Revelation is the book of the Bible that people consider the hardest to understand. It’s full of imagery that requires interpretation and for centuries, people have been employing their own culture and perspective to create thousands of interpretations and predictions based on Revelation. With so many people and sects and clergy all swearing that theirs is the correct understanding, it’s no surprise that many of us have simply given up, discarded the book and written it off as unintelligible. We fall back on our own ignorance and laziness with excuses like, “We don’t need to understand prophecy – we just need to have faith.”
The purpose of this study is not to present another interpretation of Revelation’s imagery, but simply to remove some of the confusion by clarifying the identities of three significant entities around whom this drama is based. There is a significant revelation to be had from simply understanding clearly who the players are, which is an obvious early step to comprehending the book as a whole.
Let’s not try to figure out every single person and entity in the book of Revelation – that would take too long. For the time being, let’s just look at the major players. While some people are going to argue that “God” and “The Devil” and “Messiah” are the key players, they are also obvious and require no interpretation.
So, we’ll focus on “The good, the bad and the ugly” of the book. This story has good guys, bad guys and an ugly beast. The good guys are people who are spared destruction. The bad guys are also people, but these end up judged. Then there’s an ugly beast. This beast represents part of the divining line between the good and bad and the bad are the ones who follow the beast.
So to start, who are these good guys? You and I think of them as the saved. The church. The faithful. In life, we all have our opinions of who falls on this side of that line, but when we study more deeply, we might find that the line between good and bad isn’t where we think it is.
And what does Revelation say about these good guys?
Revelation 12:17 And the dragon was angry with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of YHWH, and have the testimony of Yahshua, the Messiah.
Revelation 14:12 Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of YHWH, and the faith of Yahshua.
Revelation 22:14 Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
Do you see the pattern here? The good guys DO have faith in the Messiah. That much we knew already. But did you see how they also keep the commandments of YHWH? They don’t just trust in the Messiah found in the end of the Bible, but they also do as he did and obey all of the commandments found in the beginning. So what else do we see about them?
Revelation 14:4 These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto YHWH and to the Lamb.
This verse has been the root of some really crazy doctrines! Perhaps one of the most conspicuous, if not ridiculous, is that these people are Jewish virgin men who decide to accept Jesus. When interpreted in context, we realize – hey: taking a wife doesn’t defile a man! So who or what are these women who DO defile a man? When we get to the topic of our ugly (beast), we’ll see who these women are that make a potentially “good” person one of the “bad.”
But for the moment, who are the “bad?” Well, we know from our study of the “good” that these people don’t meet all of the criteria to fit into that description. Maybe they don’t have faith in the Messiah. Maybe they don’t keep the commandments of YHWH. Perhaps they have been “defiled by women.”
But we aren’t limited to this understanding of the bad. There is a little bit more insight we can find if we study on.
Revelation 13:15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.
Revelation 14:9-11 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.
Our new characteristic of the bad guys in our story is that they worship “the image of the beast.” This has an even broader explanation attached. It could mean that they worship the image, worship the beast itself or receive the beast’s mark in their foreheads.
Before we go into the next part of our study and look at the beast, let’s take a step back for a second. Remember from our profile of the good guys, we were lift with a somewhat enigmatic characteristic that they were not “defiled by women.” Well, the defilement we just read about here in our present passage doesn’t talk about women, but rather a beast. Is there possibly a connection between the women and the beast?
To wrap up our study and tie up all the loose ends, let’s look at the ugly – the beast. Who or what is this beast that created an image to be worshiped by the bad guys? Wasn’t the beast itself worshiped? Was this “defilement” related to the “defilement of women” we read about when we were studying the good guys? Let’s read the description of the beast and get our coveted revelation:
Revelation 17:1-5 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying to me, “Come here. I will show you the judgment of the great whore that sits upon many waters with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness. and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication.
And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Pretty much all of the understanding we need can be found in chapter 17 of Revelation. We already read the initial description of the beast. We also noticed that this beast is coupled with a woman, and that’s important. Now let’s go further and make sense of some of these things.
Revelation 17:18 And the woman which you saw is that great CITY, which reigns over the kings of the earth.
Revelation 17:9 And here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sits.
So, the woman in this picture is a city which sits atop seven mountains (or hills) and it is a city which rules (or has great influence) over all the kings (or rulers) of the Earth. Well, a common moniker for Rome in the time Revelation was written was The City on Seven Hills, and it’s a nickname that’s still used to this day. So is this woman and this beast somehow connected to Rome? Or is it Rome?
The woman had a name on her forehead, “Mystery, Babylon.” What does that mean? First, we know Babylon is that ancient city from which all of the gods and religions of the world have descended. In Babylon, the sun and the moon represented their greatest gods. This is why the sun has been and still is so prominently featured throughout the world’s religions.
Speaking of religion, we have that other word in the name written on the woman’s head, “Mystery.” The word mystery here isn’t describing a Sherlock Holmes novel. This classic terminology describes a type of religion that shrouds some of their beliefs or practices in secrecy from outsiders.
So the vision of the woman on a beast represents a Babylonian-type, sun-worshiping religion originating in Rome which has defiled and marked the Kings and peoples of the world. Something else we read in the description of this woman who represents a religion is that she is a whore and the “mother of whores.” She had “fornicated” with the Kings of the Earth.
Remember how the good guys weren’t “defiled by women?” And I mentioned the fact that taking a wife doesn’t defile a man. But guess what – fornication DOES defile a man! This woman is a city which sits on seven hills, and that’s very easily identified as Rome. But guess what – this “mother of harlots” has daughter! And if a religion has daughters, what do you think they are? You probably guessed right. Cats give birth to other cats, and religions give birth to other religions. All of the over 40,000 denominations of Christianity trace their roots back to the Roman Catholic church.
Like their mother, they worship a Trinity – not YHWH who is One. Their sabbath is Sun-day, the first day of the week as opposed to the seventh day. Just like they disregard this commandment, they live in disobedience to most of the rest as well. Instead of the commanded feast days of the Bible, they keep the solstice and fertility celebrations of the sun-worshipers like Easter and Christmas.
Choosing to practice these forms of worship violate the commandments of YHWH. That is HOW men are defiled – when they commit spiritual fornication by practicing strange worship and bowing before other gods. This religion and her daughters are the “women” who defile the people and the Kings of the Earth.
The Moment of Truth:
So where do you find yourself in all of this? Over two billion people in the churches will tell you that the will of their god is to believe in Jesus, a living god and to worship this member of a Trinity as they do, honoring all of their traditions of worship.
Your Bible is filled from cover to cover of people who worshiped YHWH as He commanded and practiced obedience to His commandments.
Where is your faith? Will you trust in YHWH and obey His commandments or will you trust in men and obey their traditions and doctrines?