What does Revelation 17:18 mean?
ESV: And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth."
NIV: The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth."
NASB: The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.'
CSB: And the woman you saw is the great city that has royal power over the kings of the earth."
NLT: And this woman you saw in your vision represents the great city that rules over the kings of the world.'
KJV: And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
NKJV: And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
Verse Commentary:
In this verse the prostitute, religious Babylon, is described as "the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth." What John saw in his vision was a series of symbols (Revelation 17:1–6). Those are now being explained to John by one of the angels involved in delivering the bowl judgments (Revelation 17:1, 7).

The metaphorical woman, often referred to as the "Whore of Babylon," practices her false, satanic religion from Babylon, which some interpreters believe is the city of Rome. But it may be the literal city of Babylon in the middle east. Just as modern cities are used as symbols of certain nations or religions—such as Moscow, Mecca, or Rome—this might refer to the worldwide center of the ecumenical religious system.

Ancient Babylon was notorious for its idolatrous worship. When Daniel and his three friends were taken into captivity from Jerusalem, they found themselves surrounded by idolatrous customs in Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon tried to indoctrinate them in the worship of Baal by feeding them unclean food, by inducting them into a three-year education program, and by changing their Hebrew names to pagan names. But every effort failed. The young men remained true to the Lord (Daniel 1). These three friends miraculously survived a blazing furnace after refusing to worship a statue of the king (Daniel 3). When King Darius took the Babylonian throne, he forbade prayer to anyone other than himself for thirty days. Standing true to God, Daniel continued daily prayers to the Lord. He was arrested and thrown to the lions, but God rescued him (Daniel 6).

Jeremiah 50:1–2 says, "The word that the LORD spoke concerning Babylon . . . 'Declare among the nations and proclaim, set up a banner and proclaim, conceal it not, and say: "Babylon is taken, Bel is put to shame, Merodach is dismayed. Her images are put to shame, her idols are dismayed."'" When God judges religious Babylon, her universal adoration (Revelation 17:4) will end.
Verse Context:
Revelation 17:15–18 continues the angel's explanation of John's symbolic vision, seen in verses 1 through 6. This section focuses on religious Babylon—pictured as a sexually immoral woman—and her judgment. Other Scriptures proclaim the judgment that God eventually brings on apostate religion. A few are Psalm 9:17; 73:27; Isaiah 1:25; 3:11; 34:1–10; Jeremiah 23:9–40; Zechariah 11:17; Luke 12:1–5 Jude; and Revelation 18:1–8.
Chapter Summary:
Revelation 17 zeroes in on God's judgment of Babylon as the center of religious corruption in the tribulation. The target of this wrath seems to be an eclectic form of all apostate religions. This might be a concrete, single religion. Or, it might be a near-religious blending or equalizing of all spiritual beliefs. God views religious Babylon as ''the great prostitute'' that has support from heads of state. This system is both extremely rich and murderous, guilty of martyring saints. It has a past and a renewed existence as a religious-political system. Together, the political heads of state and religious Babylon battle Jesus, the Lamb, but He defeats them. The end of religious Babylon comes when the ten kings turn against her and ruin her. They destroy religious Babylon because God puts it in the hearts to do so.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 16 resumed explaining God's pattern of end times wrath, this time describing the seven bowl judgments. As the last bowl is poured out, John is called to see a vision, which seems to incorporate events occurring throughout the tribulation. This chapter focuses on the fall of religious Babylon. Revelation 14:8 and 16:19 mention Babylon's collapse under the wrath of God in the tribulation. Babylon's ultimate fall may actually occur before the bowl judgments, anytime during the second half of the tribulation. Isaiah 13 and Jeremiah 50 and 51 predict the fall of Babylon. Revelation 18 also speaks of the ruin of Babylon, but from a political and economic perspective.
Book Summary:
The word ''revelation'' means ''an unveiling or disclosure.'' This writing unveils future events such as the rapture, three series of judgments that will fall on the earth during the tribulation, the emergence of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel and her amazing revival, as well as Jesus' second coming with His saints to the earth, the judgment of Satan and his followers, and finally, the eternal state. This content, combined with the original Greek term apokalypsis, is why we now refer to an end-of-the-world scenario as ''an apocalypse.''
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