Would you please explain what is being described, in symbolic language, in Revelation 17 and 18?


Chapters 17 and 18 of the book of Revelation need to be read together with Revelation 13. We discussed the events in Revelation 13 in the Q&A in our last Update (#329). We pointed out that the first beast, which is described in Revelation 13 as having seven heads and ten horns, identified past military and economic resurrections–as well as one still future resurrection–of the ancient Roman Empire in continental Europe. We explained that the second beast, which is also described in Revelation 13, is identified as a religious power. It is depicted as working hand in hand with some of the political and military resurrections or revivals of the first beast. We showed that the first “beast” can describe the revived Roman system, as well as the respective leader of that system, including the last leader of the final revival of the Roman Empire–which is yet future.

In chapter 17, a woman is described, riding a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns (verse 3). We discussed in a prior Q&A (in Update #312) the passage in Revelation 17:9, 18, which states that the woman is a city that is built on seven mountains or hills.

A) The Woman Riding the Beast (Revelation 17):

The seven heads of the beast in Revelation 17 are identified as seven kings or kingdoms (Revelation 17:10). The ten horns are ten kings or kingdoms, but they are different from the seven heads or kings. While the seven heads depict seven successive resurrections, the ten horns depict simultaneous rulership. The ten kings will, at the very end, receive power together with the beast–the final military leader–“for one hour” (Revelation 17:12). The beast and the ten kings will make war with the Lamb, Jesus Christ (Revelation 17:14). These ten kings are identical with the ten toes in Daniel 2:34, 41-45, which toes will be destroyed by Jesus Christ, the stone in Daniel’s vision (Daniel 2:34, 45). The ten kings, then, are ten still future national rulers or nations which will place themselves under the leadership of a mighty political personage, the beast. This will be the final “resurrection” of the Roman Empire.

The seven heads of the beast which are also identified as kings or kingdoms, are the seven LAST resurrections of the Roman Empire. We know this, since the woman only sat on the last seven resurrections, not on the first three ones (Remember, as we discussed in Update #329, the little horn in Daniel 7:24, which is identical with the woman in Revelation 17, subdued the first three of the ten resurrections).

Six of those seven last resurrections, under the influence of the woman, have already happened. We will recall from our discussion of Chapter 13 in Update #329 that six of the last seven resurrections already occurred, historically.

They were:

(1) The Imperial Restoration in 554 A.D. under Justinian, at the behest of the Roman pontiff or pope, especially Pope Pelagius and, to a lesser extent, previous Pope Vigilius;

(2) The Carolingian Empire under Charlemagne, who was crowned in 800 A.D. by Pope Leo III, and which was called “Holy Roman Empire”;

(3) The German Empire under Otto the Great, who was crowned in 962 A.D. by Pope John X, and which was called the “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation”;

(4) The German-Austrian Empire under Charles V. of Hapsburg, who was crowned in 1530 by Pope Clemens VII;

(5) The French Empire under Napoleon the Great, who was crowned in 1804 by Pope Pius VII; and

(6) The—in comparison—insignificant Italian-German resurrection under Mussolini and Hitler (Compare Revelation 17:10-11. Although this resurrection existed when God’s Church understood the meaning of this prophecy under the late Herbert W. Armstrong [Revelation 17:10: “one IS”], it was very insignificant, so that it is also characterized as not existing [Revelation 17:11: “is NOT”].) Neither Mussolini nor Hitler were crowned by a Pope (as Justinian had not been, either); nevertheless, a close partnership existed between the Catholic Church under Pope Pius XI and Italy and Germany. This partnership can be seen by Mussolini’s signing the Lateran Treaty with the papacy in 1929, establishing papal sovereignty of the Vatican City, affirming Roman Catholicism as the only religion of Italy and, in turn, having the papacy officially recognize Mussolini as the rightful Italian governor. Further, the Vatican signed a concordat with Hitler in 1933, protecting the rights of the Church under Nazi regime and giving Hitler’s government an outward semblance of legitimacy.

(7) The last or tenth resurrection of the Roman Empire, or the seventh resurrection of the “Holy” Roman Empire under religious control, is still ahead of us. It will consist of ten European nations—ten core nations of a United States of Europe. It will be short-lived—in the end, the political European rulers will “hate” the woman, which is quite wealthy (compare Revelation 17: 4), “eat her flesh and burn her with fire” (Revelation 17:16).

