer existed in the 1st century.  It had been the site of the building of the infamous tower of Babel in the land of Shinar (modern Iraq) and had become the capital city of the Babylonian Empire, the world power that had destroyed Judah and Jerusalem in 586(7) BC.  But John's city is not the original Babylon, instead ancient Babylon is a symbolic image of this city.  The clue lies in the description that this city sits or "is enthroned" beside "abundant waters."  This phrase can also be translated "many waters."  It is polus hydra in the Greek.  This is an image of the prophet Jeremiah's description of Babylon in his great oracle judgment against the city in Jeremiah chapters 50-51. "Enthroned beside abundant waters, rich in treasures, you now meet your end, the finish of your pillaging." (Jeremiah 51:13).  John's first century readers would have immediately made the connection to this judgment passage on Babylon.  The literal reference to "abundant waters" or "many waters" in Jeremiah 51:13 is the Euphrates River, which ran through the middle of the great city and to the canals which surrounded the city.  But ultimately the term "many waters" is used Biblically to refer to the abundant blessings that God bestows on His people. Yahweh even gave His blessing to Babylon but she prostituted those blessings for her own glory and rejected Yahweh.  Later in Rev. 17:15 we will told of an important aspect of the symbolic meaning of the term "many waters" but in this verse the point is the identification of the Harlot city with the ancient city Babylon who accepted God's blessings but turned from Him. 

 

Question:  So what is the connection between 'blessings' and Babylon and Jerusalem?

Answer: No other city in the world received more of God's blessings than the city of Jerusalem, but like Babylon she turned from Yahweh, prostituted herself and rejected God the Messiah and in doing this Israel (Judah) the Old Covenant Church and her priests have led "those who dwell on the Land" astray and into adultery.  They became "drunk with the wine of her adultery"; they become seduced into such a spiritual stupor that they did not even recognize their own Messiah and therefore have forfeited God's many blessings.

           

Let's look at the Biblical use of the words "many waters" or "abundant waters" and its significance in Scripture.  Biblically this expression is set within God's Covenant relationships reflected in His "abundant" blessings and in His liturgical interaction with His people.  In all the passages the Greek is the same "polus hydra" (Greek translation of Old Testament and Greek New Testament). Examples:

1.      Jeremiah 51:13: Babylon's abundance granted by God: "Enthroned beside        

abundant waters, rich in treasures, you now meet your end, the finish of your pillaging."

2.      Ezekiel 1:24: the voice from the Glory-Cloud sounds like many or abundant

waters and is produced by the innumerable angels in the heavenly council: "I also heard the noise of their wings; when they moved, it was like the noise of flood-waters [polus hydra], like the voice of Shaddai, like the noise of a storm, like the noise of an armed camp.."

3. Revelation 1:15: God's voice from heaven "as the sound of many waters" as His voice is similarly described in Ezek. 43:2 "like the sound of the ocean" (literally "many waters" polus hydra) and Rev. 14:2 "like the sound of the ocean" (literally many waters polus hydra)

4.  Revelation 17:1 "the great prostitute who is enthroned beside abundant waters" (polus hydra); the "city" to whom God has given many blessings.

5.  Rev. 19:5-6 "Then a voice came from the throne; it said, 'Praise our God, you servants of his and those who fear him, small and great alike.'  And I heard what seemed to be the voices of a huge crowd, like the sound of the ocean (many waters/ polus hydra) or the great roar of thunder, answering, 'alleluia!  The reign of the Lord our God Almighty has begun.." = Liturgical praise.

 

Given the Biblical background and context of the phrase "many waters" or "abundant waters" (polus hydra) it would be no surprise to John's readers that the Bride of Yahweh would be seen seated on "many waters"; the surprise is that she is a whore!  This Bride has received God's blessings and has prostituted them.  (I refer you again to Ezekiel chapter 16 in which Yahweh condemns Israel in a long allegory as a faithless wife, a "whore" of alien gods, and Romans 2:17-24 (verse 23-24 "If, while you are boasting of the Law, you disobey it, then you are bringing God into contempt.  As scripture says: It is your fault that the name of God is held in contempt among the nations." )

           

I should mention that a number of commentators identify the "harlot city" as Rome, the geographic center of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.  John's 1st century readers certainly would not have accepted this interpretation.  Martin Luther championed this interpretation when he was excommunicated from the Church in the 16th century.  Luther saw the Church of Rome as the Harlot Bride and the Pope as the Antichrist.  Interestingly enough, Pope Leo X in turn saw Luther as the Antichrist!  But the Church, which is founded by Christ through Peter, His Vicar, stands on the promise that Jesus made in Matthew 16:16 that "the gates of Hades will not prevail against her" because she is the True and Holy Bride of Christ.  The Church of Jesus Christ is full of sinners yet she is the sinless Bride. 

           

Question:  But is there a warning for us in the 21st century Church?  Did the Old Covenant Church believe that judgment could lead to destruction of their Temple and  the transformation of their Covenant?

