Verse 1. John is called to come and see the judgment of Babylon, but in the process he also gets a description of the woman (Babylon). The subject of this section is the judgment of religious Babylon. The judgment describes her condemnation, sentence, and penalty passed. The emphasis is the particular character and nature of the penalty that God has in store for Babylon.
In keeping with the laws of the harvest, Scripture teaches that whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. The harlot system has seduced men and nations and tried to rule them politically. Nations have bowed and scraped to her for centuries, but a time will come when they will revolt and destroy her.
Babylon’s description as “the great harlot” refers to the spiritual prostitution and fornication that categorizes the apostate church of the Tribulation which is unfaithful and rejects the Lord Jesus Christ as her husband (2 Pet. 2:1-2). “Great” refers to the harlot system which will reach its zenith after the removal of the true church (genuine believers) by way of the rapture. The prostitute exists today in many forms (Roman Catholicism, liberal Protestantism, the cults, etc.), but after the church is gone, or perhaps even before it is gone, they will unite and become one great ecumenical religious system.
“That sits on many waters” refers to world-wide unification and control. “Waters” refers to the “nations” and the many people of those nations. “Sits on” suggests the concept of control as well as unification. The nations are religiously united and politically affiliated with each other through the power and control of this religious system and its head. When the church is raptured, the apostate system which will already have spread its tentacles all over the world, will quickly unite and become the one-world church.
One of the things we should be watching for are tendencies and movements among the religious groups of the world toward a united world church, and we have been seeing this for years. One of the recent “uniting factors” is the present day tongues movement. It seems the tongues experience becomes a uniting force that unites Roman Catholics, Charismatics, liberal Protestants, and even the cults, and this regardless of the divergent doctrinal views, many of which are clearly contrary to Scripture.
Verse 2. “With whom (the harlot) the kings of the earth have committed fornication” is a reference to the leaders of the non-communist block of nations in which the religious system has her tentacles. This is an alliance of church and state which is an unfaithful act for both. This causes both to prostitute (compromise) their responsibility before God. Both state and church were established by God, but must remain separate if they are to carry out their purpose. They are to support one another, but the moment they merge, both liberty and spiritual freedom are lost (at least eventually). By separate, I am not talking about the separation of church and state that is being promoted today where prayer and dependence on God has been removed from the classroom while godless ideologies are being promoted.209
Below is an extended portion quoted from the chapter entitled, “The Myth the Church Should Have No Voice in Government” in the book, Exploding The Myths That Could Destroy America, by Erwin W. Lutzer:
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17).
This statement of Christ’s was revolutionary. To those believers who were under the Roman yoke He said that we can, under certain conditions, have loyalty both to God and to the state. But Christ also knew that conflict between the two spheres would become inevitable when the secular authority would demand for himself honors that belong only to God. Yet, as far as possible, believers should live with loyalty to both authorities.
Church-state conflict goes back to the early days when Christianity was outlawed and was set in opposition to Roman rule. Early Christians died not because the Romans were intolerant (they would accept whatever god anyone wished to worship). What they abhorred was the exclusivism of Christianity. The belief that Jesus Christ was the only Lord galled the Romans and led many Christians to the lions.
Early Christianity was a minority religion in a secular state. But all of that changed under Constantine, who wanted to make Christianity coextensive with the state. In other words, everyone who would be born within the boundaries of the Roman Empire would be a Christian.
As a result of this development, the church and state were united. In the eleventh century, Pope Gregory VII struggled with the mightiest king in Western Europe, Henry IV of Germany The question was, Who would have the authority to appoint bishops? The king insisted that that was his prerogative, but the pope maintained that such a conclusion would place the church subordinate to the state and hence corrupt the faith. When King Henry visited the pope’s castle in Italy, he was required to stand barefoot for three days and ask for mercy before receiving the pope’s pardon. It made sense to the pontiff that the church should have authority over the state so that heretics could be punished and doctrinal purity maintained.
Later when the Anabaptists revolted against the unity of church and state, they were put to death and persecuted with the full approval of the Reformers. Men such as Luther believed that if the church were considered to be a segment of society rather than coextensive with society, the social order would be broken up. The Anabaptists who held the strict separation of church and state were therefore persecuted for their belief.
When the Pilgrims came to what today is called the United States it was to escape the tyranny of a state church. They understood that when church and state were united there was not only a loss of individual freedom but the abuse of using civil power to enforce the whim of the religious elite.
