Revelation 17: Explaining the Scarlet Woman

Revelation 17:6-14

In previous posts, we saw the theme of Chapter 17—The woman riding the Beast symbolizes enticing evil behind the kingdoms of this world. The application of Revelation 17 is—

God will thoroughly destroy all religious-economic-political alliances
that seek to dominate people’s lives. 

I. We must look to God alone for a true assessment of the society in which we live! 

Light on my pathvs. 6b When I saw her, I marveled greatly.

John is “awestruck” by the woman. The Greek word is thaumazō “to be awestruck at something,” from thauma “a wonder” (see Bible Hub, below).  Note below that the earth-dwellers are awestruck  at the woman riding the beast. John needed explanation from God. God is the Creator, so He alone can explain His world.

“He who marries the spirit of the times will soon find himself a widower (see, Chesterton, below).

Milner gave us a beneficial caution — “Yes, God is at work in the world [today]. That doesn’t mean the church needs to be like the world. The best thing the church can do for the world is to be the church, not regurgitate graduate school seminar room talk…” (see Milner, emphasis mine, below.)

Truth is so obscure in these times, and falsehood so established,
unless we love the truth, we cannot know it
(see, Pascal, below).

“On Jordan’s Stormy Banks,” states a truth that reinforces our need to look to God in order to understand our world. God’s light on our path is important as we walk in his world. The hymn speaks of heaven, but we have God’s light here as recorded in His Word.

O’er all those wide extended plains
Shines one eternal day;
There God the Son forever reigns,
And scatters night away.

I am bound for the promised land,
I am bound for the promised land;
Oh who will come and go with me?
I am bound for the promised land.

I met George Beverly Shea when he was over a 100 years old. I thanked him for the music, and it was a passing meeting in the corridor. Later I heard him sing on the radio a version of the above hymn, and it has stuck in mind ever since.

Revelation teaches us we shouldn’t care from which direction we are coming—rich or poor; high born or low born; beautiful or not. We should be very interested in where we are headed!  Earth-dwellers are at home here and are pulled constantly in the direction of the culture. Christians are bound for glory and are pulled toward it!

II. We ever must be on guard against the allurements of this world system, which steals our affections from God.

vs. 7 But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her.

The earth-dwellers make up their own explanation of the world in opposition to God. They thus form a false religion around the beast. I have found over the years that alternative explanations for Holy Scripture’s events or teachings are not steps toward God, but are steps away from God. God alone deserves the emotional response of awe from us, and not the Beast. I dislike the ubiquitous “awesome” in our society. God alone should elicit awe from us!

John seeks and is satisfied with the explanation God gives. Rejection of God’s explanation of reality lies at the base of all false religion. Romans 1:21-23 gives us the historical progression of rejecting God’s explanation of reality and its results—

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. [ESV; emphasis mine.]

Read further in Romans One to see the depths of descent into depravity. That descent began with a people “knowing God, but not honoring him as God. Idolatry begins with that one step down from giving God His rightful place.

III. We must realize there are no new falsehoods, but they are merely dredged up from the past by the evil one.

vs. 8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. 

Our modern aversion toward history is not simply wrong, it is dangerous.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
(see Santayana, below.)

Seven Headed Hydra MonsterThis phrase has led to the interpretation of Babylon as a future reviving of the old Roman Empire in the future. (For further explanation of the dying and rising myths see the notes on Revelation 13:3; 13:14.) Many ancient commentators associate this dying and rising again of the beast with the Nero Redivivus Myths of the first century. (One popular myth believed Nero had been reborn in Parthia and would lead armies to conquer Rome. see Nero Redivivus legend, below.) However, this is not the case at all. The identification of Nero with one of the heads is impossible (as the notes on the next verse to be explained in the nest post will point out). The best identification of the symbols behind the beast is with the hydra-monster of the ancient mythology. The theological truth illustrated is that of Christ’s victory over the beast at Calvary. It is a destruction of the beast, but not the vanquishing of the beast from the battle field. That will occur at the Second Coming. We are living in between the defeat of Satan and the vanquishing of him and his cohorts from the battlefield. We are living between D-day and VE-day, so to speak.

(Commentaries on which I rely without direct quotation) 

Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Kindle Edition.

Bible Hub. (2021). Thaumazō. Accessed 6 February 2021 from

Chesterton, G. K. (2011). Accessed 27 February 2021 from

ESV. (2001). Accessed 24 June 2020 from

Hendriksen, William. More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 125).

Johnson, A. F. (1982). Revelation in Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Gaebelein. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Johnson, D. E. (2001). Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Kenner, C. (2000). The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic.

Milner, M. J. (n.d.) Retrived 6 February 2021 from

Morris, Leon. (1987). Revelation in Tyndale New Testament Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Nero Redivivus legend. (2020). Accessed 28 February 2021 from

Pascal, B. (2011). Accessed February 27, 2021 from

WikiMedia Commons for Images

© 2021 C. Richard Barbare All Rights Reserved

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