Answer:  Even though the True Bride, New Covenant Church has the promise of Christ's protection we should never become so overly comfortable that we fall into complacency and therefore fall into the danger of unfaithfulness through unorthodox belief.  We have so many blessings but how many Catholics truly understand their faith?  How many Catholics carry their Bibles to Mass.  How many parishes offer adult studies in the doctrine of the Church or Biblical study programs?  It is only through ignorance that we loose Catholics to other denominations.  After all, if one truly believed in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist how could one leave Him?  And yet, every year thousands of Catholics leave Mother Church.

 

Biblically the imagery of the "False Bride" is a familiar image.  In Biblical symbolism the motif of the Bride falling into adultery and harlotry identifies God's Covenant people falling into apostasy.  To go after false gods and to abandon the sacred Covenant is equaled with adultery and harlotry.  This metaphor of harlotry is exclusively used in the Old Testament for a city or a nation that has abandoned God's holy Covenant and rejected God.  This imagery is always used for faithless Israel, "Bride of Yahweh" with only 2 exceptions:

1.      The Phoenician city of Tyre and

2.      the Assyrian capital city Nineveh. 

These are the 2 cities, outside of Israel, that had both been in covenant with God.  See 1Kings 5:1-12; 9:13; Is. 23:17; and Amos 1:9. 

 

The city of Tyre was converted to the worship of Yahweh during King David's reign in the early 11 century BC and her king contracted a covenant with Solomon (David's son) and assisted in the building of God's Holy Temple on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem. The passage in Revelation 17:2"with whom all the kings of the earth have prostituted themselves.."  is taken from Isaiah's prophecy against Tyre where it primarily refers to her international commerce through which her influence and beliefs spread (Isaiah 23:15-17).  The other city is Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire.  The city of Nineveh was converted through the work of God's prophet Jonah and her king declared Yahweh the true God.  See Jonah 3:5-10. Later the apostasy of these 2 cities would be considered unfaithfulness to Yahweh expressed as harlotry.  Pagan Rome of the 1st century never entered into such a covenant relationship.

 

The other important point in the identification of the "False Bride" city is that she will be identified in contrast to another city.

Question:  What is the second city that is described in contrast to the Great City identified as the Harlot, the False Bride?  Hint: see Rev. 21:1-2. 

Answer: the "True Bride", the Church of the New Covenant founded by Christ, the "New" Jerusalem.  The identification of the "False Bride" as opposed to the "True Bride" only makes sense if the "New" Jerusalem is in contrast to the "Old" Jerusalem that has rejected Christ as her bridegroom and has become a False, Harlot Bride!  She has become like the builders of the tower of Babel that was built on the site of the city of Babylon.  Babel literally meant, "gate of God," but in rejecting Yahweh He judged them, cast down their tower and scattered the nations and confused their tongues. 

 

Question:  What was the reversal of the "confusion of tongues" at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9? Hint: see Acts chapter 2. 

Answer:  The second great Pentecost was the reversal of the Tower of Babel.  God the Holy Spirit came in "tongues of fire" and all the people present understood one language and the one message of salvation which would once again unite all nations in a Holy Covenant that would open the gates of Heaven through Christ the Savior, the Bridegroom of the New Covenant, universal Church and once again God's blessing would flow as "many waters;" Rev. 22:1 "Then the angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear."  

 

Revelation 17: 3-4 "He took me in spirit to a desert, and there I saw a woman riding a scarlet beast which had seven heads and ten horns and had blasphemous titles written all over it.  The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet and glittered with gold and jewels and pearls, and she was holding a gold winecup filled with the disgusting filth of her prostitution..."

 

This woman is in a "spiritual desert," an abode of demons (Matt 12:34 Jesus said: "When an unclean spirit goes out of someone it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and cannot find one.")  In chapter 12 we saw the Woman, the True Bride, being forced to flee from the Dragon into the desert for a time where God protected her.  But to the False Bride, the wilderness is her element where she chooses to remain instead of accepting the Messiah and following Him to her inheritance: the Promised Land.  Therefore, the "wilderness" becomes her destiny and her heritage (see Num ch 13-14; Zech 5:5-11).

Question:  If we can agree that Judea/Jerusalem is "the False Bride" what does the beast on which she rides symbolize and what is the connection in past Revelation passages?  Hint: carefully read Rev. 12:3 and 13:1 looking for differences and similarities.  The New American translation has the correct order of horns and heads but the New Jerusalem translation is in error: 

 In the description of the Beast from the Sea the horns and heads should be in reverse order: Dragon = 7 heads and 10 horns; Beast = 10 heads and 7 horns.  This reverse order is important!  The Dragon and the beast are not the same but one (the beast) is in the image of the other (the Dragon).

Answer: The Beast on which the Woman rides is the Red Dragon of Rev. 12:3 because this beast also has 7 heads and 10 horns in the same order as the Red Dragon/Satan. But then there is also a connection to Rome, the Sea Beast, to whom Judah is tired politically and economically because it is full of "blasphemous names/titles."  Therefore the imagery points to both Satan and Rome.  It is a reference to Jerusalem's apostate intimacy with both Satan (in rejecting Christ she chose Satan) and the Roman Empire which was the devil's reigning political incarnation.  The two, Satan and Rome, are represented as one image.

