Join for our live streamed Sunday School (9:30am) and Worship Service (10:30am). You can view them HERE.

The Prostitute Vision Explained

Revelation

Sep 24, 2023


by: Jack Lash Series: Revelation | Category: Eschatology | Scripture: Revelation 17:7–18

I. Introduction
A. Review
1. Stages of the future
a. The present age between Christ’s first coming and His second coming, during which the good news of Christ will be spread to the every people group on earth, along with many sufferings.
b. Followed by a brief time when Satan is unleashed and provokes a great onslaught against the people of God. In the end, this onslaught will even appear to be successful, like when one team is way ahead as the clock is winding down (Rev.13:7).
c. However, defeat will be snatched out of the jaws of victory as Jesus returns and rescues His beloved, overthrowing all wicked powers.
d. This results in a great reconstruction of the heavens and the earth and the great wedding day of Christ and His beloved bride, the true church.
2. The trinity of evil: dragon, beast, false prophet (second beast) – introduced to us in Rev.12-15
3. The great prostitute of Rev.17
a. She is the bait, the tool of Satan and the beast to deceive and lure the world away from Christ.
b. She is the allure of the world, the promises of the world, the security of the world, the thrills and entertainments of the world.
c. John’s reaction to seeing her is important: “When I saw her, I marveled greatly.”(Rev.17:6)
d. It’s very similar to what we read in Rev.13:3-4 where the whole earth marveled at the beast.
e. Both use the same Greek word. The world marvels at the beast; John marveled at the woman.
f. Why does the world marvel at the beast and even worships the beast? Not because if its good looks, that’s for sure! They marveled at the beast because of its apparent power to take down the Lamb Himself. Rev.13:4 They worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, & who can fight against it?” It was so impressively powerful! “Who can fight against it?”
g. But not John. As a believer, he would never marvel at the beast. But, he does marvel at the woman – because of her attractiveness. Thus we see how the prostitute is used by the beast to lure, seduce and entice.
h. — Last week we talked about how the prostitute seems to be modeled after the seductive adulteress in the book of Proverbs. Well, it seems she is also modeled after Jezebel, the queen of idolatry.
(1) This may seem a stretch until we remember that Jesus told us (Rev.2:20-24) that the spirit of Jezebel was still active in the church at Thyatira.
(2) Beale lists many parallels between the OT Jezebel and the prostitute in Rev.17-19:
(a) Both were heavily adorned or made up (2Kg.9:30; Rev.17:4).
(b) Both were queens (1Kg.16:31; Rev.17:18; 18:7).
(c) Both used seduction (1Kg.21:25; Rev.17:2).
(d) Both were guilty of spiritual fornication or immorality (2Kgs.9:22; Rev.17:1-2).
(e) Both engaged in witchcraft (2Kg.9:22; Rev.18:23).
(f) Both were greedy for wealth (1Kg.21:7; Rev.18:11-19).
(g) Both persecuted the saints (1Kg.18:4; Rev.17:6).
(h) In both cases a righteous remnant opposed her sinful ways (1Kg.19:18; Rev.17:14).
(i) God avenged the blood of His servants on both (2Kg.9:7; Rev.19:2).
(j) The destruction of both occurs quickly (2Kgs.9:33-37; Rev.18:10, 17, 19).
(k) God judges the followers of both (1Kg.18:40; 2Kg.10:19; Rev.2:23; 18:9-10; 20:15).
(3) “We expect to find false ideology in the world (= the pagan nations), or even in dead or ungodly religious systems (= unfaithful Israel), but it is hard to contemplate such false teaching operating within what professes to be the body of Christ. How important is it to realize that even in the church we may be confronting supernatural spiritual dynamics of an evil nature? Remember that Jezebel’s teaching in Revelation 2 is called “the deep things of Satan” (2:24). Satan still masquerades an as angel of light.” – Beale
B. Revelation 17:7-18 But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. 8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. 9 This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; 10 they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. 11 As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. 12 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. 13 These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” 15 And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. 16 And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, 17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18 And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”
C. Even though the passages promises first of all to tell us about the woman, it goes on to tell us more about the beast she’s riding on than it does about her.
II. The beast
A. What we learned about the beast before this
1. The beast seems to represent the wicked power of the state, using government to oppose Christ.
2. This is antichrist in both senses of the word: both as opposer of Christ and as counterfeit Christ.
3. We see the latter in the beast’s comeback, which seems to be an imitation of Christ’s resurrection.
a. the beast that “was and is not and is to come” (8)
b. This reminds us of what was said when the beast was first introduced in Rev.13:3, “its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled.”
c. What was this resurrection or comeback of the beast? It’s two-fold. This comeback involves the fact that he still remained active after his defeat at the cross, but also involves his return to power at the end of history when he is briefly unleashed (Rev.9:1-6; 11:7-10; 16:12-16; 20:1-8).
4. It seems this apparent resilience leads the world to be super-impressed by the beast. “The dwellers on earth...will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.” Rev.17:8
B. Rev.17 also tells us that the beast will eventually reign over the world, because the kings of earth will give him their power. And they’ll all make war on the Lamb. But the Lamb will conquer them.
