The great prostitute
1 One of the seven angels that had the seven bowls came to me. ‘Come with me,’ he said. ‘I will show you how God will punish the great prostitute. She sits at a place where there are many rivers. 2 It is like the kings who rule on the earth have had sex with that bad woman. She has led the people who live on the earth to do bad things. They have become like drunks from the strong wine that she has given to them.’
17:1The great prostitute is like a picture of the bad city called Babylon. See Revelation 17:5, 18; 14:8; 16:19; 18:1-24. Many years ago, Babylon city was in a place where many rivers came together. Verse 15 of this chapter explains what these rivers mean.
17:2The Bible tells us many times about people who have sex in a wrong way. In the Bible, this idea is often used as a picture of people who turn away from God. It means that people were worshipping idols instead of the true God. If they chose to worship other gods, they were like a bad wife who had gone away from him. The people in Babylon worshipped many false gods.
3 Again, God's Spirit caused me to see and to hear strange things. The angel carried me away to a wilderness. There I saw a woman who was sitting on a wild animal that was bright red. All over this wild animal, names were written that insulted God. The animal had seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was wearing clothes that were made from expensive cloth. She also wore bright things that made her look beautiful. She shone with gold, valuable stones and pearls. She held a gold cup in her hand. The cup was full of the bad and dirty things that she had caused people to do. 5 A name was written on the front of her head. Only God knows what it means. It was:
Mother of all prostitutes.
Mother of everything that God hates on the earth.
6 I saw that the woman was like a drunk. She was like someone who had drunk the blood of God's people. She had killed them because they had told other people about Jesus. When I saw her, I was very surprised. 7 Then the angel asked me, ‘Why are you surprised? I will explain the secret of the woman to you. I will tell you the secret of the wild animal that she rides. The wild animal that you saw has seven heads and ten horns. 8 This animal was once alive, but it is not alive now. Soon it will come up out of the deep hole again but then God will destroy it completely. This will surprise many people who live on the earth. They are the people whose names are not written in God's book of life from the beginning of the world. They know that the animal was alive once. And they know that it is not alive now. So, when it appears again, it will really surprise them.
9 If you are wise, think carefully about this. The animal's seven heads are a picture of seven hills in the place where the woman sits. 10 They are also a picture of seven kings. Five of these kings have already stopped ruling. Another king is ruling now. The last king has not yet come. When he does come, he must rule only for a short time. 11 The wild animal is a picture of an eighth king. He was alive once, but he is not alive now. He belongs to the group of seven kings, but God will destroy him completely.
17:9The city of Rome has seven hills. So many people think that the message about Babylon is really a picture of Rome. Rome was an enemy of God's people at the time when John was alive.
12 The ten horns that you saw are a picture of ten more kings. They have not yet begun to rule anywhere. But they will receive authority to rule as kings for one hour. They will rule people together with the wild animal. 13 They all have the same purpose. They will give their power to the wild animal. They will give him authority to rule people. 14 Together they will fight a war against the Lamb. But the Lamb will win against them. He is the Lord above all lords. He is the King who rules over all kings. And God's people will be with him. They are the people that the Lamb has chosen to belong to him. They are the people who have continued to trust him.’
17:14We do not really know what the ‘seven kings’ and the ‘ten kings’ mean. Different people have different ideas about them. There is one important thing for us to understand. The city (the ‘woman’) may not be only one city in only one place at only one time. It is the Devil's city. And he rules everyone in the world who does not love God.
15 Then the angel said to me, ‘You saw the many rivers where the prostitute sits. Those rivers are a picture of people from many countries. Those are crowds of people from different family groups and who speak many different languages. 16 The wild animal and the 10 horns that you saw will hate the prostitute. Those rulers will destroy her. They will leave her without any clothes. They will eat the meat on her body. Then they will burn her with fire. 17 They will decide to do that because God has given them those thoughts. So, they will do what he wants. They will give to the wild animal their authority to rule as king. The animal will continue to rule until everything that God has said really happens. 18 The bad woman that you saw is a picture of the great city. That city has power over all the kings who rule on the earth.’