The Beautiful Side of Evil
Revelation 17:1-6a Lesson 54
Happy October to everybody, can you believe that? Wow! Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 17, as time allows it we’re going to try to look at verses 1-6 today as we continue on in our verse by verse teaching through the Book of Revelation. The title of our message this morning is The Beautiful Side of Evil. That title is not a title that’s original with me, it was a book that helped me quite a bit as a young Christian, a book written by Johanna Michaelson, dealing with the occult and the cults and things of that nature. And that title has always sort of captivated me, attracted me, “The Beautiful Side of Evil.”
Evil has an attractive side to it. If it didn’t we wouldn’t be drawn to it. It’s Halloween and every-body is going to be putting their costumes on their kids and all these kinds of things, and some kids are going to dress up like Satan (I don’t know why they would want to do that but they do that) and they walk around with horns and a mask and a pitchfork and a cape. The problem is I can’t find that in the Bible. Satan comes, as we’re going to see this morning, as an angel of light.
We have been continuing through the Book of Revelation, sort of in that section of the book where the bowl judgments have been poured out upon the earth and as that seventh bowl judgment is poured out upon the earth a lot of things are happening, including the destruction of a particular city called the city of Babylon.
And just to sort of prepare us for the sermons that we’re not embarking on concerning Babylon. We did probably about a two week background on Babylon so if you haven’t had a chance to hear those I would encourage you to go back into our sermon archives and watch or listen to them because it’ll give you background on the things that are coming here in the Book of Revelation.
But with that background in mind we’re now ready to move back into it verse by verse teaching of the Book of Revelation today beginning with chapter 17. Chapter 17 is one of the most interesting and at the same time one of the most misinterpreted chapters, I believe, in the entire Bible.
Here is just a two part outline. Number one, we have The Vision that John receives Concerning Babylon, verses 1-6. That’s the part of it that if we’re fortunate we’ll get through today. And then the second part of it is The Interpretation of the vision. It starts at the end of verse 6 and goes all the way to verse 18. It’s interesting to me that God doesn’t just give us data for the sake of data; He gives us an interpretation so we’re not left to our sanctified imagination trying to figure out what these vision, or this particular vision actually means.
So let’s begin there, verses 1-6, and here’s sort of a small outline that we’re going to try to work through this morning. Number one, you will notice Babylon’s introduction. Notice chapter 17 and verse 1. It says, “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,” It’s interesting how Babylon here is introduced, it’s introduced by one of the angels having the seven bowls. I would understand it this way: the very angel that God dispensed from heaven to pull out the final bowl judgment resulting in the destruction of Babylon now says to John in this vision, as John is seeing these things in the first century on the Island of Patmos, “come here and let me show you some further information about Babylon that you just saw destroyed by Me in bowl number seven. Bowl number seven no doubt destroyed Babylon, chapter 16 and verse 19 says that. “Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.” The angel that brought this wrath now says to John in the description and in sort of a pause, let me give you more information on Babylon that you just saw destroyed in the vision.
That’s why this chapter, chapter 17:1, is intimately linked to what precedes it. Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,” This now becomes our fifth and final non-chronological parenthetical insertion into the Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation is very confusing to people because no one ever takes the time to explain to folks that the chronology of the vision is basically the same, it moves chronologically. But there are pivotal times in the Book where the chronology stops, the chronology pauses to give more information concerning what has just happened. And we’ve just entered into that kind of section.
Babylon has fallen, the seventh bowl judgment has been poured out, but before we get information about the next chronological events, which would be the return of Christ to the earth, we get a pause in the action, chapters 17 and 18, as we get more information about Babylon. The Book of Revelation has done this four times already and this is our final time where the Book of Revelation will do this.
So we move away from her introduction (Babylon) to her judgment. And you see that there at the end of chapter 17, verse 1, saying, “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters.” Now you’ll notice here that Babylon is called a harlot; she is a harlot, that’s what she is symbolized as. Her name, as we will see, verse 5, is “Babylon, the Great,” and when you drop down to verse 18 we will see, we have seen and we will continue to see that Babylon actually is a city. So this harlot is the city of Babylon in the last days that reigns over the kings of the earth.