Lehmann Strauss writes in “The Book of Revelation,” copyright 1964, 1972, on pages 297, 301, 302: “The ‘ten horns’ represent the ten confederated kingdoms, the revived Roman Empire… Here, then, is the revived Roman Empire, the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image, to arise just prior to the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth (Daniel 2:41-44)… The ten horns, the federated states of Europe, that great political power, turn against the harlot with hatred.”

The woman which rides the beast, and which is called “Babylon the Great,” is depicted as a “harlot” (Revelation 17:16). She is also the “mother of harlots” (Revelation 17:5), implying that she, as the “mother church,” has “daughter churches.” She has made the inhabitants of the earth spiritually “drunk” with the “wine” or teachings of “her fornication” or doctrines which are not pure and true (Revelation 17:2). Rather, she is teaching the ancient Babylonian Mystery Religion (Revelation 17:5). The woman is responsible for the martyrdom of the saints of God (Revelation 17:6). As mentioned in Update #312, she is also identified as a CITY which reigns over the kings of the earth (Revelation 17:18)–a city which is built on seven mountains or hills (Revelation 17:9).

Strauss states about the woman riding the beast, on pages 292, 295: “Since the late Pope John ascended the papal throne, there has been a growing movement toward the merging of all religions into a world church… The Babylon of the Revelation is an apostate religious system clearly identifiable with all of [so-called] Christendom, with papal Rome taking the lead in its formation… The world might applaud such a union, but we may be certain that God is not in it.”

He continues on pages 296, 297: “We are not surprised, then, when we see men and women of various religious faiths making pilgrimages to Rome to see a man who has been exalted as ‘the holy father,’ ‘the voice of God,’ and then bowing down to him as though he were a god.”

B) The Babylonian System (Revelation 18):

While in Revelation 17 the religious nature of the last resurrection of the Roman Empire is vividly depicted, Revelation 18 focuses more, but not exclusively, on the economic nature of that last resurrection. The Ryrie Study Bible points out in its annotation to Revelation 17:5: “In chapter 17 Babylon represents the false religious system that will center in Rome… In chapter 18 it represents more the political and commercial aspect of the revived Roman Empire…Thus the term stands both for a city and for a system (religious and commercial) related to the city (much like ‘Wall Street,’ which is both a place and a system).”

God warns His people not to participate in this Babylonian system, by accepting the mark of the beast and becoming RICH thereby (compare Revelation 18:3-4; see the discussion of the “mark of the beast” in Update #329). Its merchandise even included “the bodies and souls of men” (Revelation 18:13). Also, in it the blood of the saints was found (Revelation 18:24), and through its false teachings and sorcery all the nations were deceived (Revelation 18:3, 23).

Strauss comments on modern Babylon’s wealth and religious persecution, as follows: “The wealth of the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant denominations combined adds up to many billions of dollars (p. 298)… The unscriptural doctrines of purgatory, the last rites, and masses for the dead have brought untold wealth into the treasury (p. 310)… Sir Robert Anderson, of Scotland Yard fame, estimated that Rome was guilty of the death of 50,000,000 Christians (p. 299)… She will be judged because of the untold number of victims whom she slaughtered in the inquisition and in St. Bartholomew’s Massacre. She must pay for those shocking murders and for the many bloody persecutions which followed (p. 314)” [and which still will occur in the near future].

God will destroy the modern city of Babylon (Revelation 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21) “in one day” and “in one hour” (Revelation 18: 8, 10, 17). God will totally wipe out that city, as well as the religious, economic, political and military system it represents, to become a habitation and prison for demons (Revelation 18:2).

The warning and the lesson for God’s people is very clear: Come out of her, My people, God says. Have nothing to do with her. Be and stay separate, and don’t touch what is unclean. Don’t participate in other men’s sins. There are always some–even within the Church of God–who think that they need to remain within an apostate religious system and perhaps try to “reform” it. It never works–and it is against God’s specific instructions.

We will observe very shortly the final revival of the ancient Roman Empire in Europe. A most powerful world-ruling Empire will emerge, attempting to impose its religious and military “values” on everybody. As we know these things, we ought to take very seriously Christ’s warning in Luke 21:34-36: “But TAKE HEED to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to ESCAPE all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man [at His return].”

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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