Chapter 17

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Pattern Recognition in the Apocalypse

Chapter 17

The Great Harlot

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The Great Harlot

 

More than any other chapter Revelation 17 has been used to support the interpretation that the Apocalypse is about the apostate Christian church.  The interpretive crux is Rev 17.9 where the woman is depicted as sitting on seven Mountains as this is usually understood as referring to the city of Rome located on seven hills. However, this neglects the fact that she also sits on a seven headed beast, on many waters and is also found in the wilderness. Moreover, it fails to explain John’s amazement at the fact that the beast had at some past stage been wounded to death and consigned to the abyss. The dead beast miraculously reappeared.

 

Of course, it is pointed out that the Roman Empire disintegrated and was replaced by the Holy Roman Empire with Papal Rome exercising control over Europe. But nowhere in history has a nation disappeared and re-emerged more than once. The Jews returned from the Babylonian abyss in the sixth century BCE and re-established temple worship. The nation was again consigned to the abyss in the first and early second century CE when it attempted to establish temple worship under the false messiah (Bar Kochba). Rather than repentance, Judaism underwent a renaissance --- rabbinic apostasy reached new heights in Babylon with the writing of the Babylonian Talmud a development that continued unabated for centuries.  And now, once again, the dead nation has emerged from the wilderness of the peoples. This is a recurring pattern. Are we about to see the harlot riding on the beast?

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The structure of Revelation 17

 

An overview of the structure of Rev 17 is helpful for determining interpretive focal points and many commentaries offer structural analysis of varying benefit, usually concentrating on micro-chiasms to the detriment of the “big picture” macro-chiasm.   An example of one such micro-chiasm is Rev 17.3-6:

 

chiasim

 

Rev 17 has a number of micro-chiasms but a macro-chiasm is more informative, with the spiral or concentric structure allowing an outline of the nature of the narrative. The following macro-chiasm is (as far as I am aware) not to be found in the commentaries and consists of primary and secondary concentric patterns (no doubt encapsulating other micro-chiasms as per the example above).   The chiasm has been constructed thematically, without attention to the underlying Greek.

 

chiasim

 

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The pattern allows us a good oversight of this complex chapter with the spiral concentrating a focal point on the beast (E E1), with either side (D D1) the beast overcoming the martyrs corresponding with the Lamb overcoming the beast and (C C1) the names of blasphemy matched with the name of Christ who is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. The secondary chiasm has the structure a b a1 b1 a

 

chiasim

 

Notably missing from this chiasm is Sits on Mountains (17.9) which would alter the chiasm into a b a1 b1 a1 a -

 

The resulting chiasm is not as elegant; with (17.9) more of an after-thought disrupting the balanced ababa pattern.

 

Aune suggests  1    that the “seven heads and ten horns” of 17.3 was employed as an interpolation to describe the dragon of 12.3 and although we disagree with that proposal his observations promote further useful investigation into the links between Rev 12 and Rev17:

 

chiasim

 

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“Since the dragon is described using imagery that is not further exploited or even referred to in the rest of this vision [Rev 12] , it appears to be a redactional interpolation from 17:3 (note this clause can be omitted without disrupting the sequence of thought), for only in that context are the seven heads and ten horns actually interpreted (17:9-14). Seven heads and ten horns are also attributed to the beast mentioned in 13:1 (here θηρίον, “beast”, is anarthrous  2     even though he has already been mentioned in 11:7), but this figure is clearly differentiated from the dragon to whom he is subordinate (13:3). A beast with seven heads and ten heads is again mentioned in 17:3, but since the term for θηρίον in 17:3 is anarthrous, it appears clear that either two different beasts are in view or the author did not successfully conceal his sources. Here [Rev 12] the dragon has seven heads and ten horns, with seven diadems on his heads (i.e., the conclusion is inescapable that each of the diadem heads must, at least originally, have symbolized a ruler, while in 13:1 the beast has ten horns and seven heads with ten diadems on his horns. The reference to ten horns is an allusion to Dan 7:7, 20, 24, where they are interpreted to mean ten kings”.  3 

 

Aune notes that in 13.1 “beast” is anarthrous (literally reads: “out-of-the-sea beast up-stepping) because “beast” has already been mentioned in 11.7 (literally reads: the beast  4     the-one-up-stepping out of the abyss), Rev 17.3 is also anarthrous (literally reads: woman sitting-on beast scarlet). Aune is correct in suggesting that two different beasts are in view, namely, the sea beast of 13.1 is not the scarlet beast of 17.3. Turning to his hypothesis regarding interpolation we can perform a transposition and perhaps offer an explanation:

 

table

 

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Aune presents an argument that the “seven heads and ten horns” in 12.3 are a redactional interpolation from 17.3 because it is only in 17.9-10 that we are given the explanation. In fact, the opposite is true because when verses 9-10 from chapter 17 are interpolated between verse 3 and 4 of Rev 12, then both Rev 12 and Rev 17 are improved. Moreover, the secondary chiasm discovered in Rev 17 above (a b a1 b1 a) achieves harmony with the focal point of the concentric spiral becoming the woman on the scarlet beast (17.3). That said, the fact that we have no textual variants that attest to such a redaction or dislocation suggests that we are dealing with a parenthetical analepsis. To summarise – the dragon of 12.3 and the beast of 17.3 are two different beasts but they are in some ways similar (red/scarlet). The dragon transfers its authority to the sea-beast in Rev 13 and in Rev 17 the kings transfer their authority to the harlot. John is both confused and amazed because the dragon was thrown out of heaven and the sea-beast was judged in Rev 14 leading to the victory song of Rev 15.  5     However, in the wilderness vision John sees another beast emerging from the same place where the “woman” was nourished in 12.14.  It is clear then that Rev.17.9-10 functions as a parenthetical “flashback” to Rev 12 so that John (and his readers) can orient themselves within vision-space-time.

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Seven Kings (Rev 17.10a)

 

“There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is….”