 

This passage and its Satan/Rome imagery is another indication that the "Great Harlot City" can't be Rome because she is clearly distinct from it.  She is seated or enthroned on the Beast: supported and maintained by the Breast who is Rome, the Empire that supported, maintained and controlled (empowered) Jerusalem. 

Question:  What other evidence do we have that this Red Beast is Rome? Hint: see Rev. 17:9. 

Answer:  The 7 heads of the Beast represent 7 hills.  Jerusalem does not have 7 hills.  The city is built on 3 mountain ridges but Rome is famous for her 7 hills.

 

Question:  Do you see any contrast between the Throne of God (Rev. 4:6-8) and the throne of the Harlot? 

Answer: The Throne of God is supported by the Living Creatures who are "full of eyes" and who are full of singing God's praises in Rev. 4:6-8 and the Harlot Queen whose throne is supported by a Beast who is full of blasphemous names.

 

Some commentators point out that the Red Dragon of Revelation chapter 12 is connected by the same color to the Red Beast of Revelation chapter 17 but the Greek does not indicate the same color.  Instead the color of the Beast in chapter 17 (Gr. kokkinon) matches the woman's own dress in verse 4 whereas the the Red Dragon in Revelation 12:3 is the color of fire (Gr. purros).  Kokkinon is crimson blended with dark blue (see Isaiah 1:18).  It was a color used to attract attention ( for example, the scarlet thread attached to the first twin of Tamar in Genesis 38:28 and to the home of Rahab in Joshua 2:18). 

 

Question:  What is significant about the way the Harlot is clothed? 

Answer:  Some commentators suggest the color is an indication of ungodly conduct (for example Isaiah 1:18 "sin like scarlet" and Psalms 51:5) and that the color stands in sharp contrast to the white garments of the elect.  But other commentators suggest that she is not dressed as a prostitute.  Please see Gen. 2:11-12; Ex. 3:22; Proverbs 31:21-22; Isa 54:11-12; 60:5-11; Ezek 16:11-14; Ezek 28:9-29; Rev. 4:3-4; Rev. 21:18-21.  In these passages the description of her clothing is in keeping with the Biblical descriptions of the glorious "City of God" in Isaiah and Revelation.  There is also a connection to the pattern of the jewels that covered the high priest's garments in Exodus chapter 28 and the Throne of God in Rev. 4:3-4.  Exodus, Ezekiel and Proverbs all describe the dress of a Bride with such finery.  In other words, it is possible that to first century readers that this woman is dressed as a "righteous woman", as a Bride.  She is adorned in the beautiful garments of the Church.  If this interpretation is correct, the Harlot Bride is still carrying the outward adornments of the chaste Old Covenant Bride of Yahweh!

 

Revelation 17:4 "she was holding a gold winecup.."

Question:  What is the wine of her fornication and what contrast or parody is there to the winecup of Holy Eucharist?  See Revelation 17:6

Answer:  The wine of her fornication is the blood of the Saints and the blood of the witnesses (martyrs) of Jesus it is in contrast to the holy and pure golden cup of Christ's blood that He offers those of the Covenant who are in a state of grace.

 

Question: But how is the blood of the saints and martyrs of Christ connected with Jerusalem or as some suggest, with Rome?

Answer:  many commentators who prefer Rome as the "Great Harlot" enumerate Rome's acts of violence against the Saints of the Church but while it is true that Rome became a great persecutor of the Church, Jerusalem was the preeminent persecutor of God's holy people as Jesus testified, from the blood of Abel onwards (Matthew 23:33-36).  This passage also reminds me of Leviticus chapter 11 and chapters 20:22-26 with images of unclean food and unclean marriage.  There is also probably a connection to Jeremiah 51:7 where the original Babylon is described as " a golden cup in the hand of Yahewh, intoxicating all the earth."  Old Covenant Jerusalem still has the golden chalice of the Covenant, but the communion she offers leads mankind to death and destruction.  Her cup is full of "disgusting filth" or as other translations read "full of abominations," a word used Biblically to symbolize the worship of false gods.

 

Revelation 17: 5-7  "..on her forehead was written a name, a cryptic name: "Babylon the Great, the mother of all prostitutes and all the filthy practices on the earth.'  I saw that she was drunk, drunk with the blood of the saints, and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; and when I saw her I was completely mystified.  The angel said to me, 'Do you not understand?  I will tell you the meaning of this woman, and of the beast she is riding, with the seven heads and ten horns.'"

 

Question: What are two characteristics of the woman? Hint: see verse 4 and verse and 5.  Answer:  she is holding a gold winecup (v.4) and she has a mysterious name on her forehead.  By this time you should be familiar with writing on the forehead. 

 

Question: Where have we read about this familiar image of a name in Revelation and what did it signify?  See Revelation 3:12; 7:3; 14:1 and 13:16-17. 

