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After the accomplishment of the mystery of God by the pouring out of the seven vials, the prophet has a further and more particular vision of the same great persecuting power whose doom has been foretold. He is carried by one of the seven angels into the wilderness, and there sees a harlot riding upon a scarlet-colored beast, which is manifestly the same as the beast that rose out of the sea. Chap Revelation 13:1 . A harlot is the appropriate symbol of an apostate church, and her riding upon the beast represents the fact that the beast supports her, and she uses it for the accomplishment of her base purposes. She is therefore the same for substance as the two-horned beast that "exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him." Chap Revelation 13:11-12 .
The great whore ; the great persecuting power, whose destruction had been foretold; called by this name on account of her awfully corrupting influence.
Sitteth upon many waters ; ruleth over many nations. Verse Revelation 17:15 .
Have committed fornication ; by their idolatrous devotion to her service.
Made drunk with the wine of her fornication ; an allusion to the wine-cup which harlots give to their deluded votaries. The meaning is that the inhabitants of the earth have been deluded, corrupted, and made wretched by her errors, vices, and control. The wicked character and seductive influence of those who have been distinguished for their persecutions of God’s people, he had represented under a great variety of images; all suited to show their detestable character, and lead all the right-minded to abhor them.
Into the wilderness ; probably to be understood symbolically of the fact that her presence makes a spiritual wilderness.
A woman ; representing this idolatrous persecuting power, who, with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, by pretended miracles, shows, splendid decorations, indulgences, jubilees, and blandishments of various sorts, had been deceiving and enslaving the nations, promising all good to those who should follow, and all evil to those who should oppose her. 2Th 2:9-12 ; 1 Timothy 4:1-3 .
Scarlet - colored ; scarlet is the well-known color of popes and cardinals.
Seven heads and ten horns ; see below on verses Revelation 17:9-12 .
Purple-scarlet-gold-and pearls ; indicating her vast wealth and luxury, and the gorgeous and splendid decorations by which she dazzled and captivated the deluded multitude. Great external parade, pomp, and show are given in the Bible as characteristics of that corrupt secular and ecclesiastical power denominated antichrist, the mystery of iniquity, the beast, the great whore, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.
Mystery ; apparently indicating the symbolic character of her name.
Drunken with the blood of the saints , and-martyrs of Jesus ; expressive of the vast multitude whom she, by her inquisitions, wars, and in various other ways had caused to be put to death, because they would not yield to her seductions.
I wondered ; at the revelation which was made, and at the shameless and awful wickedness revealed of this mystery of iniquity. Another characteristic is, while professing to have the temper of a lamb, and to be allied to heaven, it shows by its acts the heart of a dragon, instigated from hell. It has put to death, as heretics and schismatics, so many of the humble, believing followers of Jesus Christ, that it is described as drunken with their blood.
Was , and is not-shall ascend-go into perdition ; the beast is the Roman power considered through the whole of its duration. It was , as the old Roman empire, and in this form it was destroyed and ceased to be; then it ascended out of the bottomless pit as papal Rome, and in this form it shall finally go into perdition.
Shall wonder ; wonder after the beast, chap Revelation 13:3 ; that is, shall follow him with idolatrous admiration.
When they behold the beast ; during the continuance of the beast, or this persecuting power, in its last form and before its final destruction. There is no certain security, except to the true children of God, against the seductive arts and fascinating influence of that power which is represented as the great whore, on a scarlet-colored beast, arrayed in purple, and decked with gold, precious stones, and pearls, and with her wine making the nations drunk.
Hath wisdom ; to understand the meaning of this description, and to whom it properly applies.
Seven mountains ; on which Rome, the seat of her empire and that of the beast which supported her, was built.
And there are seven kings ; the seven heads signify also seven kings. This is understood by many as representing the seven forms of civil government which prevailed in Rome-kings, consuls, dictators, decemvirs, military tribunes, emperors, and the exarchate of Ravenna; for here, as in verse Revelation 17:12 , a king denotes not an individual, but a succession of rulers.
Five are fallen ; the first five of the above list; which are those enumerated by the historian Livy, as having existed in his day.
One is ; the imperial form.
When he cometh ; when the last king cometh, that is, the last form of government.
The beast that was , and is not ; that is, the beast in his last form ascending out of the bottomless pit, verse Revelation 17:8 .
Is the eighth ; in the order of succession, since he comes after the other seven.
Is of the seven ; he belongs to them, as being a continuation of the same power which they have exercised before him.
Ten kings ; ten governments, which should arise out of the ruins of the old Roman empire.
One hour ; through one period of time.
With the beast ; their rise is coincident with that of the beast. At first they give their power to the beast; but afterwards they turn against it.
Make war with the Lamb ; act in open and deadly hostility to Christ and his cause.
The ten horns which thou sawest ; that nations which for a time supported the persecuting power.
Shall hate the whore-make her desolate-eat her flesh , and burn her with fire ; shall turn against her, and help to destroy the persecuting power which she represented. Though she may for a time and to a great extent succeed in deceiving the nations, yet it will be only so long as God shall suffer it, and till his word concerning it is fulfilled. Then many will be undeceived, see their folly and her abominations, and turn in wrath against her, and she shall come to her end and have none to help her.
The words of God ; those which he has uttered concerning the wickedness of this beast, or persecuting power.
That great city ; Rome; those who there exerted influence and exercised dominion over Italy, and over a great portion of the earth.
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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Revelation 17". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25