Satan’s kingdom comes to an end: Part 1
The world came under the control of Satan after the fall of Adam. In John’s first epistle (chapter 5) he remarks that ‘that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.’ We see clear evidence for the truth of John’s statement in our own observations of the state of this world.
Daniel’s God-given interpretation of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar reminds us that there is a political/economic aspect to Satan’s rule, a rule that seems to be degenerating as each empire takes in turn in the flow of world history. As well as a political/economic side to these empires there is an aspect that involves organised religion too. Atheists are very keen to point out the horrors that organised religion has inflicted on humankind and in many ways they are correct: they fail of course to see that their observations are entirely consistent with a biblical view of the world!. The entire edifice of Satan’s political/commercial and religious kingdom will all be brought crashing to the ground when the anointed one comes to set up his eternal kingdom of peace and righteousness: just as Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream. Thank God that this eternal kingdom will fully solve the problems of this world when Jesus takes the throne of David! Revelation chapters 17 and 18 give us more detail of the fall of Satan’s kingdom.
1. The woman
John has just described the effects of the 7 bowl judgements on this world. Seven angels administer seven astonishing displays of God’s wrath. In chapters 17 and 18 we are given some details about the disintegration of Satan’s kingdom before the anointed one comes!
One of the angels involved in the 7 bowls scene of chapter 16 approached John and invited him to observe the ‘punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters.’ The angel informs John that the kings of the earth committed adultery with her and that the inhabitants of the earth were ‘intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.’ John must have wondered what on earth he was about to see! As we have noted previously in Revelation, sometimes John is shown scenes that seem to be real and accurate depictions of what will take place – and he struggles with his vocabulary and experience to describe what he sees! At other times, John is shown ‘signs’ which represent real events or organisations such as the pregnant woman who represented Israel in chapter 12. These ‘signs’ require a bit of thinking to work out what they represent – usually John was given some interpretation to facilitate his understanding but some interpretation is still required.
John arrived with the angel in a wilderness. What he saw must have filled him with a mixture of fear, wonder and loathing! He saw a woman riding on a scarlet coloured beast! The best was covered with blasphemous names and it had seven heads and 10 horns. The woman herself was dressed in purple and scarlet and she glittered with gold, precious stones and pearls. In her hand she held a gold cup which was filled with ‘abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.’ She had a name written on her forehead. Apparently in John’s day it was customary for a prostitute to wear a headband bearing her name. The name John reads is ‘Babylon the great, the mother of prostitutes and the abominations of the earth.’
John’s mind must have been racing! What could this sign mean. As a matter of fact the angel does give John some interpretation but the interpretation focuses mainly on the beast on which the prostitute sits. All we are told about this woman comes at the end of the chapter: ‘the woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.’ So who or what is this woman and what is the sign of her and the beast telling us? Since her name was a mystery (v 5) it may well be that her precise identity will not be fully revealed until she makes her appearance but we have some clues.
Back in Zechariah chapter 5 we read of a woman in a basket. The woman is described as ‘wickedness.’ Zechariah described how this basket was taken to the country of Babylonia to build a house for it. This seems to be the same woman in Revelation who is once again associated with Babylon. Babylon was the city established by Nimrod and was the scene of a rebellion by men against God’s specific instructions: a rebellion that resulted in the judgement of languages. Babylon was the head of the Nebuchadnezzar’s image in his dream, an image that represented the empires of this world that will ultimately be crushed by the kingdom of God. From this we can see that Babylon is the epitome of Satan’s empire and represents organised opposition to God. But why is this organisation depicted as a prostitute? Throughout the Old Testament God used the image of a prostitute to describe religious infidelity. You might remember the prophet Hosea who gave Israel an object lesson in unfaithfulness when he was instructed to: ‘Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the Lord.’ Thus idolatry and unfaithfulness to God is likened to prostitution. All false religions that draw people away from God and the truth are thus represented by this woman. We live in days in which people generally believe that each person is free to believe whatever they like and any discussion of truth in this respect is neither necessary nor desirable: anything goes so long as you don’t try to impose your religion on anyone else. They say, all religions lead to the same God so all religions are equally valid. Given this thinking it’s not surprising that many people feel that one unified religion encompassing all shades of thought and opinion is highly desirable: unity at all costs. The woman is described as the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth. Perhaps this women thus represents all the false religions of the world in some sort of unified form. John Lennon imagined a day when ‘the world will live as one’ and with no religious divisions – I suspect that this thinking has already prepared people to readily accept a one world religion, but since this is based on a lie it is not at all the path to peace, quite the opposite.
