Revelation 17: Babylon the Great, Mother of Whores!

When an event like the tragedy in Newtown, CT takes places, it is common that in the news the same event is replayed from lots of different perspectives.  That is the best way to view this section of Revelation as well.  Rather than understanding chapters 16-19 chronologically, we are seeing the same fall of Rome from several viewpoints.


Today, John sees Rome (code-named Babylon) pictured as a gaudy, drunken prostitute riding on a red, seven-headed, ten-horned beast.  She is drunk on the “blood of God’s holy people” (17:6).  Rome is pictured here as a power-drunk manipulator of the nations, offering base pleasure, riding on the beast of brute power.  So pictured, we can all think of many such prostitutes throughout the ages.  Interestingly, when we talk about two powers — political, cultural, or economic — joining forces in order to increase their market share, we say they are “in bed” with each other.

The description of the beast is quite detailed.  In what is clearly an inferior parody of the Lamb, the Beast is described this way:

. . . when they see the monster that was and is not and is to come. (17:8)

The seven heads symbolize both seven hills (just like Rome was built on) and seven emperors of Rome, much as they did on the seven-headed beast in Romans 13.  The most salient point regarding the heads/emperors of the beast is that there will soon come an eighth head/emperor who “is also one of the seven” (17:11).  This strange statement is best understood as a reference to the soon-to-ascend destructive Domitian, who will be like Nero returning from the dead.  The ten horns are foreign puppet-kings that join the prostitute in her persecution of the Lamb.

In a strange twist of events, as the chapter ends the ten horns and the beast turn against the prostitute, destroying her with fire and eating her flesh.  These ten kings will eventually revolt and overtake Rome.  The prostitute discovers what many have found throughout the ages: “every revolutionary power contains within itself the seed of destruction” (Mounce, Revelation, 320 quoting Lilje).  In opening the door of alliance, Rome also opened the door to defeat.  Power attracts, but them it corrupts and turns people against each other.  Power is Rome’s downfall.

John adds one more point that would have been most important to the first recipients of this book:

God has put it into their hearts to do his will. (17:17)

With all this talk of Satan, it would be easy to think dualistically as if God and Satan are fighting each other with near equal power, heading towards an uncertain end.  John remind us all that God is sovereign and all that is done comes by His hand.  God is ultimately responsible for Rome’s fall.

What did you notice today?

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13 thoughts on “Revelation 17: Babylon the Great, Mother of Whores!

  1. I am surprised at the surety with which you write that the “Babylon the Great” referenced in Revelation is Rome. From what do you deduce this?
    I have long suspected that the Babylon described may not be the geographical one of history, but my spirit twinges with the fearful suspicion that New York fits the description better than any other modern day city of which I know, with maybe Hong Kong or Tokyo as other possibilities. Still with its financial and cultural center of the world as it is, New York still seems to fit the bill, although I hate to consider it as such.

    • I definitely do think that you could make passages like these apply to New York or Washington or Tokyo or Paris or any great city in which turning a buck at the cost of justice and compassion and where power is flexed so as to intimidate and control is prevalent. That is the way prophecy becomes timeless.

      But I would resist any interpretation of biblical prophecy that pulls the intended object of discussion out of the immediate context of the writer and audience. That defies logic. It doesn’t seem wise to say John was talking about a city that did not even exist and would not for 1600 more years to people who had no connection to such a place either. They would not have known what to do with this text they were reading. That is why I general discount any version of latter-day prophecy that limits its interpretations to modern-day scenarios. There is also a great amount of egocentrism in such an approach. It is like we are saying our world is more important that one John and the Christians of Asia Minor were living in, we are more important.

      Everything in Revelation points to Rome being what the original readers would think of when they read John’s book. Now, can we apply it to life in America or anywhere else? Sure. But I would recommend we be a bit smarter about it than Pat Robertson.

  2. Shalom
    I also want to ask you and all your christian friends a simple question.
    I f as you all have been taught by Paul that Yahshua was a sacrifice for you and not a murder, if his sacrifice somehow gave you all perfect forgiveness then how could you possibly be punished for keeping the true Torah???
    If you are already forgiven how could you be punished?
    What laws do you follow, what is the blue print of your salvation?

    How can you just believe, would that not be an awful lot like santa, just because someone believes in santa does that make him real. I understand from my heart that this is what you have all been taught but it is simply not supported by Yah’s and Yahshua’s teachings.
    How is it possible for my brother to be murdered by a bunch of sinners and then one comes along and teaches a totally different teaching than what was taught for Yahshua’s whole life.

