Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Understanding the Book of Revelation: The Woman on the Beast

                When reading chapters 17 and 18 we need to keep in mind that John is talking about the city of Rome. A harlot, or prostitute, has no husband. God never had a true relationship with the city of Rome. Rome has a sinful relationship with the leaders of the earth so she can make a profit. Rome, at one point, had conquered many nations and geographically extended over a large area of the globe. Rome was very immoral. The emperors were forcing people to bow down to them and worship them. The emperor lived extravagantly as did most of Rome and huge quantities of luxurious items and slaves were imported into Rome, hence the mourning over her doom by the merchants and ship masters who had lost their trade. By then there was great immorality within Rome and this had spread to surrounding provinces, for example, Corinth. The letters to the Corinthians were written to correct many of the problems this involved. We find in Revelation the woman Jezebel is given as an example of this within the church at Thyatira. Rome also persecuted the saints which is mentioned in this chapter; remember that John was on Patmos for his faith. However there is a deeper meaning because John is using the general term Babylon and not specifically Rome so it does not just apply to those times but extends forward in time to cover all future ungodly empires of which the Roman is his current example, but reaching its climax with the empire of the Antichrist.

  • In considering the identity of the woman the following points need to be considered:
  • She is described as the prostitute who is to be contrasted with the bride (the church).
  • Babylon the earthly city is to be contrasted to the heavenly city, the new Jerusalem.
  • The great city is described figuratively as 'Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified' (11:8).
  • She sits on many waters which are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.
  • She is to be distinguished from the beast upon whom she sits and who destroys her.
  • She is the city of power, excessive luxury and great wealth.
  • She persecuted the saints.
  • She rules over the kings of the earth.
  • She is associated with music, trade, farming, marriage, merchants and persecution.
  • With her the kings of the earth commit adultery and the inhabitants are intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries
  • In view of the emphasis of the book that only God is to be worshiped she should be viewed as the temptress who tempts men away from God.

In verse 2, the adultery committed is when the leaders and peoples of the world give in to their sinful lusts and desires. The beast that the woman rides on is scarlet, which is a deep red. The Antichrist and Satan will be one in appearance. Since the woman rides the beast, this indicates that Rome has a close relationship with the enemy. The Babylon is not only Rome, but those influenced by her and who followed her laws. Purple and scarlet were expensive cloths and would only be worn by the rich. Gold, precious stones, and pearls are also expensive and only the wealthy would have access to them. Rome was very rich due to its fornication, selfishness, and ungodly relationships. This also signifies that Rome is not built in a solid way like the New Jerusalem. With Rome, it’s all about outward display and ornamentation. 

The Golden Cup

                Then we see that she holds a golden cup. In verse 2 we found that 'the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries' now we see the gold cup in her hand from which the people drank which was 'filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries'. The woman has the allure of being attractive but her golden cup is full of filth, Jeremiah 51:7. The gold cup looks attractive from the outside and succeeds in enticing men away from God, who thereby become filthy. John is describing the spirit of the world and 'all that glitters'. He sees her as God sees her, as she really is. The world and its allure are described by John in 1 John 2:16 'For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world'. Some also point out that purple and scarlet is the ecclesiastical dress of the Roman Church, which on occasions also involves glittering jewel and of course the gold cup. The ecclesiastical side to the whore is also found in verse 6 where she is drunk with the blood of the saints. In her hand is a golden cup, another symbol of luxury and wealth, from which one would expect a pure and delightful drink. Although Babylon offers the cup to the world, in turn she becomes a golden cup in the hand of God to madden the nations (Jeremiah 51:7). She holds in her hand the cup of her own self-destruction as the consequences of her sins are turned back upon her.