In our Constitution these familiar words appear: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Clearly the intention was (1) to limit the power of the federal government by ensuring that it would not establish a state church, then (2) it was not to prohibit the free exercise of religion.
Today this amendment is being deliberately misinterpreted to try to separate God from government. Whenever any religious influence is exerted in government agencies, the secularists cry “Foul!” And if a citizen raises his voice against secularism he is told to be silent because of the supposed “wall of separation” between church and state.
The phrase “wall of separation” does not appear in the Constitution, but had its origin in a letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to a group of Baptists and Congregationalists in Danbury, Connecticut who had called him an infidel. He then said there should be a “wall of separation between church and state.” Interestingly, the USSR Constitution does use the expression “wall of separation between church and state.” This basic tenet is found in most Communist countries. Churches are permitted to operate in all those areas where the political authorities do not have power, but because the state has supreme authority over all matters, religion is literally squeezed out of existence.
The fathers of this nation never dreamed that separation of church and state meant that God should be separated from government. The government buildings in Washington bear ample testimony to the belief that faith in God is the basis for establishing laws and running the affairs of a nation.
For example, the Ten Commandments hang over the head of the chief justice of the Supreme Court (would that they had been read before the infamous Roe v. Wade decision of 1973). In the rotunda the words “In God we trust” are engraved, and on the Library of Congress we have “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” The Washington monument and other government buildings contain phrases of Scripture.
The Bible has much to say about the Christian’s responsibility in government.
Most letters that congressmen receive are complaints from their constituents. Seldom are they ever affirmed and told that they are doing a good job. Even more rarely do politicians learn that individual believers have been praying for them. And yet, this is precisely Paul’s command. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
Paul uses four words to stress our intercession for government leaders. We must have entreaties (praying for specific needs); prayers (a more general word referring to the need for wisdom in daily decisions); petitions (a reference to our ability as believers to come before God in behalf of others) and finally thankfulness (gratitude to God for what leadership has been provided).
Because our political leaders are often non-Christians it is easy to think there is no use praying for them. But Paul makes it clear the Christian has a duty to pray that the state will protect its citizens and encourage an atmosphere where man can be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. If we are not constantly in prayer for our leaders we really cannot complain when our freedoms are taken away from us.
Think of what it would mean to a politician to receive letters from Christians without complaints, just to say that they are praying. With such power at our disposal we might be surprised at what God would bring about simply because His people are obedient to this command.
When Paul wrote the book of Romans, Christianity was not viewed with favor in the Roman Empire. Yet he exalts the role of government in the economy of God, and says, “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (Romans 13:1-2).
Why does Paul urge submission? First, because government is ordained of God. This is difficult to believe, particularly when we see the evil governments in existence today. What about China? The Soviet Union? Iran or Libya?
The Scriptures teach an interesting paradox: On the one hand Satan is actively involved in the political process. In fact, he said to Christ, “I will give you all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomsoever I wish. Therefore if you worship before me it shall all be yours” (Luke 4:6-7). The book of Daniel teaches that there are wicked spirits who are assigned to various leaders. There is no question that some world leaders are but tools of the devil.
Yet at the same time the Bible clearly teaches that God rules in the affairs of men. “For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation; but God is the judge; He puts down one, and exalts another” (Psalm 75:6-7).
Even more vividly, Nebuchadnezzar was driven to insanity and ate grass like the cattle until he learned that “The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes” (Daniel 4:25b).
How shall we understand this apparent contradiction? Satan’s authority is derived, it is not inherent in his own person. God has given him the rulership of the world, but he exercises his authority within the limitations prescribed by God. God controls the ultimate outcome of whatever decisions Satan may be allowed to make. And, of course, God rules everything according to His own will and to accomplish His own ultimate purpose. Yes, Nero along with Hitler and Stalin were “ordained of God.”
Furthermore, government represents God. Paul wrote, “Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” To resist governmental authority is to resist God. Whether we think a law is fair or not, we have no right to disobey simply because of our own preferences. Government is God-ordained.