    Why did Yahshua keep the laws of Israel( no I do not mean the Jewish laws which is what he came to throw out).
    Why did Yahshua only come for the lost sheep of Israel?

    Why did Yahweh say over and over again that we must obey Yah Torah in order to live?

    Why did Yahshua tell you that he would not recognize all who practice Lawlessness?

    What do you consider Lawlessness(no Torah) to be?

    Who said we could change Yah’s Sabbath?
    Who said the laws were nailed to the cross?

    If someone did come along after Yahshua and use the filthy gentiles to make a new religion should we be part of it, gentiles are un believers, Pagans and they still are. Gentiles are people who will never stop sinning and are not of Yah.

    Anyone like myself who has the teaching both old and new, Moshe and Yahshua and obeys with all they have has had the spirit placed into their heart so there is no way they could turn back and myself I know as Yah warned us Ezekiel 18 and many other places, if I turned back I would be worse off than before.

    I have asked this many times, and I ask again, how can anyone believe Paul , he had no true witness to his conversion, he did not repent, he did not teach Torah(he changed it), he cursed instead of blessed, he wished that people who get circimcised would just cut it all off, he lied and embelllished, he loved to brag up a storm and be the head of all attention, he claimed he was the only teacher they needed, he said he gained nothing from the apostles as his info all came from his Jesus in secret and no one could question him. He put down Peter and James and called them so called super apostles. Paul was self proclaimed and was sent to test whether we who are true Yisra’el would follow Yahshua or him, see Deuteronomy 13 for Yah’s word on this, Yah tests the people to see what choice they will make in order to sift out the tares from the wheat.
    All this time they have been waiting for some anti messiah to come along when he was there right after Yahshua and he had a short time to purvey his story. As in all testing there must be 2 choices, evil and good right. All the people who choose to keep sinning and will not even try are children of deceit. They try to blame Ha Satan for making them sin, no this is wrong! We are the ones who can just say no to sin but how would a christian ever know, they are taught not to even try. I was told that if I keep the law I will be punished as a sinner, does this sound even remotely appropriate or does it sound like someone dieing and trying to drag everyone else down into their delusion with them?
    I am sharing this because I must and I know that Yahshua said they did not listen to the Father or him, but I still must say what I am taught by my master or I would be like the one who hid the truth and just waited for Yah to come on the day of judgement.

    Do christians really think they can mock people like me for living a Torah bound life and still be forgiven, that is insanity.
    But you know what my GOD is most merciful and says it is never to late to REPENT and turn back 180 degrees to what was originally taught before the great man of sin came.
    You can try all you want to argue but their is no way you can pin christianities teaching to my brother Yahshua. Paul is the one and only who taught it then and his lies have come back to life even worse in these times. The love of the world has waxed cold with greed and murder and they seem to hate GOD. They have all made up their own versions of God and some even call my brother Yahshua God, even after he said he was not. Christianity cannot be supported by Yahshua’s teaching, no you can only support it through the other than Messiah Paul’s teachings. Paul admits he was a liar and murderer from the beginning and this is why he was chosen. Paul also knew that after he had his stroke in the desert he had no choice, he would never be accepted back by the Pharisee’s so he ended up in the only place he could go , his new religion for the pagans which he took to rome and it is still there.
    All of Christianities teachings are blasphemy, I am not saying the people who have been duped are all bad but they have a choice to make and it is theirs alone what they choose. Most christians will not talk to me, not even the messianics because they still must use Paul so they do not really have to try.
    It is ok all of you while you are still alive have the same opportunity to come to Peace with Yahweh and realize Yah is GOF the Father and Yahshua is the chosen who came and taught me even though he knew they were going to hurt and murder and betray him. You see he sacrificed his life to teach us the old way which had been lost due to their false teachings and traditions at the time, this was the way we must learn, all that came after was lies.
    Why does Paul have such importance did Yahshua forget to teach us the right way while he was here so they had to round up Paul to finish off. Or did Yahshua complete his mission seeding the wheat and then Paul came to seed the tares.
    Stop waiting for some evil anti christ monster and realize He has been with you the whole time in your churches and running your belief along with all the wolves who have known what I know but stood by and rather loved the power over the sheep.
    All of us who are the true lost sheep of Yisra’El whom Yahshua came for know this truth and I want the rest of the world to hear. I am begging don’t you see what has happened christianity is empty and void, there is not instruction, faith without works of Torah is death!

    I know you will probably stop talking to me again because of this but I am your eldest son and I am truth filled. I will stand even though the world would rather me die and shut up, evil shall not prevail, Yah has given his word and I know somehow people will hear this wonderful truth and wake up!
    Peace unto all of you and may you see the truth before it is to late.

