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Handout No. 13
Mark  A.  Mayes

The Great Prostitute; The First of Seven Messages of Her Judgment Revelation 17:1-18
The ultimate fate of Rome has already been told in Revelation 14:8 and again in 16:19. But as yet, we have no details. In chapters 17 and 18, we will see Rome portrayed in all her power, arrogance and cruelty. We will also see her well-earned doom. We will learn that the actual city of Rome is to be punished, not just the Roman Empire. The first six verses of chapter 17 introduce us to a new sign – a great prostitute, richly arrayed and riding on a scarlet beast. This portrayal of Rome in her power is followed by seven messages of her judgment. The rest of chapter 17 constitutes the first message (including an explanation of the symbology used), and chapter 18 contains the remaining six messages. I. Part 1: The prostitute in her power, arrogance and cruelty (17:1-6) A. Introduction to the prostitute (17:1-2) 1. One of the seven angels – It is fitting that one of the seven angels who poured out the bowls of God’s wrath should explain the details of the prostitute’s judgment. 2. I will show you the judgment – we will see this judgment beginning with 17:7 and going through the end of chapter 18. 3. Great prostitute – our first hint at what is to come. “Prostitute” implies immorality. We’ll learn more about her in the following verses. 4. Many waters – we are given the interpretation of symbols if the last part of the chapter. For now, we’ll simply note their details. B. The glory and vileness of the prostitute (17:3-6) 1. And he carried me away – John wasn’t physically carried away, but was taken away “in the Spirit”. Compare Revelation 1:10. 2. Into the wilderness, and I saw a woman – We haven’t seen this particular woman, the great prostitute, before chapter 17. We are, however, reminded of the radiant woman in chapter 12 who fled into the wilderness. This woman represented God’s people. What a contrast there is between that woman and the woman in chapter 17! 3. Sitting on a scarlet beast – The beast described here is the same beast that we see in chapter 13:1-10. We are given one additional detail about the beast: it has a scarlet (or crimson) color – reminiscent of the color of the dragon. The seven heads and ten horns are explained later in the chapter.

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4. The woman was arrayed –Notice the clothing of the woman. Purple and scarlet were colors that implied richness and royalty. The gold, jewels and pearls complete the picture of wealth. 5. A golden cup full of abominations – We see that the woman wasn’t all about riches; she was also about immorality. In fact, we shall see that she is drunk with it. And whatever she will willing to drink, the other nations were willing to drink with her. 6. On her forehead was written a name of mystery • Forehead – where everyone could see it. This was the same place where the high priest was to wear God’s name • Mystery – We’re meant to understand the name, but we’re not meant to interpret the name literally. • Babylon the great – famous for carrying God’s people captive and it’s worship of idols, this ancient world power became the symbol of all who came after her and did similar things. 7. Drunk with the blood of the saints • Drunk – not a one-time thing, but a continuous state • The blood of the saints – In addition to her idol worship, the woman is vile because she persecutes and kills the saints. 8. I marveled greatly – John was astonished. Indeed, the whole world marveled. But as Christians, we don’t have to marvel because we see the fate of the woman. II.


Part 2: The Judgment of the Prostitute (Message 1 of 7) (17:7-18) A. Having shown the riches and cruelty of the prostitute, the text now turns to her judgment. F. There are seven (complete) messages of judgment. The first three are messages of doom G. delivered by heavenly messengers (17:7-18, 18:1-3, and 18:4-8). The next three are laments from those who received financial gain from their association with Rome (18:9H. 10, 18:11-17a, and 18:17b-19). The seventh message (18:21-24) tells of the finality and III. Assignment for next week: read Jeremiah 50-51 and Ezekiel 27, noting the similarities in righteousness of the judgment. We will deal with the first message of judgment this language to Revelation 18. week. B. I will tell you the mystery – At last we are going to get some form of explanation of the symbols we’ve seen in the book! Of course, this is apocalyptic literature, so the explanations cannot be too explicit without endangering both John and those who possessed copies of the letter. C. This calls for a mind with wisdom – John cannot come out and directly say what the vision is about. We must understand this and interpret wisely. D. Seven heads: 1. Normally, we would interpret 7 to mean perfection or completeness. However, this is an explanation, not a vision, so we must take it to mean what it says.

2. Seven mountains on which the woman is seated (17:9) – Rome was widely known by this time as the city on seven hills. This is a pretty plain clue that the city of Rome is the woman on the beast. But there is a second meaning to the seven heads. 3. Seven kings (17:10) – these represent the first 7 Roman Emperors: Octavius Augustus (27 BC to 14 AD), Tiberius (14 to 37), Caligula (37 to 41), Claudius (41 to 54), Nero (54 to 68), Vespasian (69 to 79), and Titus (79 to 81). See also Daniel chapter 7. • Five are fallen – through Nero • One now is – Vespasian • One to come – Titus – reigned 2 year 2 months – a little while • The beast, an eighth (17:11) – Domitian (81 to 96) • Of the seven – The “Nero Redivivus” legend (Nero “come back to life”), a popular belief that the insanely evil Nero would come back to life and do terrible things. Domitian was so evil that many applied the legend to him. • Goes to destruction – Not as powerful as he thinks. Domitian is also to die (assassinated, September 18, 96). 4. Dating the book – Revelation is either written during the reign of Vespasian or it was written during the reign of Domitian and John throws himself back in history as is common in the Jewish apocalyptic literature for the prior 300 years. Ten horns (17:12-14) 1. The vassal kings of the Roman provinces. 2. These kings were both a strength and a weakness of Rome (see Daniel 2:43-44). 3. The Lamb will conquer them. Jesus, not Domitian, is the true King of Kings. The waters (17:15) – the nations over which Rome ruled. The ten horns will hate the prostitute (17:16-17) – As Rome feared, the provinces would eventually have a part in her downfall. The great city (17:18) – again a clear indicator that the woman is the city of Rome.

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