Section 27, Chapter 18
The description of the great harlot and of the beast upon which she sits.
17:1. And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven vials and spoke with me, saying: Come, I will shew thee the condemnation of the great harlot, who sitteth upon many waters:
17:2. With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication. And they who inhabit the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her whoredom.
17:3. And he took me away in spirit into the desert. And I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
17:4. And the woman was clothed round about with purple and scarlet, and gilt with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of the abomination and filthiness of her fornication.
17:5. And on her forehead a name was written: A mystery: Babylon the great, the mother of the fornications and the abominations of the earth.
A mystery. . .That is, a secret; because what follows of the name and title of the great harlot is to be taken in a mystical sense. Babylon. . .Either the city of the devil in general; or, if this place be to be understood of any particular city, pagan Rome, which then and for three hundred years persecuted the church; and was the principal seat both of empire and idolatry.
17:6. And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And I wondered, when I had seen her, with great admiration.
17:7. And the angel said to me: Why dost thou wonder? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman and of the beast which carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.
17:8. The beast which thou sawest, was, and is not, and shall come up out of the bottomless pit and go into destruction. And the inhabitants on the earth (whose names are not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world) shall wonder, seeing the beast that was and is not.
The beast which thou sawest. . .This beast which supports Babylon, may signify the power of the devil: which was and is not, being much limited by the coming of Christ, but shall again exert itself under Antichrist. The seven heads of this beast are seven mountains or empires, instruments of his tyranny; of which five were then fallen. (See chap. 13.1, and below, ver. 10.) The beast itself is said to be the eighth, and is of the seven; because they all act under the devil, and by his instigation, so that his power is in them all, yet so as to make up, as it were, an eighth empire, distinct from them all.
17:9. And here is the understanding that hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, upon which the woman sitteth: and they are seven kings.
17:10. Five are fallen, one is, and the other is not yet come: and when he is come, he must remain a short time.
17:11. And the beast which was and is not: the same also is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into destruction.
17:12. And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, who have not yet received a kingdom: but shall receive power as kings, one hour after the beast.
Ten kings. . .Ten lesser kingdoms, enemies also of the church of Christ: which, nevertheless, shall be made instruments of the justice of God for the punishment of Babylon. Some understand this of the Goths, Vandals, Huns, and other barbarous nations, that destroyed the empire of Rome.
17:13. These have one design: and their strength and power they shall deliver to the beast.
17:14. These shall fight with the Lamb. And the Lamb shall overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings: and they that are with him are called and elect and faithful.
17:15. And he said to me: The waters which thou sawest, where the harlot sitteth, are peoples and nations and tongues.
17:16. And the ten horns which thou sawest in the beast: These shall hate the harlot and shall make her desolate and naked and shall eat her flesh and shall burn her with fire.
17:17. For God hath given into their hearts to do that which pleaseth him: that they give their kingdom to the beast, till the words of God be fulfilled.
17:18. And the woman which thou sawest is the great city which hath kingdom over the kings of the earth.