Answer:  We have seen it on the foreheads of Saints, and on the followers of the Beast. 

 

Question:  Can you think of any Old Testament connection?  Hint: See Exodus 28:36-39. 

Answer:  The name on her forehead could be a parody of the High Priest's golden band worn on his forehead and labeled "consecrated to Yahweh."

 

Question:  But what is different about this name that the woman has written on her forehead?

 Answer: it is a mystery, a cryptic name.

           

Question:  What is significant about the title of her name and what is the connection to the winecup? 

Answer:  Her name is symbolic as the namesake of the ancient city that was the epitome of rebellion against God in Gen. 11:1-9 = the Tower of Babel, and Jeremiah chapters 50 & 51 = Babylon who had rejected God and his many blessings. Now she had become identified with bestiality and confusion. The woman is now the "Mother of Harlots," an expression reminiscent of the Harlot Queen of Israel, Jezebel and her "children" which Jesus spoke of in Rev. 2:20-23 and the prophet Ezekiel's description of Jerusalem as " a mother of harlots: in Ezekiel 16:44-48. 

 

The connection to the winecup is subtler.  If the name on the forehead of the harlot is a parody of the sacred name of God on the high priest's miter, perhaps the winecup is a parody of the blood of the sacrifice poured out by the high priest in his priestly function.  On the Day of Atonement the high priest, wearing the vestments especially reserved for that Sacred Feast, wearing the sacred name of Yahweh, and holding the golden cup of sacrifice makes offerings to Yahweh for the sins of the people.  Now the priest-harlot bears the same of Babylon, mother of harlots and pours of the blood of the saints and this is the sin of Israel!

 

Please read Revelation 17: 8-18:  The Mystery Explained

Revelation 17: 8 "'The beast you have seen was once alive and is alive no longer; it is yet to come up from the Abyss, but only to go to its destruction.  And the people of the world (those who dwell on the land), whose names have not been written since the beginning of the world in the book of life, will be astonished when they see how the beast was once alive and is alive no longer, and it still to come.'"  Note: "And the people of the world" should read " and those who dwell on the land". This is the 12th use of this phrase in Revelation, and the reference is to apostate Israel.

 

The angel begins to explain the mystery by speaking about the composite Beast (remember this Beast is both Rome and Satan as we saw in verse 3.  The Beast appears in human history described in words that are a parody of the words the angel used for God in Revelation 16:5 "He who is, He who was, the Holy One.".

Question: Do you remember how Romans expressed the connection between the Empire and the Emperor?

 Answer:  "Rome is Caesar and Caesar is Rome!"

 

Question:  the words "he was alive and is alive no longer" are a parody of what passages referring to God in Revelation? 

Answer:  in Revelation 16:5 and 11:17 "He who is, He who was."

 

Unraveling this passage is very tricky.  The key is in the history of Rome as an Empire and which began with Julius Caesar who was assassinated by men who wanted to keep Rome from becoming an empire instead of remaining a republic.  But the attempt to abort the empire was in vain because Julius Caesar was succeeded by his great-nephew, Octavian, who became the first ruling emperor of Rome in 29AD. (This event may even be a reference to Rev. 13:12; with Julius Caesar's death the empire seemed dead but was revived in his great-nephew, Octavian). In turn, Octavian (Augustus Caesar) was succeeded by family members until the death of Nero, the last of his line, in 68AD.  Nero was surely under the influence of the Beast from the Abyss and his identification will become apparent as we continue.  Remember we have already seen Nero and Rome identified in the number of the Beast in chapter 13. 

           

Please consult the chart on the Roman emperors:

"This calls for a mind with wisdom.  The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.  They are also seven kings.  Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while.  The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king.  He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction."

-Revelation 17:9-11

 

LIST OF ROMAN EMPERORS

The Roman Historian Tacitus in his history, The Annals, begins his list of Roman emperors with Augustus Caesar (Octavian), but the Roman Historian Suetonius begins his list of Roman Emperors in Lives of the Twelve Caesars with Julius Caesar as the first of the Roman Emperors as does Dio Cassius in his Roman History and Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews.  There were, therefore, two official lists in use in the first century AD. In the two official lists, Otho is the eighth name in one list and the seventh name in the other list as it says in Revelation 17:9.

               

Suetonius' List of twelve emperors

Tacitus' List of eleven emperors

1. Julius Caesar died 44BC

2. Augustus Caesar died 14AD

1. Augustus Caesar

3. Tiberius died 37AD

2. Tiberius

4. Caligula died 41AD

3. Caligula

5. Claudius died 54AD

4. Claudius

6. Nero died 68AD

5. Nero

7. Galba died 69AD

6. Galba

8. Otho died 69AD

7. Otho

9. Vitellius died 69AD

8. Vitellius

10. Vespasian died 79AD

9. Vespasian

11. Titus died 81AD

10. Titus

12. Domitian died 96AD

11. Domitian

 

 

LIST OF 10 IMPERIAL PROVINCES

Italy

Achaia

Asia

Syria/Judea

Egypt

Africa

Spain

Gaul

Britain

Germany

LIST OF THE HERODIAN RULERS

1. Herod the Great died (4BC ?) 1BC

5. Herod of Chalcis died 48AD

2. Archelaus deposed 6AD

6. Agrippa I died 44AD

3. Herod Antipas exiled 37AD

7. Agrippa II died 100AD

4. Philip Herod died 34/37AD

 

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2000 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

 

Revelation 17: 9-11 " 'This calls for shrewdness.  The seven heads are the seven hills, on which the woman is sitting.  The seven heads are also seven emperors.  Five of them have already gone, one is here now, and one is yet to come; once here, he must stay for a short while.  The beast, who was alive and is alive no longer, is at the same time the eighth and one of the seven, and he is going to his destruction.'"