But should we always obey the government? No, not always. As we shall see in the final chapter of this book, there is a place for civil disobedience. The history of the Christian church is filled with names of those who believed that they must obey God and not the rules of men.210
Verse 2 continued: “They have been made drunk with the wine of her immorality.” The wine refers to the demonic doctrines, ideologies and concepts produced by this religious/political alliance. In ancient Babylon it involved the mysteries of the mother-child cult and the one-world order of Nimrod and later Nebuchadnezzar. In our day the worship of the queen of heaven is still present (a new face for an old concept) namely, one-world order through social reform and the mysticism of the New Age movement. One idea that has been promoted by liberal Protestantism is we are all God’s children and can come to God in various ways; another is the delusion Satan has promoted from the beginning that we can be like God (Gen. 3:5). This has nothing to do with becoming like the children of God through Christ, but becoming like gods through New Age mysticism. So all racial distinctions, religious distinctions, and social distinctions must be removed. Everyone must learn to get along. Social reform and unification will be promoted as the greatest need of man thereby setting aside the real spiritual needs of men as they are found only in Christ who alone provides the basis for true unity and capacity to love one another.
“Drunkenness” in any form is an escape mechanism and the result of negative volition, indifference, apathy, and rejection of God’s revelation to man in Christ and the Bible. Because of the great negative volition that will exist at the time of the Tribulation, the world will be ripe for the wine of the harlot’s system. Lutzer and DeVries give us an excellent overview of the nature of this intoxicating wine of Babylon. In a section entitled, “Where New Meets Old” they write:
Read the Old Testament and you will be impressed with the number of times the name Babylon appears. The city began when men rebelled against God and attempted to build a tower—called Babel in Genesis 11:9—that would reach to the heavens (Here man was undoubtedly attempting to be like God under Satan’s delusion [parenthesis mine]). From those occult beginnings, Babylon eventually rose to become a dominant power with its sorcery permeating the ancient world. The prophets of God condemned it because it represented all that was most evil in man’s attempts to dethrone God.
What did the Babylonians believe that was so perverse? Isaiah 47:8-11 summarizes their religion:
8 Now, then, hear this, you sensual one, Who dwells securely, Who says in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me. I shall not sit as a widow, Nor shall I know loss of children.’ 9 But these two things shall come on you suddenly in one day: Loss of children and widowhood. They shall come on you in full measure In spite of your many sorceries, In spite of the great power of your spells. 10 And you felt secure in your wickedness and said, ‘No one sees me,’ Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; For you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’ 11 But evil will come on you Which you will not know how to charm away; And disaster will fall on you For which you cannot atone, And destruction about which you do not know Will come on you suddenly.
Take a close look at the text. Ancient Babylon had a spiritual religion built upon blasphemous premises:
(1) The deity of man—“I am. And there is no one besides me.”
(2) A false belief in triumph over death—“I shall not sit as a widow, nor shall I know the loss of children.”
(3) Moral relativism—“Hear this, you sensual one.”
(4) Esotericism, or private enlightenment through mystical spiritual experiences—“Your many sorceries . . the great power of your spells.”
Texe Marrs in his book Dark Secrets of the New Age lists nearly 30 rituals and beliefs found in ancient Babylon that are practiced today in the New Age Movement! Everything from reincarnation to occult meditation was commonplace 3,000 years ago.
The New Testament predicts that at the end of this age the religion of ancient Babylon will again stand in opposition to God. A woman clothed in purple and scarlet is described by the Apostle John as having the mystery name on her forehead, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (Revelation 17:5).
We may not be certain that the New Age Movement of today is indeed the final Babylon of Revelation. What we do know is that the final Babylon will practice the same occult religion as that of ancient Babylon. That is the religion which is now sweeping the Western world and gaining widespread acceptance among all levels of our society.
The New Age thus is a revival of the Old Age. And the New Age may well turn out to be the Final Age. For as modern Babylon gains in momentum, it will once again assault the heavens and shake its fist in the face of God …211
Verse 3. “The scarlet beast” refers to the Antichrist. He is scarlet because he is blood-thirsty and will at the right time kill the woman (the religious system). As seen earlier (Rev. 13) he is “filled with names of blasphemy,” which refers to his anti-god character and to the blasphemous claims he will later make (2 Thess. 2:4).
In verse 3 we are told John was taken to a “wilderness.” Obviously, this refers to a desolate, desert-kind of place, but it is designed to picture the world which the woman and beast will rule. It will be full of cities and peoples, but it will be a spiritual desert. There will be no true spiritual food or water from this empty religious system. The world will be starving and dying. This is what religion does for man, it leaves him in the desert.