 

A chronological placer is given--- the one that is --- (who is the sixth king) but we are directed away from thinking of the seven contemporary rulers who were present when Christ appeared (Idumeans, High Priests and Romans) who are enumerated in Luke 3.1-2 (the seven crowns of the dragon) and are being told to focus solely on the related Roman (seven Mountains) aspect of the dragon, unlike Luke these are not contemporary rulers but a succession (five fallen) of Roman Caesars. The one that is --- is John’s immediate concern because the one that is would launch a vicious persecution and the one that is was to all intents and purposes still cooperating with (and part of) the dragon system and under the same influences as previous first century Roman authorities who were manipulated by the hierocratic and aristocratic elites of Judea to exercise power on their behalf (more on this anon).

 

The count of successive kings is therefore commenced from the first Caesar  6     making the sixth emperor Nero Caesar (54– 68 CE). Nero was last of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Coincidently (sic), the count from the first Herod makes Herod Agrippa II (48–c. 92 CE) the sixth (and last Herod). And if the count only tallies the direct descendants of the sacerdotal family of Ananus  7     (also mentioned in Luke 3.1-2) then the sixth (and last of this dynasty) is Ananus ben Ananus (in 63 CE).  8     The sixth dynastic or political successor whether they are of priestly, Roman or Idumean descent overlap in the chronological range of 54-63 CE which is before the fall of the temple.

 

Moreover, the sixth Caesar Nero (54 - 68 CE) coincides with the sequence of seals that commence at the crucifixion (with the fifth seal showing the slain under the altar, crying out, How long?) supports a Nero date during, or just before the great persecution. With each of the seals representing a seven year period the fifth seal commences  9    in 59 CE and ends in 66 CE, covering the Neronian   10     Christian persecution and the start of the Jewish Roman War that saw the fall of the Jerusalem temple.

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The Other King (Rev 17.10b)

 

“…….the other has not yet come.And when he comes, he must continue a short time”

 

The phrasing is deliberately vague. The “other” is not necessarily the next sequential Roman Caesar as the Greek ὅταν ἔλθῃ (hotan elthE) literally reads,  “whenever he may be coming” which implies ambiguity and repetitive action as we saw at the beginning of the trumpet section, “whenever (hotan) he opened” (8.1) and even the witnessing, “whenever (hotan) they finish their testimony” (11.7). In fact the “other” is not necessarily even a Roman Caesar, although the other is a future aspect of the dragon-system seen in Rev 12.  How do we know this?  Because the parenthesis in Rev 17 directs us back to Rev 12 and the dragon who is cast out of heaven transfers his authority to the sea-beast and the inhabitants of the earth and sea are warned (Woe, Rev 12.12) because the dragon, in the guise of his proxy (the sea beast) only has a short time

 

…because he knoweth that he hath but a short time (12.12)

....to continue forty and two months (13.5)

....he must continue a short time (17.10)

 

The revolt of Bar Kochba and his attempt to restore temple worship lasted 3½ years and during this period Jewish Christians were persecuted. The transition from a sequence of six Roman Emperors to a false Jewish messiah (the other) some sixty odd years after Nero does seem rather strange but this is because the polyvalence of the symbology causes exegetical confusion. If the symbology only refers to Rome, why would it require special wisdom? Verse 9 tells us that we need wisdom to interpret this passage. However, Johnson states, “Any Roman soldier who knew Greek could figure out that the seven hills referred to Rome. But whenever divine wisdom is called for, the description requires theological and symbolical discernment, not mere geographical or numerical insight.”   11    Perhaps more than one meaning is possible?

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Polyvalent Symbols

 

Osborne writes, “At the outset, the angel identifies the seven heads with “seven mountains,” a phrase often used for Rome in the ancient world because it was built on seven hills (see Cicero, Att. 6.5; Pliny, Nat. Hist. 3.66–67; et al)  12    The city began with an amalgamation of groups living on the seven hills (Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Equiline, Palatine, Quirinal, Viminal), and during Domitian’s reign a festival (the Septimontium) celebrated it.”  13     Robert Mounce writes, “There is little doubt that a first-century reader would understand this reference in any way other than as a reference to Rome, the city built upon seven hills.”  14 

 

However, the obvious reference to Rome is after further examination not as clear cut as some would wish.  Rome is built on seven hills not on seven mountains. Johnson writes, “In the seven other instances of the word orē in Revelation, it is always rendered ‘mountain,’ except here in 17:9, where it is translated ‘hills.’ Is this a case where previous exegesis has influenced even the best translations?”  15 

 

(NASB) The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.
(ESV) The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated.
(NIV) The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.
(NLT) The seven heads of the beast represent the seven hills where the woman rules.

 

The different versions are not always consistent, for example ὄρους (orous) is rendered “hill” in nearly all the translations of Matt 5.14  with the exception of the YLT (Mount) and the CLV (Mountain). The saying in Matt 5.14 is clearly a reference to Mount Zion and should not be rendered hill. However, the occasions where this occurs are rare and usually the context shows whether “hill” or “mountain” is appropriate. It is true that ancient Roman historians refer to the “seven hills of Rome” but their works are recorded in Latin.  Where we have comparative Greek texts the seven hills describing Rome becomes ἑπτά-λοφος  16     (epta lofos) as compared with ἑπτὰ ὄρη (epta orE) in Rev 17.3.

