Good evening and welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the Book of Revelation. Tonight is study #1 of Revelation, chapter 17, and we are going to be reading Revelation 17:1-2:
And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
In this chapter God is going to begin discussing Babylon once again. He is going to look at Babylon in the sense of Satan’s rule throughout the history of the world since the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. There will be several references to the “great whore” and to the “harlot” and language like this. This is because sin is spiritual fornication or spiritual adultery. It is unfaithfulness toward God. We can think of sin in the same way as adultery or fornication, which can break a marriage relationship because there is transgression in the marriage. Spiritually, God joined together mankind, created in His image, with His Law. Man was placed under the Law. Right from the very beginning God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of that one particular tree. There was not a great deal of Laws, but just a single Law, insofar as we can tell, but man was under that Law and they were subject to obey it, but they failed to obey it. At that point, spiritual adultery entered in as Adam and Eve obeyed Satan; they obeyed “the lie” rather than the truth and that is the basis of idolatry and serving other gods. It is the basis of spiritual harlotry and I think we will see that as God is discussing Babylon, He will say things like He does in Revelation 17:5:
And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Why is Babylon the “MOTHER OF HARLOTS”? A mother is the one that brings forth a child. Were the churches full of spiritual fornication? Yes, absolutely. Was Israel of old full of spiritual fornication in disobeying the commandments of God? Yes, absolutely. There are harlots, but there is a “mother of harlots” that gave birth to them or generated them and that goes further back in time – it goes back to the very beginning in the Garden of Eden when Satan’s kingdom was first established. His kingdom was established through his deceitful, underhanded dealings in the garden as he dealt subtilty as a serpent with our first parents and deceived them. Through their defeat when they disobeyed God and transgressed his Law to obey the devil, they became subservient to sin and to Satan. They were taken captive by him at his will and the kingdom of Babylon (Satan’s kingdom of darkness) began at that point – the “mother” was created. Satan is the father of lies and his kingdom is the “mother of harlots,” so this is why Babylon is used of God as He applies this name to the evil rule of Satan throughout time and it goes back to the very beginning. It is why God says of Babylon, in Revelation 18:24:
And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.
In other places, God even goes back to the blood of “Abel unto Zechariah” and in the Book of Matthew He seems to be applying that charge to the Jewish nation. We have taken it further when we apply it to the churches, but we wonder how the churches are involved with the blood of Abel, or how was Israel involved with the blood of Abel? Abel died early on toward the very beginning of this creation, so why is God holding them accountable? It is because it is Babylon who is the “mother of harlots” and who was around at the very beginning of the fall of man. That is when Babylon was established and that is why they are held accountable for the death of Abel and all the other saints, including the saints that died in Israel or Judah and including the saints that died during the entire period of the church age. It was Babylon that gave birth to those harlots that committed fornication against God’s Law and dealt unfaithfully with the Gospel and with the people of God. It all goes back to this first “harlot” and as far as we can trace it, it leads us right back to the very beginning, not only to the fall of man, but Satan and the angels that fell him were the first ones involved in spiritual adultery against the Law of God.
Here it says in Revelation 17:1:
And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me…
God is telling us that this is a continuation from what we read in Revelation, chapter 15, concerning the seven angels that came out of the temple. The seven angels were given the seven last vials full of the wrath of God and they poured them out in the previous chapter.
Now here comes “one of the seven angels which had the seven vials,” and I think we can understand that when God specifically refers to “one of the seven,” it is referring to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is with His people and judging the world with them, so it is very possible that this “one of the seven” is referring to Christ, as well as to His people. We have an Old Testament parable in the Book of Ezekiel, where it says in Ezekiel 9:2:
And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar.
Then it says in Ezekiel 9:4-6:
And JEHOVAH said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house.
