This chapter seems to start another overview of the events that have taken place so far throughout the book. One of the angels who had one of the 7 bowls takes John to view the judgment of the “great prostitute who sits on many waters” (v1). The identity of this woman is reveled throughout the rest of the chapter, but first, the beast should be fairly straightforward.
As we’ve seen throughout the rest of the book, as well as the correlating prophecies, the beast with 7 heads and 10 horns is representative of Rome and the Caesars, the beast from the sea/abyss. However, it would seem that the horns and heads take on an additional meaning in this chapter.
The horns represent 10 kings with no kingdom as yet, but are given authority with the beast for “1 hour” who they subject themselves to (v12-13). This “hour” would seem to be representative of the final invasion to destroy Jerusalem and the other Jewish people throughout Palestine, similar to last chapter’s sixth bowl, which seems to correlate with chapter 9’s sixth trumpet.
Knowing the identity of the beast, we can then start to consider the identity of the woman:
1.) She is known as Babylon (v5). This aligns with Rev 14:8.
2.) She sits on many waters (v1) symbolizing the encompassing of different “peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages” (v15).
3.) She is drunk with the blood of saints and the martyrs of Jesus (v6). This would seem to align with Matt 23:35-38.
4.) The 10 horns and the beast will come to hate her and war against her (v16), as we see all throughout Revelation so far.
5.) Her kingdom will be given to the beast until the words of God are accomplished (v17). When we compare this with Matt 5:17-18, we get a more clear picture of her identity. It’s important to again note here, like in the Old Testament, the symbolism of “heaven and earth” are representative of God’s chosen people, in this respect, Israel (Isaiah 1:2; Deut 32:1; Jer 2:12, 22:29). “Heaven and earth” passing away here was the stipulation. After the judgment and war ended, the result being the national infrastructure being destroyed, then the law passed away (Heb 8:13).
6.) She reigns over the kings of the earth (v18). This would be the status God imbued her with which she abused.
7.) As with the horns, the seven heads also have an alternate meaning here of seven hills on which the woman sits (v9). This would most likely be the hills of—Zion, Ophel, Moriah, Bezetha, Acra, Gareb, and Goath.
8.) She violated herself with Rome/the beast, as we see in John 19:15, which aligns with why she would have been initially sitting on the beast (v3).
When putting all these together, it would seem the woman in the chapter represents old Jerusalem who was unfaithful to God (v2). As we see in verse 16 and throughout the book, the beast and its “horns” hate and destroy her.
This chapter seems to tie into the last one as the first 3 verses repeat similar ideas. We begin to see the same concepts as throughout the rest of the New Testament. We see that verse 4 seems to align with Matt 24:16-21. Much of the rest of the chapter is fairly straightforward with what we’ve seen up until this point in Revelation. Old Jerusalem/Israel was made desolate and many mourned her destruction as her riches seemed to be great (ref).
The Day and the Hour
There is another concept to note in these two chapters—the day (18:8) and hour (17:12; 18:10, 17, 19). As Jesus seems to make reference to in Matt 24:36 (as well as the rest of that chapter), and as is a common theme through the rest of the prophetic scriptures, this is that “Great and terrible Day of the Lord,” now focused in on the very “hour” of Jerusalem’s destruction. The day and hour had come!
This is the majority of the keynotes as relevant to these two chapters as many of the other concepts are repeats of former chapters. As before, I encourage all reading this to research the Bible and prayerfully consider such concepts as relevant to your personal walk. I’m not claiming to be 100% right or insisting that my view should be upheld. I’m attempting to explain, in as straightforward of a way as possible based on the text, what these passages may have meant to the original recipients as the book itself specifies.
Going forward, chapters 19, 20, and 21 get much more interesting as some newer concepts are introduced that could shake up things quite a bit.
The rest of this series can be found here.