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Chapter Seventeen

Commentary by Tom Brown


17 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters.

great prostitute. This is a bad translation. It is better translated “whore.” The difference is simple: a prostitute is not committed to any man, but sleeps around with all; however a whore is committed to a man, but cheats on him before the wedding. John is showing the difference between the true “bride” of the lamb versus one who is engaged to Christ yet cheats on him. See note v 2.

2 With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries."

committed adultery. Clear that the woman on many waters is committed to a man, but commits adultery against him.

3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.

a woman sitting on a scarlet beast. She now has left the many waters (many peoples) and now sits on the beast of political power.

4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.


5 This title was written on her forehead:





MYSTERY. This will take great discernment to know who this woman is.


6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.

When I saw her, I was greatly astonished.

woman was drunk with the blood of the saints. This woman cannot see how wrong she is to persecute the true followers of Christ.

7 Then the angel said to me: "Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns.

Why are you astonished? This is one of the few times John is shocked. He is shocked because John knows what he is seeing, and it grieves him greatly.

8 The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come.

once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss. This beast could not specifically be the Roman Empire because this beast “now is not.” John is describing a beast that will take the place of the Roman Empire. He “will come” (future).

9 "This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.

The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. The city of Rome was called the city on seven hills. It is significant that Rome began as a network of seven hill settlements on the left bank of the Tiber. How is it possible that the whore sits on a future beast located in Rome? This is undoubtedly a description of the Roman Catholic Church (Protestant churches that have been spawned from her which have not been faithful to Christ and his teachings would also be included as the whore). The Roman Catholic Church has been engaged to Christ, but recently she has abandoned the ways of the early church. While in the past she held faithful to good doctrine, she has, through her popes, sanctioned “indulgences” to pay for ones way into heaven, have declared the pope “infallible” in matters relating to doctrine and practice, and have encouraged the “worship of Mary” by recently declaring her to be the “immaculate conception” and thus saying she was “assumed body and soul into heaven.” Now there is discussion about making Mary “co-redemptrix” and “co-mediator.” This shows how unfaithful the Catholic Church has become toward Christ. The unfaithfulness of Christ bride is not only seen in the Roman church but also among some Protestant churches that are questioning such fundamental doctrines such as “salvation through Christ alone” and “marriage between one man and one woman.”

10 They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while.

They are also seven kings. John gives a second interpretation of the seven heads.

Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come. The fallen are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persian, and Greece. The “one is” is Rome. The “other has not yet come” is likely Germany. Germany and Hitler killed more Jews and Christians in the “little while” they were on earth than all the empires together.

11 The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.

eighth king. A leader that will come either out of Russia or the coalition that defeated Nazi Germany in WWII.

12 "The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast.

ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom. Another proof that this beast that carries the whore is a future beast. Ten means completion, not literally ten nations.

13 They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast.


14 They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings — and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers."

They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them. These secular nations will try to defeat Christ and his teachings, but will ultimately fail.

15 Then the angel said to me, "The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.


16 The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.

The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. In time, the secular nations will feel used by the whore and will eventually fight against her. Today, nations that were once founded on Christ and his teachings have abandoned their foundation. We see many nations making laws that go against the teachings of Christ.

17 For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God's words are fulfilled.


18 The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth."

woman you saw is the great city. The great city is Rome.

Previous  Chapter Eighteen

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