1. 8 The beast ...is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction.
2. 11 As for the beast that was and is not... it goes to destruction.
III. Three puzzles and a mind of wisdom
A. In v.7 the angel said to John, “I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads & 10 horns that carries her.” In other words, “Let me explain to you the things in this vision.”
1. Sometimes the answer to a question just raises more questions. And that’s the case here.
B. Three puzzles here: Now ALL of this might seem like a puzzle to you, but there are three real eye-crossing puzzles here in this passage.
1. 9 the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; 10 they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while.
2. 11 As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.
3. 12 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast.
C. It’s because of these puzzles that v.9 tells us, “This calls for a mind with wisdom.”
1. In other words, God has provided the tools so that the wise person who is godly & knowledgeable of the Scriptures will be able to understand it, but don’t expect it to be easy to figure out.
2. (See Dan.11:33; 12:10.)
D. There have been many attempts to explain the seven kings in v.10, but mainly it has led to only arguing and disputing. No broad consensus has emerged.
1. Again, I think that they are barking up the wrong tree to try to attach each of these to a specific historical person.
2. I think the seven mountains and kings represent the oppressive power of world governments throughout the ages, governments which act as if they’re God and which persecute people when they do not submit. I think the point is that there will be a long series of dominant earthly kingdoms, many of which have already come and gone, one of which is presently in power, and the final one of which is still coming in the future and will assume greater power than all the rest, though its reign will be brief.
E. As to “the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction,” in v.11, it seems to me to be referring to the final and ultimate antichrist, the political ruler who will rise at the end of history. His will be the final empire in the series of human empires, but also stand out as on a level beyond any before him. So, he’s one in the series, but he’s also beyond all the others, the most satanic of them all. It will be as if the beast himself becomes the king of the world, though his reign will be brief and he will be thrown down and destroyed.
F. And now to the ten kings who are still to come, in v.12. These seem to refer to all the rulers on earth at the time of the rise of the antichrist. They all join in support of the antichrist, but their authority doesn’t last long before the Lamb throws them all down.
IV. Now we ought to struggle to understand the puzzles. But we ought not be so absorbed in trying to figure them out that we miss the important but very plain things in the passage as well. And there are three theological truths here which are just golden, and it would be a crime to ignore them.
A. V.8 refers to “the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.”
1. This implies that there are other dwellers on the earth whose names HAVE been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.
2. The book of life is mentioned over 12 times in the Bible. It contains the names of all those who were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world to be adopted as God’s children, as it says in Ephesians 1:4-5.
3. But, of course, not everyone’s name is written in the book of life. That’s why at the end of Revelation we’re told that if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Rev.20:15), and that “only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life” shall ever come into the city of God (Rev.21:27).
4. I still get emotional thinking that even before I believed in Christ, when I was an atheist railing against God, my name was already written in His book of life. That’s grace!
B. 14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”
1. This is the basic message of the book of Revelation! God is going to triumph and those who are faithful will triumph with Him!
2. There is and there is going to be lots of conflict and persecution. That’s what we can expect.
3. However, no matter how dark the days get, the good news is that in the end, the Lamb of God will conquer all of His foes. He’ll be able to do this because He is the Lord of lords & King of kings.
4. But in conquering, the Lamb of God is not alone. There are others with Him.
a. “the Lamb will conquer them... and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”
b. These are actually those who have been written in the book of life from the world’s foundation.
c. Here it is said that “those with [the Lamb] are called and chosen and faithful.”
d. They were called to be His people. Why were they called?
e. They were called because before the created of the world they were chosen to be His people.
f. And they are faithful! Are they chosen and called because they are faithful? No, they are faithful because they are chosen and called.
g. They are enabled to remain faithful through all the struggles, temptations and pressures!
h. And because of this, they get to stand with Him as He conquers and stands in triumph. And He commends them for their faithfulness. “Well done, good and faithful servants!” (Matt.25:23)
5. Why would they be commended for doing something God empowered them to do?
a. My friends, if people were only commended for things they did by themselves without God’s empowering, no one would ever get commended! But God allows us to share in His glory.
b. This too is grace!
C. 17 God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.
1. Here we find God putting it into the hearts of the ten kings to be united in their decision to hand over their authority to the beast.
