The Significance of the Number ‘7’ in the Book of Revelation


For the children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants who I brought out of the land of Egypt… Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins” (Leviticus 26:21).

“…Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues…” (Revelation 18:4).

Those who are familiar with the Book of Revelation know that the number “seven” appears regularly in this book. John wrote letters to seven churches in Asia (Rev. 1:4, 11). One like the Son of Man stood in the midst of seven golden lampstands with seven stars in His hand (Rev. 1:12-13, 16). There were seven lamps of fire before God’s throne (Rev. 4:5) and seven Spirits of God (Rev. 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6). A scroll was sealed with seven sealsSeven thunders said things that weren’t written down (Rev. 10:3-4). The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes (Rev. 5:6), and the dragon and the beast both had seven heads (Rev. 12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 7). There are seven mountains and seven kings (Rev. 17:9-10). 

Michael Rusten, my former study mentor at The University of Northwestern (Saint Paul, Minnesota), included the following chart in his 2008 work, “Charts for Understanding How the Bible Fits Together”:

The Number Seven in Revelation

Perhaps most famously, the Book of Revelation features seven seals (Rev. 5:1-5; 6:1-17; 8:1-2), seven trumpets (Rev. 8:2; 8:6-9:21; 11:15-19), and seven bowls (Rev. 15:6-16:21; 17:1, 21:9).

The Seven Seals:

(Source)

Revelations~ The Seven Trumpets:

(Source)

Seven Bowls of God's Wrath! Read more "Study of Revelation Chapters 15 and 16" http://www.raptureforums.com/Revelation/RevelationCh15and16.cfm:

(Source)

Why is it significant that these judgments came in sets of seven? 

Babylon the great” (Revelation 17:5) was the recipient of these judgments (Rev. 16:19; 18:2-8). Babylon was also known as “the great harlot” (Rev. 17:1) and the “great city” (Rev. 17:18), which was first identified as the place “where also our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8), i.e, Jerusalem. Babylon was responsible for the bloodshed of the saints, prophets, and apostles (Rev. 16:4-7, 17:6, 18:20, 18:24). This is the same bloodshed which Jesus said the religious leaders of Israel would be held responsible and judged for in His own generation (Matthew 23:29-36).

In Deuteronomy 32:20, 29 God spoke of “the latter end” of Israel (see also Deut. 31:29), when there would be “a perverse and crooked generation…children in whom is no faith” (Deut. 32:5, 20; see also Matthew 17:17, Luke 18:8, and Philippians 2:14-15). Upon that generation He would “avenge the blood of His servants” (Deut. 32:43). In Leviticus 26, God repeatedly warned that Israel would one day receive seven-fold judgments:

“And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins” (Lev. 26:18).

“Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins” (Lev. 26:21).

“And if by these things you are not reformed by Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I will punish you yet seven times for your sins” (Lev. 26:23-24). 

“And after all this, if you do not obey Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I will also walk contrary to you in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins” (Lev. 26:27-28).

God called this the vengeance of His covenant (Lev. 26:25). Revelation is a book about covenants, a book about the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant. My post, “Echoes of Mount Sinai in the Book of Revelation,” details how the covenant imagery of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) is present at the opening of the seventh seal, the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and the pouring out of the seventh bowl.

Interestingly, when Josephus described the spoils of war that the Romans took from Jerusalem in 70 AD, he wrote, “…These lamps were in number seven, and represented the dignity of the number seven among the Jews” (Wars 7.5.5).

Why did the judgments in the Book of Revelation come in the form of seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls? These were the seven-fold plagues that God promised would come upon Israel in her latter days:

“…I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins” (Leviticus 26:21).

“…Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues… Therefore her plagues will come in one day…” (Revelation 18:4, 8).

These plagues were poured out during the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD in fulfillment of what God promised in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, 32. The seven seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments of the Book of Revelation have nothing to do with our future and they were never intended for the entire planet. They were for the final generation of Israel, the crooked and perverse generation of Jesus’ own day. The apostles, prophets, and all of heaven rejoiced when this was accomplished (Revelation 18:20).

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The Harlot of Revelation 17 and its Relationship to Old Covenant Israel


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

UPDATE: This post was written when I understood the scarlet beast of Revelation 17 to be the same as the sea beast of Revelation 13:1-10, the seven kings of Revelation 17:10 to be the first seven Roman emperors, and the 10 horns of Revelation 17:12-14 to be the rulers of Rome’s 10 Senatorial Provinces. I now understand the seven kings to Revelation 17:10 to be the family dynasty of Hezekiah the Zealot, and the 10 horns to be 10 Jewish generals (named by Josephus) who were appointed around January 67 AD to oversee specific territories and to prepare for war with Rome. This post will be updated accordingly when time allows.

The following study was published yesterday in The Fulfilled Connection (TFC) Magazine, and is adapted from our study of Revelation 17 (Part 1):

In Revelation 17, John was shown a woman known as “Babylon the Great”, “the mother of harlots,” and “the great city.” This woman/city has been interpreted in various ways, from the Roman Catholic Church, to New York City, to modern Iraq, to the church in America, etc. This article will discuss a number of reasons why “Babylon the Great” was first century Jerusalem and old covenant Judaism. In doing so, we will look at the first six verses of Revelation 17.

The fall of Babylon was first announced in Revelation 14:8, and Revelation 11:8 identified “the great city” as the place “where also our Lord was crucified,” which, of course, was Jerusalem. Revelation 17-19 describes Babylon’s fall in more detail. This is then followed by a description of the bride, the wife of Jesus, who stands in contrast to the harlot. Note how the following passages deliberately contrast each other:

A. Revelation 17:1: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.’”

A. Revelation 21:9: “Then came one of the seven angels which had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’”

B. Revelation 17:3: “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names.”

B. Revelation 21:10: “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.”

In Revelation 17:2, Babylon is prosecuted for its sexual immorality, by which “the dwellers on earth” and “the kings of the earth” were made guilty. Notice that the reference to “the kings of the earth” here is distinct from the reference to “the kings of the whole world” in Revelation 16:14, where that reference was to the provincial kings of the Roman Empire. In an earlier 3-part series, I discussed 20 instances in Revelation where the phrase “those who dwell on the earth” refers to first century Israel rather than to everyone on the planet (see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). 

Verse 3: John then sees a woman sitting on a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns. One of my previous articles, “Ten Fulfilled Prophecies Concerning the Beast from the Sea,” makes the case that the beast was Nero in the specific sense and the Roman Empire in the general sense. The fact that the woman is sitting on the beast suggests a very close relationship between the woman and the beast, who are both distinct in their identity. On this topic, I wrote the following elsewhere regarding the woman (Jerusalem) riding the beast (Rome):

In what sense might Jerusalem have sat on the beast that would ultimately turn on her and destroy her (Rev. 17:3, 9, 16-18)? Israel had enjoyed a good relationship with Rome until the Jewish revolt began in 66 AD, and Judaism was recognized as a valid religion within the Roman Empire. Josephus wrote of this relationship, “It seems to me to be necessary here to give an account of all the honors that the Romans and their emperors paid to our nation [Israel], and of the leagues of mutual assistance they have made with it” (Antiquities, 14.10.1-2). The Jews frequently took advantage of this relationship to induce persecution against Jesus and His followers (Luke 23:2; John 18:28-31, 19:15; Acts 4:27, 16:20, 17:7, 18:12, 21:11, 24:1-9, 25:1-2). W.H.C. Frend even writes that “the promptings of orthodox Jews in the capitol had something to do with” Nero’s decision to begin persecuting Christians in 64 AD (The Rise of Christianity [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984], 109; quoted in Kenneth Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 2002, p. 63).

Kenneth Gentry suggests that the beast was the color scarlet for any of the following reasons: [1] The robes worn by Roman emperors were red in color [2] Rome, led by Nero, was responsible for shedding much blood among God’s people [3] Nero was famous for his red beard.

Verses 4-5: The woman wore purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls. She had in her hand a golden cup “full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.” Her forehead proclaimed that she was “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” According to Todd Dennis, the founder of the Preterist Archive,

…the description of the harlot’s attire (purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls) was nearly identical to the ephod worn by the high priest (Revelation 17:4; cf. Exodus 28:5-21). The golden cup she held was likely symbolic of the temple vessels, the greatest part of which were gold and silver, according to the Jewish historian Josephus (Wars 5.4.4). On Aaron’s forehead was the inscription “Holy to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36). The harlot’s forehead, on the other hand, bore the title “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (Rev. 17:5).

In Jeremiah’s day, Judah (with its capital of Jerusalem) was prosecuted because it had “played the whore with many lovers” and “polluted the land with…vile whoredom” (Jeremiah 3:1-2). Like Israel in John’s day, Judah prior to its fall in 586 BC had “the forehead of a whore” (verse 3).

Duncan McKenzie’s article has helped me to understand that “Babylon the Great” here was more than just a physical city. It was also a religious system full of abominations, old covenant temple-based Judaism. In Revelation 18 God commands His people regarding Babylon, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). We know from Revelation 1 that John’s immediate audience didn’t live in Jerusalem, but in Asia Minor. So this was not a command to flee from the city of Jerusalem.

God’s message was about breaking completely free from old covenant temple-based Judaism. Babylon represented not only Jerusalem, but also the unfaithful community which had rejected Jesus and the new covenant. Both physical Jerusalem and temple-based Judaism were judged and destroyed in 70 AD. In Daniel 9:26-27 we see that it is on “the wing of abominations” that one comes “who makes desolate” (see also Rev. 17:16, Matt. 23:38). This was related to the destruction of “the city and the sanctuary” (Daniel 9:24). The abominations of the earth (land) were the apostate practices of old covenant Judaism.

As mentioned earlier, John was shown a contrasting picture of two women: the harlot of chapters 17 and 18, and the bride in chapter 19 clothed with “fine linen, bright and pure…the righteous deeds of the saints” (see verses 1-8). One (the harlot) persecuted the other (the bride, Christ’s Church). What is most fascinating is Paul’s own contrasting of two women in his epistle to the Galatians:

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor. For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? ”Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman (Galatians 4:21-31).

Just as Paul wrote in Galatians 4, we see in Revelation that God casts out and destroys the harlot (Revelation 18:21), but the bride inherits the Lamb as her husband.

Verse 6: The woman is said to be “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” This same charge was laid upon those of “the earth” in the previous chapter (Rev. 16:1), where it was said that “they have shed the blood of saints and prophets (16:4-7).” In chapter 18 we also see that “in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on the earth” (18:24), and that the “saints and apostles and prophets” were told to rejoice over her destruction (18:20). Who was responsible for shedding all the blood of the prophets, apostles, and the saints, according to Jesus, and who would receive judgment as a result? The answer can be found in Matthew 23:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets’” Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate (Matthew 23:29-38).

The harlot is not a 21st century entity, but was the first century old covenant community. As God’s people, those of us who are in Christ today have the privilege of being part of the pure woman, God’s bride.

The Significance of the Word “Desolate” in the New Testament


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the book of Revelation”

The word “desolate” (or the related word “desolation”) only appears 12 times in the New Testament. Seven of these appearances are in the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and five of them are references to Jerusalem’s condition in Jesus’ day and to what was about to happen to that city. This word does not appear in John’s gospel account, but its final two appearances in the New Testament demonstrate that John, in the book of Revelation, was showing Jerusalem to be every bit the desolate place that Jesus said it was.

Like the previous post, this one is also inspired by a recent discussion here. PJ Miller, of Sola Dei Gloria, observed the similarity between Matthew’s use of the word “desolate” in both chapters 23 and 24:

[1] “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).

[2] “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:15-16).