However, in the desert, God has provided an “oasis,” a place where food and water can be found for those who are seeking. This of course is a picture of Jesus Christ and His plan for feeding the hungry. Today it involves local churches where the Word is taught, but in the Tribulation it will involve the ministry of the 144,000 evangelists of chapters 7 and 14, as well as the two witnesses and others who are saved.
This is our responsibility today, to be an oasis holding forth the Word of life. If we are faithful to do this, individually and corporately, the Lord will give us an open door to those who are thirsty. He will lead us to the hungry and them to us (Rev. 3:7-8).
The woman is described as “clothed in purple and scarlet and adorned with gold, precious stones and pearls.” Purple and scarlet have for centuries been the colors of royalty and of the wealthy. In part they stand for her political power, and in part they point to her religious pomp and trappings. The “gold, precious stones and pearls” refer to her immense wealth. These colors have for centuries been the colors of the Roman Catholic Church, and the wealth of this church is immense. Many believe that Papal Rome will somehow be involved in this last time system, at least in the first half of the Tribulation.
“Having a golden cup” refers to her enticing manner of alluring men and nations. She invites men to drink of her deadly and stupefying wine by offering it in a golden cup, while arrayed in all her splendor.
All of this—the gold and religious trappings—appeals to the sensual, material and religious bent of man’s sinful nature. He admires this, he is awed by it, and it blinds him.
“Abominations and unclean things” may refer to the various forms of idolatry involved in the worship of God through images, statues, and medals, etc. “Unclean things” refers not only to the nature of the doctrines taught, but what they lead to in the life, immorality and impurity. Man’s religion offers no solution to the flesh. It’s the flesh seeking to overcome the flesh and it profits nothing (John 6:63; Col. 2:20-23).
First Timothy 4:1-5 emphasizes that not only are such doctrines demonic and satanic, but gives us one of the primary doctrines of latter day Babylonianism, celibacy among the priests. This has led to horrible atrocities in the Roman Catholic Church. In Chiniquy’s book, Fifty Years in the Roman Catholic Church, he says that a young student priest was questioning a superior about this doctrine of Rome and received the following reply: “You have spoken as a true heretic … you speak of the Holy Scriptures just as a Protestant would, do you appeal to them as the only source of Christian truth and knowledge. Have you forgotten that we have the holy traditions to guide us, the authority of which is equal to the Scriptures?” Later he said: “You are not required to understand all the reasons for the vow of celibacy; but you are bound to believe in its necessity and holiness.”
This nullified Scripture on the basis of human tradition (Mark 7:13). Such a position refuses to allow people to carry out their responsibility to function as Berean believers (Acts 17:11). The idea of celibacy as a means to holiness is absolutely contrary to Scripture. As is always the case, false doctrine produces false practice. The Scriptures teach celibacy (remaining single) should not be embarked upon unless one has the gift of celibacy (Matt. 19:10-12; 1 Cor. 7:7-8). It teaches that marriage is good, a blessing and one of God’s means to avoid fornication; that it is an aid to happiness and a means of avoiding temptation (1 Cor. 7:2, 5, 8). Marriage is a blessing in those without the gift, and even allowable in those who do not have the gift (1 Cor. 7:2, 8, 28). Spiritual leaders such as Peter were married (2 Cor. 9:5).
“And on her forehead was written …” The practice of harlots in ancient times was to write their names on their foreheads for easy recognition, which showed the shamelessness of their character. It revealed a seared conscience from continual rejection of God’s truth.
“Mystery” here is not a part of the name but a description of the name, a secret. Initiation into the mysteries of the cult was always a part of Babylonianism and links this harlot with the ancient system. This connects the new and final system with the ancient system.
“Babylon the Great” is the secret name. It is telling us that Babylon the Great refers not only to the city of chapter 18, but to a religious system, the Babylonianism of ancient time, which will reach its peak in the Tribulation.
“The mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth.” First, this points to the source. Besides the concept of origin or source of all spiritual idolatry and false religions, the word “mother” indicates the position the harlot will play in the final days. She will gather all the forms of false religions under her wings for the one great world-wide harlot system.
“And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints …” is a reference to the rampant martyrdom of believers during this time. One good way to promote the one-world church will simply be the annihilation of all opposition.