                In verse 5 we see the title that this woman carries. The name 'Babylon' is the Greek form of the Hebrew Babel, which is derived from the Hebrew balal, 'to confuse', which produced the noun Balbel, which evolved so that the first l was assimilated into the second (Genesis 11:9). The Greeks typically added endings on names, so they changed it to Babylon. Babylon was built on the site of Babel; they wanted to build a city with a tower, Genesis 11:4, the tower represents man’s religion of self-effort. It also represents the union of politics and religion. Babylon means 'the city of confusion'. When the languages of people of Babel were confused all their wickedness was spread around the world so that all her religions and idolatry were also spread around the world. In being called mother it indicates that she has caused others to slip and fall and become ungodly.

                The woman is drunk with the blood of the saints because the saints didn’t approve of her fornication. The Romans held “games” at the Coliseum where saints would be tormented and killed, their blood staining the dirt. The saints are martyrs who lived a holy life for God unto death, separated and sanctified. The witnesses are those who are a living testimony of Jesus and faithful until death. 

The Beast

                The beast that the woman rides is the Antichrist. It was once because Caesar Nero was alive before John wrote this but is dead by the time Revelation is written. His spirit is about to come out of the abyss to reign in the slain and resuscitated body. He will perish and be sent to the lake of fire. If one has wisdom, we can know who the prostitute represents. Here, seven heads represents seven hills on which the woman sits. Rome was a city built on seven hills:

-          Esquiline: The Esquiline was the largest of the 7 hills of Rome. Its claim to fame comes from the Roman emperor Nero who built his domus aurea 'golden house' upon it. Before the Empire, the eastern end of the Esquiline was used for dumping refuse and the puticuli (burial pits) of the poor. Carcasses of criminals executed by the Esquiline gate were left to the birds. Burial was forbidden within the city proper, but the burial area of the Esquiline was outside the city walls. For health reasons, Augustus, the first Roman emperor, had the burial pits covered over with soil to create a park called the Horti Maecenatis 'Gardens of Maecenas'.The Colossus, Temple of Claudius, and Baths of Trajan were all located on the Esquiline.
-          Palatine: The Palatine hill was the central hill of Rome. It was about 25 acres and the residence of Augustus (and Tiberius, and Domitian), the Temple of Apollo and temples of Victory and the Great Mother are there.
-          Aventine: The Aventine Hill became the home of the plebeians. It was separated from the Palatine by the Circus Maximus. On the Aventine were temples to Diana, Ceres, and Libera. The Armilustrium was there, too. It was used to purify arms used in battle at the end of the military season. Another significant place on the Aventine was Asinius Pollio's library.
-          Capitoline: The Capitoline Hill has the least amount of area. When the Gauls attacked Rome, the Capitoline did not fall because of the geese who gave warning. The temple of Juno Moneta, possibly named moneta for the warning of the geese, is also on the Capitoline. This is where coins were minted, providing the etymology for the word "money". The assassins of Caesar locked themselves in the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter after the murder. Criminals were dropped from the hill onto the Tarpeian crags below.
-          Quirinal: The most northern of the seven hills, the Quirinal hill is where the second king of Rome, Numa, lived.
-          Viminal: A small, unimportant hill, with few monuments. Caracalla's temple of Serapis was on it. To the northeast of the Viminal were the thermae Diocletiani, Baths of Diocletian, whose ruins were re-used by churches (now the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli and the Museo Nazionale Romano) after the baths became unusable when the Goths cut the aqueducts in A.D. 537.
-          Caelian: This is the most south-eastern hill. During the Republic, the Caelian was densely populated. After a fire in A.D. 27, the Caelian became home to Rome's wealthy.
                The seven kings are seven Caesars. Five have “fallen” indicates unnatural death. The first five were Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius. The one who is was Nero and the one not yet to come who will only reign a short time is Galba. Galba only reigned for seven months. Nero will animate the eight king which is the Antichrist.

                Verse 12 tells us about ten kings who will rise up in power in the revived Roman Empire before the Great Tribulation. They will be one with the Antichrist in opposing God and persecuting His people. The war mentioned in verse 14 is the war at Armageddon. The ten kings and the Antichrist will leave the city of Rome poor, kill the citizens, and completely annihilate the city. It’s God’s will for this to happen. 


  1. God bless you as you continue to write about His Word. The Book of Revelations is truly a challenge.