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The noun λοφος does not even occur in the Bible and it is not as though the NT or the Greek LXX cannot distinguish between hills and mountains; “Then shall they begin to say to the mountains (ὄρεσιν oresin), Fall on us; and to the hills (βουνοῖς bounois), Cover us” (Luke 23.30). We would expect ἑπτα βουνοῖς for seven hills not ἑπτὰ ὄρη.  17     On the other hand “mountain” is well know biblical idiom for a Kingdom or Empire (Ps 30.7, Zech 4.7, Dan 2.35) and of particular interest is a reference to Babylon:

 

“Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain, who destroys the whole earth,” declares the Lord, “And I will stretch out My hand against you, and roll you down from the crags, and I will make you a burnt out mountain”. (Jer 51.25)

 

Jeremiah is also used as inter-text for the second trumpet of Rev 8.8 as “the great mountain burning with fire cast into the sea” which forms a doublet with the third trumpet (burning star falling onto waters etc).  It was concluded in the exposition of the second and third trumpets that they represented a judgement of the Jews in Babylonia and on their lucrative trade. Babylon actually fell during this trumpet period (101-116 CE) and this spurred on revolts throughout the Diaspora. Towards the end of his ministry Jesus compared the nation to a barren fig tree that he had cursed and exhorted the disciples that with faith they could remove the temple Mount (70CE) and cast it into the sea (Matt 21.21).  Therefore the “sixth seal” (fig tree + mountains) concerning the fall of Jerusalem (70CE) and the doublet of the second and third trumpets (which describe the economic and literal fall of Babylon ending in 116CE) establishes a thematic link (mountain/sea) between Jerusalem and Babylon.  This should not surprise us there are historical and religious reasons why Jerusalem and Babylon are two sides of the same coin.

 

It is often pointed out that Mesopotamia is an alluvial and sedimentary plain and therefore the metaphor of “sitting on mountains” is geographically unsuited to such level terrain but this ignores the fact that the region was known for its Sacred Mountains in the form of Ziggurats such as the tower of Babel.  Wightman states that; “Ziqqurats were, quite literally, the ‘high temples’ of Mesopotamia. The name derives from the Akkadian word zaqaru, meaning ‘highly built’. The ziqqurat was a sacred mountain [emphasis mine]. Mesopotamian texts speak of ziqqurats in precisely these terms. The sanctuary of Enlil at Nippur, for example, was called house of the mountain’ (E-dur) or ‘mountain of the storm’, while its ziqqurat was called Dur-an-ki, ‘mountain [between] heaven and earth’”.  18 

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There were at least 25 of these “Mountains” throughout Mesopotamia, especially in important cities like Babylon, Nineveh and Ur so it is not difficult to find seven “mountains” that represent the kingdoms of Babylonia especially as the term Babylon captured all other cities, becoming virtually synonymous with Nineveh, Eridu… etc.  19     Sayce notes that, “An Assyrian king, however powerful he might be, could not claim the imperial title until he had ‘taken the hands of Bel’ and thereby been adopted as a son by the god of Babylon. Indeed it was only in this way that usurpers like Tiglath-pileser III and Sargon obtained any recognition of their legitimate right to the throne. The sanction of religion remained with Babylon, though the sword had passed to Assyria”.  20    Moreover, the Euphrates was called Pura-nun, or ‘great water,’ in Sumerian, and was frequently known as simply the Pura or ‘Water’….and… the whole country was intersected by canals, and carefully irrigated by means of machines. The canals thus regulated the supply of water and enabled it to be carried beyond the reach of the rivers. The two principal canals were called the Nahar-Malcha or Royal River and the Pallacopas (Pallukat in the inscriptions)…and…the spirit of the water, who had been its special object of adoration, became the culture-god Ea, the lord of the abyss, who is called Oannes in the Greek history of Bêrôssos and was believed to have been the author of Babylonian culture” (Op., cit).

 

So, the woman who sits on “many waters” and on “seven mountains” (seven heads or kingdoms) and who has been identified as Mystery Babylon the Great could well literally be the city of Babylon, which represented the Levant (the satrapies of Parthia in the first century). If this is the case we have a duality of interpretation – the surface meaning points to Rome (seven kings) and the deeper meaning to Babylonian Jewry (i.e., the Jews of Parthia). Why was Babylon chosen? Previously, it was pointed out that the nation (like the scapegoat) had been sent into the wilderness (dry places Matt 12.43//Lk 11.24) and it was in Shinar (Gen 10.10, Zech 5.11) that they established false religion (pharisaic rabbanism) that they continued to practice for 2,000 years. It was the Jews of Parthia that supported the false messiah and the re-establishment of temple worship under Bar Kochba. The image of a harlot sitting upon seven sacred mountains (Babylonian temples), surrounded by “waters” is one of a drunken high priestess (cf. Jezebel who painted her face) who persecutes Christians.  Jewish rulers (Jerusalem) sat behind all the persecutions of first and second century Jewish-Christians, whether that is the crucifixion of Christ, the death of the apostles and their fellow Christians by Nero, or the Bar Kochba revolt.

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The Jews manipulated both the Romans and the Parthians to do their will ---they rode the beast---whether it was a Roman beast or a Babylonian (Parthian) beast and they are still masters of manipulation, exerting control over the political, media and financial landscape of the global Babel that this world has become. There is much written about the “seven heads” with commentators sometimes starting the count with either the Egyptian or Assyrian Empires, often ignoring the fact that the seven headed beast is a composite drawn from Daniel and therefore starts with Babylon. At some point all these Empires had Jerusalem as a possession. Based on 1 Enoch 18.8 Barker suggests that the central mountain which reached to God was the one on which God’s throne is placed. On its right and left side were three mountains each. “The harlot was enthroned in the temple, presumably sharing the heavenly throne as the consort of the base, just as Wisdom had shared the throne of the LORD (Wisd. 9.4)”  21    

 

Moreover, just as five successive kings had “fallen” so also, five of Daniels’ beast Empires no longer existed independently. By the end of the first century the neo-Babylonian and Medo-Persian Kingdoms had disappeared and three of the Grecian Leopard heads  22     were under Roman dominion, in other words, five of the “heads” had disappeared into history but the sixth remained independent of Rome and this “head” had over a million Jews still living in the territories of ancient Babylon and exercising control at a distance over Jewish affairs in Syria-Palestine and in the Diaspora despite the fact of Roman occupation.  Of course, five fallen kings (βασιλεύς) refers to five successive rulers not five successive kingdoms but we cannot ignore the fact that the five fallen kings  parallel the five fallen empires (heads) with the one that is (still remaining from Daniel’s vision) represents Babylonia in the form of Parthia – and that a large Jewish community still dwelt in Parthia/Babylon and were actively seeking political independence for Judea. Any who opposed this ideal (messianism and temple worship under Bar Kochba) were ruthlessly persecuted because they were viewed as Roman traitors. It is for this reason that the conquering Jesus assumes a Babylonian-Persian-Parthian titular epithet; “Lord of Lords and King of Kings” when he defeats the enemy (Note that Jesus is not called Pontifex Maximums or Caesar). However, the first- and- second century Parthian (Babylonian) “head” is typical—as the eschatological enemy will have similar characteristics (more on this anon).

