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Revelation chapter 17

English Standard Version

New International Version

New American Standard Bible

Christian Standard Bible

New Living Translation

King James Version

1And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: 2With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. 3So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. 4And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: 5And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. 6And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. 7And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. 8The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. 9And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. 10And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. 11And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. 12And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. 13These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. 14These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
New King James Version

What does Revelation chapter 17 mean?

At this point in Revelation, the bowl judgments have been described, and all that remains of the tribulation is the second coming of Christ. Before this is explained, John is shown a vision which symbolizes two additional judgments which are spread out over the tribulation. Chapter 17 focuses on the ruin of "religious Babylon," an ungodly spiritual system which is at first supported, then ruined by the efforts of the beast. Chapter 18 will describe the fall of Babylon in a political or economic sense.

This chapter begins with one of the angels who poured out a judgment bowl calling John to see a "great prostitute." This figure is another of the commonly-known symbols of Revelation, often referred to as the "Whore of Babylon." What follows is a vision—specifically meant to be symbolic, and not literal (Revelation 17:1–2).

John's vision takes him to a wilderness, where he sees the image of a woman sitting on a strange beast. The beast and the woman are described in careful terms, to be explained later by the angel who brought John. In Scripture, sexual immorality is often used as a parallel for idolatry. Both are gratifying and temporary, but result in shame and ruin. This immoral woman is richly clothed, symbolizing her support and adoration by the world. She is also said to be "drunk with the blood" of believers. Wine and blood are often interchanged in biblical imagery—this woman is responsible for untold bloodshed among Christians. As explained later, this woman seems to represent an ungodly religious view, either something new or a corruption of the truth, which spreads worldwide at the time of the tribulation. This striking image causes John to respond in shock and amazement (Revelation 17:3–6).

In response to John's awe, the angel promises to explain the meaning of these visions. The beast is described using a peculiar phrasing, suggesting that it used to exist, does not now exist, but will exist in the future. Its heads are explained as both a series of mountains and as a group of kings. Many interpreters believe this is an additional reference to the Revived Roman Empire: a government once powerful, then extinct, and finally restored in the end times. The leaders described in this passage will make war on God, and experience sound defeat (Revelation 17:7–14).

The prostitute John saw is prophesied to be destroyed by the beast and the ten leaders. The woman symbolizes some form of apostate religion, and the beast and kings some form of government. This leads to the likelihood that this blended or ecumenical or universal world religion will rapidly go from beloved to reviled by the world, and be destroyed as a result. In the end times, Satan will not be content with any vestiges of religion other than that which worships him (Revelation 13:11–12). The religious symbol of Babylon will lose her wealth and status and be torn apart by those who once supported her (Revelation 17:15–18).
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