[1] In Matthew 23:38, Jesus summed up what had become of Jerusalem in His lament over that city. Although formerly God’s house, Jesus now spoke of Jerusalem (and/or the temple) as “your house,” for He had abandoned it and left it to them as “desolate.”  About 650 years earlierGod said the same to Jeremiah just before Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC:

I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritageI have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies… ‘Many rulers have destroyed My vineyard, they have trodden My portion underfoot; They have made My pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. They have made it desolate; Desolate, it mourns to Me; The whole land is made desolate, because no one takes it to heart” (Jeremiah 12:7-11).

(In two recent posts, we discussed how first century Jerusalem became infested with demons, but how God chose new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, as His house and His dwelling place.)

Strong’s Concordance defines the word “desolate” (#2048), used in Matthew 23:38, as “lonesome, waste, desert, solitary, wilderness.”

[2] In Matthew 24:15, Jesus warned His followers living in Judea to flee to the mountains when they saw the “abomination of desolation.” Matthew’s Jewish audience was familiar with this phrase, and would understand the reference to Daniel, but Luke quotes Jesus differently for his mostly Gentile audience:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…” (Luke 21:20-21).

So the “abomination of desolation” was in the hands of foreign armies coming to complete Jerusalem’s desolation. The warnings of Matthew and Luke, stated differently, were to bring about the same response: immediate flight. In 314 AD, Eusebius, known as the father of church history, wrote the following about the obedience of Jesus’ followers to His words in Matthew 24:

“The people of the church at Jerusalem, in accordance with a certain oracle that was vouchsafed by way of revelation to the approved men there, had been commanded to depart from the city before the [Jewish-Roman war of 67-73 AD], and to inhabit a certain city of Peraea. They called it Pella [in modern-day Jordan]. And when those who believed in Christ had removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had utterly deserted both the royal metropolis of the Jews itself and the whole land of Judaea, the Justice of God then visited upon them all their acts of violence to Christ and his apostles, by destroying that generation of wicked persons root and branch from among men” (see here for more about this event).

The word “desolation” in Matthew 24:15 is #2049 in Strong’s Concordance, and the definition there is: “from 2048; to lay waste (lit. or fig.): -(bring to, make) desolate (-ion), come to nought.” The word “desolation” in Luke 21:20 is entry #2050, and Strong’s simply points back to #2049. So we can see that all three entries (#2048, #2049, and #2050) are essentially the same word, just as the words “desolate” and “desolation” are essentially the same in English.

“Desolate” and “desolation” appear in Mark 13:14 and Luke 13:35 as direct parallels to Matthew 24 and Matthew 23, respectively. Otherwise, these words only appear six other times in the New Testament.* We’ll look briefly at four of these instances, before looking at their two appearances in Revelation: 

The word “desolation” appears in Matthew 12:25 and Luke 11:17 (parallel passages), where Jesus responds to the Pharisees who question by what power He was casting out demons: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”

The word “desolate” appears in Acts 1:20 regarding Judas Iscariot: “’For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it.”

It also shows up in Galatians 4:27, in Paul’s argument that God’s people belong to the Jerusalem above, and not the Jerusalem below. He quotes Isaiah 54: “For it is written: ‘Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband.’”

The Strong’s entry for Acts 1:20 and Galatians 4:27 is #2048, and the entry for Matthew 12:25 and Luke 11:17 is #2049.

*A different Greek word for “desolate” appears in I Timothy 5:5, and refers to a widow’s grief.

The final two places where this word shows up in the New Testament are in Revelation 17:16 and Revelation 18:19 (Strong’s #2049), regarding the burning of the harlot and the great city:

And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”

They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’”

As we discussed in a recent post (“Jerusalem, a Dwelling Place of Demons“), “the great city” was first identified as the place “where also our Lord was crucified (Rev. 11:8).” Of course, Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. This city was also aptly named “the harlot,” the same name given to it by Jeremiah (3:6-8), Ezekiel (16:15), and Hosea (6:10) because it was full of spiritual adultery at that time. Revelation 16-19 repeatedly holds “the great city”, “the harlot,” and “Babylon the great” (different names for the same entity) responsible for shedding the blood of God’s saints, prophets, and apostles. Jesus left no doubt who was responsible for shedding this blood, and when the resulting judgment would come: Israel, in His generation (Matthew 23:29-38).

Jesus declared Jerusalem in His day to be a desolate house, and He warned that “the abomination of desolation” would come and complete its desolation in His own generation. John, in his visions of “things which must shortly take place…for the time is near…at hand” (Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:10), saw the outcome of what Jesus prophesied, Jerusalem made desolate and burned to the ground.

Seeing how the word “desolate” is used here in Revelation 17 and 18, concerning the harlot and the great city, is good confirmation that John was showing Jerusalem to be every bit the desolate place that Jesus said it was in Matthew 23 and 24. This desolation was made complete in the year 70 AD. Gratefully, we can rejoice that we are children of the Jerusalem above (Galatians 4:26), the new Jerusalem aligned with the new covenant established by the blood of our Savior (Hebrews 12:22-24).

Jerusalem, a Dwelling Place of Demons


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

And [the angel] cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2)

A survey of the Old Testament reveals a common theme, as God repeatedly proclaimed that Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple were His dwelling place. Consider the following texts (this is just a sample):

You will bring them in and plant them In the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O Lord, which You have made for Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established” (Exodus 15:17).

But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go” (Deuteronomy 12:5).

In Jerusalem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place in Zion” (Psalm 76:2).

For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place(Psalm 132:13).

At the same time, God’s dwelling place was in heaven (e.g. I Kings 8:30, 39, 43, 49):

“And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive…”

A survey of the Old Testament also reveals that Israel and Jerusalem often proved unworthy of serving as a dwelling place for God. In these times of unfaithfulness, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea were among those who referred to Israel as a harlot:

The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlotAnd I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also” (Jeremiah 3:6-8).

But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it” (Ezekiel 16:15).

I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel: There is the harlotry of Ephraim; Israel is defiled” (Hosea 6:10).

When Jesus came, He summed up what had become of Jerusalem in this lament:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).

Strong’s Concordance defines the word “desolate” (#2048), used by Matthew here, as “lonesome, waste, desert, solitary, wilderness.” In the New Testament, we see indications that demons are attracted to such places:

For Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness” (Luke 8:29; some translations say “solitary places” or “deserted places”).

Similarly, recall what Jesus said would be true of the nation of Israel in His generation:

The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation” (Matthew 12:41-45).

John wrote the book of Revelation in Jesus’ generation, and there we see a tragic picture of what had become of His former dwelling place, as John describes “Babylon the great”:

And [the angel] cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2).

Someone may object here and say that Babylon the great is not Jerusalem. However, if we pay attention, John does positively identify the great city, Babylon. In the previous chapter, John is shown “the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication” (Rev. 17:1-2). She is shown sitting on a great beast (verse 3), and on her forehead are written these words: “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (verse 5). John sees her drunk with the blood of the saints and the martyrs (verse 6). The angel says to John, “The woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth” (verse 18). So the following is clear:

The harlot = Babylon the great = the great city

The “great city” is mentioned five times in Rev. 18 (verses 10, 16, 18, 19, and 21). In verses 10 and 21 it’s referred to as “the great city Babylon.” (See also Rev. 14:8.) Yet it’s in the first mention of “the great city” where we see the positive identification of that city. We see this in the scene of the two witnesses who are killed by the beast:

 “And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8).

Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. Therefore, “the great city” is Jerusalem. This title was also given to Jerusalem by Josephus (Wars 7:8:7) and Appian, a Roman historian of the same era. It may also be a throwback to Jeremiah’s words when he described the soon-coming judgment upon Jerusalem by Babylon, which took place in 586 BC:

And many nations will pass by this city, and every man will say to his neighbor, “Why has the Lord dealt thus with this great city?” And they will answer, “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and worshiped other gods and served them” (Jeremiah 22:8-9).

The great city, Babylon, is further confirmed as Jerusalem in at least the following three ways:

[1] This would not be the first time that Israel was referred to as “Sodom.” Isaiah did the same thing: Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of SodomGive ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah: ‘To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?’ says the Lord…” (Isaiah 1:10-11)John invokes the names of two of Israel’s oldest enemies, Sodom and Egypt, and uses them to describe first century Jerusalem.

[2] John describes the great city using the imagery of a harlot. As discussed above, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea referred to Israel as a harlot in their day. Israel was in a covenant relationship with God, and therefore capable of spiritual adultery, unlike other nations in John’s day (or the United States or any other nation in our own day).

[3] John sees the harlot, Babylon the great, drunk with the blood of martyrs and saints (Rev. 17:6), and filled with the blood of prophets and apostles (Rev. 18:20, 24; see also Rev. 16:6, 19:2). Jesus said that Israel would be held responsible and judged in His generation for shedding this very blood (Matthew 23:29-36). He also said that “it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33). 

In all this we see that a terrible thing had happened to Jerusalem, God’s former dwelling place. It was given over to spiritual adultery and had become overrun by demons:

“Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2).

With God having abandoned Jerusalem as His dwelling place, was He then without a dwelling place of His own? Not at all. In the next post, we will see that God has chosen as His dwelling place the new Jerusalem, the community of saints who abide in His Son, Jesus.

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For more information and details on the content in this post, see our studies on Revelation 17 (verses 1-6 and verses 7-18) and Revelation 18.

If time allows, consider also our study on Revelation 9, where John sees an army of torturing locusts emerging out of the abyss. There is good reason to believe John witnesses a horde of demons sweeping through the land of Israel. The locusts didn’t touch any vegetation, but were given authority to torment only those who were not God’s servants, and this torment was to last for five months. In Judea, locusts typically came between May and September (a 5-month period), and this is roughly the same period when Rome laid a 5-month siege upon Jerusalem in 70 AD leading to Jerusalem’s downfall in September of that year.

Revelation Chapter 18


REVELATION 18

Dave: December 10, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 18:1-24

This post begins with a study prepared by Dave, in black font. Dave has asked a number of very good questions. Feel free to take on these questions in the “Comments” section. An additional study has been prepared by Adam, and is in maroon font below Dave’s study.

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Do you see any words or phrases that remind you of other things we have studied in Revelation?

  • An angel with a mighty voice (see Rev. 10:1)
  • “kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality with her” (Rev. 17:2)
  • Babylon was arrayed like the prostitute (Rev. 18:16 and 17:4)
  • The great city (Rev. 11:2, 8; see also 18:2, 10, 16, 18, 19, 21)
  • Babylon was full of the blood of prophets and saints (Rev. 18:24 and 16:4-6, 17:6; cf. Matt. 23:29-38)
  • Babylon’s self-sufficiency is similar to what John wrote of the Laodicean church (Rev. 18:7 and 3:17)

What recurring themes or words do you see in chapter 18?

  • Sexual immorality (verses 3 and 9)
  • Unclean (verse 2)
  • Luxury/riches/wealth ( verses 3, 7, 9, 14, 19)
  • The great city (verses 2, 10, 16, 18, 19, 21)
  • Saints, apostles, prophets (verses 20 and 24)
  • Famine, death, judgment, and morning (verses 8, 9, 10, 15, 19)

What are the major contrasts in chapter 18?

  • [A] Luxury/wealth/riches/greatness vs. [B] plagues/death/mourning/famine
  • [A] Sexual immorality (verses 3 and 9) vs. [B] standing far off (verse 10)
  • [A] Rejoicing (on the part of the saints, in verse 20) and [B] weeping and mourning (on the part of the merchants, in verse 11)
  • [A] Wealth/greatness/industry/splendor vs. [B] desolation/darkness

Do any questions jump out at you when you read Chapter 18?

  • Who is Babylon?
  • If Babylon is a city, why are the seven churches in Asia (the recipients of the letter) told to “come out of her”?  The saints who are being written to are nowhere near this city. Is something else meant other than physically removing one’s self from a particular city?
  • Can the admonition from the voice of heaven in verse 4 have an application to us here in Minneapolis in the year 2009-2010?
  • In verse 7, Babylon declares, “I am no widow…” What is meant by this attitude?
  • Who are the Bride and the Bridegroom in verse 23?

