Death in the City - Revelation 17 & 18
We've come a long way
We know what this is! We have come a long way since 1930.
What is holding it up, while they build the 2 halves out over the harbour?
Strong cables - 128 each half, and as thick your wrist each, in tunnels bored in the rock. 100 km all up. so much depends on what is behind!
So much depends on what's behind
- whirlwind tour of chapters 1 to 16
- all Bible is literary & true, but not all is "literally" true
- true history
- true poetry
- true proverbs
- true biography
- true instructions
- true apocalypse, like Revelation - future in pictures, symbols
- we are in the longest part, which is the "Short History of the World"
- note many "THE END"s
- not a straight line history at all
- collage of images with same story but different emphasis and detail
Professor Issawi's First Law of Progress
Most things get steadily worse
Chapter 16 ended with yet another "THE END"
- the great city collapses in ruins, chapter 16:19
- and all cities are laid in ruins
- mountains slide down
- islands submerged
- surely the great end-time catastrophe!
- There is Death in the City
Death in the City - chapter 17 & 18
Same things, but in more detail and clarity.
There are 3 symbols given to us:-
and in fact they all point to the same thing, and its judgement and ruin.
- A prostitute - never a good profession, but she is The Great Prostitute
- "Sex Sells" just as true then
- just as true that prostitution is not the greatest sin by a long shot. Selfish pride is worse.
- just as true that there will be many former prostitutes in heaven. Rahab, from whom King David descended. Prostitutes and sinners who came to Jesus, then and ever since.
- just as true that there is nothing wrong with sex itself. God invented it! God meant it for good and for joy between one man and one woman.
- difference is that the prostitute sells her femininity for fame and money, while the bride gives her sexuality as a gift of love, and to be the mother of children to her husband.
- What a contrast between this prostitute and the woman of Chapter 12!
- She is dripping with gold and jewels, the profit of her lifestyle
- She is drunk - not with wine but with the blood of God's people, v6
- She is riding on a scarlet beast - we've met it before in chapter 13
- Named Babylon the Great, Mother of Prostitutes and of earth's abominations - a pretty face, but not a pretty name.
- here is a clue. As "Babylon" she represents great political power, and this is confirmed by v18 "the woman ... is that great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth"
- John is amazed at seeing her, and the angel showing him is amazed at John. Angel knows what she represents. "I will tell you" he says.
Very interesting that the angel goes on to tell John about the beast, rather than the woman. Are they the same? I think they might just be, or as near as matters. In chapter 13 we met this same beast
- 7 heads
- 10 horns
- blasphemous names - ie, claiming to be like God, to be God.
There it represented world political power in revolt against God. Kings, strong-men especially. The tyrants of old, Nero the recently dead Roman emperor, Domitian now ruling at John's time, the tyrants to come, like Hitler and Stalin and Mao, and at last the man of sin foretold, called the Anti-Christ.
The angel makes this clear
- the beast was, ie, been around a long time
- the beast is not, Nero, the first great persecutor of the Christians, has died
- the beast will rise - Emperor Domitian has come, & re-instated the cult of emperor-worship. All the rest to follow (the 10 horns of v12) - Western political power has its origins in Rome. Rome truly shaped the world, and was itself preceded by the powers of old. Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece.
- Rome is clearly meant by the 7 mountains, or hills, that Rome is built on.
See how persistent evil is! - there never has been a golden age, except in myth. There never shall be until King Jesus comes to rule at the last, and judge justly all evil.
See how evil is evil! - there is no fellowship of evil - no happy comradeship of wickedness - at the last the beast and the kings turn in hatred and envy on the great city, the great prostitute. This is the "Tall Poppy Syndrome" on a big scale. Evil always devours itself at the last, dog-eat-dog.
Chapter expands on what we had before in chapter 14:8 "Fallen fallen is Babylon the Great". Same is now repeated in 18:2. Here the City is emphasised.
- Note: cities are not intrinsically evil - that's not what its saying. There is a greater, a good, city to come. (Rev. 21,21)
- Yet when men clump together to shake their collective fist at God, then it is evil.
- it was Adam's son Cain who built the first city
- Noah's descendant Nimrod built Babel, on the site of what became the city of Babylon, in Iraq, saying "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over the face of the whole earth" Gen 11:4. (God confounded their plan, and they were forced to scatter, for a time).
- A king, a strong-man, cannot be top-dog over a scattered people - he always seeks to gather people to his rule, and so to be mightier than other kings.
- mighty Rome
- and all her descendants
- Berlin under the Nazis
- Beijing under Mao-Tse Tung
- But the might of the city, of man, always comes to an end. This is what John wrote later "Do not love the world ... for everything in the world - the lust of sinful men, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does ... pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever" 1 John 2:15-17.
- Rome itself, "New Babylon", was sacked many times, notably by the army of Alaric, King of the Visigoths, in 410 AD
- See here, the kings mourn for the Great City, because their mighty power is gone, v 10
- See here, the merchants mourn for the Great City, because their wealth is gone v 16
- See here, the sailors mourn for the Great City, because their livelihood is gone v19
- and all "in a single hour", v8, 10, 17, 19, - "While people are saying 'Peace and safety', destruction will come on them suddenly" 1 Thessalonians 5:3
- She proudly said "I sit as a queen, am no widow, and mourning I shall never see" v7
- yet she falls into utter darkness and destruction by the hand of God, v1,2, 21
- vv22-23 - a glimpse of Hell - no music, no parties, no creativity, no pleasure, no light, no joy, no friends.
Issawi's First Law of Progress - it need not be
Most things get steadily worse
Cities and nations come and go, and are like the lives of summer insects, but men and women last forever, either in:-
- Life, Light and Liberty
- Death, Darkness and Decay
What a striking contrast between the Woman and City here and the Woman and City of Rev. 21:2 "and I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband"
Just 2 Paths
- which are you on?
- what about the world's billions of people?
- get on the path yourself
- do all you can to spread the good news that there is a better way
- pray to God, and leave the rest with Him, with King Jesus, the Lamb who gave His life, the Just and the Merciful One.
Click here for the next Revelation article Revelation Chapter 19 - The King, the Queen, the Wedding and the Gatecrashers
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published: 10 Jan 2009
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