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Therefore Rev 17.9-10 contains a polyvalent matrix of allusions. Perhaps an analogy with a journey on the London tube is helpful. After a slight concussion (bumped your head) during your journey you disembark at a station completely disoriented. You don’t know where you are or where you are going and are even confused as to where you actually embarked. Then you spot a map of the underground with a big arrow declaring “you are here” at the junction of a number of tube lines. Looking at the map and tracing it backwards you know (because you found your address in your wallet) that two possible equally valid routes lead to the intersection where you now stand. Looking forwards from the intersection there are also two routes that diverge to other destinations but ultimately reconverge and end up at the same “end of the line” station.

 

This may (or may not) be a good analogy but that is the idea behind this section. None of the routes are of themselves wrong as they begin and end at the same places --- but only an overview can show you all the possibilities. Of course, we can’t travel two routes simultaneously…..but John could. John was transported “in the Spirit” onto a different route and with the aid of his “map” he could see how he got there and where he had come from. He could also compare his journey to his “map” (the one that is) with previous landmarks (not possible on a tube) and this caused utter amazement (marvel) because the route to the final destination looked so similar to what he had already travelled.  I am sure I already passed that beast on the way here and it was destroyed but here comes another one….and yet another one??? 

 

The Angelic interpreter explains to John that the seven headed beast that he saw, was constantly (repeatedly) emerging and disappearing and will again appear as an “eighth” (head) that belongs with the seven (heads) and this reincarnation will also be condemned to disappear into the abyss. At this point a schematic overview is a helpful way of examining the polyvalent matrix:

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schema

 

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The eighth (Rev 17.11)

 

“And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition”.

 

The NIV and the NIB supply the Ellipsis “is an eighth king” other versions simply have “is an eighth” the Companion Bible has the marginal note “eighth head” though Aune argues for a reference to an eighth king: “The masculine singular pronoun αὐτὸς, “he,” is used with the neuter noun θηρίον, “beast”, since it symbolizes a male person (Mussies, Morphology, 138; cf. the same grammatical phenomenon in 5:6, 12: 9:5; 11:4; 13:8,14; 17:3,16).”  23    The CLV is neutral; “And the wild beast which was, and is not, it also is the eighth and is from among the seven, and is going away into destruction”.  24 

 

table

 

According to ISA  25     αὐτὸς is translated in Lk 5.37 and John 12.24 in the same manner: “it (the wine) will be spilled” (Luke 5.37) and “it (the kernel of the grain) is remaining alone” (John 12.24). However, the subject of verse 11 is “the beast” which John saw in v.8 not the parenthetical explanation concerning seven kings that is given previously in v.10 this is confirmed by v.12 where the ten horns that John saw are described as ten future kings (have received no kingdom as yet), contextually it makes no sense to understand the eighth as yet another king. So the beast that vanished and now has reappeared as a seven headed scarlet beast so that it can be identified with those bygone kingdoms (beast-heads) is actually an eighth kingdom (head). It is both the same and yet different to those bygone beasts. Although the eighth head does not (cannot) inherit the succession/territory from those previous empires (because they no longer exist) it in some way resembles them. It is the apogee of all that proceeds and in that sense it is the erecting of Daniel’s image.  Nichol, 7:856, suggests: “Absence in the Greek of the definite article before the word ‘eighth’ suggests that the beast itself was the real authority back of the seven heads, and that it is therefore more than merely another head, the eighth in a series. It is their summation and climax—the beast itself.”  26    

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Just as the dragon gave power to the sea-beast so also the eighth head will (in the future) receive authority from the ten kings to act on their behalf. This is a description of pooled sovereignty, where the harlot is elected “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”.  That this “eighth” (head) is still future is clear because this beast-kingdom is defeated by the Lord himself and in Rev 16-19 (which includes Armageddon) describes this. So, John is taken back in his vision-space and placed in his present (one that is) and given to understand that the red dragon (with which John is already familiar) will soon be “cast out” (70CE temple destroyed) but that will only lead to a further reincarnation (the sea-beast, Bar Kochba, temple worship), which in turn leads to yet another reincarnation with the seemingly immortal beast now reaching the pinnacle of arrogance, false religion and persecution. This beast can only appear when Israel has once again emerged from the wilderness of the people and that has already happened (in 1948).

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Phases of the Beast

 

The beast of Rev 17 is Scarlet   27     and not Red like the Dragon seen in the heavens of Rev 12. Moreover, the scarlet beast (Rev 17) emerges from the abyss (shall ascend out of the bottomless pit: Rev 17.8) and the beast of Rev 13 emerges from the sea (Sea-beast) which is not necessarily the same as the abyss (although there is some correspondence between the terms).

 

All the beasts have seven heads and ten horns. The beast of Rev 13 was at some stage wounded to death and had recovered and this fits with the description of the beast in Rev 17 who has a phase when he “is not” (17.8, 10, 11) a description repeatedly used to describe Joseph when he was sold into Egypt and thought by his father to be dead (Gen 37.30 and, “one is not” Gen 42.13, 32). We can then sum up the phrase “is not” as --- missing presumed dead.  John is looking backwards to the stage before the Sea-Beast which is the point when the Red Dragon was “cast out of heaven”, unleashing a short reign of terror culminating in the first Jewish war and the fall of the temple. It was during this period that the Nero persecution commenced.  28     After 3½ years of war the temple was destroyed. The obliteration of the second temple should have been a mortal wound for Judaism (when temple Judaism is not) but amazingly pharisaic (rabbinic) Judaism emerged from the Persian Gulf to support the earth-beast in the land of Israel (Lamb with two horns).