What are some lessons that we can take from Chapter 18?

  • Riches are not a universal indication of God’s approval.  Babylon had great wealth but God brought upon her plagues, famine, destruction, desolation and death.  Her death is celebrated in heaven.  Financial prosperity can be very dangerous.
  • Rev. 18 helps us to persevere when we see the temporary prosperity of the wicked and godless.  See also Psalm 37 and Psalm 73.
  • We need to be wary of our associations.  “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins” (verse 4).

What do we know about Babylon?

  • Her fall is sudden  (verses 10, 17, 19).
  • Her fall is permanent (verse 22).
  • She had been a wealthy, prominent, and influential city (verses 11-17).
  • Other leaders and traders are grieved (verses 9, 11, 15, 17).
  • Holy prophets and saints rejoice (verses 20 and 24).

Which of the above lend credence to Babylon being Rome?

Which lend credence to Babylon being Jerusalem (or Judaism)?

What would you say?

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Adam’s Study on Revelation 18: Posted on January 30, 2010

Revelation 18 concerns the irreversible overthrow of Babylon. In the two previous posts on chapter 17, much has already been said regarding Babylon and her identity. These posts can be seen here and here, and the first one lists 13 reasons for why Babylon is to be identified with 1st century Jerusalem and Judaism. Sam Storms, as most Historicists do, sees Babylon as representing Rome. Still, even though his viewpoint is different than what is being proposed here, he makes a number of helpful observations, including this chapter outline here:

(1) the prediction of Babylon’s fall (vv. 1-3); (2) an exhortation to God’s people to separate from Babylon before judgment comes (vv. 4-8); (3) the lament of those who cooperate with Babylon (the kings of the earth) [vv. 9-10], the merchants of the earth [vv. 11-17a], the mariners [vv. 17b-19]); and (4) the rejoicing of the faithful once Babylon’s judgment is complete (vv. 20-24).

Verses 1-2: In chapter 17 John was spoken to and carried away in the Spirit by “one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls.” Now another angel announces to John that Babylon is fallen, and in her fallen state she is a “dwelling place for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.” Steve Gregg, on page 424 of his book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” states:

The fact that Babylon has become a habitation of every foul spirit and every unclean and hateful bird (v. 2) is known to be true of Jerusalem, which became overrun by demons, as Christ predicted (Matt. 12:38-45), and which, being reduced to ground level, again as Christ predicted (Matt. 24:2), became the haunt of the desert creatures considered unclean in the Jews’ religion. No such literal fulfillment of these words has been demonstrated with regard to Rome.

Verse 3: Gregg notes that some see evidence for Rome’s identity with Babylon because of the last phrase in this verse: “…and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.” The idea is that Rome was more known than Jerusalem for having “had a major impact upon the world’s economy.” Yet we noted in the previous post that famous historians also spoke of Jerusalem’s political greatness and magnificent structures. It’s also worth noting Josephus’ description of Jerusalem in his introduction to Wars of the Jews: 

“it had so come to pass, that our city Jerusalem had arrived at a higher degree of felicity than any other city under the Roman government, and yet at last fell into the sorest of calamities again” (Wars Preface 1.4).

In our study of Revelation so far, we have also suggested that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. We first saw this in Revelation 1:7, a clear throwback to Zechariah 12:10-14. In a 3-part study on this subject beginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case. What is being communicated here, then, is that Jerusalem made the merchants of Israel/Palestine wealthy by what she had to offer.

The first part of verse 3 reads this way: “For all nations have drunk the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her…” Is the “sexual immorality” here meant to be understood literally as sexual contact between human beings, or is spiritual unfaithfulness in mind here? The former understanding has led some to believe that Babylon is the United States, because the US is known for exporting pornography around the world. Sam Storms understands it to be the latter, saying this phrase is meant to “portray religious and philosophical idolatry.” This is also similar to our preferred understanding in chapter 14 that the 144,000 “virgins” held such a status not in the sexual sense, but in terms of being righteous and faithful to God. Steve Gregg notes how very similar language was used of Jerusalem before Jerusalem’s fall at the hand of Babylon in 586 BC, and deduces what this means for 1st century Jerusalem even as she takes on the name of her old conqueror (pp. 424, 426):

Jerusalem was charged with committing fornication with the kings of the earth (v. 3) in Old Testament times (Ezek. 16:14-15, 26, 28-30; 23:12-21). The prophet used this imagery to explain God’s reason for bringing judgment upon Jerusalem by the hands of the Babylonians in 586 B.C. It would seem appropriate that the New Testament apostle/prophet would employ the same language in describing a near-identical event, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

As it may be helpful to see what Ezekiel said of Jerusalem some 600 years before Christ’s birth, I will quote a portion of the above-mentioned passage here: “And your renown went forth among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through the splendor that I had bestowed upon you, declares the Lord God. But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passer-by; your beauty became his… How lovesick is your heart, declares the Lord God, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute…” The greater context of this quoted passage (Ezek. 16:14-15, 30) shows that Jerusalem’s prostitution at that time had to do with sharing in the idolatry being practiced by surrounding nations.

Verse 4: Steve Gregg (p. 428) remarks,

The call to Come out of her, my people (v. 4) not only echoes similar exhortations concerning ancient Babylon (cf. Isa. 48:20; Jer. 50:8; 51:6), but also Christ’s instructions to the disciples to flee from the condemned city at the first sign of its imminent doom (cf. Luke 21:20-23). The epistle to the Hebrews as a whole (and especially passages like Heb. 12:25-29; 13:13-14) constitutes just such a call as that found here.

Dave (above) asked a couple of very pertinent questions regarding this verse: “If Babylon is a city, why are the seven churches in Asia (the recipients of the letter) told to ‘come out of her’?  The saints who are being written to are nowhere near this city. Is something else meant other than physically removing one’s self from a particular city?” Dave is right to ask what it would have meant for the inhabitants of Asia Minor to come out of Babylon, if only the physical city of Jerusalem is meant here. I believe that this was a command to part ways with Old Covenant Judaism once and for all. In the second half of our discussion on Rev. 17:1-6, I wrote, “Babylon represented not only Jerusalem, but also the unfaithful community which had rejected Jesus in order to maintain corrupted Old Covenant practices. Both physical Jerusalem and temple-based Judaism were judged and destroyed in 70 AD.” A more lengthy discussion of these matters can be found at that post.

John does seem to switch back and forth in his speech between the physical representation of Jerusalem (the city) and her spiritual representation (Judaism). This is also done elsewhere in Revelation and other Biblical texts on other subjects (e.g. In Romans 9-11, Paul uses the term “Israel” at times to refer to the geographical nation known by that name, but also refers to the Church by the same term, as in Romans 9:6). In any case, the Lord’s admonition to His people to “come out of her” is probably similar to Peter’s words in Acts 2:40, where it is recorded: “And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation.’”

Verses 5-6: In these verses Steve Gregg (p. 430) draws three more parallels to Old Covenant Jerusalem:

[1] The statement that her sins have reached to heaven (v. 5) is an apparent allusion to God’s assessment of Sodom in Genesis 18:21, and Sodom has already been used as a symbolic name for Jerusalem (Rev. 11:8).

[2] One of the provisions of the New Covenant was God’s promise that “I will remember no more” the sins and iniquities of His people (Jer. 31:34). This is one of the “better promises” (Heb. 8:6) by which the New Covenant outshines the first. Contrarily, it can be said of her who related to God on the basis of the Old Covenant, and violated it, that God has remembered her iniquities (v. 5). This was Jerusalem.

[3] That God has determined to repay her double (v. 6) for her sins is another link to Jerusalem and Judah, of whom the prophet said, “I will repay double for their iniquity and their sin” (Jer. 16:18) and, “Bring on them the day of doom, and destroy them with double destruction!” (Jer. 17:18).

Verse 7: Here we read of Babylon’s pride, as she says in her heart, “I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see.” Sam Storms calls this idolatry and false security, and points out the similarities between these statements and what is written of Babylon in Isaiah’s day: “Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures, who sit securely, who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me, I shall not sit as a widow or know the loss of children.’” Also, very interestingly, Lamentations, written shortly after Jerusalem fell the first time in 586 BC, begins this way: “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.”

One author, referencing the Jewish historian Josephus, writes of the over-confidence of the Jewish people regarding their city and the temple and the bitter anguish they experienced when the temple was destroyed by fire in 70 AD: “No one believed that God would permit His Temple to be destroyed, and when this finally did happen, everyone within the city, men and women, young and old, were crazed with despair. Thousands cast themselves into the fire while others fell on their own swords.”

Verse 8: Just like Babylon in Isaiah’s day (Is. 47:9), the Babylon John was speaking of was to receive her plagues “in a single day”: death, mourning, famine, and burning with fire. It’s well documented that these very things took place in Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, and I previously wrote in detail about these events here, here, and here.

Verses 9-10: These verses read, “And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. Then they will stand afar off, in fear of her torment, and say, ‘Alas! Alas! You great city, you might city, Babylon! For in a single hour your judgment has come.’” George Peter Holford, basing his 1805 account on the writings of Josephus, wrote the following graphic details in describing the burning of Jerusalem’s temple in 70 AD:

The Romans, exasperated to the highest pitch against the Jews, seized every person whom they could find, and, without the least regard to sex, age or quality, first plundered and then slew them. The old and the young, the common people and the priests, those who surrendered and those who resisted, were equally involved in this horrible and indiscriminate carnage. Meanwhile the Temple continued burning, until at length, vast as was its size, the flames completely enveloped the whole building; which, from the extent of the conflagration, impressed the distant spectator with an idea that the whole city was now on fire. The tumult and disorder which ensued upon this event, it is impossible (says Josephus) for language to describe. The Roman legions made the most horrid outcries; the rebels, finding themselves exposed to the fury of both fire and sword, screamed dreadfully; while the unhappy people who were pent up between the enemy and the flames, deplored their situation in the most pitiable complaints. Those on the hill and those in the city seemed mutually to return the groans of each other. Such as were expiring through famine, were revived by this hideous scene, and seemed to acquire new spirits to deplore their misfortunes. The lamentations from the city were re-echoed from the adjacent mountains, and places beyond Jordan. The flames which enveloped the Temple were so violent and impetuous, that the lofty hill on which it stood appeared, even from its deep foundations, as one large body of fire. The blood of the sufferers flowed in proportion to the rage of this destructive element; and the number of the slain exceeded all calculation. The ground could not be seen for the dead bodies, over which the Romans trampled in pursuit of the fugitives; while the crackling noise of the devouring flames mingled with the clamor of arms, the groans of the dying and the shrieks of despair, augmented the tremendous horror of a scene, to which the pages of history can furnish no parallel.

Verses 11-14: Verse 11 is the first of five verses which will speak of the permanency of Babylon’s fall, the others being verses 14, 21, 22, and 23. This lends credence to the earlier assertion that what is primarily being seen here is the fall of Old Covenant temple-based Judaism, even more so than simply the city of Jerusalem. Try and plan as they might, no one has been able to practice all (or even most of) the tenets of Judaism since the complete and final destruction of the temple in 70 AD. John Hagee, Benny Hinn, and others would do well to reconsider the funds they have raised in order to see a Third Temple built in Jerusalem one day. God was serious about dismantling the Old Covenant system, and the New Covenant means a lot to Him too.

