Let’s start with a quick recap of the four main steps in the Inductive Method of Bible study:
- Pray – the Spirit is our Teacher and Guide.
- Observe – only looking at what the text says – do not jump to any conclusions here.
- Interpretation – ask about the meaning to those to whom the book was originally written. Here we ask why questions; we do not ask about ourselves or our society in this step.
- Application – application is the goal of Bible study, leading to transformed lives and societies, but it is the last step in the method. Jumping to application prematurely can lead to incorrect doctrine.
Bear these steps in mind as we get into the text.
Try getting into the method a little for yourself:
- Pray. Ask God to open greater understanding of Revelation’s message to the original readers, and the application for your life today.
- Observe. Notice the response of the two groups that respond to the fall of the Great Prostitute – unbelievers first, and then the saints.
- Interpretation. Consider the original readers of Revelation as you read through this act – believers facing persecution and martyrdom for their faith. Ask what it would mean to them. Consider Revelation 17:6 and 17:1 and consider the relevance of the act to the original readers in their situation.
Act V Babylon, the Harlot, judged; 17:1-19:10
What is the setting of Act V from Rev 17:1-2? . . .
Judgement of the Great Prostitute. So who is the Prostitute?
Let’s firstly consider options for a literal interpretation. To the original readers, Babylon reminded them of their persecutors and time in exile due to sexual immorality and idolatry. It represents the evil that led them into sin. Rome at this time was often labelled as Babylon by Jews, so this could be one option. Other commentators say the apostate church, just as the woman is the Church faithful. Yet others have claimed the Roman Catholic church.
There are again a couple of options for a spiritual interpretation. Some claim that non-Christian world religion is subject to the whore; thus she represents idolatry against the true God. Others would say anti-God governments – killing God’s people and leading others into lives of sin as Babylon did to Israel.
Or simply the interpretation option of: “I don’t know . . .”
More importantly is the question: What is the relevance of this Act to the original reader. Consider Revelation 17:6 and 17:14 (as in the starting activity). We see this is God’s justice for His saints. The original readers would have had hope that they only had to endure a little longer. We don’t really need to know who the beast and prostitute are – because God wins and we win with Him! There is no trepidation for believers!
Now consider the big picture of this Act. The very beast that comes out to persecute the church destroys Babylon, the enemy of the church! God puts it into their hearts to destroy one another; God is in control and there is no need to fear!
Before getting into the scenes, we also need to consider the beast with 7 heads and 10 horns. This is the same beast as Rev 13:1-10 – the beast out of the sea. Some try to put a literal interpretation onto the 7 heads and 10 horns: such as Rome and 7 of its kings; or even (by an English commentator) kings of France ! Others try to place it with world Empires of the past and speculate on future ones. Others see the 10 horns ruling at the same time for one hour and prophesy a coming one world government.
The eighth is not merely one of the seven restored, but a new power or person proceeding out of the seven, and at the same time embodying all the God-opposed features of the previous seven concentrated and consummated; for which reason there are said to be not eight, but only seven heads, for the eighth is the embodiment of all the seven.
Remember that they are all linked to the beast, who was and is not and is about to rise. The time when the beast “is not” is the time during which it has “the deadly wound”. This is a contrast to God: the Hebrew, “tetragrammaton,” or sacred four letters in Jehovah, “who is, who was, and who is to come”
Again, the identity of the beast is not that important. What is important is: Who wins? In Revelation 17:14 we see the winner . . .
The Lamb; the LORD of Lords and King of kings! Plus those with Him who are called and chosen and faithful.
The first three scenes read a bit like an Old Testament lament.
Chapter 18 breaks my heart every time I read it. It is one of saddest passages of the Bible because it shows the heart of people who have turned against God. It shows the state of the people who refuse to repent. In these scenes we see the people of the world, unbelievers, mourning the Prostitute’s death.
If this chapter doesn’t lead you to want to evangelise, then I don’t know what in Scripture will. The world is deceived. We need to bring the Gospel. We need to give our lives wholeheartedly to the preaching of the Good News! We cannot show people their need for God and His salvation if we live mourning the earthly pleasures we’ve given up to follow Him, or if we are still seeking those pleasures over Him. We must worship God alone. We cannot serve God and money. We cannot serve God and the world.
Revelation is a book of black and white. Either you are with God, or you are not. We must lay down our life for the Gospel knowing that we have inherited eternal life.
Scenes 4-6 stand in stark contrast to the first 3 scenes. The first 3 scenes show the world mourning the Prostitute; scenes 4-6 show the praise of God by those in heaven. Worship is going on in the midst of all the destruction and chaos – by all His people, throughout all time.
Scenes 1-3 call us to evangelise; scenes 4-6 call us to worship. Seeing the brokenness of the world leads us to evangelism of love; seeing God’s victory and His awesome power leads to awestruck worship.
Then finally in Scene 7 (19:6-10) we get to the marriage supper of the Lamb. The Act leads up in a crescendo: a great multitude praising the Lord and declaring the marriage feast of the Lamb has come. The original readers would be reminded that they have been made pure and blameless before God and that He is just and will not forget His promises. His timing may seem slow to them, but He will come and bring them to the great marriage supper.
The Bride to the original reader represented the church and they would see this as Christ having made believers pure and holy and justified – that they have nothing to fear because their future lies with Christ. This is what the original reader are told to endure for; this is what all believers are longing for: The Kingdom of God coming in its full glory when the Lord God Almighty will reign over all and we will be before Him as His spotless, pure Bride.
John is overwhelmed by this vision and falls down in worship of the angel, but the angel says “whoa! that is for God and God alone”.
For the original reader, and us today, this book must lead us to deeper worship of God Almighty. Worship God despite what is going on around us. In the midst of all the destruction and chaos on earth, all the wars, violence and sickness He is still worthy of praise. There is no need to fear the evil in this world for Christ has conquered, and we have with Him.
Feel the emotions and atmosphere of this small scene. I’ve only seen Glenn cry twice from overwhelmed emotions. The first was on our wedding day when I was walking down the aisle towards him, and the second was when our son was born. Husbands, you know the joy and sense of wonder as your bride walks towards you, glowing and in white; imagine the joy of Christ as the waiting bridegroom. And wives, you know the joy and delight of walking towards your husband. Those of you who aren’t married, you still feel the anticipation and hope of the day. All these emotions and spirit cries are packed into this passage. This is the day we eagerly await. And what a celebration and feast there will be afterwards!!
Next post we will get into the Sixth “Act” of Revelation as the drama continues to unfold.