Revelation Alive © 1992 by Stephen W. Griffith – revised 2007 – All quotes refer to this commentary, are indented and used extensively.
God will not allow mankind to come together in true unity apart from Him. “Babel” (Gen. 10) means confusion and mankind has been and will be confused as they try to solve the world’s problems (the sin problem) without the Sinbearer Jesus Christ. False unity and false religions began thousands of years ago in Babylon with Nimrod (Gen. 10-11) and will continue to the end when once again man tries to unite against the One true God. Revelation 17 shows their end. Steve Griffith’s phrase “Apostate Christendom” includes unsaved nominal “Christians” and all false religions – meaning all religions which reject the free gift of salvation received through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. So our mission field includes people within the walls of our own churches, Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, and all religious groups in our midst and across the seas along with professed atheists. The gospel must be our primary ministry for it alone has the power of God to save and change a life both now and forever. (See Romans 1:16-17; Matt. 28:18-20)
17:3-6- “The indictment against Apostate Christendom: As his End-Times vision continues John is pictured as being carried out into a wilderness by the angel. (Note: The language of Revelation 17:1-3 parallels—but differs sharply from—the language of Revelation 21:9-10). Once in this wilderness John sees a woman sitting on a scarlet beast—a beast full of blasphemous names and having seven heads and ten horns. We have just concluded that the woman—the great harlot—represents Apostate Christendom. Furthermore, we have seen previously that the beast having seven heads and ten horns depicts the Antichrist and the core of his Empire (“ten horns”) (Rev. 13:2-10). Thus, when John sees Apostate Christendom (“a woman”) riding atop (“sitting on”) the Antichrist and his Empire ("the scarlet beast"), he sees a picture of a powerful and influential "Christian" religious system pridefully believing that it can usher in a new era of moral, ethical, and political advance—a type of Christian “kingdom on earth” if you will—within the structure of the Antichrist's Empire. Its message will be a social and political gospel rather than the spiritual Gospel of Jesus Christ, and its ultimate objective will conflict with the clear teaching of the Lord, who said, "My Kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).”
“As John continues he gives us a more detailed description of the woman (Apostate Christendom)—and the four-fold indictment against her. First, we see the external pomp of the woman: she is clothed in purple and scarlet, and is adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls. Thus, Apostate Christendom has an outward form of righteousness, piety, and pomp—but is devoid of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). Says Walvoord: “The description of the woman as arrayed in purple and scarlet and decked with gold, precious stones, and pearls is all too familiar to one acquainted with the trappings of ecclesiastical pomp today and especially of high officials in the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches.” Second, we see the internal hypocrisy of the woman: she has in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and the unclean things of her immorality: Though impressive and pious on the outside, Apostate Christendom is spiritually bankrupt on the inside ("full of abominations and the unclean things of her immorality"). Not only is Apostate Christendom—the institution—spiritually bankrupt on the inside, but so are the hearts of the professing “Christians” who, collectively, make up Apostate Christendom.”
“Third, we see the spiritual blindness of the woman: upon her forehead a name was written, a mystery, "Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth." Throughout the book of Revelation the name written (figuratively) upon a person's forehead signifies that person's allegiance or owner. Consequently, just as true Christians are depicted in Revelation as having the name of Jesus written upon their foreheads (indicating their ownership by, and allegiance to, Jesus Christ), Apostate Christendom is depicted as having the name “Babylon the Great” written upon her forehead. The expression, "Babylon the Great," points all the way back to man's rebellion against God at Babel, one hundred years after the Genesis Flood (Gen. 11:1-9) and pictures the end-times Harlot’s seduction by, and naïve acceptance of, the false religion of ancient Babel and Nimrod's Babylon—rather than a steadfast faith in Jesus Christ and a whole-hearted embracing of the foundational truths of Christianity. Points out Morris: “Not only has the original Babylonian religious system served as the source of all the world's non-Christian religions (thus called the Mother of Harlots) but it has also infiltrated and corrupted Christendom to an alarming degree.” In short, certain teachings of the Harlot during the Tribulation will sound more like Eastern mysticism than Biblical Christianity. Moreover, because “Babylon the Great” is also Revelation’s name for the Antichrist’s Empire (Rev. 18:2,10,21), it is clear that the Harlot gives her allegiance to the Antichrist’s Empire rather than Christ. Her true motivation is a desire to influence the ethical and political climate of the Antichrist’s Empire rather than a desire to see regeneration of the individual soul.”