So it’s very important to keep in mind that every time you see a reference to a woman or a harlot, the woman is mentioned to be understood figuratively because here identity is given there in verse 18, she’s an actual city, a city named Babylon. And you’ll notice her judgment; you’ll notice what it says of her here, that she “sits on many waters.” That imagery should remind you of Jeremiah chapter 51 and verse 13. Jeremiah had a prophecy about the fall of Babylon, he saw the same thing in Jeremiah 51:13, he says of Babylon, “O you who dwell by many waters, abundant in treasures, Your end has come, the measure of your end.”
In fact, just a little bit of Bible trivia, the very last or latest or most recent Psalm in the Psalter, Psalm 137, is your latest Psalm, or most recent Psalm and it was written by the nation of Israel as they went into the Babylonian captivity under Babylon and this is what Psalm 137:1 says” By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.” That particular generation had seen the destruction of the temple, the destruction of the majesty of the Solomonic temple, everything that they had known had been destroyed, they had been ripped out of their land and taken 70 miles to the east into what today we call modern day Iraq, the city of Babylon, and all they could do is just sit down and weep. They just couldn’t believe what had happened. No other reaction would be appropriate other than just to sob. And sometimes things like that happen in our lives where things happen, the carpet is ripped out from under us or somebody else, or there’s a mistreatment or there’s a health problem.
And really, you know, when God puts us into those situations to minister to people I don’t know if He’s really telling us to give that person an answer. Job’s counselors had all the answers but all they needed to do was really come alongside Job and just weep with him. And that’s what the nation of Israel did, they just started weeping. And you’ll notice the imagery here, they did it “By the waters of Babylon.” Now “the waters” we’re going to find a description of or a definition of in verse 15, the waters that the woman is seated on represent all the nations of the earth that are intoxicated by Babylon’s influence.
And so we know that this harlot is going to be judged because it says it right here, “I will show you the judgment of the great harlot,” we know that she has been judged in the seventh bowl; what we don’t understand yet and where the angel is helping John with the details is exactly how Babylon is going to fall. See, what we have thus far, just some generic statements about Babylon’s destruction but what are the specifics? What are the mechanics? How is it all going to come to pass? And that is the great shock or the great mystery of this chapter. And this is what the angel is explaining to John that it’s actually going to be God who is going to put His purpose to destroy Babylon into the heart of the beast or the Antichrist and that’s what will bring her demise. More on that later as we continue on through the chapter.
But we’ve seen her introduction; we’ve seen her judgment, and notice here, letter C, her immorality. Notice, if you will, verse 2, “with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.” This entity, Babylon, apparently has had a universal effect on the entire world. I personally find it to be a very good description of the Tower of Babel, built there in the land of Shinar, at one time the earth had one language and when God founded that language everybody took a little bit of that harlot Babylonian system into their own culture. That’s why Babylon, as we’re going to see when we get to verse 5, is called “the mother of harlotry.”
But you notice here that the immorality of Babylon and the immorality of the kings of the earth influenced by Babylon is referred to here as drunkenness, immorality, that’s her impact. And when you study the Bible and you study immorality many times false doctrine is analogized to immorality. After all, we are the bride of Christ, are we not? And when we, as God’s people, leave the teachings of Scripture and we embrace other deities or other gods or other teachings God looks at us as having committed an act of immorality.
James 4:4 says, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” How does God look at me as a member of His bride when I became intoxicated with the things of the world? God looks at me as if I have just committed an act of immorality because I am the representative as part of the bride; He is the groom. And as these nations come under the sway of Babylon they’re portrayed here as being in a state of intoxication, a state of drunkenness. And we know, do we not, all about intoxication and drunkenness; when someone is drunk they’re not using their logical, rational faculties; they’re under the sway of some other substance, some foreign substance. And that’s what false doctrine is analogized to. You know, there are people all over this world that are marching to the tune of false doctrine. false teaching regardless of the source. And the Bible looks at them as actually in an inebriated drunken state, they can’t think straight because they’re under the influence of something.