 

This was the insurrection of the false messiah, Bar Kochba that also lasted 3½ years and restored temple worship (the image of the beast). Whether an actual temple was built or not is a moot point – perhaps sacrifices were offered on the temple mount but in any case coins were struck with the star of Bar Kochba depicted as elevated above the Ark of the Covenant in the temple. Jewish-Christians who did not support the messianic rebellion were persecuted. So, the Sea-beast who gains his authority from the Dragon is depicted as having a “mortal wound” that has healed. It is a picture of the destruction and resurrection of second temple Judaism supported by Parthia (Babylon). However, the dragon appears again in Rev 16 and also just before the millennium. How possible is a reappearance of the dragon if it is destroyed in the first century?  Comparing the term “dragon” in the Apocalypse is useful:

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Term Greek Translit Rev Tot

Great Red Dragon

μέγας πυρρὸς δράκων

megas purros drakOn

12.3

1

the dragon

ὁ δράκων

ho drakOn

12.4,7, 13,16,17

4

the dragon

τοῦ δράκοντος.  29 

tou drakontos

12.7

1

the great Dragon

=old serpent

ὁ δράκων ὁ μέγας, ὁ ὄφις

ho drakOn ho megas ho ophis

12.9

1

the dragon

ὁ δράκων

ho drakOn

13.2,11

2

to-the dragon

τῷ δράκοντι

tO drakonti

13.4

1

of-the dragon

τοῦ δράκοντος

tou drakontos

16.13

1

the dragon

=old serpent

τὸν δράκοντα,τὸν ὄφιν  30 

ton drakonta ton ophin

20.2

1

 

 

 

 

13

 

Dragon occurs thirteen times in the Apocalypse, a number associated with rebellion and persecution in Scriptures (cf. Esther 9.1). The dragon is twice called the “ancient serpent” and this highlights the cosmic, universal aspect of the struggle. A literal rendering of these two verses (ISA) drives home the point:

 

Rev 12.9: AND -WAS-CAST THE DRAGON THE GREAT THE serpent THE ORIGINAL [ancient] one-beING-CALLED THRU-CASTER [adversary] AND THE SATAN THE one-STRAYING [deceiving] THE one-beING_HOMED~WHOLE [inhabited earth]  -WAS-CAST INTO THE LAND AND THE MESSENGERS OF-it WITH –it THEY-WERE-CAST

 

Rev 20.2: And he-HOLDS THE DRAGON THE serpent THE ORIGINAL [ancient] WHO -IS-BEING THRU-CASTER [adversary] AND THE SATAN and he-BINDS him THOUSAND YEARS

 

The only place (Rev 12.3) where the Dragon is a corporal being is in the first century where it possessed both a body and a colour (red), elsewhere it is referred to as “the dragon” until it reaches its apogee in Rev 12.9 and Rev 20.2 where its’ essential character is revealed as “the serpent”.  These climaxes are reached in the first century (where the Christ event heralds the in breaking of the kingdom) and at the commencement of the millennial reign of Christ. This demonstrates that the dragon has a physical and a spiritual presence.  

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In the first century the physical presence was embodied by the colour (red) denoting the Idumean Herod dynasty and their priestly and Roman allies. Herod was the temple builder par excellence and the serpent is an apt metaphor for establishing the link between the temple-and-the-Eden-sanctuary and the underlying theme of wanting to be like God. (Who is like the beast/God?). The two-horned Lamb is a parody of Christ and the “was-is not-will be” beast is a parody of God himself. Similarly, the whore, who is the “mother of harlots” is a parody of Eve, “the mother of the living” --- the Old Testament Covenant church that gave birth to the messiah and his New Covenant church. It is notable that exposure (revelation) of the true personality of the dragon is a precursor to its imminent demise. In the first century the serpent-motif was exposed at the trial of Christ who was accused of wanting to be like God when in actuality it was second temple Judaism and pharisaic rabbinism that was exposed as the “ancient serpent” and the accuser was cast out of heaven with the physical temple destroyed and replaced with the true temple, the “body of Christ”. The serpent was “cursed above every beast” (Gen 3.14) because it is the beguiler. When Adam grasps at divinity he denies the true image and worships himself. Instead of bearing the God image, he is self-made in the image of the serpent (beast).  Adam’s sanctuary (temple) becomes the image of a beast that reflects its own glory. The dragon is still present during the plague-vials (Rev 16.13), later the dragon is incarcerated in the abyss (Rev 20.2) but it is not the same dragon as Rev 12.3 although it is the same serpent.  The Great Red Dragon is only found in the first century when it is embodied by Herod et al and by the second century it has already succeeded power to the Sea-beast and its allies. However, the dragon is also a contemporary of the Scarlet-beast in the sense that its spirit lives on. In the same manner we have the term “false prophet” also first appearing during the last plague-vials of Rev 16.13 an obvious allusion to the two horns (two false prophets) of the second century false messiah (Lamb that speaks like a dragon).

 

The dragon and the false prophet of the plague-vials are therefore a different historical manifestation of the same principle found in the first and second centuries. Although the Great Red Dragon and the Sea-beast and allies no longer historically exist (is not) their unclean spirit lives on and gathers the kings to Armageddon and therefore the unclean spirit of the past still animates the whore who receives power  from that same decuplet of kings who destroy her and are in turn themselves destroyed. We are dealing with recurrent patterns. The Scarlet beast is described as follows:

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table

 

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Some Preterist expositors identify the “is not” stage of the beast with Nero as a number of imposters arose after his death leading to the Nero Redivivus myth (Nero returns). He became a sort of indestructible “bogeyman” in the first century.  However, first century Nero imposters do not fit the criteria of the beast with the deadly wound of Rev 13 –they had little historical impact and the imposters certainly did not deceive the world or demand worship.