Sam Storms points out that in verses 11-13 there is a list of 28 different types of cargo, no longer to be found in Babylon anymore after her downfall. Most shocking on this list is the mention of “human souls” (verse 13), and Sam Storms believes this indicates not only greed but also a brutality of some sort in the pursuit of all the other 27 items. Some object to Babylon’s identity as Jerusalem because they believe these items indicate a commercial center as prominent as Rome, and more prominent than Jerusalem. Steve Gregg answers this objection (p. 436): “[It] may be said that the demands of the passage do not require that the city in question be the greatest commercial center in the world—only that it was a wealthy, cosmopolitan trading city, by whose business international merchants were made rich. These things were certainly true of Jerusalem. In The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Alfred Edersheim writes concerning Jerusalem:

In these streets and lanes everything might be purchased: the production of Palestine, or imported from foreign lands—nay, the rarest articles from the remotest parts. Exquisitely shaped, curiously designed and jeweled cups, rings, and other workmanship of precious metals; glass, silks, fine linen, woolen stuffs, purple, and costly hangings; essences, ointments, and perfumes, as precious as gold; articles of food and drink from foreign lands—in short, what India, Persia, Arabia, Media, Egypt, Italy, Greece, and even the far-off lands of the Gentiles yielded, might be had in these bazaars. Ancient Jewish writings enable us to identify no fewer than 118 different articles of import from foreign lands, covering more than even modern luxury has devised.”

David Chilton further comments, “The wealth of Jerusalem was a direct result of the blessings promised in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. God had made her a great commercial center, but she had abused the gift. While there are similarities between the list of goods here and that in Ezekiel 27:12-24 (a prophecy against Tyre), it is likely that the items primarily reflect the Temple and the commerce surrounding it” (emphasis added). On this last statement, Duncan McKenzie has much to say in his 2006 article titled “The Merchandise of the Temple.” The following is an excerpt from that article:

First; why is John providing so much detail about Babylon’s merchandise? How does it add to what he is telling us? It is my position that this list of items is another example, one of the most extensive in Revelation, of physical referents being given in the midst of a symbol to aid in the identification of that symbol. As I have stated earlier, Babylon was not a literal city (not Jerusalem and certainly not Rome). It was a symbol of a community of people, a symbol of God’s unfaithful old covenant community. This community is being represented by images associated with the Temple and the priesthood. If Babylon were a literal city this list of items would add little to the story being told here. If on the other hand Babylon is a symbol of unfaithful Israel then all of a sudden this merchandise makes much more sense. Quite simply, the “merchandise” of Babylon is the merchandise of the Temple.

Carrington wrote the following on the goods of Babylon, “The long list of merchandise in 18:11-13 is surely a catalogue of materials for building the Temple, and stores for maintaining it” [Phillip Carrington, The Meaning of Revelation, (London: Society for Promotion Christian Knowledge, 1931), 287]…

Of the items which are listed in Rev 18, gold and silver, precious stones, fine linen, purple, silk (for vestments) scarlet, precious wood, bronze, iron (cf. Deut 8:9), marble cinnamon (as an ingredient of the sacred anointing oil), spices, incense, ointment, frankincense, wine, oil fine meal (Gr. Semidalis, used frequently in Leviticus for fine flour offering), corn, beasts, sheep are all found in use in the temple. Ivory and probably pearls were found in Herod’s temple. Although horses and chariots do seem to be incongruous, the Greek word for chariot is rhede, a four-wheel chariot, a fairly rare word which appears to come from the Latin name. The author may be insinuating that Roman ways were introduced into the sacred city [ J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation, The Anchor Bible, vol. 38, eds. William R. Albright and David N. Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1975), 304-305]. The four wheeled chariots (or carriages as Aune translates rhede) may allude to the wealthy aristocracy that had arisen around the current and former high priests.

The listing of merchandise in Revelation 18 is similar to the listing of the merchandise of Tyre in Ezekiel 27:12-24, as is the lamenting by those who got wealthy off the respective cities (Ezekiel 27:28-36). In Ezekiel 27 the city of Tyre is pictured as a ship (vv. 5-9) that sinks at sea (vv. 26, 32, 34). In Revelation 18 the Temple system of unfaithful Israel is pictured as a city that is overthrown. As Ford noted, the items in Revelation 18 are considerably different with those of the (literal) city of Tyre. Only fifteen of the twenty-seven items in Revelation 18:12-13 are the same as the thirty eight items listed in Ezekiel 27:12-24. [The count changes by an item or two depending on what translation one uses and whether one counts “bodies and souls” as two items or one (i.e. “slaves, the souls of men” RSV)] There is, however, a connection between the commerce of the Temple and that of Tyre. The currency of Tyre was the only currency allowed in the Temple. Thus Revelation 18’s allusion to the commerce of Tyre may contain an allusion to the commerce of the Temple.

McKenzie then elaborates on the ornate decorations in the Temple of Herod, whose lengthy and famous restoration project was only completed in 65 AD, merely five years before it was destroyed. McKenzie also hosts a discussion of the precious metals used in the temple, and cites the writings of Josephus on this matter. He also shows how “Revelation 18:13 consists mostly of items that were used in the sacrifices and offerings of the Temple: cinnamon, incense, fragrant oil, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep.” His take on the mention of “slaves, that is, human souls” in verse 13 is this:

The leaders of the Jewish temple system were enslaving men’s souls by turning them away from Jesus and attempting to keep them under the old covenant. The Temple hierarchy had been in bed with Rome (so much so that Rome even appointed the high priest). The Roman beast was about to turn on the harlot and destroy the whole old covenant system.

Interestingly, McKenzie points out,

Jesus had accused the Jewish leadership of enslaving men’s souls by preventing them from entering the kingdom of God: “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in… Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. (Matt. 23:13, 15).

In Galatians 4:24-25 Paul tells how those under the old covenant were enslaved, as opposed to those under New Covenant who were free (Gal. 4:26-27). This gets back to the parallel between the two women/cities of Galatians 4:21-31 and the two women/cities of Revelation. Just as the “other woman” in Galatians had children who were enslaved (those staying under the old covenant, Gal. 4:24-25), so harlot Babylon had her slaves.

Verses 15-19: In verse 16 we see that the great city “was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls.” We saw this same description in our study of Rev. 17:4, speaking of the woman, “the great prostitute” (17:1) and “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (17:5). There we noted that “the description of the harlot’s attire (purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls) was nearly identical to the ephod worn by the high priest (…Exodus 28:5-21).” The same is true here; this is another reference to Jerusalem and the temple priesthood of the Old Covenant.

In verses 9-10, “the kings of the earth” were shown standing afar off and weeping and wailing over the smoke of Babylon’s burning. In verses 15-16, the “merchants of…wares” were shown doing the same. Now in verses 17-19 all the “shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea” mourn in the same manner. Babylon is referred to again as “the great city” (see also Rev. 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21). We first saw this title given to Jerusalem in Rev. 11:8, the passage which speaks of the two witnesses who would “lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.”

Verse 19 says that Jerusalem would become “desolate” in one hour. According to Josephus, when Israel lost the Jewish-Roman War (66 – 73 AD), Jerusalem was not merely “taken” as it had been five times previously. Instead this was its second “desolation”:

“And thus was Jerusalem taken, in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, on the eighth day of the month Gorpeius [Elul]. It had been taken five times before, though this was the second time of its desolation; for Shishak, the king of Egypt, and after him Antiochus, and after him Pompey, and after them Sosius and Herod, took the city, but still preserved it; but before all these, the king of Babylon conquered it, and made it desolate, one thousand four hundred and sixty-eight years and six months after it was built” (Wars 6.10.1).

Verse 20: Here we read, “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” The same indictment was given in Rev. 16:4-6 and 17:6, and will be repeated again in 18:24. This time it includes a statement of justice for “apostles” as well. If this judgment is yet to come, as proposed by the Futurist standpoint, what 21st century entity might be responsible for shedding the blood of the apostles? However, we know, for example, that James the brother of Jesus was martyred in Jerusalem in 62 AD by the Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders, and that Peter and Paul were martyred at the command of Nero as he was instigated to do by the Jews (see our study on Rev. 17:3).

More importantly for our study, though, we have the clear prophecy of Jesus in Matthew 23:29-38 that the martyrdom of the saints and prophets would be held to the account of His first-century Jewish audience: “that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth… Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation…” (Matt. 23:35-36; cf. 2 Chronicles 36:15-16, Luke 13:33-34 and Acts 7:52). This judgment was poured out within the timeframe of the generation that heard Jesus speak these things, when Jerusalem was laid waste in 70 AD.

Verses 21-23: Once again it is said of Babylon that she “will be found no more.” Here this is demonstrated by a mighty angel throwing a great millstone into the sea. Duncan McKenzie comments, “Seeing the harlot as the old covenant temple system helps to explain Revelation 18:21 (that says Babylon would not rise again).  The city of Jerusalem has risen again; the old covenant temple system has not risen again (and won’t).” The angel then recites a list of activities which would no longer be heard or found in Babylon anymore.

This is also parallel to “the great mountain being thrown into the sea,” which John saw earlier in the sounding of the trumpet judgment (Revelation 8:8-9). The similarities are clearly seen when we compare the literary structures of these two passages:

Revelation 8:8

Revelation 18:21a

Revelation 18:21b

“And the second angelsounded, “And a strong angel saying,
and something like a great took up a stone like a great ‘Thus will Babylon that great
mountain burning with fire millstone city
was thrown into the sea…” and threw it into the sea, will be thrown down with violence
    and it will not be found any longer.”

See this post for more details on how the prayers of the saints were answered when the mountain of Jerusalem was cast into the sea: https://adammaarschalk.com/2016/07/25/that-mountain-was-cast-into-the-sea-and-these-mountains-can-be-too/.

Verse 24: Very similar to verse 20, we read here: “And in her [Babylon] was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.” These words are so similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 23:35 that the connection should be unmistakable. The fulfillment of this prophecy simply can not be yet future, in light of what Jesus said in the next verse, nor can it have been fulfilled in any other geographical location other than Jerusalem and the surrounding region. Babylon, that is, Jerusalem and Old Covenant Judaism as represented by her famous temple, were thrown down in judgment in 70 AD, just as Jesus said would happen. When we consider, as we did in verse 3, that the phrase “on earth” (also translated “land”) is a natural reference to Israel, this is further borne out.

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Our study of Revelation 19 can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

Revelation Chapter 17 (Part 1: Verses 1-6)


REVELATION 17

Adam Maarschalk: December 3, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 17

UPDATE: This post was written when I understood the scarlet beast of Revelation 17 to be the same as the sea beast of Revelation 13:1-10, the seven kings of Revelation 17:10 to be the first seven Roman emperors, and the 10 horns of Revelation 17:12-14 to be the rulers of Rome’s 10 Senatorial Provinces. I now understand the seven kings to Revelation 17:10 to be the high priests of the house of Annas, and the 10 horns to be 10 Jewish generals (named by Josephus) who were appointed around January 67 AD to oversee specific territories and to prepare for war with Rome. This post will be updated accordingly when time allows.

A. The Scarlet Woman and the Scarlet Beast (Rev. 17:1-6)

Verse 1: At this point, the seven bowl judgments have been poured out on Babylon the Great (Rev. 16:19) by seven angels. One of these angels now takes John to see her judgment. Babylon, whose identity we will soon discuss, is referred to as “the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.” Steve Gregg, in his book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” reminds us that the fall of Babylon was first announced in Rev. 14:8 (p. 400). He then adds,

Chapters 17-19 reveal the destruction of Babylon in greater detail, the precursor to the marriage of the Lamb to a new bride. Appropriately, the chaste bride is contrasted with the wicked city depicted as a great harlot (v. 1). In order to gain this insight, John is transported in vision into the wilderness (v. 3). David S. Clark points out that “sometimes he was carried away into heaven to see visions; but the thing he was about to see now had no affinity with heaven, and he could not see such a scene as this in heaven, so he was taken to a wilderness as a more appropriate place, and one more in congruity with what he was about to see.”

Verse 2: Babylon is indicted for its sexual immorality, by which “the dwellers on earth” and “the kings of the earth” were made guilty. In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subject beginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case. Notice that the reference to “the kings of the earth” here is distinct from the reference to “the kings of the whole world” in Revelation 16:14, where that reference was to the provincial kings of the entire Roman Empire.