“And when I saw her (the woman sitting on the beast) I wondered greatly.” “Wondered” is the Greek qaumazw, “to be amazed, surprised,” or “to wonder at something with attentive interest.” Should we not see in this the effect that all doctrine or Bible study should have on our hearts? As we open the Word and study and reflect on its marvelous truth, should it not lead to a spirit of wonder, amazement? We should be keenly interested in the details of God’s revelation, its explanation, and application.
When this is true, something always happens. God sees to it that we have an opportunity to learn and to know (John 7:17; Jer. 29:13). He sends along a Philip or one of His servants as here in Revelation 17 (Acts. 8:26f).
“And the angel said to me ‘Why do you wonder?’” In other words, why do you stand there gawking! Perhaps he was reminding John (and us) of the principle of prayer, “ask and you shall receive …” or “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God …” Nothing thrills the heart of God more than the hungry, searching heart of a believer seeking to know God’s Word.
So the angel promises to tell John about the mystery, the secret concerning the woman and the beast. I suppose from the world’s twisted perspective, this is the story of beauty (man’s viewpoint) and the beast. But there is more. By the angel’s question and description of the woman, however, he shows we should not marvel at the woman which appears in such pompous and religious attire because she is so satanic and thereby destructive and deceptive. We should never be deceived by outward form or religiosity no matter how outwardly attractive or influential or powerful as is the case with this ecumenical and godless system.
This is the same beast as described in Revelation 13. Actually seven things are stated about this beast beginning with verse 8 and continuing down through verse 14.
(1) Verse 8 describes the beast, the antichrist political system in terms of the past, present and future. The beast is the personification of imperial power. “Was” refers to old Rome, the old Roman empire of John’s day; this is her past. “And is not” refers to the fall of Rome. From John’s standpoint and ours, Rome would fall and pass from the scene; this is her present condition. “And is about to come up …” refers to the revived Roman empire in its final form in the days of the Tribulation; this is her future. This future form is related to the abyss, to Satan (it has a demonic source), but also to destruction. This teaches us that we should not to look for the mere revival of earthly power in the sphere of what was once great and then died away as with other countries. This verse is stressing that this revival of Rome is no natural phenomenon. Behind its rise is Satan himself. For some thoughts on the Book of life, see the Appendix 6.
(2) We are then told in verse 9 that the seven heads of the beast are mountains which, as we saw in the study on chapter 13, refers to seven successive world kingdoms represented by seven former kings (verse 10) all of whom supported the religious system of the harlot. The statement, “Here is the mind that has wisdom” in verse 9 is a warning. Only those who know this truth and accept it will be prepared to recognize and stand against the deception of this future system. Understanding God’s truth always gives us the capacity, if we will use it, to recognize the enemy as the enemy.
(3) Verse 10 tells us that “five are fallen.” As mentioned previously, this refers to the past history of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece. “One is” refers to Rome of John’s day, the sixth. “The other is not yet come “ refers to the revived Roman empire, or the Ten Nation Confederation of the first half of the Tribulation and will truly be a work of the Devil. This seventh kingdom will continue only for a little while, specifically, 3 1/2 years (the first half of the Tribulation).
(4) Verse 11 then informs us this beast which was, is not, and would come again actually becomes an eighth kingdom; he is one of the seven and will go into destruction. The revived Roman empire will take on the form of an imperial dictatorship and by this change actually become an eighth kingdom, a whole new and vicious form of government, the blasphemous form seen in Revelation 13. This occurs in the last half of the Tribulation and lasts for 3 1/2 years, but then is destroyed by the return of Christ (Rev. 19).
(5) Verse 12 defines the ten horns. The ten horns become the Ten Nation Confederation of nations that will join together under ten kings. These are nations which were once a part of the old Roman empires. Some time before the Tribulation, these European nations will begin seeking a way to confederate together for political, military and commercial reasons. It is a confederation that will take place partly because of pressure from the king of the north and partly because of a world-wide conspiracy led by Satan in preparation for his end time bid to be worshipped by man and to control the world. These ten nations will form the nucleus of the end time kingdom.
Now remember, in prophecy we sometimes have difficulty distinguishing between the kingdom (governmental system) and the king. One verse will speak of the kingdom and the very next verse switches to the king. Such is the case here. The beast is sometimes the empire and sometimes the Satan-controlled man.