 

If an early date for the Apocalypse is accepted then a more likely explanation is that Nero imposters were inspired by the Christian writing as many Christians who survived the persecution undoubtedly identified Nero with the beast (or as a type of the beast).   The fact that we have textual variants that alter 666 to 616 testifies to the need to establish more firmly that Nero was 666. It is of course no coincidence that the gematria of Nero Caesar is the number of the beast but Nero only represents the beast’s persecuting aspect. The fact is that temple Judaism had already been “wounded to death” and recovered more than once; “And thou, O deadly wounded wicked one, the prince of Israel, whose day is come, in the time of the iniquity of the end.” (Ezek.21: 25 ASV). This was in fulfilment of the Song of Witness (Deut 31.21), where God sates, “I kill, and I make alive, I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand” (Deut 32.39). Yahweh “killed” and then resurrected the nation in 539 BCE.

 

However, the recovery of the mortally wounded beast in Rev 13 is almost miraculous and in god-like fashion the beast gives life to the image (Rev 13.5). This mimics God breathing life into his image (the second Adam=Christ). This is a description of temple worship. The “mortal wound” of 70 CE when the temple was removed (yet once more) was reversed with the rebellion of Bar Kochba whose epithet also adds to 666, giving us a second aspect of the Scarlet beast, namely, false religion. The dragon of chapter 12, the sea beast of chapter 13, and the scarlet beast of chapter 17 manifest three different aspects of one and the same beast but they are separated by periods where they no longer historically exist (AND IS NOT) and this ipso facto rules out the Papacy as the different stages of the Roman Empire do not reflect the absolute obliteration of a nation of people in covenant relationship with God, a people who constantly emerged from the “wilderness” in an attempt to re-establish temple worship --a people who rejected their messiah and therefore rejected their God.

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The Roman Empire was pagan for the first three centuries CE and therefore Rev 12 and Rev 13 have no application whatsoever to this period of Roman history-- any revelation given to servants who expected imminent action (that much is clear from the NT), and that left a three century lacunae in which Jewish-Christianity was persecuted into non-existence is frankly untenable.

 

The “is not” phase of the beast can only reflect those periods of Jewish history where the temple was removed. This corresponds with the findings in God is Judge, a commentary on Daniel that demonstrates that a major thematic running through all the Daniel narratives is temple destruction and restoration and national atonement.

 

The point made in that exposition was that the messiah would replace the Jerusalem temple and achieve atonement. Jesus Christ was the temple that Daniel waited for. Daniel’s time periods are connected with the birth of Christ (the new temple) and the destruction of the old temple (70 years later) after 3½ years of tribulation leaving a last 3½ years as yet unrealized.  Daniel forms one of the most important inter-texts in the Apocalypse and his time periods are recycled because they are pertinent to temple restoration and the Jewish nation. Jewish-Christians were also concerned with temple restoration ---but their temple was not “made with hands” – as the Apocalypse makes abundantly clear: “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it” (Rev 21.22). 

 

Neither Daniel, nor Revelation has anything to do with the history of Rome, whether Pagan or apostate Christianity because unfaithful Jews are the Mother of Harlots, at the same time faithful Jews are the Mother of the Living. The intertextual connections between the Jerusalem temple in Ezekiel 16 and Rev 17-18 is as obvious as a flashing neon sign outside of a brothel ---and that is exactly how God wants us to think of it ---the faithful temple city had become a harlot: “How is the faithful city become an harlot! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers” (Isa.1.21).

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Ezek 16 Rev 17-18

Cause Jerusalem to know her abominations (16.1,2 )

 

Abominations of the earth (17.5)

 

I clothed thee also...with silk…with ornaments…jewel on thy forehead…a beautiful crown upon thine head (16.10-14)

 

And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls etc (17:4-5,18.16)

 

But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playest the harlot thy renown, and pourest out thy fornications on every one that passed by (16:15)

An imperious whorish woman (16.30)

O harlot hear the word of the LORD (16.35)

 

Mother of Harlots (17.5)

And I will judge thee, as women that break wedlock and shed blood are judged; and I will give thee blood in fury and jealousy. And I will also give thee into their hand, and they shall throw down thine eminent place (16.38-41)

 

And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. (17.16)

 

 

Prostitution is obviously used as a metaphor because it involves being unfaithful and making financial gains (more on this in Rev 18). Unfaithfulness is related to the covenant relationship with God who was the “husband”. The accoutrements of the whore in Ezekiel 16 are all related to the wilderness tabernacle.  God clothed the nation with badger skins (Ezek 16.10, Exod 25. 5) a beautiful priestly crown with the words “Holiness to the Lord” was placed upon the forehead of Aaron (Ezek 28.36-38, 16.12). The linen curtains of the tabernacle were embroidered with blue, purple and scarlet (Ex.26.1), the linen priestly garments, “for glory and beauty” were also embroidered with gold, blue, purple and scarlet (Exod 28.2-5; Ezek 16.13). The priests were “decked with ornaments” (the breastplate Exod 28.15-29, Ezek 16.11).

 

In turn the tabernacle formed the template for the sanctuary built by Solomon at Jerusalem. Jerusalem became therefore a priestly city, the dwelling place of God. In the past she was burnt with fire (Ezek 16.41) in the future she will again be burnt by her lovers (Rev 17.16). This is appropriate, for burning (not the common punishment of stoning) was the fate of a priest’s daughter who committed harlotry (Lev 21. 9).

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Ezekiel chapter 16, the basis of John’s vision has the greatest concentration of the word “harlot” than any other chapter in the Old Testament. In the same chapter the word “covenant” occurs six times, which is appropriate to the marriage metaphor here being employed by Ezekiel, and the literal event at Sinai. In other passages besides, the concept of harlotry is associated with the transgressing of the covenant (Jud 2.17-20, Hos.6.7-10 cp. Prov. 2.17). Thus when applied to God’s covenant people “harlotry” denotes apostasy such as at the very beginning when they worshipped the creature rather than the creator (the image of the golden calf a copy of the cherubim ox head).

