Segment 37 - 17.01 - The overthrow of Rome
Beginning with chapter 17, we can call this the final triumph, the overthrow of Rome. Now things are really beginning to change. Okay? And we see a different picture coming on to the scene now. In chapter 17, he has some more visions here. And in the first vision, this is a vision of judgment. And he uses some terms regarding Rome. The great harlot and the beast. Once again, he refers to the beast. And when he talks about the great harlot here, he means Rome. Once again, talking about Rome. And he kind of elaborates on his vision of judgment and destruction. Let’s read chapter 17, at least a little bit of it.
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bulls came and said to me, “Come. I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who is seated upon many waters.” The great harlot who is seated upon many waters. This is also a veiled reference to Babylon. If you’d read Jeremiah, the 51st chapter, you’ll see that he talks about Babylon as the great harlot or that same idea, seated on many waters. Babylon was a land with many canals. And of course the people went into exile there. And he identifies Rome once again with Babylon. Okay?
And he calls her the great harlot because in the Old Testament, the idea of harlotry is brought out quite a bit. And harlotry in the Old Testament means having intercourse with foreign gods and idols. Whenever Israel played the harlot, that’s a term that some of the prophets liked to use, it meant that the people of Israel forsook the worship of Yahweh, their God, and went after other Gods. So the term harlotry means just that. It means getting away from worship of your own God and having intercourse, as it were, with heathen Gods. It’s speaking to idolatry. And of course, those who involve themselves in emperor worship were guilty of this idolatry, or playing the harlot and that sort of thing.
So he calls Rome the great harlot seated on many waters. Then he goes on down, “With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication and with the wine of whose fornication the dwellers on earth have become drunk. And he carried me away in the spirit into a wilderness. And I saw the woman sitting on a scarlet beast, which was full of blasphemous names. And it had seven heads and ten horns.” And here we go once again with the seven heads and ten horns. All of this is Rome. Okay? All of this is Rome. And he brings in a beast here. The woman is Rome, but the beast probably refers to one of the emperors and maybe Nero, maybe Nero. Although this might have been written during the time of the emperor Dumis and as we’ve said ... but Nero seems to be the real baddy in this whole episode in the book of Revelation. Talks about blasphemous names and being drunk with the blood of saints in the name of mystery and all that type of thing. All this is referring to a vision of judgment on Rome.
Segment 38 - 17.07 - Interpretation of the beast
Then he gives an interpretation of the vision. Of the vision here, beginning with verse seven. This becomes important to us, because this is probably more specifically narrow that he’s talking about. Look at verse seven. “But the angel said to my, why marvel? I will tell you of the mystery of the woman and of the beast with seven heads and 10 horns that carries her. The beast that you saw was and is not, and is to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to perdition, and the dwellers on earth who’s names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to behold the beast. Because, it was, and is not, and is to come.”
Goodness that’s a long sentence. “It was and, and is not, and is to come.” This is a reference to the belief that Nero had died. As we said maybe committed suicide around 68 AD. The conditions of his death were a bit obscure, but the belief developed that he was to return once again. The beast that was, he lived, and is not, and is to come. He was, he lived, and then he died some way, and is to come again. They believe that he was to come back and lead the Parthian army against Rome. So this is a reference to that idea. To Nero coming back.
In verse nine what does it say? “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman is seated.” The seven hills of Rome. That’s pretty well known. The seven hills of Rome, a specific reference to Rome. So all of this has to do with the references to Nero coming back, and to Rome in general. Rome is the great harlot, and the beast is probably a specific reference to Nero. So he just builds up that whole idea once again.
Scholars tell us that apparently several sudo-Nero’s appear during that time. So this wasn’t, shouldn’t be to surprising that the writer would make this same reference to Nero returning. It’s like for the Messiah, Jesus was one who claimed to be the Messiah, but other people at various times were also jumping up claiming to be the Messiah as well. So it’s not unusual to believe that there was more than one person claiming to be the Messiah. Okay?
Segment 39 - 17.15 - Nero and the Parthians come back
All of this now, he boils all of this down to say that they’re all going to be destroyed by the Lamb. Let’s see if I have it down here. Look at Verse six. Well, let’s pick it up with Verse 15 of Chapter 17. Verse 15. “And he said to me, ‘The waters that you saw where the harlot was seated are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues, and the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the harlot.’” Now the beast, probably Nero, the ten horns refers to other Roman emperors, the whole idea of Rome, okay? And the emperors, right? “And the beast will hate the harlot,” in other words Nero and the other emperors and all his other henchmen are going to hate the harlot, and the harlot is Rome. This is the reference to Nero coming back, leading the Parthians across the River Euphrates, which was dried up with the sixth plague, as it said, and then coming back to destroy Rome. But then what’s going to happen right after that? Let’s see.
“And the ten horns that you saw, they and the best will hate the harlot. They will make her desolate and naked.” Rome will be destroyed. “And devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and giving over their loyal power to the beast until the words of God shall be fulfilled. And the woman that you saw is the great city, which has dominion over the kings of the earth.” The writer does something that is common among some of the writers of the Old Testament. Whenever they saw a great foreign power arising, they always saw the activity of God at work within that foreign power, and they saw that foreign power as an instrument of God’s justice on his own people because they had committed idolatry. In other words, the prophet Jeremiah speaks out in a number of different ways throughout his writing to the idea that the Babylonians are to be used as God’s instrument of justice, and the Babylonians are going to defeat the Jewish people and take them back into captivity, the Israelites and take them back into captivity because they have played the harlot. They have gone after other gods.
What was really happening was that Babylon had arisen as a world power, and that was the fact, but the writer saw within that the Hand of God at work. He saw the divine element involved in everything and said, “Ah, that’s God’s justice at work.” This is what the writer of Revelation is also doing with this belief that Nero was to come back, lead the Parthian army, and what does he say here in Verse 17? “For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and giving over their loyal power to the beast.” He sees God involved. In other words, Nero and the Parthians are working for God according to the writer. It’s a theme that many of the Old Testament writers picked up on. But of course what’s going to happen through all of this is that the Christ is going to be triumphant, the Lamb, Jesus will finally destroy the beast and all the rest, and this is what we’re moving toward. That’s kind of an interpretation of that division that he had in the first few verses of Chapter 17.