 

This verse clearly identifies the Beast on whom the woman is sitting as Rome the city of the 7 hills; remember Jerusalem is built on 3 ridges.  Some have tired to make the argument that this 7 is symbolic for the perfection of Jerusalem but it is unlikely since Jerusalem was far from spiritual perfection at this time, and it will become more clear as we continue that Rome is intended in this passage.

 

"The seven heads are 7 emperors."  Judea had 3 Herodian kings but the others could only loosely be referred to as "kings" since they did not "rule" but governed on behalf of Rome in positions that more typified a governor of a district (ie. The tetrarch Herod Antipas "ruled" Galilee and Perea).  An emperor rules over more than one "kingdom."  According to the Roman historian Suetonius' list of Roman Emperors, there were 7 emperors from Julius Caesar (d.AD44)  to Galba (d. AD69). 

"Five of them have already gone, one is here now, and one is yet to come; once here he must stay for a short while." This passage gives us more information.  The difficulty is, there were two official lists of Roman Emperors.  The Roman historian Suetonius began his list with Julius Caesar who first conceived of the Roman Empire, while the Roman historian Tacitus began his list with the actual first emperor, Augustus Caesar (Octavian).

 

Question:  What position of the lists does Nero hold?

Answer: On Suetonius' list Nero, the last of Julius Caesar's line, is #6 and on Tacitus's list he is #5.  But, we do have more information in these Revelation chapter 17 passages to help us identify which emperor was currently in power? With Nero's suicide came what Roman historians called "the year of the 4 Emperors."  Following Nero's death in June of 68AD Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, who all died violently, briefly occupied the throne.  The line "the beast who was alive and is alive no longer, is at the same time the 8th and one of the 7.." tells us that both lists of Emperors are in use here.

 

Question:  Looking at the two lists of the emperors, which emperor is both the 8th on one list and the 7th on the other?  This is assuming that the number 7 is not a symbolic number; which some commentators believe.  I suspect in this case if the number 5 is not symbolic then neither are #s 7 & 8 symbolic.

Answer: Otho is # 7 and #8.  Marcus Otho lasted only 95 days on Rome's Imperial throne before being replaced, violently, by Aulus Vitellius who was slain by Vespasian's soldiers in December of AD69.  It is possible that Vitellius was "the one who would stay for a short time" to be followed by Vespasian who is "the one to come" being declared the Roman Emperor in December AD69.  It would be Vespasian's Roman legions under the command of his very able son, Titus, who would destroy Jerusalem and the Temple.  It would be Vespasian who would also restore an Empire that had seemed destined for destruction.  The Beast was still alive!

 

There are various theories put forward by various commentators.  Father Edward Siegman made a helpful list of the emperors and the main lines of interpretation and you may want to use his list, along with my Chart, to help you  unravel this riddle (p. 289, J.Massynbgberde Ford; The Anchor Bible: Revelation).

 

EMPERORS HEADS

I                           II III                         IV

J. Caesar d. 44

           1

 

 

 

Augustus d. 14

           2

           1

 

 

Tiberius d. 37

           3

           2

 

 

Caligula d. 41

           4

           3

 

 

Claudius d. 54

           5

           4

 

 

Nero d. 68

           6

           5

           1

           1

Galba d. 69

 

       

           2

           2

Otho d. 69

 

 

           3

           3

Vitellius d. 69

 

 

           4

          (3)

Vespasian d.79

 

          6

           5

           4

Titus d. 81

 

          7

           6

           5

Domitian d. 96

 

          8

           7

           6

Nerva d. 98

 

 

 

           7

Trajan d. 117

 

 

 

           8

Hadrian d.138

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see in column I of "Heads" some commentators start with Seutonius' List with Julius Caesar as the first emperor but reject #s 7 and 8 mentioned in Rev. 17:11 on the grounds that they are "symbolic numbers."  Commentators in column II use Tacitus' List but ignore the three Emperors who died in AD69 in order to manipulate the list to include Domitian (these are scholars who place a later date on the book of Revelation).  Other commentators who favor a later date begin the list with Nero or count Otho and Vitellius as one in order to extend the list into the period of Trajan (Heads III & IV).  You will notice that on my Chart of Roman Emperors that I counted Galba, Otho, and Vitellius and so did the Roman historians Suetonius and Tacitus, and the Jewish historian Josephus!  I think that to leave them out is manipulating the list.