This is an Old Testament parable that pictures judgment upon the churches and notice that six men come with slaughter weapons and “one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer’s inkhorn by his side,” and he was commanded to put a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and cry for all the abominations. It is the “mark” of having been sealed with the salvation of God. So God is using similar language to describe the judgment on the churches. It appears to be seven men, but the way it is written, it is difficult to tell because it says, “six men” with slaughter weapons and then it says, “one man among them,” and we could think it was one among the six, meaning a total of six. But this other man that is among them has a writer’s inkhorn and there is no mention of a slaughter weapon. So there appears to be six men with slaughter weapons and one man with the writer’s inkhorn (who appears to be the Lord Jesus Christ) who sets the mark or seal of God on certain ones to protect them from the judgment that came upon the house of God, the churches, at the beginning of the Great Tribulation. Not one of God’s elect was harmed spiritually because they had the mark in their foreheads indicating that they had renewed minds and their new hearts and new spirits.
So there was “one among them,” and that is why I think in Revelation 17:1, where it says, “And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials,” since it was Christ with His fellow servants in the Ezekiel 9 account, then Christ is with the “seven messengers” to will and to do of His good pleasure. It is always God that gets the glory and it is always God that stirs up His people to do the things He would have us to do. This was the case in the day of salvation when the Gospel went forth and the true believers carried it into the world. That is why God said in Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings,” but He says in Romans 15:10: “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” One says the feet of “them” and one says the feet of “him,” because as the people of God went forth with the Gospel, Christ went forth with them. Likewise, as the people of God, typified by the seven messengers clothed in fine white linen, go forth carrying these seven vials full of the seven last plagues, Christ goes forth with them. It is the same thing. As we go about the reaping process, He is the Reaper. When we went about sowing, He was the Sower. In the parable of the sower, the Son of man was the one that sows the seed, but how it worked out is that it was the true believers, so that could be why there were six men because the number “six” points to work and they had the slaughter weapons. They did the good work. I know it is unusual to think of a slaughter weapon as a good work, but anything done in obedience to the command of God is a good work. It is work that God has ordained for us to walk in.
Let us go back to our verse and I think we can see the true believers and Christ in view where it says, “And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters.” Since we looked ahead at verse 5, we know that the “great whore” is Babylon. What are these waters that she is sitting upon? All we have to do is go to verse 17, where God explains this, in Revelation 17:15:
And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
The “waters” represent these four things – peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues. Each one is a different way of saying people or mankind. The number “four” points to universality and the furthest extent of all the world that Babylon is ruling over. Babylon is not just that kingdom that was north of Israel, historically, but Babylon represents the entire kingdom of Satan which consists of all the nations of the world and all the unsaved people of the earth. So the “great whore” is the one who is the “mother of harlots” and it all began with her and Satan, the father of lies, initiated it and his kingdom developed and all spiritual fornication flows from that beginning point.
Now, however, it is the time of the end and God is saying to the Apostle John, “Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters.” Let us look at one passage where the word “whore” is found. It is Strong’s #4204 and it is also translated as “harlot” in 1Corinthians 6:15-16:
Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
This is the same word that was translated as “whore,” but it is closely related to Strong’s #4205. If you look at the concordance, you can see the similarity in spelling and so forth. This word is translated as “fornicator” in 1Corinthians 5:9-11:
I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
Now this is helpful because it tells us that it can be someone of the world or they can be a brother, like someone in the churches. It can be physical fornication or it could be spiritual fornication and this could be done by a person of the world that worships another god; they are not in the churches, but they bow down to another kind of god. Or, it can be done in a secular sense, when the world seeks after sinful pleasure, it can be considered spiritual fornication. The churches have many more commandments and a closer relationship to God over the period when God selected the churches to be His outward representation to the peoples of the world for almost 2,000 years. They were involved in more episodes of spiritual fornication because they had more opportunity and, likewise, it was with Israel of old.
But, again, spiritual fornication goes way back to the when Adam and Eve were created and they had a close personal relationship with God and they were God’s only representatives in this world – there was no one else alive at that time, so God had a close relationship with them, but it was fornication and spiritual adultery and the breaking of God’s Law that was committed. The Bible says we are married to the Law of God, in Romans 7, and if we are married to that Law, the Law demands obedience and when we transgress the Law, then we have strayed and we have been unfaithful and we have acted the spiritual harlot. That is why the Law then demands that we be “stoned to death” as an unfaithful wife, because we have committed adultery against the Law of God and the Law demands our death. Of course, that is where the Lord Jesus Christ came in, because He had died for the sins of His people and satisfied the Law of God on behalf of His elect.