17:1-5 THE GREAT HARLOT
“And one of the seven angels which had the seven bowls, came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot that sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been 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 colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead was a name was written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (Revelation 17:1-5).
This chapter is a continuation of the previous verses in chapter 16 which introduced the judgment of Babylon. Now one of the angels who had poured out the seven last plagues comes to John and offers to show him the details of the judgment of “the great harlot who sits on many waters.” This phrase links end-time Babylon with ancient Babylon, the great oppressor of God’s people and the destroyer of Jerusalem: the prophet Jeremiah refered to her as “you who dwell by many waters” (Jeremiah 51:13).
The end-time symbolic meaning of the waters, explains the angel of Revelation 17, “are peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues” (v. 15). This means that the Babylon of Revelation 17 is of a much larger, international scope than ancient Babylon of Jeremiah 51, but they have much in common. For example, the harlot holds a “golden cup full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication…and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication”. Ancient Babylon also “was a golden cup...that made all the earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore the nations are deranged” (Jeremiah 51:7). The harlot sitting on the scarlet beast is the end-time, world-wide version of the great enemy that has been rebelling against God and warring against his people through the ages. This final manifestation of Babylon has not yet fully developed, and therefore there are some details that will only become obvious when the future arrives. But a review of the history of Babylon through the ages helps to give an idea of what to expect.