After burning incense in the Temple, a priest would intone God’s verdict in the responses. Again, the complete response is seven-fold, repeating the pattern of earlier parts of Revelation.
List of 7 Judgment Scenes:
1. The Whore of Babylon
2. The angel’s explanation
3. The Fall of Babylon
4. The Escape of the Saints
5. The Lament over the City
6. The Fate of the City
7. The Wedding Feast of the Lamb
1. The Whore of Babylon - Revelation 17:1-6
John is shown a vision of the antichrist, Satan’s power in the world, and the spirit that lies behind all false governments. The images would have had very powerful symbolic meanings.
- Woman/Whore: A woman is often used to represent worldly powers, that of nations other than Israel, or that of Israel when she turns from the Lord. Isaiah 23 refers to Tyre as a prostitute 15…it will happen to Tyre as in the song about the prostitute:
- Wilderness: a place that is in the world but not of the world, somewhere not seen clearly.
- Scarlet Beast: This is the same image as the first beast – false government – in the 7 signs.
- Cup: Reminds the reader of Babylon in Jeremiah 51 7Babylon was a golden cup in the LORD’S hand, making all the earth drunken; the nations drank of her wine, and so the nations went mad.
- Mystery: God and his angels reveal secrets that were once hidden.
- Babylon: In Genesis 11 people built the Tower of Babel, a monument to the pride, ambition and glory of man.
This time the angel explains the images to John, giving specific references that would be understood byJohn and his readers, and general references applicable to later times.
Was and is not: refers to the emperor Nero. Romans believed he would one day would return from the dead.
Seven mountains: was a popular way to refer to Rome
Seven kings: There were seven Roman rulers declared to be “divine”:
- Augustus (at the time of Jesus’ birth),
- Tiberius (Jesus’ ministry),
- Claudius (the famine in Acts 11),
- Nero (dead and expected to rise again),
- Galba and
- Otho (who both had short reigns).
- The beast is both one of the kings, and one who will return – the evil power which dwells in evil powers. Satan’s rule continues through evil human rulers.
- Ten leaders: Ten represents mankind. As Rome’s human rulers serve the beast when John is writing, so will all rulers (those not “chosen and with” God, verse 14) at the end of time.
- Waters: The woman, representing the evil kingdoms, rides on the beast. This suggests human rule trying to control Satan’s power. She rides over the waters, representing the people of the world. But, in the end, the woman can control neither beast nor people.
The next vision is a culmination of the prophetic voice of Israel, filled with Old Testament references.
Isaiah 13 21 But wild animals will lie down there, and its houses will be full of howling creatures; there ostriches will live, and there goat-demons will dance. 22 Hyenas will cry in its towers, and jackals in the pleasant palaces;
Isaiah 34 13 Thorns shall grow over its strongholds, nettles and thistles in its fortresses. It shall be the haunt of jackals, an abode for ostriches. 14 Wildcats shall meet with hyenas, goat-demons shall call to each other;
Jeremiah 50 2 Declare among the nations and proclaim, set up a banner and proclaim, do not conceal it, say: Babylon is taken,
Jeremiah 51 7Babylon was a golden cup in the LORD’S hand, making all the earth drunken; the nations drank of her wine, and so the nations went mad.
Zephaniah 2 (prophesying about Nineveh) 14 Herds shall lie down in it, every wild animal; the desert owl and the screech owlshall lodge on its capitals; the owl shall hoot at the window, the raven croak on the threshold; for its cedar work will be laid bare.
Ezekiel 27 (prophesying about Tyre) lists all the nations that trade and grow rich with Tyre, and follows with, 27Your riches, your wares, your merchandise, your mariners and your pilots, your caulkers, your dealers in merchandise, and all your warriors within you, with all the company that is with you, sink into the heart of the seas on the day of your ruin.
4. The escape of the saints– Revelation 18:4-8
The message in verse 4 to “come out of her” is a message of deliverance, like Lot called out of Sodom, rather than a call to purity.
Jeremiah 50:8 8Flee from Babylon, 51:6 6Flee from the midst of Babylon, save your lives, each of you! Do not perish because of her guilt, for this is the time of the LORD’S vengeance; he is repaying her what is due. 51:9 9 We tried to heal Babylon, but she could not be healed. Forsake her, and let each of us go to our own country; 51:45 45 Come out of her, my people! Save your lives, each of you, from the fierce anger of the LORD!
Isaiah 48:20 20 Go out from Babylon, flee from Chaldea, declare this with a shout of joy, proclaim it, send it forth to the end of the earth; say, “The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob!”
The message has a different flavor from the calls to purity given elsewhere.
Isaiah 52:11 11Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of it, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the LORD.
2 Corinthians 6:17 17 Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean;
5. The Lament over the City– Revelation 18:9-20
The lamenting over the city includes descriptions of the sins for which it is condemned.
13. Note, slaves are included in the lists of cargo – social concerns as well as financial woes.
15. The merchants mourn from far off. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are exempt from punishment; it just describes how they feel about it, as a separate description from their physical suffering.
17. Everything is laid waste “in one hour,” suggesting that God’s judgment when it comes will be quick and final.
20. In the midst of all the mourning is a call to rejoice – only the wicked will mourn. God’s judgment will seem right and just to those He saves, and we truly will no longer be conformed to this world. Romans 12:2 2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
6. The Fate of the City– Revelation 18:21-24
The angels symbolizes the fate of Babylon – of false government - by throwing a stone into the sea.
Jeremiah 52:42 42The sea has risen over Babylon; she has been covered by its tumultuous waves.
Jeremiah 51:25 25I am against you, O destroying mountain, says the LORD, that destroys the whole earth; I will stretch out my hand against you, and roll you down from the crags, and make you a burned-out mountain
Verse 23 references sorcery, reminding readers of the prophesy about Nineveh in Nahum 3:4 4Because of the countless debaucheries of the prostitute, gracefully alluring, mistress of sorcery, who enslaves nations through her debaucheries, and peoples through her sorcery,…
7. The wedding feast– Revelation 19:1-10
The story ends with a vision of heaven again, the “earthquake” having been resolved in the destruction of the city. Heaven is the most important and lasting part of the message. The image is reminiscent of Jesus’ parables of the wedding feast. The bride is prepared for the groom, and the wedding is taking place.
Verse 9 mentions those who are invited to feast. In some way that we cannot yet understand, God chooses us while we ourselves are choosing to follow Him.
In verse 10 John bows down to the angel but is reminded to worship only God. The words used reference the three-fold God and are amongst the earliest recorded references to the Trinity: Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Father, Son and Spirit.
God’s response to his fallen creation has now been pronounced, from condemnation to destruction to the joy of the wedding feast. Next comes the response of God’s people in the form of great rejoicing and scenes of Victory.