This concept of being intoxicated by the nations fits exactly with what the prophet Jeremiah predicted concerning Babylon. He says in Jeremiah 51:7, “Babylon has been a golden cup in the hand of the Lord, intoxicating all the earth. The nations have drunk of her wine; therefore the nations are going mad.” The nations are going insane in this inebriated state because they’re not under the influence of God, they’re under the influence of the Babylonian system. And that is why the judgment of Babylon is long overdue. God has let this concept of Babylon go on so long and its intoxicated so many people, not obscure people, the kings of the earth, and now here judgment awaits. And now her judgment has come in the seventh bowl. The mystery is exactly how God is going to pull this off.
We move away from her introduction, her judgment, her immorality and look at the influence of Babylon. Notice, if you will, chapter 17 and verse 3. “He carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness,” I hope if you’re an under liner you underline that word “wilderness.” “and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.” Now many, many people will tell you that the city of Babylon represented here in the east is really not in the east, it’s another circle in the west and it’s Rome. Babylon equals Rome! So the woman is Rome. And then you say to them, “well, who’s the beast?” Well, the beast is Rome. Okay, so Rome destroys Rome, that doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it.
The woman on the beast is not Rome in the west, it’s Babylon in the east. You say well how do you know that? Because it says Babylon, it doesn’t say Rome. It’s interesting that it says come here into the wilderness, he carried me away in the wilderness. Now let me ask you a question? Is Rome in a wilderness? Is Rome in a desert? I mean, I’ve been to Rome, it’s a beautiful city, but there’s no wilderness, there’s no desert there at all. Well, is Babylon in the east in the wilderness? Yes it is. Isaiah 21:9 says this of Babylon: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon.” And Isaiah 21:1 of Babylon says this: “The oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea. As windstorms in the Negev sweep on, It comes from the wilderness, from a terrifying end.” You’ll notice that according to Isaiah 21:9 and verse 1 that “the wilderness” does not describe Rome; the wilder-ness describes Babylon.
My friend, Mark Hitchcock, in his very good book that I recommend to you, called “The Second Coming of Babylon, makes this statement about the wilderness in Revelation 17:3. “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw” this vision, John sees, “I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.
One of the things I want us to understand is as you go through Revelation chapter 17, this is where most people go astray, they don’t recognize the fact that there’s two images here. This is not a chapter about the beast, it’s not a chapter about the harlotrous woman named Babylon. It’s a chapter about a woman rides the beast. The woman is image one, the beast is image two. Babylon, the city Babylon, is riding on the beast. You say well who is the beast? I’m glad you asked. The woman, or Babylon, is riding on the beast. Who’s the beast? The beast is the anti-christ and his allies. The beast has seven heads and ten horns.
Now, the seven heads later on in the chapter are going to be given a definition or a description. The ten horns later on in the chapter are going to be given a definition and a description. Be patient with the Bible, let the Bible interpret itself. Those interpretations of the heads and the horns are coming; for now it suffices to say that this beast that she is riding upon is the antichrist and his allies; the antichrist and his kingdom. And this issue of supremacy that the woman is asserting over the beast is an explanation as to why the beast is going to turn on her later on in the chapter, chapter 7, verses 16-17. [Revelation 7:16-17, “They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat;  for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”]
I mean, why does God put it in the heart of the beast to destroy Babylon? It has to do with the prideful way in which the woman is riding the beast. Some way, somehow the ancient city of Babylon seems to get an upper hand even over the antichrist himself. And one of the things you have to understand about the antichrist, Daniel 11:36-37, 2 Thessalonians 2:4, is he desires to be worshipped ABOVE all that is called God.
[Daniel 11:36-37, “Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done.  He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the desire of women, nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all. 2 Thessalonians 2:4, “who opposes and exalts himself above [a]every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.”]
This, by the way, is one of the reasons why I have a very difficult time with the Islamic identification of the antichrist. Islam is in ascendancy and people think well, the antichrist must be Muslim. I don’t doubt the fact that Islam has a dominant role to play in the end times. I did write a book on this whole subject called THE MIDDLE EAST MELTDOWN. [THE MIDDLE EAST MELTDOWN: The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel by Dr. Andy Woods] If you’re interested come talk to me and I can get you a copy of that.
But that’s not to say that the antichrist must be Muslim for the simple reason that how could a Muslim desire to be worshipped above all that is called God? I know of no Muslim anywhere that would put himself above Allah, and yet that’s what this beast wants to do. And he doesn’t want rivals, he doesn’t want competition, and he doesn’t even want it coming from his own city, Babylon itself, that begins to influence the beast.