 

Jerusalem was lost and recaptured during the Crusades and had enormous importance attached to it by Christians, as well as the great controversies among the European powers over the holy places in Jerusalem during the late Ottoman period. By now the Islamic sanctity of Jerusalem, whatever its origin, is firmly established. The city of Jerusalem is therefore a “holy city” for three monotheistic religions. She has indeed become a prostitute over the centuries, lending legitimacy to false religions and offering her cup of filth to all nations.

 

Like its predecessor Babylon, Jerusalem controls nations, but it does so in a different way. It is famous, or rather infamous, for its compromising relationship with political powers. It both depends upon them, and directs them as a rider depends upon and directs the movements of his beast.

 

Yet the scene in Revelation is not the dignified relationship of a wise and intelligent rider and his strong obedient horse. The scene here is bizarre and offensive. Babylon (Jerusalem) is depicted as a wicked, gaudily attired woman, enthroned on a vicious, hideous monster. Supported, elevated and borne along by this hybrid creature, she manages in a precarious way, to direct its movements. She plays a dubious, dishonourable role that involves selling herself for political advantage.

 

In her hand she holds a golden cup, filled with abominations and the impurities of her fornication. This is in part an illusion to LXX Jer. 28. 7 (MT 51.7), though there the golden cup is a metaphor for Babylon itself: “Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord’s hand, making all the nations drunken; the nations drank of her wine; therefore the nations went mad.”  However,  in the Targum of Jer. 51. 7, the cup is turned into a metaphor for the sin of Babylon, which is precisely the symbolism of the cup in Rev 17.4, “Behold the cup of gold which was precious amongst all the vessels, so is the sin of Babylon exalted!!” 

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The golden cup held by the woman is described as filled with two ingredients: “what is detestable (abomination)” and “the impurities of her fornication.”  This is a reference to idolatry (image of the beast) and the associated pagan sexual rites (the “sons of God” joining themselves to “the daughters of men” see Num.25.1-3).  In the context of Revelation this is symbolic for political alliances and the setting up of false religion.   She is the mother of whores, the term “mother,” is a figurative extension that means something like “archetype,” i.e., “anticipating a later reality and suggesting a derivative relationship,” or that indicates the source or origin of some activity or quality. In Hos.2.2-5 (cp. Isa.50.1), Israel is personified as a “mother” who has played the whore and has bastard children. The word “abomination” again is a detail which, when researched, is found to relate solely to Jerusalem of the three cities mentioned. Surprisingly, in spite of the length of the oracles uttered by Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel against Babylon and Tyre, not once is the word used. In sharp contrast to this there exists some sixty occurrences of “abomination” with reference to the deeds of the Israelites, with Ezekiel 16 once more having more than any other chapter. It is true to say, therefore, that, when speaking of cities, Jerusalem is the only one to which “abomination” may be scripturally applied.  31     It appears mainly with reference to idolatry and false sacrifice (Deut 7.25, Isa 1.13, Jer. 44.22, Ezek 7.20).

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The Harlot and Jezebel

 

  • Jezebel was accused of “harlotry” (2 Kgs.9.22) she was the “mother of harlots” for her daughter Athaliah was of a similar character.
  • She incited the king and all Israel to act “abominably” in worshipping idols (1 Kgs.21. 25)
  • Jezebel (1 Kgs.18.4), Athaliah (2 Kgs.11. 1) and the harlot of Revelation (17. 6, 18. 20, 19. 2) all attempted to destroy the godly seed.
  • Athaliah reigned for “six years” (2 Kgs.11.3), then was slain, and the righteous king Jehoash took the throne in the “seventh year” (11.4) being seven years old.

 

Following the death of Athaliah, the new king was able to restore the temple in Jerusalem for pure worship (2 Kgs.12.4). Similarly, in the Apocalypse, once the harlot is destroyed, the New Jerusalem is established.

 

It is perhaps due to such correspondences that the perverse individual at Thyatira could be dubbed “Jezebel” (Rev 2. 20), which can hardly have been her true name. In Ezek 20.30 the ideas of idolatry and harlotry are found side by side. The “mother of harlots” is obviously a contrast with the “New Jerusalem.”

 

Rev 17 Rev 21

And there came one of the seven angels who had the vials, and talked with me. (v.1)

And there came one of the seven angels who had the vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me.(v. 9)

Come, I will show you the judgment of…

Come, I will show you the bride, the….

the great harlot (v. 1)

wife of the Lamb (v. 9)

he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness… (v. 3)

he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain… (v. 10)

the great city  (v. 18)

the holy city (v. 10)

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I wondered with great admiration (Rev 17.6)

 

“And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration”.

 

Why did John wonder with great wonder (RV – same word thaumazo)? The language is reflective of the reaction of the people at the appearance of the beast in Rev 13.3: “The whole world wondered (thaumazo) after the beast.”  The same formula is applied in Rev 17.8: “They that dwell on the earth shall wonder (thaumazo) whose names were not written in the book of life.”  It is implied therefore that wonder or amazement is tantamount to worship. Christ warned that if it were possible the very elect would be deceived (Matt 24.24) however, John was not deceived but perplexed (cp. Dan 8.15). How was it possible that the harlot could once again exercise power over the saints and even murder them?

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The Ten Kings (Rev 17.12-13)

 

“And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.  These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast”.

 

The eighth head supports the ten horns, for the eighth head is the latter day incarnation of the seven-headed monster. The harlot-cities relationship with the kings of the earth is interesting. She rules over kings (Rev 17.18); her relationship with kings is one of wanton wickedness (Rev 18. 3); she is destroyed by kings (Rev 17.16); and other kings lament her destruction (Rev 18. 9).