We have also noted a couple of times that at this point in John’s narrative, there is division in the preterist camp regarding who judgment is being poured out upon. Some say it’s the Roman Empire, and others say it’s Jerusalem (this is my view). Steve Gregg (pp. 402-406) summarizes J. Stuart Russell’s arguments on why Babylon is to be identified with Jerusalem, and not with Rome. He lists 13 such reasons[1], which are reproduced here:

#1: The fall of Rome [in 476 AD] does not fall within the things “which must shortly take place,” which is the stated subject matter of the Apocalypse (cf. 1:1). [The fall of Jerusalem does, as it occurred in 70 AD, in John’s own day];

#2: The Olivet Discourse, which Russell conceives as a shorter treatment of the same subject matter as Revelation, does not include a discussion of the fate of Rome (see Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21);

#3: As Revelation presents a series of contrasts—a Lamb vs. a dragon; the Father’s name vs. the beast’s name on people’s foreheads; the bride vs. the harlot—so also the Apocalypse contrasts two cities, Babylon and the New Jerusalem. The latter is the church. The earthly Jerusalem is clearly in view in earlier chapters. To bring Rome into the picture at this point would introduce a third city and destroy the symmetry of the book;

#4: As a symbolic name for Jerusalem, Babylon would be as fitting as Sodom and Egypt, which were applied to Jerusalem earlier (11:8);

#5: The phrase “that great city” was used of Jerusalem earlier (11:8), as it is used repeatedly in these chapters regarding Babylon;

#6: In chapter 14, the winepress was trodden “outside the city” (14:20), which almost all understand to refer to Jerusalem, yet the only “city” named earlier in that chapter is Babylon (14:8), hence, Babylon equals Jerusalem;

#7: The division of Babylon into “three parts” in 16:19 best fits Jerusalem… (cf. Ezek. 5:1-12). [By this, Steve Gregg is also referring to the historical fact of three warring factions in Jerusalem during the siege leading up to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, which literally carved up the city into three parts. See previous post on chapter 16.];

#8: The appellation “the harlot” is an established label for Jerusalem from the Old Testament (cf. Isa. 1:21; 57:8; Jer. 2:2, 20); it could never be applied to Rome or any Gentile city, since they have never been in a covenant relationship with God. As Chilton writes: “The metaphor of harlotry is exclusively used in the Old Testament for a city or nation that has abandoned the Covenant and turned toward false gods; and with only two exceptions…[2] the term is always used for faithless Israel;

#9: Jerusalem sat upon seven hills as truly as did Rome [SEE FINAL NOTE at the end of this post];

#10: If “the kings of the earth” [verse 2] be understood to mean “the rulers of the land (Israel),” then Jerusalem, as appropriately as Rome, could be said to be “that great city” in 17:18 [more on this later];

#11: The expression “that great city which reigns over the rulers of the land” (v. 18) is fully equivalent to that which is said of Jerusalem in Lamentations 1:1—“Who was great among the nations! The princess among the provinces”;

#12: The Jews of Jerusalem were idolatrous, as was Rome;

#13: No city other than Jerusalem could be charged with the blood of the prophets and saints and apostles (see 17:6; 18:20, 24).

Verse 3: John then sees a woman sitting on a scarlet (red) beast with seven heads and ten horns. We already discussed the identity of this beast at length in Revelation 13 (See Post #1 here and Post #5 here), seeing a compelling case for its identity as Nero in the specific sense and the Roman Empire in the general sense. The woman here in verse 3 is seen as a prostitute (verse 1), and the fact that she is sitting on the beast does not mean that she is one and the same with the beast. Rather it suggests a very close relationship between the woman and the beast, who are both distinct in their identity. In my term paper on the events of 70 AD, I wrote the following regarding the significance of the woman (Jerusalem, as representing Israel) riding the beast (Rome):

In what sense might Jerusalem have sat on the beast with seven heads (mountains), the beast that would ultimately turn on her and destroy her (Rev. 17:3, 9, 16-18)? Israel had enjoyed a good relationship with Rome until the Jewish revolt began in 66 AD, and Judaism was recognized as a valid religion within the Roman Empire. Josephus wrote of this relationship, “It seems to me to be necessary here to give an account of all the honors that the Romans and their emperors paid to our nation [Israel], and of the leagues of mutual assistance they have made with it” (Antiquities, 14.10.1-2). The Jews frequently took advantage of this relationship to induce persecution against Jesus and His followers (Luke 23:2; John 18:28-31, 19:15; Acts 4:27, 16:20, 17:7, 18:12, 21:11, 24:1-9, 25:1-2). W.H.C. Frend even writes that “the promptings of orthodox Jews in the capitol had something to do with” Nero’s decision to begin persecuting Christians in 64 AD (The Rise of Christianity [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984], 109; quoted in Kenneth Gentry, 2002, p. 63).

Kenneth Gentry suggests that the beast is seen as scarlet for any (or all) of the following reasons: [1] The robes worn by Roman emperors were red in color [2] Rome, led by Nero, was responsible for shedding much blood among God’s people [3] Nero was famous for his red beard. Regarding this last point, Gentry says, “It would seem most appropriate to expect the red color of the beast to also correspond to the person designated as the beast whose number is 666” (Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 217). In other words, this is likely one more means by which John made known to his first-century readers exactly who the beast was (in the singular sense) without saying so explicitly.

Verses 4-5: The woman is seen to be wearing purple and scarlet, and gold, jewels, and pearls. She has in her hand a golden cup “full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.” Her forehead proclaimed that she was “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” In my term paper on the events of 70 AD, I noted some observations made by Todd Dennis, the founder of the Preterist Archive:

…the description of the harlot’s attire (purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls) was nearly identical to the ephod worn by the high priest (Revelation 17:4; cf. Exodus 28:5-21). The golden cup she held was likely symbolic of the temple vessels, the greatest part of which were gold and silver, according to the Jewish historian Josephus (Wars 5.4.4). On Aaron’s forehead was the inscription “Holy to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36). The harlot’s forehead, on the other hand, bore the title “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (Rev. 17:5).

The attire of the harlot was also similar to what Josephus said was discovered “in the midst [of the inmost court], that most sacred part of the temple” when Jerusalem was captured by the Romans in 70 AD:

“The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls” (Revelation 17:4).

“But then this house, as it was divided into two parts, the inner part was lower than the appearance of the outer, and had golden doors of fifty-five cubits altitude, and sixteen in breadth; but before these doors there was a veil of equal largeness with the doors. It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful” (Wars 5.5.4).

In Jeremiah’s day, Judah (with its capital of Jerusalem) was indicted because it had “played the whore with many lovers” and “polluted the land with…vile whoredom” (Jeremiah 3:1-2). Like Israel in John’s day, Judah prior to its fall in 586 BC had “the forehead of a whore” (verse 3).

Duncan McKenzie’s article has helped me to understand that “Babylon the Great” here was more than just a physical city in its identity. It was also a religious system full of abominations. That system, I believe, was Old Covenant temple-based Judaism. In the next chapter, we will see a command from God regarding Babylon, saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). We know from chapter 1 that John’s immediate audience did not live in Jerusalem (or Rome), but in Asia Minor. The believers in Jerusalem did flee, as we noted in chapter 7, but what did this message mean to believers already living outside of Jerusalem and Judea?

God’s message was about breaking completely free from Old Covenant temple-based Judaism. Babylon represented not only Jerusalem, but also the unfaithful community which had rejected Jesus in order to maintain corrupted Old Covenant practices. Both physical Jerusalem and temple-based Judaism were judged and destroyed in 70 AD. In Daniel 9:26-27 we see that it is on “the wing of abominations” that one comes “who makes desolate” (cf. Rev. 17:16, Matt. 23:38). This is in reference to the destruction of “the city and the sanctuary” (as related to Daniel’s own people and his holy city—Dan. 9:24). What are the abominations spoken of in both Daniel and Revelation? Regarding Daniel 9, John Calvin several centuries ago remarked:

I have no hesitation in referring this language of the angel to that profanation of the Temple which happened after the manifestation of Christ, when sacrifices ceased, and the shadows of the law were abolished. From the time, therefore, at which the sacrifice really ceased to be offered; this refers to the period at which Christ by his advent should abolish the shadows of the law, thus making all offering of sacrifices to God totally valueless… God’s wrath followed the profanation of the Temple. The Jews never anticipated the final cessation of their ceremonies, and always boasted in their peculiar external worship, and unless God had openly demonstrated it before their eyes, they would never have renounced their sacrifices and rites as mere shadowy representations. Hence Jerusalem and their Temple were exposed to the vengeance of the Gentiles.

As Russell pointed out earlier, John is being shown a contrasting picture of two women: the harlot of chapters 17 and 18, and the bride in chapter 19 clothed with “fine linen, bright and pure…the righteous deeds of the saints” (see verses 1-8). One (the harlot, representing Judaism) persecuted the other (the bride, Christ’s Church), as we will see again in the next verse. What is most fascinating is Paul’s own contrasting of two women in his epistle to the Galatians:

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons,one by a slave woman andone by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, whilethe son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are twocovenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia;she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor. For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” Now you, brothers,like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say?”Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave butof the free woman (Galatians 4:21-31, emphasis added).

Note how the following passages contrast each other:

A. Revelation 17:1: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.’”

A. Revelation 21:9: “Then came one of the seven angels which had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’”

B. Revelation 17:3: “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names.”

B. Revelation 21:10: “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.”

On these matters, Duncan McKenzie concludes:

Revelation is talking about the same subject as Galatians; both books are contrasting two “cities” (physical Jerusalem and heavenly Jerusalem in Galatians, Babylon and the New or heavenly Jerusalem in Revelation) that are two “wives” (Hagar and Sarah in Galatians, the widowed harlot and the bride in Revelation).  These two women of Galatians and Revelation represent two communities, those of the old and new covenants…  In the book of Revelation, as in Galatians (4:29), one woman persecutes the other (i.e. the harlot persecutes the bride, Rev. 17:6).  Similarly in Revelation, as in Galatians, one of the two women is cast out (and destroyed—Rev. 18:21) while the other woman receives her inheritance (i.e. the Lord takes her as His bride).  This explains why the very next subject in Revelation after Babylon is destroyed is the wedding of the bride (Rev. 19:1-10).  God deposes of His unfaithful old covenant wife (who irrevocably broke her covenant of marriage with God and became a widow when she had Jesus killed) and then marries His faithful new covenant bride…

Just as the New Jerusalem is not a literal city but a community of people (the bride, the new covenant community) so Babylon was not a literal city but a community of people (the harlot, the unfaithful old covenant community)… While Babylon was centered in Jerusalem, its citizens were all those of unfaithful Israel that were rejecting Jesus for the temple system.

When the earthly Jerusalem fell, God’s true people were in possession of “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:18-28). Upon the removal of that which could be shaken (vs. 27; cf. Hebrews 9:8-10), there remained “a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (vs. 28; cf. Daniel 7:21-22, Matthew 21:43).

Verse 6: The woman is said to be “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” This same charge was laid upon those of “the earth” (Rev. 16:1) in the previous chapter, where it was said that “they have shed the blood of saints and prophets (16:4-7).” In chapter 18 we will see that “in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on the earth” (18:24), and that the “saints and apostles and prophets” were told to rejoice over her destruction (18:20). Who was responsible for shedding all the blood of the prophets and the saints, according to Jesus, and who would receive judgment as a result? David Lowman, a Presbyterian pastor, aptly points out that the answer can be found in Matthew 23:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets’” Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate (Matthew 23:29-38, emphasis added).

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In Part 2 of our study on Revelation 17 we will see how the angel unveils to John the meaning of the prostitute (Babylon) and the beast…

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.