 

Question:  Given this information would you care to make a guess at dating John's vision and his letters to the 7 churches? 

Answer: My best guess is that John received his vision sometime between the late summer or fall of AD69.  That would make it a little less than a year until the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in July AD70.

 

Revelation 17: 12-14  " 'The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet been given their royal power but will have royal authority only for a single hour and in association with the beast.  They are all of one mind in putting their strength and their powers at the beast's disposal, and they will go to war against the Lamb; but because the Lamb is Lord of lords and King of kings, he will defeat them, he and his followers, the called, the chosen, the trustworthy.'"

 

The number 10 in the Bible, as we have noted, is related to the concept of perfection of order or of numerical fullness.  There may also be a reference to Daniel 7:24.

Question: How are these "kings" associated with the Beast?

Answer: These "kings" in v. 12 are associated with the Beast because they adorn his heads as "crowns," but they are subjected to the Beast because they have authority not through their own power but only from the Beast. Please refer to my chart listing the Roman Provinces where you will see that Rome ruled 10 imperial provinces.  There may also have been 10 governors in the Provinces of Judea-Syria-Perea, etc. who supported the Roman assault on Judea or even 10 legates of the Roman legions.  Whether this number is literal or symbolic really doesn't matter.  Rome's soldiers came from all over the empire and every provincial ruler was responsible for providing the man-power for Rome's legions and for supporting Rome's aims and ambitions. 

           

All the Roman provinces made war on the Lamb and His followers.  We have the accounts of Christians being persecuted with Rome's approval in all parts of the Roman Empire from 64AD to 312AD; until the Church conquered the Roman Empire!  This is a relatively short time in comparison with the history of mankind.

Question:  How are the followers of Christ characterized? 

Answer:  1) the called; 2) the chosen; 3) the trustworthy. There may be a parallel here to the parody of the Beast's name with the name of Yahweh (see Rev. 16:6 and 17:8).  The Beast and his followers are predestined to damnation (Rev. 17:8) and Christ's elect who are predestined for eternal life (17:14).

 

Revelation 17:15-17  "The angel continued, 'The waters you saw, beside which the prostitute was sitting, are all the peoples, the populations, the nations and the languages.  But the ten horns and the beast will turn against the prostitute, and tear off her clothes and leave her stark naked; then they will eat her flesh and burn the remains in the fire.  In fact, God has influenced their minds to do what he intends, to agree together to put their royal powers at the beast's disposal until the time when God's words shall be fulfilled.'"

 

Now John receives the explanation of the waters in 17:1.

Question: What 4 fold designation is given for the waters and what does this designation signify?  See verse 15

Answer: 1.peoples, 2. populations, 3. nations, and 4. languages = the entire world.

 

The truth is Jerusalem and the Jews had great influence in all parts of the Roman Empire before the Rebellion of 66AD.  Their synagogues were in every city and because the Jews were so universally educated they held positions of power and influence.

Question:  Where in the New Testament is the wide influence of the Jews in the Roman world mentioned?  Hint: See the book of Acts of Apostles.

Answer: The discussion of the "Day of Pentecost" in Acts 2:5 tell us that "there were Jews staying in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven."

 

Question:  In the first image the Harlot was enthrone and in cooperation with the Beast but how does that relationship change and is there an historical connection? 

Answer: The Beast attacks the Harlot. In AD66 Judah revolted against Rome and the result was the destruction of Judah/Judea by the armies of the Roman Beast.

 

Question:  How was this action of the Beast/Rome part of God's plan and how in the past did God use another world power in the same way? 

Answer: God used the Roman Empire, as He had used the Assyrian Empire in 722BC to bring judgment on the Northern Kingdom of Israel and He used the Babylonian Empire, to bring judgment on Judah/Judea and Jerusalem in 586(7)BC.  Both the Roman historian, Tacitus, and the Jewish historian, Josephus, record the great animosity which the Arab soldiers in the Roman army felt against the Jews as well as the bitter hatred of the population in Samaria toward the Jews.  There where also wholesale massacres of Jews in many great cities like Alexandria and Damascus just before the outbreak of total rebellion in 66AD.  The entire Jewish population of Caesarea Maritima was massacred in a single day (Josephus). 

 

It is important to realize that the Beast/Satan destroyed Jerusalem as part of his war against Christ. God allowed the angel of the Abyss to come out and attack the Church but Satan was mistaken in thinking that he could destroy the Whore and the Bride at the same time.  That Rome wished to destroy both Judaism and Christianity is evident in the statement of the Roman Christian historian Sulpitius Severus:

            "Titus is said, after calling a council, to have first deliberated whether he should destroy the temple, a structure of such extraordinary work.  For it seemed good to some that a sacred edifice, distinguished above all human achievements, ought not to be destroyed, inasmuch as, if preserved, it would furnish an evidence of Roman moderation, but, if destroyed, would serve for a perpetual proof of Roman cruelty.  But on the opposite side, others and Titus himself thought that the temple ought specially to be overthrown, in order that the religion of the Jews and of the Christians might more thoroughly be subverted; for that these religions, although contrary to each other, had nevertheless proceeded from the same authors; that the Christians had sprung up from among the Jews; and that, if the root were extirpated, the offshoot would speedily perish. The Sacred History of Sulpitius Severus, vol 2, p 111.(Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church). Also supported in reports by Tacitus.