And we move into verse 4, the appearance of the woman. Now get the beast out of your mind for just a moment, we’re now talking specifically about the woman. We’re going to get a lot more treatment on the beast later but forget the beast for now; we’ll save the beast for last. How’s that? And let’s focus specifically on this woman. And I want you to see her appearance. This is why I’ve entitled this sermon, The Beautiful Side of Evil. Notice how Babylon is portrayed here, as this harlot. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality.”
The first thing to understand about this woman is she’s seductive, like you would expect with a harlot or a prostitute. Why would someone be enticed by a harlot or a prostitute? Because there’s something in us, our fallen nature, that would attract us to such a person. She knows how to promote and market her wares, so to speak. And consequently prostitution, as you well know, has become the oldest profession and there’s a reason for its popularity. There’s a reason for internet pornography. There’s a reason for online hookups and all of these things that go on, these entities, these women are appealing, they are attractive, they are seductive. And that’s how this woman appears, the beautiful side of evil.
You see, all that glitters is not necessarily gold. There’s an awful lot in the Bible about the foolishness of people that run into the arms of a prostitute. Read the Book of Proverbs some time. It talks about this over and over again. Proverbs 7:18-23 says this, the prostitute is speaking, “Come, let us drink our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with caresses,  For my husband is not at home, he has gone away on a long journey;  and he has taken a bag of money with him. At the full moon he will come home.  With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him.  Suddenly he follows her” watch this, “As an ox goes to the slaughter, or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool,  Until an arrow pierces through his liver; as a bird hastens to the snare, so he does not know that it will cost him his life.”
Now isn’t that interesting the way Satan promotes sin? He doesn’t promote it as sin; he promotes it as excitement, allurement, and what he’s not telling us is the long term consequences associated with that sin. A man, according to the Book of Proverbs who follows a prostitute is like one going off to his own slaughter, like an animal about to be slaughtered.  Her house is the way to Sheol,
descending to the chambers of death.”
Proverbs 7:6-7 says, “For at the window of my house I looked out through my lattice,  And I saw among the naive, and discerned among the youths a young man lacking in sense,” That is the sitting duck for the prostitute, someone that really hasn’t had enough life experience to understand the consequences of sin; someone who looks past the advertisement of sin and sees it simply as something to indulge himself with. What a fool he is, the Bible says. Satan is so incredibly good at getting our minds fixated on the short term pleasures associated with sin that we can almost give no thought whatsoever to the long term consequences. It goes back to the Garden of Eden, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eye, and the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate.” Genesis 3:6. She completely forgot about the consequences that God articulated in the prior chapter concerning death. This is the beautiful side of evil.
Matthew 23:27 says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees and hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside” just like this harlot, “which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Paul, 2 Corinthians 11:14, “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”
I’m here to tell you something folks… sin is fun! Sin is enjoyable and you heard it from me and you heard it from this pulpit. But here’s the other part of the equation—the pleasure of sin is very short-lived. The long term consequences hang around a lot longer! Hebrews 11:25, of Moses, it says, “Choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.” Yes, there is pleasure in sin but it’s very momentary; it’s very passing. The unwanted pregnancy, the venereal diseases, the guilt, the destroyed relationship, they have a tendency to stick around a lot longer than that one night stand. And this is how Babylon is seducing the nations metaphorically. Her doctrine is so appealing that the nations are under her [can’t understand word]. You’ll notice here that she is adorned in purple and gold. Those are the same colors that we have in chapter 18 verse 16; that’s one of the many reasons why I think chapter 18 and chapter 17 are talking about the same city. Chapter 18 is the more commercial side of the city; chapter 17 is the more religious side of the same city.