[1] Kenneth Gentry, in his book Before Jerusalem Fell, lists his own set of reasons (pp. 240-241): “Briefly, the evidence for the identifying of Jerusalem as the Harlot is based on the following: (1) Both are called ‘the great city’ (Rev. 14:8; 11:8). (2) The Harlot is filled with the blood of the saints (cp. Rev. 16:6; 17:6, 18:21, 24; with Matt. 23:34-38; Luke 13:33; Acts 7:51-52). Jerusalem had previously been called by pagan names quite compatible with the designation ‘Babylon’ (cp. Rev. 14:8 and 17:5 with 11:8). (4) Rome could not fornicate against God, for only Jerusalem was God’s wife (Rev. 17:2-5, cp. Isa. 1:20; Jer. 31:31). (5) There is an obvious contrast between the Harlot and the chaste bride (cp. Rev. 17:2-5 with Rev. 21:1ff.) that suggests a contrast with the Jerusalem below and the Jerusalem above (Rev. 21:2; cp. Gal. 4:24ff.; Heb. 12:18ff.). The fact that the Harlot is seated on the seven-headed Beast (obviously representative of Rome) indicates not identity with Rome, but alliance with Rome against Christianity (cp. Matt. 23:37ff.; John 19:6-16; Acts 17:7).” SEE ALSO QUESTION #9 HERE: http://www.forerunner.com/beast/beastfaq.html.

[2] Note from Steve Gregg: “The two exceptions are Tyre (Isaiah 23:15-17) and Nineveh (Nahum 3:4). It is notable that both of these pagan cities, Tyre (See I Kings 5:1-12; 9:13; Amos 1:9) and Nineveh (Jonah 3:5-10), had at one time been in covenant with God.”

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FINAL NOTE: Regarding J. Stuart Russell’s 13 arguments for identifying Babylon with Jerusalem, there was one that I wasn’t quite on board with earlier (i.e. I thought it shouldn’t belong to his list). That was #9, which stated, “Jerusalem sat upon seven hills as truly as did Rome.” Then today I came across this information at the site of Australian Pastor Andrew Corbett:

The City of Jerusalem as it existed in the time of Christ Jesus was widely reckoned to be the “City of Seven Hills.” This fact was well recognized in Jewish circles. In the Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer, an eighth century midrashic narrative (section 10), the writer mentioned without commentary (showing that the understanding was well known and required no defense) that “Jerusalem is situated on seven hills” (recorded in The Book of Legends, edited by Bialik and Ravnitzky, p. 371, paragraph 111). And, so it was. Those “seven hills” are easy to identify. If one starts with the Mount of Olives just to the east of the main City of Jerusalem (but still reckoned to be located within the environs of Jerusalem), there are three summits to that Mount of Olives. The northern summit (hill) is called Scopus [Hill One], the middle summit (hill) was called Nob [Hill Two], the highest point of Olivet itself, and the southern summit (hill) was called in the Holy Scriptures the “Mount of Corruption” or “Mount of Offence” [Hill Three] (II Kings 23:13). On the middle ridge between the Kedron and the Tyropoeon Valleys there was (formerly) in the south “Mount Zion” [Hill Four] (the original “Mount Zion” and not the later southwest hill that was later called by that name), then the “Ophel Mount” [Hill Five] and then to the north of that the “Rock” around which “Fort Antonia” was built [Hill Six]. And finally, there was thesouthwest hill itself [Hill Seven] that finally became known in the time of Simon the Hasmonean as the new “Mount Zion.” This makes “Seven Hills” in all.

So, indeed, J. Stuart Russell was correct. Still, as we will see in the following post, there is another sense also in which the woman (apostate Israel) can be seen as seated on the seven mountains of Rome (if Rome is in view in Revelation 17:9).

Revelation Chapter 14


REVELATION 14

Dave: November 5, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 14

(Notes from Adam are in maroon-colored font; A new section reflecting the Historicist viewpoints of Sam Storms can be found at the bottom of this post, and was added on November 30th.)

Verse 1: Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.

What do you recall from Revelation 7 about the 144,000?
• They are sealed from the wrath to come
• They are servants of God
• There are 12,000 from the 12 tribes of Israel
• They are sealed on their foreheads

Some view the 144,000 from chapter 7 as the same group as the multitude in chapter 7. Can you recall the arguments against this view?

Note the similarity of this verse to Hebrews 12:22 – 23, which states, But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect.” Steve Gregg writes in his book, Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary), that some believe this passage here in Revelation “influenced the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews, a suggestion which, if true, tends to establish the pre-A.D. 70 date of writing for Revelation” (p. 314). Gregg also writes,

The first vision of this chapter, depicting the 144,000 with the Lamb standing on Mount Zion (v. 1), is reminiscent of the second psalm. The psalm speaks of the kings and rulers vainly rebelling against and resisting God and the Messiah, but declares that God laughs at their futile efforts to unseat Him from His sovereign position. God tells them, “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion” (v. 6). Despite all the efforts of the dragon and the beast to eliminate the church, the Judean believers stand secure with the Lord in victory (p. 312).

Verses 2-5: 2And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. 4It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, 5and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

What do we learn about the 144,000 from chapter 14?
• They are standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion
• They have the name of the Lamb and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.
• They were redeemed from the earth.
• They (and only they) could learn the new song that was being sung
• They are virgins
• They follow the Lamb wherever He goes
• They are said to be redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb
• In their mouth no lie was found for they are blameless

Q: Who are the 144,000?
A: According to the Pre-tribulation rapture view, they are Jewish believers brought to faith after Jesus returns and removes the church from the earth (How they are brought to faith is a question which naturally accompanies this view, since many who hold this view believe that the restrainer of II Thessalonians 2:6-7 is the Holy Spirit who is removed from the earth along with the Church). Kenneth Gentry, a partial-preterist, says (Before Jerusalem Fell, 1998, pp. 232ff) that the 144,000 are Christians of Jewish extraction:

• Jewish, because they are “in the land**
• Jewish, because they are from the twelve tribes of Israel
• Jewish, because they are contrasted with the multitude in 9-17

**[In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested that many of the references to “the earth” (also translated “the land”) in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subjectbeginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.]

Q: Does the fact that they are termed “firstfruits” shed light on whether they are from the AD 60’s or from a time period yet to come?
A: Yes. As Steve Gregg has written, “That this group lived in the first century is confirmed in another passage, which calls them the ‘firstfruits to God’ (Rev. 14:4). Since the church age has been one long harvest of souls (Matt. 9:37f; John 4:35-38), the ‘firstfruits’ must have come in at the beginning of this time (compare James 1:1, 18, which speaks of the Jewish believers as ‘firstfruits’). If this 144,000 referred to some future group living in the end times (as the futurists believe), one would expect them to be called the ‘last fruits’ ” (Source: See chapter 7 study).

Q: Why might John be bringing up the 144,000 again?
A: Possible answer: as an encouragement to those persecuted by the beast – that they will soon be with the Lord in Mt. Zion.)

Regarding the 144,000, who are said to be virgins: Note that being virgins might not pertain to their marital status or moral purity; rather it might have to do with the fact that they have not been defiled by the harlot, Jerusalem (more on this when we reach chapters 16-18 in our study, or feel free to look here for my personal take on this).

Q: Why does John describe them as blameless?
A: Possible answer: it is because of their redeemed state.

Verses 6-8: 6Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. 7And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
8Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

This is the first mention of Babylon. What do we know of it from the text?
• She was “great”
• She was influential
• She was lawless

Q: Who or what is Babylon?
A: (Preterists are split . . . Jerusalem or Rome; again, more on this in our study of chapters 16-18, but feel free to look here for my personal take on this)

Steve Gregg notes that there are those (like David S. Clark) who believe that the “eternal gospel” here is simply “the announcement of the doom and judgment” which is depicted as soon to fall (p. 320). However, adds Gregg, “most expositors would see this as a reference to the regular message of salvation that Christ told His disciples to preach, and which He indicated would be preached in all the world before ‘the end comes’ (Matt. 24:14).” He quotes from J. Stuart Russell, who wrote:

There is a manifest allusion here to the fact predicted by our Lord that, before the coming of “the end,” the Gospel of the kingdom would first be preached in all the world…”for a witness to all nations” (Matt. 24:14). This symbol, therefore, indicates the near approach of the catastrophe of Jerusalem,–the arrival of the hour of Israel’s judgment.

The following is an excerpt from my term paper on 70 AD, regarding the idea that the gospel was preached in all the world by 70 AD:

…it’s interesting that Paul told his Roman readers that their faith “is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8). In his epistle to the Colossians he also said that “the word of the truth of the gospel,” which had come to them, had gone to “the entire world” (Colossians 1:6) and had “been proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (verse 23). Devout Jews “from every nation under heaven” even heard the gospel in their own languages on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:5).

Do these statements not indicate that Matthew 24:14 had already been fulfilled by the time they were written? The phrase “the whole world” here then must mean what it meant in Luke 2:1 when we are told that “the entire world” was registered in the days of Caesar Augustus, i.e. the known world or the Roman Empire (cf. Luke 11:28, Acts 24:5, Romans 16:25-26). Eusebius (263-339)…said this about Matthew 24:14:

Thus, under the influence of heavenly power, and with the divine co-operation, the doctrine of the Saviour, like the rays of the sun, quickly illumined the whole world; [1] and straightway, in accordance with the divine Scriptures, [2] the voice of the inspired evangelists and apostles went forth through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world;  the Apostles preached the Gospel in all the world, and some of them passed beyond the bounds of the ocean, and visited the Britannic isles (Dennis Todd [4]; [8], 2009).

Verses 9-11: 9And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”
12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus
.

Q: What is the mark that John is referring to?
A: The mark of chapter 13.

Do you see any contrasts to anything earlier in the book?
• “Forehead” in 14:1 (the foreheads of God’s faithful servants)
• “no rest day or night” in 4:8 (i.e. for the four living creatures, who worship the Lord without ceasing)

Two views of verses 9-12:
• The description of hell awaiting all non-believers
• The violent destruction that awaited historical Jerusalem or Rome; in this regard, Steve Gregg (p. 328) notes that the imagery here (“fire and sulphur”) reminds one of the destruction that came upon Sodom and Gomorrah. He adds, “If one argues that Sodom’s smoke did not ascend ‘forever and ever,’ it should be noted that Jude spoke of Sodom and Gomorrah as ‘suffering the vengeance of eternal fire’ (Jude 7)… [The context in Jude indicates] the visible destruction of the cities as a historical witness to God’s wrath toward sin.”

Verse 13: 13And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

Why are the dead blessed?
• They experience relief from persecution
• They receive entrance into the presence of Christ

Is it still the case that the dead in the Lord are blessed?

What does “their deeds follow them” mean? And is this still the case?

What is the significance of “from now on”?
[1] From this point in history (70 AD) onward (See Hebrews 9:8, which, according to some interpreters, indicates that the “way into the holy places” was not fully opened as long as the Jerusalem temple–“the first section” was “still standing“). This is not necessarily a typical partial-preterist viewpoint.
Or [2] From the point of death onward

Regarding the first option, Steve Gregg states (p. 332):

It is also possible that the emphasis is upon the state of those who die in the Lord after a certain point in history–in which case, the allusion may be to the change occasioned by the replacement of the Old Covenant with the New. If the fall of Jerusalem has been the subject of this chapter to this point, then it would follow naturally that this passage considers the impact of the Old Covenant’s passing upon the postmortem experience of believers. Remembering that “the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing” (Heb. 9:8), [David] Chilton writes: “By the work of Christ, heaven has been opened to God’s people. The limbus patrum, the afterlife abode of the Old Testament faithful (the ‘bosom of Abraham’ of Luke 16:22), has been unlocked and its inhabitants freed (cf. I Pet. 3:19; 4:6). Death is now the entrance to communion in glory with Christ and the departed saints.”

Verses 14-20: 14Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped. 17Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia.

