Revelation 17:1-18:24 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

Note: For more information relevant to this passage of Revelation seventeen and eighteen, see the accompanying Appendix (PDF download) that deals with the following topics: A Consideration of the Unholy Empire Revealed in Revelation 17:9-14 and The Relationship Between “The Woman” (a.k.a. “Babylon”) and “The Beast” revealed in Revelation 17.

1. How does John describe “the woman” (also called “Babylon”) in Revelation 17:4 (printed below?)

The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold and precious gemstones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, full of abominable things, namely, the filthy things of her immorality. (Revelation 17:4)

“Babylon” is described as a woman dressed in “purple and scarlet, and…glittering with gold and precious gem stones and pearls,” as she holds out a golden cup. “Babylon” presents herself and her lifestyle as glamorous, exciting, and sophisticated; she is “the queen of the good life.” She offers “a heaven on earth” apart from God and without accountability to His moral law. But verse 3 informs us that ““Babylon” dwells in “a wilderness”—the biblical imagery for emptiness, lifelessness, and desolation. Verse 5 reveals the contents of the golden cup “Babylon” holds out to the world: those contents are nothing but putrid, abominable filth.

2. What are we told about “the woman” (a.k.a. “Babylon”) in Revelation 17:5-6 (printed below?)

A mysterious title was written on her forehead: BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF THE PROSTITUTES AND OF THE DETESTABLE THINGS OF THE EARTH. (6) I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who have been martyred for Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly perplexed. (Revelation 17:5-6)

“Babylon” is identified as “THE MOTHER OF THE PROSTITUTES AND OF THE DETESTABLE THINGS OF THE EARTH.” The hedonistic lifestyle of “Babylon” knows no limits: it is the source of every form of moral perversion, it give birth to ever more decadent forms of immorality. “Babylon” is further described as being drunk “with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who have been martyred for Jesus.” “Babylon” hates godly people; she hates people who are devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ and His lifestyle of devotion to God; and she will do anything to get rid of such people, if possible, she will even kill them. Why is this the case? Because “Babylon” cannot stand the torment of the conviction of her sins (note Revelation 11:10), and she cannot stand the righteous restraints of God that such people represent and by which they abide (note Psalm 2:2-3).

3. According to Revelation 18:7 (printed below), how did “Babylon” view herself and what did she say about herself?

“To the degree that she has glorified herself and cast off restraint, give her an equal measure of torment and sorrow. In her heart she boasted, ‘I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never experience sorrow.’” (Revelation 18:7)

“Babylon” has “glorified herself and cast off restraint.” “Babylon” declares, “I sit as a queen;” she haughtily exalts herself above all other people—here is pride and boastful arrogance. She further declares, “I am not a widow;” here is the claim and belief that she is self-sufficient and self-reliant, she is neither needy nor vulnerable. “Babylon” asserts, “I will never experience sorrow;” here is the incredible presumption that her decadent society is permanent, she will never suffer loss.

4. What does God say will happen to “Babylon?” See Revelation 18:8 (printed below)

Therefore, in one day her plagues will come: death and sorrow and famine. She shall be utterly consumed with fire, for the Lord God who judges her is strong. (Revelation 18:8)

Contrary to her arrogant self-confidence, “Babylon’s” destruction shall come “in one day;” i.e. with incredible swiftness—note the shock of the kings (18:9-10), the merchants (18:15-17), and the mariners (18:17-19). Such will be the case with regard to “Babylon” because “the Lord God who judges her is strong.”

5. What does Revelation 18:20 (printed below) tell us about the reason for God’s judgment of “Babylon” and what does Revelation 18:21-23 (printed below) tell us about the extent of that judgment when it finally comes?

Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has judged her for the way she treated you! (Revelation 18:20)

Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone, and hurled it into the sea, saying, “With such violence shall Babylon, the great city, be thrown down, never to be found again!” (22) The music of harpists and minstrels, flute players and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again. No craftsman of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of the millstone grinding will never be heard in you again. (23) The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of the bridegroom and the bride will never be heard in you again. Your merchants were the great men of the world. By your sorcery all the nations were deceived. (Revelation 18:21-23)

God will take vengeance on “Babylon” for what she has done to His saints—i.e.; those who are committed to the Lord and reflect His holiness in their lives (note, also, Revelation 17:6). The angel proclaims that “Babylon’s” destruction, when it comes in its final form, shall be forever.