SYNOPSIS – The Lamb overcomes the Beast and the kings of the earth, but in a very paradoxical manner – Revelation 17:14-18.
Next, John is provided with the interpretation of what he has just seen. The “Great Whore, Babylon” is the “great city” that sways the political powers of the earth that are allied with the “Beast from the Sea.” Her persecution of the “saints” is an extension of the “war” waged by the “Dragon” against the “Lamb.” Inevitably, Jesus overcomes the “Beast,” the “Great Whore,” and the “kings of the earth”; however, he does so in a most ironic fashion.
In describing his victory, the passage alludes to Daniel 7:21 but its language is applied in a reverse fashion from before – (“The little horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them”). Now, Jesus uses the “kings of the earth” to destroy the very “Whore” with whom they have “fornicated,” and from whom they have profited.
(Revelation 17:14-18) – “These, with the Lamb, will make war; 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 saith unto me — The waters which thou sawest, where the harlot sitteth, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest and the wild-beast, these shall hate the harlot and desolate shall make her and naked, and her flesh shall they eat, and herself shall they burn up with fire. For God hath put into their hearts to do his mind and to do one mind, — and to give their sovereignty unto the wild-beast, until the words of God shall be completed. And the woman whom thou sawest is the great city, which hath sovereignty over the kings of the earth” – (The Emphasized Bible).
“These will make war with the Lamb.” The demonstrative pronoun or “these” refers to the “ten kings,” the “ten horns” that have not yet received “sovereignty but will receive authority as kings for one hour” (verses 12-13). The victory of the “Lamb” over the “kings of the earth” was anticipated in the sixth seal opening when the “kings of the earth and the great men…hid themselves 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 present passage does not explain how the “ten kings” wage “war” with the “Lamb”; however, the Greek word for “war” or polemos was employed previously for the “war,” singular, that was waged by the earthly vassals of the “Dragon” against the “saints,” in each previous case, alluding also the verse from the book of Daniel, as follows:
- (Daniel 7:21) – “The little horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them.”
- (Revelation 11:7) – “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the Abyss will make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.”
- (Revelation 12:17) – “The Dragon was enraged with the woman and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
- (Revelation 13:7) – “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.”
“The Lamb will overcome them, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings.” The identification of Jesus as the “Lord of lords and king of kings” alludes, ironically, to the words of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar recorded in Daniel. After the prophet had interpreted his dream of a great golden image, Nebuchadnezzar declared, “Of a truth it is, 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).
The “Lamb” is not alone in his victory – “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 is accompanied by an army of the “saints arrayed in fine linen, white, pure.” That Rider is also identified as the “King of kings and Lord of lords” – (Revelation 2:10, 2:13, 19:11-16).
The angel continues to interpret what John sees – The “waters” on which the “Great Whore” sits are “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.” The image of end-time “Babylon” sitting on “many waters” is derived from a prophetic dirge against the ancient city of Babylon by the prophet 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 dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, the measure of thy covetousness.”
The old city of ancient Mesopotamia was located inland on a broad alluvial plain, not along the seashore. However, it straddled the Euphrates river and, thus, conducted commerce with the nations via ships that arrived from the sea. Also, the city had built numerous canals that were used to transport cargo.
The plain on which Babylon was built provided no natural resources other than fertile soil for agriculture and mud for bricks – No trees for lumber, no sources of minerals for metals and jewels, not even stones for building. Almost all non-agricultural resources had to be imported – The city was completely dependent on international trade. In the end, Babylon was overthrown when an army of the “Medes and Persians” dammed the Euphrates river to create an entryway into the city along its dried riverbed.
The fourfold description of “peoples, multitudes, nations and tongues” is frequent in the book ofRevelation. Here, it echoes the vision from Revelation 11:9 where the “people and kindreds and tongues and nations” of the “great city” rejoiced over the corpses of the “Two Witnesses” martyred by the “Beast that ascended out of the Abyss.”
The “Beast” and the “kings of the earth” will hate the “Great Whore” and render her “desolate and naked, and her flesh shall they eat, and herself, shall they burn up with fire. This clause also alludes to Jeremiah’s judicial pronouncement against ancient Babylon:
- (Jeremiah 50:13) – “Because of the wrath of Yahweh she shall not be inhabited, but she shall be wholly desolate.”
- (Jeremiah 50:41-42) – “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 hold the bow and the lance: they are cruel, and will not shew mercy: their voice shall roar like the sea, and they shall ride upon horses, every one put in array, like a man to the battle, against thee, O daughter of Babylon.”
- (Jeremiah 51:58) – “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 into their hearts to do his mind and to do one mind” – To destroy Babylon. The “Lamb” remains in firm control of events as he reigns from the Divine Throne. In this way, the “ten kings” receive their “sovereignty” but in an ironic fashion. They presume that by giving their allegiance to the “Beast” the “Lamb” will be defeated – Instead, God uses their action to destroy the enemy of His saints – end-time Babylon, the “Great Whore.”
The “ten kings” receive their sovereignty “until the words of God should be completed.” This is a verbal link to the preceding “seven bowls of wrath” that “completed the wrath of God,” and the last bowl portrayed the fall of “Babylon, the great city,” after which a voice from within the heavenly sanctuary declared – “It is finished!” Thus, the book is moving inexorably forward to the complete destruction of the enemies of the “Lamb” and his ultimate victory – (Revelation 15:1, 15:8, 16:17-21).
“The woman whom you saw is the great city, which has sovereignty over the kings of the earth.” The “Great Whore” is identical to the “great city” mentioned elsewhere. Thus, the dead bodies of the “Two Witnesses” lie in the “street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.”
In the final “hour,” a tenth of the city fell when it was struck by an “earthquake.” And when the seventh angel emptied the seventh bowl of wrath, the “great city was divided into three parts and the cities of the nations, fell” – (Revelation 11:8-13, 14:20, 16:19. Cp. Revelation 18:18-21).
The last verse also confirms that the “ten kings” are identical to the “kings of the earth” seen elsewhere allied with the “Beast” in its “war against the saints” – (Revelation 6:15, 16:12, 17:2).
The final downfall of “Babylon, the Great city” is detailed in the next chapter with a special emphasis on her the destruction of her economic means and its influence over the nations of the earth.