In verse 2 we read that the kings of the earth committed adultery with this prostitute and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with ‘the wine of her adulteries.’ The scenario being described seems to involve all of the political leaders being involved in this false religion and people in general being incapacitated under her influence. False religion draws people away from God and is indeed an abomination to him.
This woman, intoxicates people away from the truth and she hates God’s people: John saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people. There will be many martyrs during this time.
It’s considered quite impolite to critique other religions. But make no mistake, false religion draws people away from God and it is Satan who is behind anything that draws people away from the truth. This woman does not act alone: she rides on a beast, a beast who is none other than the offspring of Satan.
2. The Beast
John was greatly astonished at what he was observing. But the angel said to him: ‘why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and the beast she rides, which has seven heads and ten horns.’ I’ve heard many good Christian people say that we shouldn’t even try to understand Revelation, they discourage study of the book and say it will all pan out in the end in any case – the book is too controversial and causes too much division. This seems like an entirely reasonable and intelligent attitude but it’s not what God wants. Hearing the words of this book will do us good and the angel is keen for John (and us) to understand more about the woman and the beast. The beast described with seven heads and ten horns has already been observed by John in chapter 13. This beast is the offspring of Satan: God told the serpent in Genesis 3 that there would be enmity between the offspring of the woman and the serpent’s offspring. Since the rebellion of man and the fall, the world has been under Satan’s control and this control is now personified in this beast. The seven heads represent the historical progression of satanic empires which have dominated this world (see below for more on the 7 heads). This beast will greatly impress and astonish those who have taken their stance with Satan. The angel says twice that the reason for their astonishment is that this beast once was, now is not and yet will come. What could this mean? We need to go back to Revelation 13, here’s what is says: ‘3One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. 4Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, "Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?" 5The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months.’ The sequence seems to be first that the beast makes his appearance, and if we refer back to Daniel (9:27) he makes some sort of agreement for the final 7 years: ‘once was’. At some point after this the beast will apparently be killed (receives a fatal wound): ‘now is not.’ Finally to the great astonishment of unbelievers the beast will emerge from the abyss: ‘and yet will come.’ In spite of this supernatural display of power over death, the beast is destined for destruction: God will prevail.
Now the angel gives an explanation of the 7 heads and 10 horns. The explanation needs a mind of wisdom: this is not straightforward! First, the seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. Hills or mountains are used to signify kingdoms or empires in the bible. This woman sits on these heads, she is not part of the empires, she does not rule them, but rather influences them with false religion. The seven heads are seven kings. You will remember that the great statue of various metals in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream depicted a series empire,s but there was a dual meaning; the head of gold represented both Nebuchadnezzar was well as the Babylonian empire. The heads have a dual meaning: individual kings as well as kingdoms or empires. Thus, the best explanation for the 7 heads seems to be that they represent various empires who have played a direct role with ‘the woman’ Israel. Surveying the bible it is not so difficult to identify these: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome. The seventh head seems to be this final kingdom of this great beast. The angel informed John that 5 have fallen (: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece), one is (Rome at the time of John’s vision) and one is to come: the future empire of the beast. But there is to be an eighth king: the beast who ‘once was, and who now is not.’ It seems reasonable to take it that the 8th king refers to the beast on his return after receiving a fatal wound.
Now for the ten horns: these represent 10 kings who will participate in the empire of the beast. They will feature near the end, presumably during the final 3 and a half years of the beast’s empire. The angel records that they will reign for 1 hour: a short period. These 10 kings will only have one purpose: to support the empire of the beast. They will be utterly opposed to the lamb, they will fight against the lamb (more of this in chapter 19) and will be utterly defeated in the process. Note that it is the lamb that defeats them: the battle was won at Calvary! The victory will be secured because the lamb is Lord of lords and King of kings. The lamb will not come alone but will come with his called, chosen and faithful followers. Please note our recent studies in Philippians in which we saw from God’s word that when we believe we are placed into Christ and we derive the benefits of this as described in Ephesians 1 in which Paul states that we are God’s choice ones in Christ.
Amazingly Satan’s empire begins to divide against itself. Interesting Jesus spoke of this very thing in Mark 3:23: ‘if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.’ This is exactly what the angel tells John (v16): ‘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 Satanic religious system that has seduced the nations throughout history is brought to an end by the beast and the 10 kings or nations. John is seeing the end game being played out: the preparation for God’s eternal righteous kingdom. In the next chapter we will see the demise of the political and commercial systems of Satan’s rule and then the anointed one will come!
Is your name written in the book of life? Are you ready for the day when we will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air? Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.