 

Revelation 17: 17 is rather shocking, that God "put this in their minds."  God is not responsible for sin: Psalms 145:17 "Upright in all he does, Yahweh acts only in faithful love.  He is close to all who call upon him, all who call on him from the heart." Nothing happens in spite of Him or in opposition to His purpose in His plan for man.  The whole purpose for the pagan kings' wrath, for their joining in the conspiracy against both the True Bride and the False Bride, and in surrendering their kingdoms to the Beast is that God has put it into their minds to fulfill His purpose "until the time when God's words shall be fulfilled."  God's announcements to his prophets in the Old Testament and to Christ in His judgment on Jerusalem (Matt. 24, etc) and the curses of the Covenant were executed on Israel through the Beast and the 10 horns.  They became the instruments of God's wrath.

 

Revelation 17:18 " 'The woman you saw is the great city which has authority over all the rulers on earth.'"

 

Question:  In what 2 statements is the identity of this city made clear to John? 

Answer: 1) she is "the great city" and she 2)"has authority over all the rulers on earth.

            The woman is now identified for John as "the great city" which we have seen used as a term for Jerusalem "the city where the Lord was crucified" (Rev. 11:8 & 16:9).

            This verse, probably more than any other, has caused confusion in the identity of this city between Rome and Jerusalem.  Proponents for Rome point out that only Rome had this kind of political authority over the know world.

 

Question:  But what kind of authority over all the rulers on earth is really important to God?  What was the promise made to Abraham in this regard and which city truly had that kind of power and why?  Hint: see Genesis 12:3; 22:18; Exodus 19:5; Deut. 7:6 and 10:14-15.

Answer:  The promise made to Abraham in Genesis 22:18 was that "all nations on earth will bless themselves by your descendants.."  A similar promise was made to David in 2 Samuel chapter 7 that Yahweh would make David a "house" = dynasty that would last forever and that David's son should built Yahweh's Temple in Jerusalem. And what is Yahweh's position in the Jerusalem Temple.  Is He only the God of Israel?  Read Psalms 99.  Some important passages are verses 1-2: "Yahweh is king, the peoples tremble; he is enthroned on the winged creatures, the earth shivers; Yahweh is great in Zion.  He is supreme over all nations;verse 9 "Exalt Yahweh our God, bow down at his holy mountain; holy is Yahweh our God!"  With God's presence in Jerusalem, His Holy Mountain, Jerusalem had power over all the nations of the earth. 

 

Rome's power was only political.  Israel and Jerusalem, God's Holy City, had spiritual power and in this regard she did "have authority over all the rulers on earth."  She did possess a Kingdom that was above all the other kingdoms.  She had a covenantal power and authority over the earthly kingdoms because she was a Kingdom of priests of God the great King (Ex. 19:6).  It was her duty in this regard to exercise ministry, guardianship, instruction, and intercession on behalf of all the nations of God's creation.  When Israel was in full communion with God, offering up sacrifices for the nations, the world was at peace; when she broke the Covenant she threw the world into turmoil and chaos (read 1Kings 10:24; Ezra 1:4-7; Romans 2:17-24).  The Jewish historian Josephus repeatedly points out in his histories that the nations of the world had historically recognized the sanctity and important of the Temple in Jerusalem: "This celebrated place....was esteemed holy by all mankind." (The Jewish War, Book 5.1.3; Book 5,9.4; Book 5.12.6).  It is interesting that the action of the Jewish rebels in the summer of 66AD of halting the daily sacrifices for the Roman Emperor, in violation of their agreement with the Roman government, was the single event which finally precipitated the Roman war against the Jews.  And even at the very end, as Roman General Titus prepared to make the final assault on the city, he pleaded with the Jewish priests to offer up the sacrifices to Rome!

 

To be continued: Next week the angel announces the fall of Babylon!  Rev. 18:24 "In her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and all the blood that was ever shed on earth."

A word about the word "Antichrist"

 

The word "antichrist" is not used even once in the Book of Revelation!  But the only sacred writer who uses that word is St. John!  He uses this word in 2 of his Catholic

letters (Epistles I & II). They are:

1.      I John 2:18-23: "Children, this is the final hour; you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and now many antichrists have already come; from this we know that it is the final hour. They have gone from among us, but they never really belonged to us; if they had belonged to us, they would have stayed with us. But this was to prove that not one of them belonged to us.  But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and have all received knowledge.  I have written to you not because you are ignorant of the truth, but because you are well aware of it, and because no lie can come from the truth.  Who is the liar, if not one who claims that Jesus is not the Christ?  This is the Antichrist, who denies both the Father and the Son.  Whoever denies the Son cannot have the Father either; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father too."