Now most of you are Bible readers and commentators will see purple and gold and they’ll go right to Roman Catholicism. Look at the robes of the priests, purple and gold and may I just say to you I wouldn’t look in that direction to figure out what the purple and gold mean; I would study the Book of Daniel. Daniel is the basement, Revelation is the ceiling. And what did the last King of Neo Babylonia do for Daniel, a man named Belteshazzar, when he interpreted, Daniel did, the handwriting on the wall? He was given “a necklace of gold around his neck;” there’s the gold, Daniel 5:7. Any man who reads this inscription and explains its interpretation shall be clothed with purple,” Daniel 5:7, “and a necklace of gold around his neck,” [Daniel 5:7, “The king called aloud to bring in the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners. The king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, “Any man who can read this inscription and explain its interpretation to me shall be clothed with purple and have a necklace of gold around his neck, and have authority as third ruler in the kingdom.”]
You’ll see the same thing in Daniel 5:16, Daniel 5:29. [Daniel 5:16, “But I personally have heard about you, that you are able to give interpretations and solve difficult problems. Now if you are able to read the inscription and make its interpretation known to me, you will be clothed with purple and wear a necklace of gold around your neck, and you will have authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.” Daniel 5:29, “ Then Belshazzar gave orders, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.”]
It’s interesting to me that if we just let the Bible say what it wants to say and we connect the right images together we know exactly who this city is. It’s the identical city that Nebuchadnezzar, at one time, presided over, ancient Babylon in modern day Iraq. Did you notice that this woman is holding a golden cup in her hand? Where does that imagery to back to? It goes back to the Book of Jeremiah, chapter 51 and verse 7; in fact I read this verse a little earlier. Jeremiah, concerning the destruction of Babylon, says, “Babylon has been a golden cup” isn’t that what she’s holding here, “in the hand of the Lord, intoxicating all the earth. The nations have drunk of her wine; therefore the nations are going mad.”
The very cup itself that she’s holding you can find its source in Jeremiah’s prophecy. And you say well wait a minute pastor, didn’t we study the Book of Daniel not too long ago, and you’d be right on that. Didn’t Nebuchadnezzar take the vessels, including cups, with him as he brought the nation of Israel into captivity? And didn’t his descendant, Belshazzar, begin to drink intoxicating beverages out of those very vessels of God from the temple? And isn’t that what brought the handwriting on the wall and the judgment of God in Daniel 5, all precipitated by a cup containing inebriating beverages in Babylon. See how the imagery of Daniel fills in the imagery of the Book of Revelation? Daniel is the basement, the Book of Revelation is the ceiling.
And your average Christian today doesn’t connect these dots; they wander all over the place, all over the Bible trying to make sense out of this. But if you understand that Daniel and Revelation go together and you understand where the golden cup imagery comes from you can see exactly who this woman is, she is the city of Babylon.
So we’ve looked at her introduction, judgment, immorality, influence, appearance, but what about her title? What exactly is on the prostitute’s forehead. Look, if you will, at Revelation 17 and notice, if you will, verse 5, it tells you exactly what’s inscribed on her forehead. “and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” notice, if
Notice what’s on her forehead; it’s “BABYLON THE GREAT.” You say “BABYLON THE GREAT,” I’ve read that somewhere before. And you’re right; it’s in Daniel 4:30, it’s the boast of Nebuchadnezzar when he looked over his empire, Babylon He said in Daniel 4:30 “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have created by my own hand?” What empire is he talking about? Rome? Rome didn’t exist yet. He’s talking about the ancient city of Babylon.
Now here’s what’s very interesting, as you go through the Bible the name Babylon is used 300 times in the Bible. Guess what it means every single time? It doesn’t mean Rome! It doesn’t mean Jerusalem! It doesn’t mean New York City! It doesn’t mean Washington D. C.! It means Babylon! So since John, at the end of the Bible is summing up why would I all of a sudden, out of the clear blue switch the meaning around, take out my white out and say well, it really doesn’t mean Babylon, I’m going to scratch that out, I’m going to give it the name Rome or some other city.
Is it not true as we have gone through the Book of Revelation that there have been many geographical references to geography. Have we not made the point that all of these places of geography are literal? Every single one of them ! So why would the geographical reference not be understood literally? Now as I mentioned I think in the last sermon on this people say well wait a minute, pastor, it doesn’t say Babylon the Great, it says Mystery Babylon. In their minds they think it means mystical Babylon, symbolic Babylon, metaphorical Babylon, and so they think that gives them a right to change the meaning of the word Babylon.