 

These ten kings cede power to the monster – they do not act individually but are united in purpose.  These have one mind, this is a reflection of Gen.11.1: “the whole earth was of one language and one speech”, when mankind united to build the tower of Babel.  This is a parody of the attitude of the saints who are encouraged to be of [1] the same mind (1 Cor. 1.10) [2] the same judgment (1 Cor.1.10) [3] one heart (Acts 4.23) [4] one mind (Acts 4.23; Phil 1.27) [5] one spirit (2 Cor.12.18) [6] having the same attitude (Phil.2.20) [7] harmonious, one mind (Phil.2.2)

 

When the heads wore seven crowns such as with the Great Red Dragon the powers are depicted as universal. The Idumean’s (Herod the Great) were Roman client kings and the Jewish priests had no kingdom as such. Where the horns wear the crowns, the beast is represented by individual rulers, who in Rev 13.1 (ten crowns on ten horns) represent Jewish Parthian rulers and in Rev 17.10 where no crowns are mentioned but they are specifically called “seven kings” because they represented the imperial dynastic rule of Rome under its first seven emperors during the time of Christ and his apostles. But they also hark back to the dynastic progenitors (the roots) of the opposition originally encountered by Christ and his church (the Herod dynasty, the Priestly dynasty etc) as expressed in Rev 12.3 and in Lk 3.1-2 where they are given a particular “face” (i.e., Herod tetrarch of Galilee) rather than a succession of kings (crowns) thus reducing the “crowns/kings” back to their historical roots.  Now, when the beast is shown without any crowns, it is because the ten kings have destroyed the harlot-city that exercised control over them and pooled their sovereignty. The sum of the parts has become larger than the individual rulers – it is the beast-empire.

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These ten kings “have received no kingdom as yet.” In other words, in John’s day they were not identifiable. Nor are they identifiable, so the prophecy implies, until the exciting events of the Last Days are already in train, for “they receive power as kings one hour with the beast.”  To attempt to turn this “one hour” into a significant time period is to manufacture difficulties. The fairly obvious intention behind the expression is to emphasise that this build up of hostility to “Babylon” is the divinely decreed counterpart to the hour of shame and suffering which Jesus suffered there. John’s gospel uses the term frequently in order to express the shame and tribulation of Christ. Its fourfold use (one hour) about the downfall of Babylon adds one more to the long list of correspondences between Christ and antiChrist. Although not identifiable the “ten kings” reflect the extent of the land promised to Abraham, from the river Nile to the Euphrates at the time possessed by ten nations (Gen.15.18-21). Therefore they represent Greater Israel as proposed by the Zionist “Oded Yinon Plan” for the Middle East.   32 

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War with the Lamb (Rev 17.14)

 

“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful”.

 

One way in which earthly kings can wage war on the Lamb is through his followers. The war is therefore yet another reference to the great persecution. Earlier John has described the victory of the Lamb from the point of view of the martyrs, whose conquest is already implicit in his representative triumph: “they have conquered him (Satan) by the life-blood of the Lamb and by the testimony they bore; no love of life caused them to shrink from death” (12.11).  Here he describes the victory of the conquerors from the point of view of the Lamb, who is still the agent of victory: he will conquer them, not only because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, but also because his companions are called and chosen and faithful. He is Lord of lords and King of kings in virtue of the victory secured once for all on Calvary. But that is not enough to make the final victory complete. It must be re-enacted again and again in his companions, the picked and faithful soldiers of the cross. Whichever way we look at it, final victory depends on the inaugural victory of the Lamb together with the victory that he makes possible for the whole vast throng of martyrs.

 

The initial victory achieved by martyrdom (the 144,000 who followed him withersoever he goeth) is reinforced by a military victory.  The vision is expanded in 19.14-16 where the martyrs are represented by armies mounted on white horses who follow the King of kings and Lord of lords into battle.  33 

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The Harlot Destroyed (Rev 17.15-18)

 

“And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.  For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.  And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth”.

 

The “ten kings” have “one mind” but despite their free choice they are actually fulfilling the purpose of God, who has put it in their hearts to do his mind (RV). God’s purpose is the destruction of the harlot, no doubt retributive justice for the mal- treatment of his martyr-witnesses.  Every power that sets itself up against God shall in the end break itself on the cross of his Son and the martyr-witness of his saints.

 

Jerusalem will be made naked and desolate they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. This is an allusion to Ezek.23.26-29, where Jerusalem is compared to a woman stripped naked, and to Ezek.23.25, where survivors of Jerusalem will be burned with fire. Several OT prophets also threaten the harlot Judah with being stripped naked (Jer.13.26-27; Ezek.16.37-38; 23.10, 29; Hos. 2.5, 12).

 

The phrase “they shall devour her flesh” is clearly a metaphor. In the ancient world one would expect dogs to devour unburied corpses in cities and birds in the country (1 Kgs 14. 11; 16.4). This phrase is probably an allusion to the fate of Jezebel, who was reportedly thrown from a window and eaten by wild dogs in the street (1 Kgs 21.23-24; 2Kgs 9.10, 36-37). One might expect “dogs” to be the subject of “devour”, implying the figurative use of dog, in a manner similar to 22.15 compare the figurative use of “dog” to describe people opposed to the gospel (Matt 7.6), Paul’s Judaizing opponents (Phil 3.2), and heretics (2 Pet 2.22).

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Conclusion

 

“You trusted in your beauty and played the harlot.” (Ezek.16.15)

 

While Babylon and subsequently Rome are types of the “harlot” we have encountered sound scriptural and historical evidence that demonstrate that only Jerusalem fulfils all the qualifications.  Any extrapolation of these prophecies to the EEC and the Catholic Church goes against the grain of history and sound exegesis.

 

“One is left guessing as to how the Babylonian harlot riding the Beast and then ravaged by the ten kings can represent the Papacy controlling the Roman church and then destroyed by those who are themselves subject to it. Indeed, how harlot and beast can both be identified with the apostasy of Rome deserves the name Mystery nearly as much as the woman in the vision.”   34 

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Biography of the beast

 

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