The Epistle Reading
In this part of John’s vision, we hear of the judgment of Babylon and the harlot. The vision here has a host of characters including one of the seven angels, the great harlot, the scarlet beast, the ten kings, the Lamb, and the peoples, multitudes, and nations. It is a truly remarkable and all-encompassing ensemble. There are a couple of elements of this part of the vision, that generate relatively little argument among scholars. (1) During the first century, Rome was referred to as the city built on seven hills1. It is a relatively small step then to see verse 17:9 â€¦ “the seven heads are seven mountains upon which the woman is seated” as referring to the city of Rome. (2) In Hebrew Scripture, Babylon represented the embodiment of evil and the persecution of God’s people. When this vision was written Rome held a similar position in relationship to Christianity. Ancient Rome was the clearest embodiment of the “Babylon” ethos.
The spiritual truth that I see speaking to us today from this passage is that God will judge those who persecute the Christianity. There are those who have had their names written in the Book of Life “from the foundations of the world” and those who have not. (Revelation 17:8(b) Revised Standard Version) God will also use the evil of those who seek to do harm to Christianity against others who seek to do harm to Christianity, “The beast and the ten hornsÂ you saw will hate the prostitute.Â They will bring her to ruinÂ and leave her naked;Â they will eat her fleshÂ and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their heartsÂ to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule,Â until God’s words are fulfilled.” (Revelation 17:16-17 New International Version). The overall promise of Revelation is present in this chapter, God protects us, or “No matter how bad it gets, God wins.”
1The Seven Hills of Rome are Aventine Hill, Caelian Hill, Capitoline, Esquiline Hill, Palatine Hill, Quirinal Hill, and Viminal Hill all of which are within the walls of the ancient city.