John Walvoord, one of the greats of the great, says this in his interpretation of chapter 17 verse 5. He says, “The city here according to verse 5 is a mystery, not a literal city.” I’ve given you this quote by S. S. Bruce, and he says, “This title was written on her forehead: Mystery: ‘mystery’ indicates that the name she bears … is not to be understood literally, but allegorically:” watch this now, this guy could be on the United States Supreme Court he’s so skilled at changing the meaning of words. “Babylon the Great is read, but ‘Rome’ is meant. Cf. verses 9, 19).” Babylon the Great is read but Rome is meant. Get the whiteout, cross it out, every time you see the word “Babylon” I want you to rewrite in there the word Rome; that’s how he is believing. In fact, this is the mindset of most scholars concerning this city, Babylon. And they think they can do this because it doesn’t just say “Babylon the Great,” it says “Mystery Babylon the Great.”
And here’s the confusion; you’ll notice that in the KJV, (I think last time I said KGB and people thought I was talking about Russia) you’ll notice that in the KJB and the NIV the word “MYSTERY” is in capital letters. Do you see that? In fact, if you’re following along with me this morning, or this afternoon now, in your NIV study Bible you might be NIV positive for all I know, and you’re reading along, you’re going to say look, it says “Mystery Babylon,” Mystery is capitalized. And after all, we’ve got the King James only movement and they think the King James Version was the version the Apostle Paul used so they think it was divinely inspired, not understanding that it’s a good translation but it’s a human translation. Like any translation it can have errors in it. But they’ll say it says Mystery Babylon. Now look at the bottom of the screen.
Look at the NASB, “… and upon her forehead a name was written, a mystery ‘BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIOSN OF THE EARTH.” See how “mystery is not in capital letters? I mean, there’s obviously no basis for clarity in this, in the body of Christ, if our Bible translations are all saying different things. One group says it means mystical, mystery Babylon. Walvoord and Bruce. Another group, like myself, says no, it doesn’t say mystery Babylon, it says “BABYLON THE GREAT” who happens to be a mystery. That view argues for literal Babylon. So who’s right here? I mean is the KJB or the NIV right, or is the NASB right? So come on pastor, you get paid the big bucks, you tell us what’s going on here. [Laughter]
I believe that in this particular case the NASB is correct. Why is that? Because the title of the city is given five other times in these chapters. Revelation 14:8, Revelation 16:19, Revelation 17:5, Revelation 18:2, Revelation 18:10 and Revelation 18:21 and every other time this city is referred to in these chapters and in the Book of Revelation she is never called MYSTERY BABYLON. She’s always called BABYLON THE GREAT.
.Well then, what does the word “Mystery” mean? Why is it even included. What is a mystery? A mystery is a new truth. A mystery is something veiled now unveiled. That’s how Paul uses the word mystery in his writings like in Colossians 1:26, that is the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations but now has been manifested so his saints. What is the mystery here? Here’s the mystery—you have in the Bible two strands of prophetic truth developing; they’re developing from Genesis to Revelation. You have the coming forth of the Antichrist in his one-world system, a ten nation confederacy, but then you have other passages, like Isaiah 13 and 14, Jeremiah 50 and 51, Zechariah 5, 5-11, which all tell that Babylon is destined to play some sort of prophetic role in the end times.
So you’ve got two trains on the same train track that are about ready to collide with each other. How does this tension get resolved? The answer is chapter 17, the woman rides the beast. The woman, or Babylon, gets supremacy in some sense over the beast, the beast and his allies aren’t going to like that and they are going to turn violently on Babylon and burn her flesh with fire because God has put it in the hearts of the beast and his allies to do this and that’s how Babylon is destroyed. That’s the mystery.
What are we told prior to this? Babylon will fall in the seventh bowl judgment. We’re not told how! How it falls is the mystery; it’s a new truth. It’s never before been unveiled. We’ve got two images here, a woman rides the beast; two strands of prophetic thought in direct conflict with each other and how the whole thing comes to an end is described in chapter 17. If you didn’t have chapter 17 in your Bible you would have no way of understanding how these two prophetic strands of thought are resolved. That’s why John, when he sees this, verse 6, is astonished. He wonders greatly when he sees this because he says to himself aha, this is how the whole conflict is resolved. More on that later. Arthur Pink who I think has it completely correct on this, and I don’t agree with everything Arthur Pink says, but on this he’s dead right. He says, ‘We believe that the English translators have misled many people by printing (on their own authority) the word ‘mystery’ in large capital letters,” that’s why we’re all confused on this, we’ve got Bible verses saying different things, “thus making it appear that this is a part of the woman’s name. This we are assured is a mistake.”
