The Lamb overcomes the Beast and Babylon because he is the “Lord of lords, and King of kings” – Revelation 17:14-18.
Next, John was provided with the interpretation of what he saw – “Babylon” is the “great city” that sways the political powers of the earth in alliance with the “beast,” and her persecution of the “saints” is an extension of the Dragon’s “war” against them. But Jesus overcomes the “beast” and “Babylon,” though he does so in unexpected and paradoxical ways.
In describing his victory, the passage alludes to Daniel 7:21 but applies its language in a reverse fashion (“The little horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them”). Jesus uses the “kings of the earth” to destroy the very “harlot” with whom they have “fornicated,” and from whom they have profited.
- (Revelation 17:14-18) – “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and they who are with him are called and chosen and faithful. And he says to me: The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. And the ten horns which you saw and the beast, these shall hate the harlot and will desolate her and make her naked, and her flesh shall they eat, and herself shall they burn up with fire. For God has put in their hearts to do his mind and to do one mind, and to give their sovereignty to the beast, until the words of God shall be completed. And the woman whom thou saw is the great city, which has sovereignty over the kings of the earth.”
The demonstrative pronoun “these” refers to the “ten kings” that have not yet received “sovereignty but will receive authority as kings for one hour.” The victory of the “Lamb” over them was anticipated in the “sixth seal”:
- “The kings of the earth and the great men… hid in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks: Fall on us and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” – (Revelation 6:15-17).
The passage does not explain how the “ten kings” waged “war” with the “Lamb,” but the Greek word rendered “war” (polemos) was employed previously for the “war” (singular) waged by the earthly vassals of the “Dragon” against the “saints” – (Daniel 7:21, Revelation 11:7, 12:17, 13:7).
“Because he is Lord of lords and King of kings.” The identification alludes to the words of Nebuchadnezzar recorded in Daniel. After the prophet interpreted his dream of a great golden image, the king declared – “Of a truth, your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, seeing that you could reveal this mystery” – (Daniel 2:47).
But the “Lamb” is not alone in his victory, for “they who are with him are called and chosen and faithful.” The terms refer to the “overcoming” saints and anticipate the vision of the “rider on a white horse” who was accompanied by the “saints arrayed in fine linen, white, pure.” That “rider” was also identified as the “King of kings and Lord of lords” – (Revelation 2:10, 2:13, 19:11-16).
The “waters” on which “Babylon” sits are “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.” The image of the city sitting on “many waters” is derived from the prophetic dirge against Ancient Babylon pronounced by Jeremiah:
- (Jeremiah 51:13) – “Yahweh has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes; because his purpose is against Babylon, to destroy it… for Yahweh has purposed and done that which he spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon. O thou that dwells upon many waters, abundant in treasures, your end is come, the measure of thy covetousness.”
Ancient Babylon was located inland and on a broad alluvial plain, not along the seashore. However, it straddled the Euphrates River and conducted commerce with the nations via ships that arrived from the sea. The plain on which it was built provided no natural resources other than fertile soil for agriculture and mud for bricks. Almost all non-agricultural resources had to be imported, and the city was dependent on international trade for its prosperity. In the end, it was overthrown when the army of the “Medes and Persians” dammed the Euphrates to create an entryway into the city along the riverbed.
The fourfold description, “peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues” is frequent in Revelation, and here, it echoes Revelation 11:9 when the “people and tribes and tongues and nations” of the “great city” rejoiced over the “corpse” of the “two witnesses.”
By the end, the “beast” and the “kings of the earth” will hate “Babylon” and render her “desolate and naked, and her flesh shall they eat, and herself, shall they burn up with fire. God will use the very allies of the “harlot” to destroy her. This clause also alludes to Jeremiah’s pronouncement against Babylon:
- (Jeremiah 50:13, 41-42, 58) – “Because of the wrath of Yahweh she shall not be inhabited, but she shall be wholly desolate… Behold, a people shall come from the north, and a great nation and many kings shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth… They shall ride upon horses, every one put in array, like a man to the battle, against thee, O daughter of Babylon… The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly overthrown, and her high gates shall be burned with fire, and the peoples shall labor for vanity, and the nations for the fire; and they shall be weary.”
“God put in their hearts to do his mind.” Thus, the “ten kings” receive their “sovereignty” but in an ironic way. They assume that by giving their allegiance to the “beast” they will defeat the “Lamb,” but instead, God uses their action to destroy His enemies, the persecutor of the “saints,” end-time Babylon.
The “ten kings” receive sovereignty “until the words of God are completed,” a verbal link to the “seven bowls of wrath” that “completed the wrath of God,” and especially to the “seventh bowl” that overthrew “Babylon.” After her destruction, the voice from within the “sanctuary” declared – “It is finished!” The book is moving inexorably forward to the complete destruction of the enemies of the “Lamb” – (Revelation 15:1, 15:8, 16:17-21).
“She is the great city that has sovereignty over the kings of the earth.” The “Great Harlot” is identical to the “great city” mentioned elsewhere. For example, the dead bodies of the “two witnesses” were left in the “street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt.”
In the final “hour,” the tenth of the city fell when it was struck by an “earthquake.” And when the seventh angel emptied his “bowl,” the “great city was divided into three parts and the cities of the nations fell.” This confirms that the “ten kings” are identical to the “kings of the earth” that were allied with the “beast” in its “war against the saints” – (Revelation 6:15, 16:12, 17:2).
The final downfall of end-time “Babylon” is detailed in the next chapter with a special emphasis on the destruction of her economic means and its influence over the nations of the earth. And her downfall means the inevitable destruction of the “beast” on which she rides.