2. Why would God want to provoke these wicked kings to yield their power to the beast?
3. Because He wants to destroy them all, and He wants to start that by getting them to begin destroying each other.
4. And why can God get kings to do what He wants them to do? Because He is the King of kings!
5. He is also the Lord of the heart. He doesn’t force people to do things they don’t want to do, rather, He “puts it into their hearts to carry out his purpose.”
6. This isn’t the only place which talks about God working in people’s hearts to advance His will:
a. Sihon the king would not let us pass by him, for the Lord hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that He might give him into your hand. – Deut.2:30
b. It was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction. – Joshua 11:20
c. The Lord ...turned the heart of the king of Assyria to them, so that he aided them in the work of the house of God. – Ezra 6:22 (Cf. Psalm 105:25, 1Chronicles 5:25-26, 2Chronicles 36:22.)
7. The fact is, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” Proverbs 21:1
8. Why is this here? Why doesn’t it just say, “the ten kings were of one mind and handed over their royal power to the beast.”? Why does God’s involvement have to be mentioned?
a. Because on the day when the kings of the earth unite together against the Lord’s people, there will be great temptation to shift into full-blown panic mode, and great pressure to compromise with the beast – and part of this pressure will be that many fellow so-called Christians will capitulate and urge the rest to join them. It will seem like suicide to refuse. It will also seem like refusing will mean subjecting your dear loved ones to torture and death. God knows we’ll need help!
b. In the face of that kind of pressure, God wants His dear children to know for sure that not only is He going to intervene and rescue them, but that He is actually bringing all this to pass so that He might accomplish His holy will. When we’re pinned against the Red Sea, with the armies of Egypt bearing down on us, God wants us to know what’s really happening – so that we can wait in trust that not only is He going to part the waters and make a way of escape for us, but that He’s the One who hardened Pharaoh’s heart to be there in the first place.
9. And why would God unite all the wicked armies against the saints at all? So that He might accomplish one great final victory against His foes, right when they thought they were about to triumph, so that all His people might worship with shouts and sings and great celebration, honoring and glorifying the Lamb, just as we saw portrayed in Rev.15:1-4. (See Romans 9:17.)
10. Now, you may feel like it’s a lot for God to ask you to calmly face monsters without flinching, even if you’re told that He is in full control. But remember who is asking this of you. It is none other than the Lamb of God, the very One who proved His love for you and commitment to your welfare by facing all the monsters at the cross for you. He has already proven that He can be trusted!
V. Application
A. In this passage, two forces of evil actually end up in conflict with one another. Why does the beast turn against the prostitute? There are two very important principles here.
1. Sometimes God uses His enemies to destroy each other. We see this all through the Bible.
a. So, we shouldn’t be surprised to see it happening here at the end of history. And Jesus Himself seems to have expected it as well, in Mark 3:23-26:
b. — “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself & is divided, he cannot stand, BUT IS COMING TO AN END.”
2. But the conflict between the beast and the prostitute also shows us that Satan is not interested in giving people real pleasure. He uses pleasure to entrap them, but once they are trapped, he withdraws all pleasure and tortures them.
a. Like the fisherman, he doesn’t let the fish enjoy the pleasure of finishing the worm. He pulls the worm out along with the hook and throws the fish into the bucket and goes after another fish.
b. “It seems here that at the end Satan will no longer need to use the appeal of the woman any longer, and will rule by sheer power. The day of disguise will be over. Satan will demolish pleasure altogether and all will see that he was not truly out to give pleasure but only to use a pleasure-disguise to lure men away from the true Pleasure.” – Beale
c. CS Lewis talks about this in Screwtape letters.
d. In one sense, Satan hated the prostitute all along. He doesn’t like having to give mankind any pleasure at all. But in order to entrap them, he allows it. But once the victim is caught, then the trap is discarded with an attitude of resentment, because Satan actually hates human pleasure.
e. “It is almost as if he has hated having to allow man to enjoy all this pleasure, and rejoices in the day he can withdraw it and do what really wanted to do all along: consume and destroy without mercy and without pleasure. It is as if the fisherman hates the fish so much that he hates the fact that he has to let him enjoy the bait for one brief moment in order to catch him.” – Beale
B. Ps.23:5 “You prepare a banquet before me in the presence of my enemies.”
1. We can see this clearly in the book of Revelation. God calls us to enjoy the great banquet of His love and promises even though we’re surrounded – and targeted – by vicious enemies.
2. You might say, “But I can’t enjoy a banquet if I have to eat it in the presence of my enemies!”
3. But – don’t you see? – your enemies are part of what makes this banquet so rich and meaningful!
4. We can’t say to God, “I can’t enjoy the world where You have placed me as long as there is danger or evil around!” The whole point is that peace comes from God, not from the world, not from our circumstances, not from the absence of troubles!
5. And God glorifies Himself and glorifies His peace by giving it to people who live in a dangerous and scary world.