The King James Version has got a lot of great translation in it but not here; it’s misled many, many people here. That mystery is connected with the woman herself and not with her name which is clear from verse 7 where the angel says unto John, verse 7 which we haven’t gotten to yet, “I will tell you the mystery of the woman and” AND of the beast that carries her, [which has the seven heads and the ten horns.”] That’s the mystery, the mystery is my goodness, Babylon seems to be getting the upper hands on the antichrist, how are these two strands of prophetic thought going to be resolved? The mystery is not just the woman, the mystery is the woman riding the beast and how this tension gets fixed. That’s the mystery. That’s the new truth. And that is why there is so much misunderstanding on this.
You’ll notice that she is not just called “BABYLON THE GREAT,” watch this now, she is called “THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” Now, “MOTHER” is your source; she is this woman, the city of Babylon, the source of all harlotry that has ever come in terms of false doctrine, on planet earth. It’s a lot like saying in John 8:44, it’s a superlative, where Jesus in John 8:44 calls Satan “the” definite article, “father of all lies.” [John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”]
Satan is not just a liar, he’s the ultimate liar; he’s the zenith liar, he is the quintessential liar. And that is what is being said here of this woman. She is not just exporting harlotry upon the earth, she’s the source of all of it, all of it comes back to her! All of it is sourced in her. Now question? What city would qualify for that? Would Rome qualify? NO! Rome came into existence long after harlotry was exported everywhere. Rome if anything is a daughter harlot, she’s not the mother harlot. Would Jerusalem qualify? No, Jerusalem came into existence long after this harlotry was spread all over Europe. Jerusalem is not the mother of all harlotry; she absorbed it tragically and she became a daughter.
Folks, there’s only one city that could ever qualify as being THE mother of all harlotry and that’s the city of Babylon for the very simple reason that at Babylon, at the Tower of Babel, in the land of Shinar, there was only one language. So the sin that was taking place there, that we have defined as The Mother Child System, which we got into in previous sermons, was taken from there and it went into the whole world. That’s how you look at the Tower of Babel. It had a global effect, just like taking a rock and tossing a rock into a placid pond and the wake reverberates outward in all directions. That’s what happened at the Tower of Babel, because when God changed the language to languages everybody took a little bit of that system with them into their own culture and ethnicity. And that’s why you could find The Mother Child System scattered all over the world.
When it says here she is “the mother of all harlots” there is only one nation or one city I should say that would qualify, the city of Babylon. Clarence Larking says this: The Tower of Babel was the origin of the nations but the nations weren’t scattered abroad over the earth until Satan had implanted in them the virus of a doctrine that has been the source of every false religion the world has ever known.”
Let’s finish here with her persecution. Verse 6, watch this now: “And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.” Notice here that the woman is “drunk with the blood of the saints” and not with the church. Did you notice that? The Book of Revelation uses the word “church” nineteen times in chapters and then when John has the futuristic vision the church, or the name ekklesia disappears. It’s not the church that’s being persecuted here, it’s the saints.
Why would that transition be made? Because the church, via the pre-tribulation rapture of the church, is in heaven while all of these things are happening. We’ve talked in depth about that. Folks, I’m not promising an easy life as a Christian; I’m not saying everything in your life is going to go your way and work out. I’m not saying your life won’t be filled with problems and difficulties and setbacks and even persecution itself. But I’ll tell you something, you are totally exempt as a blood bought saint from the wrath of God. And that’s what these judgments represent because they are precipitated by the Lamb in heaven opening the seven sealed scroll.