 

2.      I John 4:1-3: "My dear friends, not every spirit is to be trusted,

but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets are at large in the world. This is the proof of the spirit of God: any spirit which acknowledges Jesus Christ, come in human nature, is from God, and no spirit which fails to acknowledge Jesus is from God; it is the spirit of antichrist, whose coming you have heard of; he is already at large in the world."

 

3. II John 1:7-10: "There are many deceivers at large in the world, refusing to acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in human nature.  They are the Deceiver; they are the Antichrist.  Watch yourselves, or all our work will be lost and you will forfeit your full reward.  If anybody does not remain in the reaching of Christ but goes beyond it, he does not have God with him: only those who remain in what he taught can have the Father and the Son with them. If anyone comes to you bringing a different doctrine, you must not receive him into your house or even give him a greeting."

 

St. Paul seems to be making a similar reference to a man who is in opposition to God when he uses the term "lawless one" in his first letter to the church at Thessalonica written in the winter of AD 50-51, 20 years before the destruction of the Temple and the Old Covenant in Jerusalem. 1. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12: "About the coming of our Lord, brothers, and our being gathered to him: please do not be too easily thrown into confusion or alarmed by any manifestation of the Spirit or any statement or any letter claiming to come from us, suggesting that the Day of the Lord has already arrived.  Never let anyone deceive you in any way.  It cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place and there has appeared the wicked One, the lost One, the Enemy, who raises himself above every so called God or object of worship to enthrone himself in God's sanctuary and flaunts the claim that he is God.  Surely you remember my telling you about this when I was with you? And you know, too, what is still holding him back from appearing before his appointed time.  The mystery of wickedness is already at work, but let him who is restraining it once be removed, and the wicked One will appear openly.  The Lord will destroy him with the breath of his mouth and will annihilate him with his glorious appearance at his coming.  But the coming of the wicked One will be marked by Satan being at work in all kinds of counterfeit miracles and signs and wonders, and every wicked deception aimed at those who are on the way to destruction because they would not accept the love of the truth and so be saved.  And therefore God sends on them a power that deludes people so that they believe what is false, and so that those who do not believe the truth take their pleasure in wickedness may all be condemned."

 

The "Great Revolt" that Paul prophesized took place in 66AD when Judah-Judea revolted against the Roman Empire.  The Lawless One that Paul is identifying, who was not in authority yet in 50AD must be Nero. The Emperor Claudius married Nero's mother, Colonia Agrippina, in AD49, just the year before Paul wrote his letter.    Agrippina persuaded Claudius to choose Nero, her son by her first marriage, over Britannicus, his son by a former marriage, as his heir and then, in AD 54, she poisoned Claudius so that her son could become Emperor.  Nero ruled from AD54-68 when he was forced to commit suicide.  During his lifetime he insisted that he be worshipped as a god and had built a statue of himself to be worshipped in the Temple in Jerusalem where daily sacrifices were already being offered to him.  The Jews of Judea (Judah) and Jerusalem, the seat of authority of the Old Covenant Church, had rejected Jesus as the Messiah.  Instead in 66AD three different Jewish leaders emerged, each of whom claimed to be the Messiah.  They led Judea into a disastrous revolt against Rome in which the entire country was destroyed, and Jerusalem and the Temple were burned to the ground...Jesus had indeed come in judgment. The destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem fulfilled what Paul or another sacred writer (authorship is disputed....possibly Paul's fellow disciple Barnabas) wrote in Hebrews 9:8 "By this the Holy Spirit means us to see that as long as the old tent stands, the way into the holy place is not opened up; it is a symbol for this present time." The "old tent" is the Temple in Jerusalem, the center of Old Covenant worship.  As long as Old Covenant worship and sacrifice continues the way for the New Covenant to be fully established is not opened.  The Old Temple must be destroyed to make way for the New Covenant to be fully established.

 

Paul's passage in Thessalonians also refers to the prophecy of the Old Testament prophet, Joel, a prophecy that St. Peter quoted in his great homily at Pentecost (in Acts chapter 2) when he warned Jerusalem that the "Day of the Lord" was coming (Acts 2:16-21) and that these were the "Last Days" Joel had prophesized.  And then in verse 40 he tells Jerusalem: "Save yourselves from this perverse generation!"  It is the same statement Jesus made in Matthew 17:17a "Faithless and perverse generation!" and in Matthew 23:36 "In truth I tell you, it will all recoil on this generation." What would recoil on that 1st century generation?  The judgment of God for killing God's prophets and rejecting the Covenant and the Messiah.  When Judea/Jerusalem rejected Christ they rejected the Covenant and became false prophets who denied God had come as a man to redeem mankind.  This is the spirit of Antichrist!

 

St. Augustine believed that before the Second Advent of Christ the spirit of Antichrist would be manifest in a single human being and that tribulation for the Church would increase at that time.  We do not know when Christ is coming to collect His Bride; we only know that He will come.  It is our duty to be obedient to the Covenant, to be faithful and to be ready! Read Matthew 24:37-44 to see what Jesus had to say about His Second Advent.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.