    Especially after this deathly holiday where we teach our children lies about santa, do you not think this helps them to not believe in Yah also, they grow up with these lies and find out it is not true and it is even easier for them to be lied away from truth. There should be one belief not 37,000.
    Jason The truth is hear and can be in your hearts there is no need to join any man made religion, we just must live by Torah every day and blessing will come but not if no one ever does then we remain in a perpetual curse.

    • Interesting. In your mind, how good does a person have to be to be saved by law observance?

      • In my practice I must keep the commands period, not the jewish talmud, but the ones written by Moshe in Deuteronomy the book of the Torah,everyone seems to think this is to hard , it is while you are in repentence and washing away the filth, you must use all your strength to overcome. Sometimes you think you are done but then something happens and you realize that you were still in the wrong but then Yah shows you and if you stay with it you overcome. This is what yahshua taught me, it seems complicated when you look at it from a jewish law view but when you realize Yah gave us his word and stated ” do not add to or subtract from these and you will live. He adds it to your new heart renewed by the true covenant. We were tricked into never even trying and being told we were sinners for even doing so, how can it be , was Yah lying the whole time? This is why we need roots so we can grow in truth as the seed which brings forth fruit. I understand it is difficult because the easy way of empty uncontrolled belief is easier than admitting we are to blame and that Yah has seen and heard every sin you have ever committed, even the terrible ones you would rather not remember, yes we are all sinners bu there is a way to stop! With Torah we have true instruction which can be followed and measured in progress, you know when the sin which you followed leaves you and you just don;t do it ever again and as well the fear of re sinning and the awful punishment should be enough to convince you to never turn back Ezekiel 18 and many other places taught this all along right from Moshe to Yahshua and then it was stolen away by a lie! Without Torah we make up things we should try to quit doing and we then make up what sin is to us, instead of listening to the Torah which shows us exactly how to live and treat our brothers. Our world is now very corrupt and their is no truth in religion to be found. We must take on the offer of obedience like Yahshua and persevere to the end to be with our Brother with the sheep or we can goto judgement with the goats.

        • It seems to me that you misunderstand Christian theology (and Paul, at whose feet you place a lot of Christian belief). No genuine Christian would use grace as an excuse for sin. Paul himself argued that such should never take place (Romans 6:1). Genuine Christians understand that we have a law to keep: the law of love which calls us to love God and others will all we possess. Like good Jewish teachers, all Jesus and Paul were doing was restoring a submission to God that was very much anchored in a correct understanding of the law. As I think you said, Jesus said he did not come to get rid of the law, but to “fulfill” it, that is show us what it was all about. Unlike what you claimed, Paul did not say the law was done away with and nailed to the cross. He said the guilt that comes from not being able to keep the law perfectly is nailed to the cross.

          And right there is the point where your views and Christian views make a significant departure. Your conception of God seems to be that all he wants is for you to try. The Christian God has a higher standard. He calls us to perfection. That is utter holiness. The Christian God is so holy that he demands the best, not just an effort. Of course, any genuine Christian knows he cannot attain that goal. That is why true grace is needed. That same perfect God took human form and came to this earth to do at least these two things: 1) show how best to live life, which meant to live perfectly, with utter holiness, accordance to the basic principles of the law of love, which is what the law of Moses was all about; 2) to pay for the sins that all humans have committed because of our basic incapability to attain perfection. What an incredible God who takes sin so seriously that he dies to maintain his justice and holiness, yet also loves so much that he does not leave humans alone to work out their own problems!

          Bottomline: Genuine Christians know that we cannot be good enough, long enough to be able to live with a holy God again. So we hang on to grace unlike any other religion in the world. Genuine Christians also know that grace is no excuse for sin, rather it is a motivation to get serious about virtuous living. We do our best, knowing our best is never good enough.

          • Do you genuine Christians keep the sabbath? How do you know what sin really is? Show me before Paul anywhere that it says human sacrifice is not an abomination in Yah’s eyes.
            Besides You are Christian and I am Yisra”El and Yah gave this below for me, so it is ok maybe we are different after all As Deuteronomy says someday Yisra’Elites like me shall wake up in the land of the gentiles and will realize what happened. We have been hidden away for a long time but there shall be some who will wake up but we will be hatted by your religion for obedience to our Father. You think my brother Yahshua was your God, how can this be, it can be because Yahshua was murdered and another came after and taught this fantastic lie. Either you keep Torah or don’t it is simple.
            Do you keep the Laws of GOD or not in Christian life, how do you know when you are offending Yah if not? Yahshua will say he did not know you who practice lawlessness- what does this say to you. How can you keep a law of love if first you do not know what the One who created love wants from you.