“Who have not yet received …” i.e., this is all future and will occur in the Tribulation. “They receive authority … with the beast” means the beast will probably be one of the kings or certainly one who will rise up from one of the ten nations to take control and become the head of this confederation (Dan. 7:23-24).
(6) Verse 13 then tells us of their league with the super-personality, the one called the beast and the white horse rider of Revelation 6. They will give him their authority and power thinking he can solve the world’s problems and provide a leadership which the world needs against the Communist threat of the king of the north, his allies, the Orient, and solve the Arab-Israel dispute.
(7) In verse 14 we are told they will wage war with the Lamb, but that the Lamb will overcome them as the King of kings and Lord of Lords. This is the subject of chapter 19.
By its own interpretation, the text tells us the waters are symbolic. They are symbolic in that they refer to the vast majority of the people of the earth, perhaps with the exception of those countries confederated together with the kings of the north, south, and east. Walvoord writes:
The fact that a symbolic meaning is specifically assigned to it here indicates that this is the exception to the usual rule. The situation described here is one of great political power on the part of the beast but a sharing of rule with the woman who controls the multitudes of the world.212
For centuries the kings and the harlot have appeared as lovers, but there has been no real love between them. They each simply used the other to further their own ends. But now the religious system will have served its purpose, so the ten kings banish and completely destroy the harlot (the religious system). Her wealth, buildings, property will be confiscated, her leaders killed, and everything else destroyed.
(1) The time of this event will be about the halfway mark in the Tribulation or Daniel’s seventieth week. It will coincide approximately with the events of Revelation 12 (when Satan is booted out of heaven) and with Ezekiel 38 and 39 (when Russia invades Israel and is destroyed, assuming the king of the north is Russia). This will create the vacuum needed for world control.
(2) During the first half of the seven years, apostate Christendom will flower and establish its power all over the world. Because of the treaty with Israel which allows them to have their temple and peace in Jerusalem, there will undoubtedly be a certain amount of religious freedom during the first three and half years, but not necessarily for true believers in Christ.
(3) There will be wide-spread preaching of the gospel, but genuine believers will be extremely persecuted (17:6). The reason for this is that other religious systems won’t pose a threat to the harlot’s system, they will all be eventually amalgamated, but true genuine Christianity will not join their ranks and will pose a threat; they will therefore be persecuted. The same is true today and we will face greater and greater pressure.
(4) With the beginning of the second half of the week, the leader of the revived Roman empire will proclaim himself dictator of the world. He therefore destroys the world church, probably just prior to this declaration. He will then be free to take over everywhere.
(5) So in the absence of the apostate world church he substitutes the worship of himself (Rev. 13:8).
(6) Two key parallel passages are Daniel 11:36-39 and 2 Thessalonians 2:4. Here the willful king, the man of sin, puts aside all other deities in favor of worship of himself. This includes Daniel 9:27 and the abomination of desolation.
The divine judgment inflicted follows a pattern and principle. Ancient Babylon was used to bring affliction upon the people of Israel as were Assyria and Egypt, but eventually these same nations that God used were themselves the objects of judgment because they did not act for God, but for themselves.
Verse 17 states the principle that God uses the blasphemous actions of world religions and governments to fulfill His own purposes. The plan of the ages unfolds majestically and Scripture shows that God permits the increasing increments of wickedness until the cup of iniquity overflows, then judgment comes.
In the declaration “God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose,” there is another indication of God’s use of the forces of evil as instruments of his own purposes of judgment (Jer 25:9-14; cf. Lk 20:18). Nothing will distract them from their united effort to destroy the prostitute until God’s purposes given through the prophets are fulfilled (cf. 10:7; 11:18).213
The woman can be identified by the great city in which the final form of Babylonianism will reside. At the present time this appears to be Rome, for this is where Babylonianism today has its headquarters though that is not the emphasis here in this chapter.
The city here according to verse 5 is a mystery, not a literal city. The entire context of chapter 17 supports this interpretation, distinguishing as it does between the city identified with the woman and the political power referred to as the beast and the ten horns.214
Yet it is the great city, the mother city, the archetype of the evil Babylonian system that has been opposed to God throughout history.
209 For an excellent work on this issue and what our forefathers meant by separation of church and state, see The Myth of Separation by David Barton, Wallbuilders, P.O. Box 397, Aledo, TX 76008. The Wallbuilders is an excellent resource regarding our godly heritage.