Helpful to recognize both parallels and contrasts in Revelation. Parallels from different perspectives help understanding by providing additional detail and connections with the rest of Scripture. Contrasts aid in similar way, especially when considering the “negative” side. For example, if False Prophet is counterfeit Holy Spirit, understanding work of Holy Spirit helps elaborate on work of False Prophet. Holy Spirit points people to Christ, False Prophet points people to Satan.
In some cases, direct connection is explicit: verse 18 of text, woman you saw is that great city”. At other times, connection is implied: cp Rev. 17:1 with Rev. 21:9 – remove parenthetical expression, 20 Greek words in a row identical.
και ηλθεν εις εκ των επτα αγγελων των εχοντων τας επτα φιαλας και ελαλησεν μετ εμου λεγων δευρο δειξω σοι το κριμα της πορνης της μεγαλης της καθημενης επι υδατων πολλων
και ηλθεν εις εκ των επτα αγγελων των εχοντων τας επτα φιαλας των γεμοντων των επτα πληγων των εσχατων και ελαλησεν μετ εμου λεγων δευρο δειξω σοι την νυμφην την γυναικα του αρνιου
By introducing two visions using same language we should expect commonalities and/or contrasts. In these two texts, same class of messenger, same basic import of message, contrasting specific subject: woman/prostitute vs. bride. If we understand role and work of the bride, helps us to recognize what and how the prostitute attempts to mimic or counterfeit. Effective means of recognizing counterfeit is not to study all the ways to fake something; rather study the one genuine and counterfeit of whatever sort will be apparent.
Further contrasts & parallels:
Babylon <=/=> Holy City; Prostitute <=/=> Bride; Fornication <=/=> Faithfulness; Beast <=/=> Christ
woman || prostitute || great city || Babylon <=/=> bride || church || New Jerusalem || Holy City
According to Thomas Watson: “What is the main scope and end of Scripture? To reveal a way of salvation. It makes a clear discovery of Christ.” John 20:31 God’s Word is fundamentally a spiritual book, identifying and describing spiritual realities and truths we are unable to discover on our own. That’s the aspect of text we need to keep front and center in our interpretation; application can be a little more flexible.
A. the vision v.1-6
(1-2) moving force/motivation behind kingdoms of world
political leaders had been deceived and enticed, gave in to seduction; weren’t coming up with their ideas all by themselves, had help of Satan’s agents encouraging own sinful tendencies. Many actually motivated to do good to others as well as self; sin-blindness prevents from recognizing and pursuing right way.
actually satisfied evil desires by giving in to prostitute’s demands, paying her price in return for what she promised: life, liberty, happiness. That’s bottom line why anyone worships benevolent sounding false god: promises that appeal to desire.
(3-4) alliance and incongruity
finery in the wilderness; conflicting picture – prostitute promises the best, the finest, but reality is she has nothing from which to meet commitments. Obvious from the setting that deception is present, getting more obvious as more details are presented.
beauty and the beast – not your typical pimp-mobile. Instead of top-of-the-line luxury model, it’s a rust-bucket with no doors or wheels. Don’t miss fact that these two are closely allied; in fact, beast hopes prostitute’s false beauty will divert attention from him as her manager. Everybody likes the call girl, nobody wants anything to do with the pimp.
attractive appearance masks inward corruption – like the way-past-wrinkle-stage woman dressed and made up like a teenager. Again, beast is trusting in finery plastered on the outside to do its job, mask the real corruption until the deal is done.
(5) power behind the scenes – “mother of prostitutes”
reproduced herself in form of offspring, “clones”, visible entities following her agenda. The agenda: practicing all the things highly displeasing to God. e.g., “The LORD hates six things; in fact, seven are detestable to Him:arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,a heart that plots wicked schemes, feet eager to run to evil,a lying witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up trouble among brothers.” Prov. 6:16-19
(6) promises life but feeds on death
“your best life now” – false promise of life required death of saints; true promise of life required death of Savior. Once again close connection between beauty and beast is obvious: seductress derives pleasure from exercise of beast’s persecuting power.
B. the interpretation v.7-18
a mystery (7b) that requires wisdom (9a) Any interpretation of sort: “well, obviously, the _______ is…” is very apt to be wrong. Means spiritual insight is necessary to understand; vision primarily makes a theological point, not politico-historical one. It’s as if John, experiencing vision, for first time began to grasp (6b) unseen spiritual reality empowering socio-political institutions of his day, but still needed help to understand full significance.
(7-11) alliance between deception/seduction and power
beast: same as introduced in 13:1-10, a counterfeit Christ; had deadly wound but appeared to come back to life – told same again in different ways:
was, is not, will ascend; was, is not, yet is (8). was, is not, is also an eighth (11)
beast is limited – will go to perdition (8a), going to destruction (11b); only a brief time (10c). also, those “whose names are not written…” will be astounded (8b), those sealed by God need not be taken in.
point being: kingdoms and nations, political systems will rise and fall (some already had in John’s day), even extremely powerful ones will fall and may appear to rise again (communism, socialism, e.g.). However, they are sovereignly limited in duration, power and effect even though the lost are completely wowed. Seduction of worldly thinking and priorities accompanies all of them; intimately connected because they are twin manifestations of same master, Satan, working through his agents.
(12-14) when Euphrates is dried up, this follows
political powers seem to have gained critical mass, believe hedge around the church has come down (12) Deceived by three frogs (demonic spirits), enemies of Church around the world believe time for action has arrived.
willingly submit to authority of Satan, begin their final assault on Christ (13-14a) Single intent, their one mind, is that their “hero” acquire full authority over all the earth, dispose of all his enemies.
this time the Lamb wins (14b) war is really with Christ, not his “mere servants”. Surprise, the Lamb overcomes all his enemies, winning complete victory in presence of saints. The saints whose blood intoxicated the prostitute are blessed to see final justice on their enemies.
(15) effect of prostitute’s seduction is global
similar comprehensive language as describes those in Christ’s kingdom (Rev. 5:9; 14:6). Just as beast exercises power through agents around world, so second prong of Satan’s attacks has global presence.
(16-18) God is sovereign over the pagans, too
Satan’s kingdom divided against itself; comes about as result of God using even his enemies as his agents. Prostitute becomes victim of her own unfaithfulness; when her agents see through deception, realize promises will never be kept, turn on her and destroy her.
“how, we ask, could the knowledge of this far future event help the suffering saints, to cheer and strengthen whom was the one chief purpose of this book?” Pulpit Commentary Remember promise of Rev. 1:3 – “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it.”
It assures us of two things:
1. God rules. The Lamb is greater far than the prostitute, the dragon, beast or false prophet. Satan’s kingdom in its entirety can never overcome the kingdom of God. No matter how painful it may get, the Lamb wins and will take those on his side with him.
2. All that Satan and world have to offer is superficial, temporary, lacking real substance. What the Lamb promises is a priceless and eternal inheritance. Implied warning: no matter how alluring the world’s offer gets, don’t be sucked in. Remember, it’s an illusion intended to deceive and draw us away from real treasure.