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The angel tells John he will show him the condemnation of the harlot. Tyre was called a harlot by Isaiah ( Isa_23:16-17 ), as was Ninevah by Nahum ( Nah_3:4 f) Also, Jerusalem was described as a harlot when the people turned from proper service to spiritual adultery. ( Isa_1:21 ; Hos_2:5 ; Hos_2:12 ; Hos_9:1 ; Jer_2:20 ) The waters are identified in verse 15 as peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues. It seems possible to this writer that we first have a picture of Rome as the capital city of the empire and then as the head of the spiritually apostate church gone whoring after false religion.
The kings of the earth were materialistic and irreligious because they were drunk on her power.
The woman clothed with the sun was last seen ( Rev_12:1 ; Rev_12:6 ; Rev_12:14 ) in the wilderness. So, some have concluded this must be the apostate church portrayed as a whore riding on the beast in the wilderness. However, Old Testament writers use the wilderness to describe a place where God protects his people ( Psa_78:52 ; Isa_51:3 ; Eze_34:25-31 ) and a wasteland of punishment. ( Isa_50:2 ; Zep_2:13 ) The harlot may be the apostate church if the wilderness of chapter 12 is the same as the one here. The beast she rides upon seems to be the one of 13:1. Scarlet was the color of luxury and royalty. ( Mat_27:28-29 ) It is also the color used to describe the stain of sin. ( Isa_1:18 )
The woman was arrayed in the clothes of luxury in a gaudy sort of way. Her clothes clearly identify here with the beast she rides (scarlet) and show how much she will spend on her own pleasure. (Gold, gems and pearls) One would expect a fine drink from a golden cup, but her's contains things the Lord hates, the filthiness of sin. It is said the harlots of that day had their names tattooed on their foreheads. She is the mother of all the spiritually unfaithful and the sins of the earth. The description here reminds us of Jeremiah's prophecy in regard to ancient Babylon ( Isa_51:1-8 )
She had thirsted after the blood of the faithful and was drunk on the blood of those whe had martyred. John stood in wonder looking at such a sight.
The angel asks John why he was awed and says he will tell who the woman and the beast are.
If we were right in our suggestions about the deathstroke delivered to the head in Rev_13:1-3 , this would be another good way to portray it. The abyss was the origin of the sundarkening smoke, locusts and the domain over which Satan rules. ( Rev_9:1-3 ; Rev_9:11 ) This beast out of the abyss is headed for perdition or destruction, utter ruin. The sinful world stands in awe of a beast that lived, died and now is seen rising out of the pit. God foreordained before the foundation of the world that those who obeyed Christ would have their names written in the book of life and be saved. Likewise, those who refuse to obey will be lost. ( Mar_16:15-16 ; Eph_1:3-12 )
Generally, wisdom is the application of knowledge. The seven heads are both seven mountains and seven kings. Some have said the seven mountains are obviously those on which Rome was built and the seven kings are seven of her emperors. Of course, there is a great division over which emperors to count. Coffman suggest the seven heads, mountains, and kings are all representations of the same thing. He believes they stand for empires, since literal kings would not be described as fallen, but dead. He says Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece would be the five that had fallen. Rome would be the sixth and the apostate church persecuting true believers the seventh. Certainly, kingdoms are described as mountains elsewhere in scripture. ( Isa_2:2 ; Jer_51:25 ) Also, Daniel uses the words king and kingdom interchangably. ( Dan_7:17 ; Dan_7:23 ) This would make the eighth either some power not known to us yet, one of the seven described as the eighth or a revival of one of the seven.
There are always those who ride to power on the wave created by another. They are without real power of their own but do rule for a time with the one they ascended to power with.
Naturally, such kings who draw their power from another will be minded to do as the other instructs and will give all its strength to that end.
These will, at the beast's direction, fight with Jesus, but will lose. Jesus and the faithful will have the victory.
In verse 1, the angel had bid John to come see the whore that sat on many waters and now we learn the waters are nations.
The very kings who helped the harlot so they might share in her power actually hate her because of the power she exercises. God will use them to bring her to destruction when her sins are ripe. (Read Jdg_7:22 ; 1Sa_14:20 ; 2Ch_20:22-25 to see how God can even make nations fight against themselves.) Hendriksen says the reaction of the horns is like that of Judas Iscariot who betrayed his Lord for thirty pieces of silver yet ended up throwing them away in revulsion when he realized what he had done. ( Mat_27:3-5 ) These kings now turn their power over to the beast, which Coffman sees as the eighth beast of verse 11, or the lawless one.
The harlot is clearly identified as "that great city," which would seem to be none other than Rome the capital of the Empire and the Holy Roman Empire.
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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Revelation 17". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26