“Fourth, we see the moral depravity of the woman: she is drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. As this four-fold indictment closes, John's vision reveals the magnitude and gravity of Apostate Christendom's spiritual bankruptcy. Although professing to be "Christian," Apostate Christendom has in fact murdered ("drunk with the blood") born-again Christians ("the saints" and "the witnesses of Jesus") in the past—and will do so mercilessly in the future during the Tribulation period (until she meets her own demise at the hands of the Antichrist). Because the Harlot is a murderer, we can be sure that Apostate Christendom has been sown by Satan (John 8:14; Matt. 13:36-43; Luke 6:43-44), not Jesus Christ.”
17:7-13 – “The Location of the Harlot’s Headquarters and the Ancestry of the Antichrist’s World Empire. When John sees the woman, he wonders greatly (“the angel said to me, 'Why do you wonder?’”). John becomes momentarily confused by what he has just seen, because John—having only a first century perspective in which the simplicity of the Gospel and the informal gatherings of Christians (typically in homes) prevailed—has difficulty comprehending both the enormity of, and the paradoxes within, the twenty-first century Apostate Christendom he has just witnessed. The angel then tells John that he will explain to him the mystery (i.e., the meaning) of the woman and of the beast carrying her. Usually a “mystery” in Scripture is something which God has kept unknown in the past, but which He is now going to reveal. In this case the symbolism of the woman and the beast carrying her is going to be revealed to the mind which has wisdom. Therefore, the mystery will be revealed only to believers—because believers alone have the mind of Christ (II Cor. 2:6-16). The angel then proceeds to reveal to John the meaning of the mystery.”
“According to the angel the term "seven heads" has a dual meaning. First, the "seven heads" are seven mountains on which the woman sits. The "woman" (as we have just seen) is Apostate Christendom. Therefore, the "seven mountains on which the woman sits" represents the geographic core (or headquarters) of Apostate Christendom because the woman is pictured as sitting on (i.e., residing in or inhabiting) the seven mountains. John Walvoord and other commentators believe this refers to Rome ( the city of seven hills). Second, the "seven heads" are also seven kings: five have fallen, one is, the other has yet to come. And when he comes, he must remain a little while. The "seven heads," therefore, also represent seven historical kings (and empires). Five of these kings/empires have fallen: the kings/empires of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. One king still is (as of 95 A.D. when John received these visions)—the king of the Roman Empire during John's writing. One king has not yet come—the king of the revived Roman Empire. The expression “he must remain a little while” refers to the seven-year reign of the Antichrist during the Tribulation. Because this passage goes on to say that the beast is one of the seven and is himself also an eighth, we can conclude the following: The beast is a literal king and in fact is the Antichrist; the Antichrist will be the king over the revived Roman Empire and, in effect, will be one of the seven kings—i.e., the "seventh" king when, during the first three-and-one-half years of the Tribulation, he appears to be a "man of peace." However, when he enters the Jerusalem Temple to declare himself to be God, he in effect becomes the "eighth" king who eventually goes to destruction. Thus, the Antichrist is both the seventh and the eighth kings. The seventh appears at first to be a man of peace (Rev. 6:1,2); but the eighth becomes a king of destruction who, during the second half of the seven-year Tribulation period, reigns over a Godless Empire and exterminates, or leads to the death of, one-half of the earth's population.” Finally, we also see that the ten horns are ten kings who, in 95 A.D., had not as yet received their kingdoms but who, in the End-Times, will be heads-of-state of their ten respective nations and who will receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. The phrase "one hour" represents the seven-year Tribulation—the time during which the ten kings will be heads-of-state. These ten heads-of-state, however, will be mere puppets of the Antichrist because they have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast. (Alternatively, the phrase "one hour" represents the first three and one-half years of the Tribulation period, the time during which the Antichrist is given authority over the earth. Because Daniel 7:24 states that the Antichrist will at some point during the Tribulation "subdue" three of the ten End-Times kings and because this "subduing" seems to best fit into treachery and bloodshed of the second half of the Tribulation, the "one hour" of authority granted to all ten kings would be limited to the length of time—three and one-half years—before the three are double-crossed.) The solution to the mystery, then, is that (1) the woman is Rome-based Apostate Christendom and (2) the beast carrying her is the Antichrist’s Empire (led by the seventh king (and then the eighth king the Antichrist) who is yet to come and by the ten heads-of-state who will be subservient to the Antichrist).
QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION AND QUESTIONS FROM STEVE GRIFFITH’S COMMENTARY
1) What is your main take away from today's message and table discussion and how can you apply it to your life this week?
2) According to v.6, what is the indictment against the apostate church?
3) Rev. 17:8 states of the beast’s empire “that it was and is not and will come.” Based on the history of the Roman Empire, what do you think this verse might mean?
4) Who are the ten kings mentioned in v.12-13, and to whom do they give their allegiance?
5) How can you individually and we as a group share the gospel with more people as the Lord’s return draws nearer? (See 2 Pet. 3)