Q: What are the differences between these two reapings? What are they referring to?
A: There is a distinction between a “dry” ripening (v 15-16) and a grape ripening (v. 18). See Matthew 3:11-12; 13:31-34. The first reaping is said by some to be a reaping of the righteous; the second of the unrighteous. Others say that both are of the unrighteous. Of the first view, Steve Gregg comments (p. 336), “Many expositors believe that the reaping of verses 14-16 has to do with the salvation of the believers, or their gathering to safety (the escape of the Judean Christians to Pella in A.D. 66-70), while the vintage vision of verses 17-20 depicts the judgment upon the city of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.” He quotes from J. Stuart Russell, who believes that verses 14-16 are “the fulfillment of the prediction, ‘The Son of Man shall send His angels, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds‘ (Matt. 24:31-34), an event which was to take place before the passing of that generation.” Gregg then adds,

Some have thought it strange that Christ, the Lord over all angels, would take instructions from an angel who urges Him to Thrust in Your sickle and reap (v. 15). However, the angel simply represents the church praying in obedience to Christ, who commanded that believers “pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matt. 9:38). In response to the request, laborers are in fact sent and the earth (or land) was reaped (v. 16).

Regarding the harvest of verses 17-20, there is a direct correlation to the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC (See Lamentations 1:15 – 20; This makes much sense if the same imagery used in Jeremiah’s day is used once again when Jerusalem falls for the second time in 70 AD because of Israel’s unfaithfulness–and rejection of her Messiah). The bloodshed foretold in 19-20 is said by Preterists to be fulfilled in the Roman army’s attack in 70 AD. The following information is taken from my term paper on Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD:

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Josephus writes [concerning the Roman soldiers, after they had burned down the temple in Jerusalem], “they ran every one through whom they met with, and obstructed the very lanes with their dead bodies, and made the whole city run down with blood, to such a degree indeed that the fire of many houses was quenched with these men’s blood” (The Wars Of The Jews, 6:8:5).

The amount of blood that flowed, not only in Jerusalem but also throughout the surrounding region, could possibly bring to mind a passage like Revelation 14:19-20, which says, “So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia [about 184 miles].” This was the understanding of John Wesley (1703-1791) who, in his commentary on this passage, wrote:

And the winepress was trodden – By the Son of God, Rev 19:15. Without [outside] the city – Jerusalem. They to whom St. John writes, when a man said, ‘the city,’ immediately understood this. And blood came out of the winepress, even to the horses’ bridles – So deep at its first flowing from the winepress! One thousand six hundred furlongs – So far! At least two hundred miles, through the whole land of Palestine.

Wesley, like many today, tied this passage (Revelation 14:19-20) to Rev. 19:11-21, and rightly so. This is often referred to as the “Battle of Armageddon,” which Tim Lahaye and other Futurist authors generally say will happen in the plain of Megiddo. Author John Noe, on the other hand, notes that what the Bible refers to as a “battle on the great day of God the Almighty” (Rev. 16:14) would transpire “at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (Rev. 16:16). In Hebrew it’s actually “Har-Magedon,” as “har” means mountain in Hebrew (“Armageddon” is based on the Greek rendering, since “h” is silent in Hebrew). Therefore, this battle was to take place primarily on a mountain, not in a valley. Noe adds,

The most likely case is that Revelation’s “Har” is Jerusalem. Geographically, Jerusalem sits on top of a mountain. To get there from any direction one must go “up to Jerusalem” (2 Sam. 19:34; 1 Ki. 12:28; 2 Ki. 18:17; 2 Chron. 2:16; Ezra 1:3; 7:7; Zech. 14:17; Matt. 20:17, 18; Mark 10:32, 33; Luke 18:31; 19:28; John 2:13; 5:1; Acts 11:2; 15:2; 21:12, 15; 24:11; 25:9; Gal. 1:17, 18). Jerusalem is also called God’s “holy mountain” (Psa. 43:3) and the “chief among the mountains” (Isa. 2:2-3; also 14:13; Exod. 15:17; Joel 2:32; 3:16-17)… “Magedon/Megiddo” may also be comparative imagery. A great slaughter once took place in the valley of Megiddo (2 Ki. 9:27; Zech. 12:11). Throughout ancient history, this valley was also a favorite corridor for invading armies and the scene of numerous famous battles (Jud. 4-7; 1 Sam. 29-31; 2 Sam. 4; 1 Ki. 9:15; 2 Ki. 9-10; 22; 2 Chron. 35). So much blood was shed in this valley of Jezreel or Megiddo that it became a synonym for slaughter, violence, bloodshed, and battlefield, as well as a symbol for God’s judgment (Hos. 1:4-5). In our day, Armageddon has also become synonymous with and a symbol for the ultimate in warfare and conflict.

In a similar fashion, the word “Waterloo” has garnered a symbolic use. Back in 1815, this town in Belgium was the battleground and scene of Napoleon’s final defeat. Today, we have a saying that some one or some thing has met their “Waterloo.” We don’t mean they have met that city in Europe. We mean, by way of comparative imagery, that they have met a decisive or crushing defeat, or their demise. I suggest Revelation employs the word Magedon/Megiddo in this same manner. History records that a great slaughter took place on a mountain in Palestine within the lifetime of the original recipients of the book of Revelation. In A.D. 70 the Roman armies of Titus totally destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. According to Eusebius, 1.1 million Jews were killed.

This description by Josephus also shows how the fulfillment of this prophecy could have taken place during the Roman-Jewish War of 67-73 AD, regarding which he provides the following account:

Now, this destruction that fell upon the Jews, as it was not inferior to any of the rest in itself, so did it still appear greater than it really was; and this, because not only the whole of the country through which they had fled was filled with slaughter, and [the] Jordan [River] could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it, but because the Lake Asphaltitis [the modern Dead Sea] was also full of dead bodies, that were carried down into it by the river. And now, Placidus, after this good success that he had, fell violently upon the neighbouring smaller cities and villages; when he took Abila, and Julias, and Bezemoth, and all those that lay as far as the lake Asphaltitis, and put such of the deserters into each of them as he thought proper. He then put his soldiers on board the ships, and slew such as had fled to the lake, insomuch that all Perea had either surrendered themselves, or were taken by the Romans, as far as Macherus (Josephus, “Account of the Lake Asphaltitis,” War of the Jews 4:7:6).

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The following notes from Sam Storms are based on the Historicist viewpoint (and are his direct quotes):

Insofar as the majority of chapters 12-13 focused on the persecution of believers by the Dragon (Satan) and his earthly agents, the sea-beast and the land-beast, it is understandable that chapter 14, together with 15:2-4, should describe the reward of the persecuted faithful and the final punishment of their enemies. In other words, “chapter 14 briefly answers two pressing questions: What becomes of those who refuse to receive the mark of the beast and are killed (vv. 1-5)? What happens to the beast and his servants (vv. 6-20)?” (Johnson, 141).

VERSE 1: On occasion in the OT, Zion could refer to the hilly area in southeast Jerusalem, to the temple mount, to the historical city of Jerusalem, and even to the entire nation of Israel. In Psalm 2:6, Zion is the “holy mountain” of God on which he installs Messiah as King. In other words, Zion may be the eschatological city where God dwells with and protects his people. Heb. 12:22-23 (cf. Gal.4:25-27) refers to Zion as the ideal, heavenly city to which believers even now aspire (and in which they hold citizenship; cf. Phil. 3:20) during the course of the church age. In certain texts, Zion is indistinguishable from the redeemed who dwell there (see Isa. 62:1-12). Many contend that it is, in fact, a reference to the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21) which “comes down out of heaven” as a dwelling for God’s people. In any case, it is where the Lamb and his redeemed share fellowship and the authority of the kingdom.

… … Another interesting fact is that the numbering (144,000) is probably used to evoke images of the OT census, which was designed to determine the military strength of the nation (see Num. 1:3,18,20; 26:2,4; 1 Chron. 27:23; 2 Sam. 24:1-9). The point is that these in Rev. 7 and 14 constitute a Messianic army called upon, like Jesus himself, to conquer the enemy through sacrificial death. In the OT those counted were males of military age (twenty years and over). This explains why the 144,000 in Rev. 14:1ff. are adult males, i.e., those eligible for military service. According to Num. 31:4-6, one thousand soldiers from each of the twelve tribes were sent into battle against Midian.

… … Most dispensational, pre-tribulational, premillennialists, i.e., most who read the book in a futurist sense, understand the 144,000 to be a Jewish remnant saved immediately after the rapture of the Church. Many then argue that, in the absence of the Church, they serve as evangelists who preach the gospel during the Great Tribulation… Be it noted, however, that there is nothing explicitly said in this passage about these people functioning as evangelists or being responsible for the salvation of the multitude. (Sam Storms then asks several questions, including: [W]hy would God protect only Jewish believers and leave Gentile believers to endure such horrific judgments?) …[In Revelation] 9:4 we read that only those with the seal of God on their foreheads are exempt from the demonic torments that are so horrible and agonizing that men will long to die. Is it feasible or consistent with the character of God that he should protect only a select group from such wrath while afflicting the rest of his blood-bought children with it? The answer is a resounding No. Therefore, those who are sealed on their forehead in 7:4-8 (and 9:4) must be all the redeemed, not a select few.)

… … Others, such as myself, contend that the number 144,000 is symbolic (as is the case with virtually every number in Revelation). 12 is both squared (the 12 tribes multiplied by the 12 apostles? cf. 21:12,14) and multiplied by a thousand, a two-fold way of emphasizing completeness. Hence, John has in view all the redeemed, all believers, whether Jew or Gentile . . . i.e., the Church. As Beale points out, “if Gentile believers are clearly identified together with ‘the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel’ as part of the new Jerusalem (21:12,14,24; 22:2-5), then it is not odd that John should refer to them together with Jewish Christians in 7:4 as ‘the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel’” (417). Let us also not forget that the “seal” of 7:2-3 is equivalent to their receiving a name. And one of the names written on Gentile believers, in addition to the name of God and Jesus, is “the name of the new Jerusalem” (3:12)! Finally, as noted earlier, in Rev. 9:4 the demonic scorpions are told to harm only those “who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads,” implying that all Christians (whether Jewish or Gentile) have such a seal.

VERSE 3: In 14:1-5 it may be that they are portrayed at the close of history, in heaven, having suffered martyrdom under the beast but triumphant in Christ.

VERSE 4: Others see in the word “virgins” (parthenoi) a metaphor of all saints who have not compromised with the world system or yielded to its idolatry. They have remained loyal as a “virgin bride” to their betrothed husband (see 19:7-9; 21:2; 2 Cor. 11:2)… Note also the many OT texts where the word “virgin” is applied figuratively to the nation of Israel (2 Kings 19:21; Isa. 37:22; Jer. 14:17; 18:13; 31:4,13,21; Lam. 1:15; 2:13; Amos 5:2), as well as the fact that idolatry and injustice are often figuratively pictured as “harlotry” or “sexual immorality” (see Jer. 3:1-10; 13:27; Ezek. 16:15-58; 23:1-49; 43:7; Hosea 5:4; 6:10). Israel’s idolatry was also described as “defilement” (Isa. 65:4; Jer. 23:15; 51:4). This is similar to what we find in Rev. 2:14,20-22. In other texts in Revelation, to “fornicate” (porneuo) and its cognates usually are metaphorical for spiritual apostasy and idol worship (14:8; 17:1,2,4,5,15,16; 18:3,9; 19:2). When these words are used literally, they are part of vice lists (9:21; 21:8; 22:15).

Source: http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/a-study-of-revelation-14-15-part-i/

VERSES 6-7: Is the “gospel” preached by this angel designed to lead to conversion? Or is it simply the declaration of final judgment on those who have rejected it? Those who favor the latter point to what follows: vv. 8-11 proceed to describe the eternal judgment of unbelievers. They also point to the similarity between this angel and his gospel, on the one hand, and the messenger of the three woes in 8:13. Both speak “with a loud voice” (8:13; 14:7) while “flying in mid-heaven” (8:13; 14:6). Both also address unbelieving earth-dwellers (8:13; 14:6)… On the other hand, these verses sound similar to 11:13 where we earlier concluded that the possibility of conversion is in view. Even if the angel is holding out one final opportunity to repent and be saved, the subsequent context would seem to indicate it goes unheeded.