You’ll notice this woman is drunk with the blood of the saints. Now isn’t that interesting because back in verse 2 she was making everyone else drunk. Well, the reason she was making everyone else drunk is she was drunk herself. 2 Timothy 3:13 says, “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Why are people out there deceiving others? Because they’re deceived themselves. Why is this woman causing everyone to fall into an inebriated state? Because she’s inebriated herself. She’s under the influence of false doctrine herself and as the saying goes, “hurt people hurt people.” “Deceived people deceive people.”
So drunkenness, she causes but she, according to verse 6, is in a state of drunkenness herself and it’s describing here the slaughter… the slaughter of Christians or believers living on the earth at the time. Now that again should que up in your mind Babylon, because that’s how Babylon is described in Jeremiah’s prophecies. Jeremiah chapter 51 and verse 49, Jeremiah says, “Babylon must fall because of Israel’s slain, just as the slain in all the earth have fallen because of Babylon.” This shouldn’t be any real guesswork on our part if you know Jeremiah’s prophecies. She’s a persecutor, that’s how Jeremiah, in the Old Testament describes her.
It’s also interesting that over in Revelation 18:24, the same city, this is brought out again. It says, “And in her was found the blood” that’s what she’s drunk with, the blood of the saints. “And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth.” She is a persecutor. Is it not a little interesting that if I’m right on this and this city is going to be built in modern day Iraq, a Muslim country, a Muslim influenced city, it starts to make sense why this particular city is drunk with the blood of the saints.
Is it not true that wherever Islam goes it persecutes God’s people. That’s even happening today, is it not! I mean, on the eve of the rapture, it’s almost like we’re living back in medieval times where we’re seeing modern day crucifixions in those parts of the world. We’re seeing Christians lit on fire and put into cages. We’re seeing Christians put into cages and lowered into bodies of water whereby they’re drowning. I mean, this is what’s happening on the news; this is what’s happening all around us. And it makes completely logical sense to me that if this city arises in an Islamic controlled country that this description of the woman being drunk with the blood of the saints would make sense. I just kind of submit that to you for your consideration.
So what does John do? He wonders, he doesn’t just wonder, he wonders greatly what all of this means. And we will see next week where the angel says don’t wonder any more, I’m going to tell you exactly what all of this means and we’re going to see next Lord’s day that the Bible is its own interpreter.
And so a lot of information is enough for a Sunday morning; a lot of you are saying as visitors what kind of church is this? [Laughter]. Where is the three points and a poem? Well, as we like to say here at Sugar Land Bible Church our middle name is “Bible,” and you’re students of the Bible, we let the Bible speak where it wants to speak. And not only are we students of the Bible but we are proclaimers of the gospel. The gospel we know from the Bible; the gospel means good news. We talked about blood this morning in communion and also in our passage, but the blood of Jesus Christ is so essential because it washes away all sin. The blood has already been shed. The sin debt of the world has been taken care of and consequently the whole world today is savable. Every single human being, man, woman, child, on planet earth as I speak is savable but not saved until they receive what Jesus has done.
That’s the only condition. You can’t work your way unto God, but you have to receive the gift He’s given you, a gift is of no value to you if it’s un-received. But how do you receive a gift from God. It’s always by faith, for the Bible says, “without faith it is” what? “impossible to please God.” Faith means trust, it means reliance on, it means dependency in, you’re not believing that, you’re believing in something. You’re believing in something greater than yourself to reconcile you back to God. And that’s the only way to be reconciled back to God, by believing in the One whom He has sent. So our invitation, and it’s not something you have to raise a hand to do, walk an aisle to do, join a church to do, give money to do, it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where the Lord places you under conviction, and we know that the Spirit does that, John 16:7-11 says that. He convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. And so no doubt people within the sound of my voice are under that conviction, because that’s what the Holy Spirit does. And our exhortation to you is to respond to that convicting ministry by trusting in Christ and Christ alone. It’s something you can do right now even as I’m speaking, within the quietness of your own thoughts and heart and mind. It’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord, where you trust in His provision for your salvation and the safe keeping of your soul. We exhort you to do that. And if it’s something that you need more explanation on I’m available after the service to talk. Shall we pray.
Father, we’re grateful for this chapter and the things that it reveals to us about the future but even more important than that we’re grateful for the fact that we are secure in You and our future is secure, not because of ourselves but because of what You’ve done for us. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus name, and God’s people said…. Amen!