            Christianity calls My Father a liar see below, according to christian belief he must have been lying the whole time, right through all the so called OT, there is no OT BECAUSE their is no NT as the gospel goes along with the same you call OT. Paul is the only new testament!

            Deuteronomy 30:30 “In the future, when you experience all these blessings and curses I have listed for you, and when you are living among the nations to which the Lord your God has exiled you, take to heart all these instructions. 2 If at that time you and your children return to the Lord your God, and if you obey with all your heart and all your soul all the commands I have given you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes. He will have mercy on you and gather you back from all the nations where he has scattered you. 4 Even though you are banished to the ends of the earth, the Lord your God will gather you from there and bring you back again. 5 The Lord your God will return you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will possess that land again. Then he will make you even more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors!

            6 “The Lord your God will change your heart[a] and the hearts of all your descendants, so that you will love him with all your heart and soul and so you may live! 7 The Lord your God will inflict all these curses on your enemies and on those who hate and persecute you. 8 Then you will again obey the Lord and keep all his commands that I am giving you today.

            9 “The Lord your God will then make you successful in everything you do. He will give you many children and numerous livestock, and he will cause your fields to produce abundant harvests, for the Lord will again delight in being good to you as he was to your ancestors. 10 The Lord your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.
            The Choice of Life or Death

            11 “This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand, and it is not beyond your reach. 12 It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ 13 It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ 14 No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.

            • I don’t really see this discussion going anywhere. I fear you have sought me out for a little mental sparing and nothing more. Sorry too much to do for that. Good luck trying to get right with God by your own righteousness. I sincerely hope when you get to the end of your own abilities you will acknowledge the righteousness of God through Jesus Christ.

            • Shalom,
              Thank you for your time. I am not into sparring, I am into truth and saving souls! As the prophets of old tried to do, I convey true Torah obedience. You should have a look at Jeremiah for instance and there you will see they said the same”no use in following Yah’s laws. Yahshua said also we must not love this world and when we see the truth it should turn our rejoicing into shame and sorrow as we see what we have really done to Yah. Take care and I pray that Yah will open your heart so that some day you may enjoy his love because of your obedience. I also want to say that the world should really examine why they made Paul their teacher? What does he have on us that he is the teacher and not the SENT ONE OF YAH!
              All I can do is warn people of their grave mistake of following the Anti Christ which means instead of Mashiach!

    • Question is,” What is the True Torah?”. Do you truly believe that it took God six days to create? It isn’t human. It doesn’t work or rest. It is timeless. We cannot measure It or none of its phenomena. It isn’t natural, It is phenomenal. People use to worship God several times a day in the past. Today we wait for Sabbath, then we go about our businesses instead of God’s the rest of the week.

  3. Steven

    Hi all,

    I have always heard teachings that Rome is Mystery, Babylon. in the past. One day I was curious, not really doubting these men were correct, I decided to take each phrase in Revelation 18 and plug it into the search in Biblegateway. To my surprise, each phrase was found in the Old Testament. The shocking thing? The phrases were not related to prophesy about Rome at all. They were very clearly prophesies about the city Jerusalem.

    Floored me to say the least. One by one, phrase by phrase….my mind popped open! Then, I went searching the internet to see if anyone else had found this same thing. I found a most excellent bible study, very honestly researched and presented by Chris White. His teaching is called “Mystery Babylon Study” and I found it in parts on Youtube, but he gives a link to a site where it can be seen in total.

    I really enjoyed it, he goes rather quickly over the material and one must pause often to look at each scripture to ensure what he is saying is correct. I hope you enjoy it too.

    • Thanks, Steven, for the recommendation.

      There have always been some who suggest that Babylon is Jerusalem. A case can made for it, but it does not seem to be to be a good one. Jerusalem is not a problem for the Seven Churches of Asia. Rome is the problem. Clear as day.

      And I am afraid the way you cross referenced phrases, while nice use of tools, is not the soundest interpretive approach. New Testament authors often borrowed theological language from the past and packed those phrases with new language. Much of Revelation is exactly that, language and images borrowed from Jewish history in the Old Testament reapplied to the new circumstances of persecuted Christians in the Roman Empire. To say that the same object of 400+ old language must apply today is not the best conclusion. That is like saying when a Tea Party-er says “Give me liberty or give me death” he was referring to Britain.

      Hold firmly to original historical contexts, and you will rarely go wrong.

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