VERSE 10: Second, they will be “tormented with fire and brimstone” (v. 10b). Punishment with “fire and brimstone” is also found in Gen. 19:24 (Sodom and Gomorrah) Ps. 11:6; Isa. 30:33; Job 18:15. The combination of fire and brimstone (or sulphur) as a means of torment occurs 4x in Revelation (14:10; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8)… Moses Stuart contends that “the addition of brimstone to the imagery renders it exceedingly intense, for this not only makes the fire to rage with the greatest vehemence, but is noisome to the smell and suffocating to the breath” (2:298).

VERSE 11: First, the “smoke” of their torment, i.e., the smoke of the fire and brimstone (v. 10) “goes up forever and ever”. See Isa. 34:9-10 for the OT background. It is almost as if there is a smoldering testimony to the consequences of sin and the justice of God’s wrath. The duration of this phenomenon is said to be, literally, “unto the ages of the ages”. This terminology occurs 13x in Revelation: 3x with reference to the duration of praise, glory, and dominion given to God (1:6; 5:13; 7:12); 5x with reference to the length of life of God or Christ (1:18; 4:9,10; 10:6; 15:7); once referring to the length of God’s reign in Christ (11:15); once referring to the length of the saints’ reign (22:5); once referring to the ascension of the smoke of destroyed Babylon (19:3); once referring to the duration of torment of the devil, beast, and false prophet (20:10); and, of course, once here in 14:11.

Source: http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/a-study-of-revelation-14-15-part-ii/

VERSE 14: Whereas some have argued that the “one like a son of man” here is simply another angel, the likelihood is that this is an allusion to Dan. 7:13 and that the exalted Christ is in view.

VERSES 15-16: There is no debate about the meaning of vv. 17-20. Everyone agrees that those verses describe the final judgment of unbelievers only. But what about vv. 15-16?

Those who argue that vv. 15-16 refer to judgment only appeal to the following points: (1) Both vv. 15-16 and vv. 17-20 are a clear allusion to Joel 3:13, a passage that deals only with divine judgment. (2) The “sickle” is more normally viewed as a negative instrument of judgment, designed to inflict harm, not to provide help. (3) The phrase “the hour to reap has come” in v. 15 sounds similar to “the hour of His judgment has come” in v. 7, the latter clearly referring to the eschatological judgment. (4) The image of a “harvest” is common in the Bible for divine judgment (see Isa. 17:5; 18:4-5; 24:13; Jer. 51:33; Hosea 6:11; Joel 3:13; Mt. 13:24-30, 36-43; Mark 4:29).

Those who argue that vv. 15-16 refer primarily to a redemptive ingathering of souls from among the nations at the end of history appeal to these points: (1) The 144,000 are described as “firstfruits”, in the sense that they are an initial redemptive ingathering that anticipates or serves as a pledge of a final redemptive harvest. Vv. 15-16 describe the latter. (2) It is no less the case that the image of a harvest (especially “reaping”) can be used in a positive sense as a metaphor of the gathering of God’s elect (see Luke 10:2; Mt. 13:30,43; John 4:35-38. (3) There is no reference in vv. 15-16 to the metaphors of threshing and winnowing (common images of judgment).

VERSES 17-20: The OT background is probably Isa. 63:1-6.

Source: http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/a-study-of-revelation-14-15-part-iii/

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Our study of Revelation 15 can be found here.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

PP4: Internal Evidence for an Early Date (Revelation)-Part 1


This is now the fourth segment in our series on “A Partial-Preterist Perspective on the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.” This is the same title as a term paper I recently submitted to Northwestern College. The first segment included the Title Page, Outline, Introduction, and a brief introduction to Partial-Preterism. The second segment consisted of the References page, and the third segment was a discussion of the external evidence for an early date for the writing of the book of Revelation. These segments can be found here, and again it’s recommended that they be read in order before reading this current post:

[1] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/brief-explanation-of-partial-preterism/
[2] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp2-references/
[3] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp3-external-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation/

We will now turn to some of the internal evidence for an early date. This was a rather long section in my paper, so I’m going to break it up into several parts. Among other things, this first part will deal with references to Jerusalem, a temple, Babylon the Great, and a great city in the book of Revelation.

Adam Maarschalk

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II. Internal Evidence for an Early Date (Part 1)

The reality is that if an early date for the book of Revelation is valid, this leaves room for the possibility that many of the events in this book were also fulfilled during the siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, and the Roman/Jewish War of 66-73 AD. Even more telling than the external evidence (e.g. quotes from early church fathers and historians), though, is the internal evidence from the text when it is compared with other passages of Scripture and also with what historically happened during the Roman/Jewish War.

Kenneth Gentry (1998), a former Dispensationalist, discovered in his reading of “The Jewish War” by Josephus a number of accounts which seem to reflect the descriptions of the plagues and judgments in Revelation. For example:

Regarding the blood flow to the “horses’ bridles” [Revelation 14:20], Josephus’ comments on the battle scenes during the Jewish War are enlightening. At one point a naval battle produced a “lake all bloody and full of dead bodies” (Wars 3:10:9). Later he reported that “the whole of the country through which they had fled was filled with slaughter, and [the] Jordan [River] could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it, but because the lake Asphaltitis was also full of dead bodies” (Wars 4-7:6). Surely such carnage and bloodshed are suggested by John’s imagery (p. 245).

John also refers to a time period of 42 months in Revelation 11:2-3, which is significant in light of history. John is told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months…” During the Roman/Jewish War, as will be seen, it did take Rome 3.5 years, or 42 months, to overcome Jerusalem and trample it. This occurred from the time Nero dispatched his general Vespasian to advance on Jerusalem in early spring 67 AD until Jerusalem and the temple were demolished and laid level by the end of September 70 AD.

John’s words echoed the words of Jesus given earlier. In Luke 21:24, Jesus, clearly speaking about Jerusalem’s pending destruction (Luke 21:5-7), said, “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Dispensationalists interpret the phrase “times of the Gentiles” to be the entire Church Age. However, is it not possible that the “times of the Gentiles” is what John wrote about in Rev. 11:2-3?

In this Revelation 11 passage, John is told to measure a temple which apparently still existed. If he wrote this in 95-96 AD, the temple would have met its destruction 25 years before, and one could wonder why John did not raise a question when given this command or even mention the recent destruction of the temple at all in his book. Its absence  after 70 AD was no small thing, not only because of its most central significance to Judaism, but also because of its magnificence and physical stature. After a grand renovation project at the hands of Herod around 20 BC, it was widely acknowledged as one of the most beautiful structures in the world [The use of the phrase “temple of God” quite possibly indicates that the Church is also being referred to here (cf. Eph. 2:11-22; II Cor. 6:16; I Cor. 3:16, 6:19). Therefore it may be that John was (symbolically) measuring the Church which would be trampled (persecuted) for 42 months (see Rev. 13:5-7; this passage will be discussed later). Given the similarity between this passage and Luke 21:24, the physical temple was also probably being alluded to. It may be that both ideas were being spoken of in this case.]

On the other hand, if the temple John measured is still future, as Dispensationalists teach, on what grounds could a future physical temple be referred to as “the temple of God”? Such a temple would be blasphemous in light of Christ’s work on the cross which has created a new, non-physical temple (e.g. Ephesians 2:13-20). The reinstitution of sacrifices would be an even greater insult (See Hebrews 7:11-10:18).

The description of the woman in Revelation 17 offers further internal evidence for an early date. This woman, who rode the beast, was said to be “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (verse 6). She is a great city (verse 18), and is hated by the beast and the 10 kings who desolate her and burn her with fire (verses 16-17). More specifically, it is said that “in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on the earth” (18:24), and the “saints and apostles and prophets” were told to rejoice over her destruction (18:20).

Who was responsible for shedding all the blood of the prophets and the saints, according to Jesus, and who would receive judgment as a result? The answer can be found in Matthew 23, as David Lowman (2009 [3]) so aptly points out:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets’” Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate (Matthew 23:29-38, emphasis added).

Is it a coincidence that the word “desolate” is used here, just as it is used in Revelation 17:16; 18:17, 19, not to mention Daniel 9:27 and Luke 21:20? No, Jerusalem was the prophetic “Babylon the Great” in the book of Revelation. The generation which heard Jesus speak these things also saw them happen, just as He said they would, in 70 AD. The third bowl judgment, rivers and springs of water becoming blood (Revelation 16:4), also is directly linked to those who had shed righteous blood (verses 5-6): “And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, ‘Just are You, O Holy One, who is and who was, for You brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!’” As we will see later, Josephus and others recorded that the rivers and springs of Jerusalem and its surroundings were filled with blood during the Roman/Jewish War. Again, Jesus said that it was the generation that would crucify Him that would be held responsible for the blood of saints and prophets (cf. Matthew 21:33-45), not a generation in the 21st century or beyond, and that Jerusalem would experience this wrath.

Jerusalem receives specific mention in Revelation 11:8, where she is clearly identified by the description “the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where [the] Lord was crucified.” It’s worth noting that “Revelation 11:8 suggests that Jerusalem’s streets were intact at the time of John’s writing” (Kenneth Gentry, 1998, p. 236) because the dead bodies of the two witnesses were to lie there for several days. If John wrote this in 95 or 96 AD, Jerusalem would have been a wasteland. As Kathleen M. Kenyon remarked, “It was two centuries or more [after 70 AD] before human activity began once more to make its mark in the whole area of ancient Jerusalem.”[1] It’s also significant in Revelation 11:8 that Jerusalem is called “the great city.” This is the same title given to Babylon the Great on at least six occasions (17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21).

To be called “Sodom,” of course, is not a compliment. When Isaiah was instructed to prophesy against Judah and Jerusalem (Isaiah 1:1), he called the Israelites by the same name because of their apostasy. It would make sense for John to speak of apostate Jerusalem, once known as the holy city, as Sodom, Babylon, and a harlot. Todd Dennis writes, “The image of the unfaithful wife, the harlot, was often used of Israel in the OT. Israel is repeatedly called the wife of God (Jer. 2:2, 3:14, Is. 54:5). But she was an unfaithful wife (Jer. 3:20, Hos. 1:2, Ez. 6:9, Ez. 16, Is. 50:1) behaving as a prostitute (Jer. 3:1-2). In the context of Jerusalem’s designation as a prostitute, Is. 1:21 is especially noteworthy: ‘See how the faithful city has become a harlot’” (Todd Dennis [25], 2009). Rome in John’s day or a secular city/state in our day could not be said to fornicate against God in the way that Jerusalem was able to. Kenneth Gentry (1998, p. 241) also writes that there “is an obvious contrast between the Harlot and the chaste bride (cp. Rev. 17:2-5 with Rev. 21:1ff.) that suggests a contrast with the Jerusalem below and the Jerusalem above (Rev. 21:2; cp. Gal. 4:24ff; Heb. 12:18ff.).”

Dennis adds that the description of the harlot’s attire (purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls) was nearly identical to the ephod worn by the high priest (Revelation 17:4; cf. Exodus 28:5-21). The golden cup she held was likely symbolic of the temple vessels, the greatest part of which were gold and silver, according to the Jewish historian Josephus (Wars 5.4.4). On Aaron’s forehead was the inscription “Holy to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36). The harlot’s forehead, on the other hand, bore the title “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (Rev. 17:5).


[1] Kathleen M. Kenyon, Jerusalem: Excavating 3000 Years of History, 1967, p. 185.

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The Bible study group I belong to has posted fairly comprehensive chapter-by-chapter studies on the book of Revelation. They can all be found here.