Opening Prayer

Unto you Lord, my heart is open; not to my pet project or my favorite obsession, but to you alone.


Babylon, the Prostitute on the Beast

17 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”

Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery:

babylon the great

the mother of prostitutes

and of the abominations of the earth.

I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.

When I saw her, I was greatly astonished. Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.

“This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. 10 They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while. 11 The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.

12 “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. 13 They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”

15 Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. 16 The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled. 18 The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


‘Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm.’1

Think Further

As we enter the final sections of Revelation, there are some striking changes. John is accompanied for the first time by an interpreting angel, who explains what he sees in a way similar to Jewish apocalypses.2 That means that John now (until 19:10) is mostly recording what he hears, rather than what he sees; nearly half of Revelation is speech report rather than a vision. The major element of the vision – the woman riding on a scarlet beast in the desert – describes Roman imperial power in quite different terms from before.

There is a powerful contrast between the city-woman Babylon and the city-woman the new Jerusalem, both of whom are shown to John by ‘One of the seven angels’ of the bowls (v 1).3 The first sits in the desert, depends on the ultimately destructive power of the beast, is adorned with luxury gained from oppression and will meet an untimely end. The second rests on a high mountain, is sustained by the life-giving power of God, is adorned by the gifts of grace, and will endure forever. John’s audience is therefore presented with a powerful rhetorical challenge: to which of these city-women will they give their allegiance? In which is found their true citizenship?

The king lists in verses 10–12 have been used in various ways to date the book of Revelation – but that cannot have been John’s intention, since he and his contemporaries knew when he was writing! Their symbolism points to the reality of human empires and those seduced by them: they will not last, and, rather than giving people dignity and freedom, they debase and humiliate them. It is a path that leads to death and destruction.


Where in your culture and context do you sense the seductive pull of a life that draws you away from the spiritual disciplines of peace, contentment, and simplicity?

Closing prayer

Heavenly Father, I know you are speaking to me. Somehow, the competing voices of culture, family needs, and numerous demands drown out your voice. Help me to listen to you alone.

Last Updated on May 18, 2023 by kingstar

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