[Note: This author is a pre-Tribulation rapture believer, and this article reflects that view.]
This article lays out a possible combined interpretive scenario on Revelation chapters 17 & 18, with other notations and commentary. As the conclusion to this article will attest, end-time eschatology is not an exact science. Prophecy was written mainly for those who will be participating in it – to prepare, to guide, to warn, and to save – bringing in those who would enter the Kingdom in the last of the last days, and for Christ to judge the nations who oppose and reject Him.
As a disclosure, I was born, christened, and nominally raised in the Catholic church. I haven’t been a member of the Catholic church since I was a youth, and am now a Bible-believing Christian who lives by grace through faith, and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). I have many wonderful Catholic family members and friends, and love them dearly. This article’s emphasis is primarily on the leadership, history, and the prophetic role of the Roman Catholic church and is in no way an indictment of the Catholic laity.
The focus of this article is on Revelation chapter 18 in relation to chapter 17. Most end-times Bible teachers believe chapter 18 is describing the Mark of the Beast economic system, run by Antichrist out of Rome. I do not believe this for many reasons that I address below.
One of my many mottos is: “If I’m in the minority, I feel pretty good where I’m at. If I’m in the majority, I get concerned.” From what I understand in relationship to this article, I’m not only in the minority, I may be the minority.
Agreement on the Identity of the Entity in Revelation Chapter 17
Throughout this article, many points will be made confirming the identity of “Mystery, Babylon the Great,” aka “The Whore of Babylon,” and there is virtually no disagreement among Bible teachers of who “she” is in Revelation chapter 17.
Here’s a brief summary of who this entity is in chapter 17:
In Revelation 17:9, we read, “And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.” Rome is well known as the “city of seven hills.” So the “woman” is located in, or around, Rome. Vatican City is only 4km from Rome and is, in essence, a suburb of Rome.
For a brief time, the Roman empire under the emperors persecuted the true church of Christ. But the Roman empire, as is documented at the end of this article, quickly morphed into the Roman Catholic church and has essentially been the power behind the city of Rome and, in many regards, the world ever since.
The “woman” has been ruler over kings (Rev. 17:2 & Rev. 18:3, Rev. 18:9); she has persecuted and killed the saints (Rev. 17:6 & Rev. 18:24); and she sits on many waters with peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues (Rev. 17:15 & Rev. 18:3, Rev. 18:23), showing that her empire stretches into every nation on earth. A perfect description of the Roman Catholic church, which has reigned for approximately 1,700 years.
On to Revelation chapter 18…
Is the Mark of the Beast System a Prosperous System?
Most agree that there will be a gap of time between the rapture of the church and the start of the seven-year Tribulation (the beginning of which will be commenced by the signing of the covenant between Antichrist and Israel (Daniel 9:27). Personally, I don’t think this gap will be over five years. So, taking my maximum estimated gap of five years and the three and a half years – from the signing of the covenant until the Abomination of Desolation (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15) – gives us a total of eight and a half years before the Antichrist sets up his Mark of the Beast economic system. During this time, the Scriptures are clear – there will be worldwide war, famine, and death when the Lord Jesus Christ is judging the earth with the seal judgments (Revelation 6:1-17). And it doesn’t get any better after this.
How is it possible that the Antichrist’s Mark of the Beast system can produce the robust, viable, productive, opulent, long-sustaining – working fluidly and flawlessly, worldwide-benefiting, economic system during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation described in chapter 18? After the world has undergone such mind-numbing catastrophe, how could this be possible?
Actually, in my humble opinion, it is impossible. The Mark of the Beast system isn’t meant to be a vehicle to prosperity in a shattered and God-judged world, as much as a path to worship of Antichrist and ultimate control. What’s being described in Revelation chapter 18 must be something else.
Now, the Roman Catholic church’s prosperity is well documented and visibly seen. The wealth of the RCC surpasses anything any entity on earth has ever known. Everything in the list of decadence, material excess, and opulence recorded in this chapter fits the RCC to a tee. In 1,700 years of existence, they have acquired wealth and material luxuries that are unimaginable and incomparable.
Don’t just think of Vatican City when it comes to their imports and material wealth. Think of churches, rectories, monasteries, property, etc., in every city, in every country of the world where they operate. It is truly mind-blowing what the RCC imports as a whole. The material wealth of this entity supersedes anything the world has ever known.
What are their exports? Everything from the selling of mass and indulgences, to ordering and administering torture and murder (God’s people, both Jews and Christians, being major targets), to ruling over the kings of the earth and everything else in between. Many well-researched and detailed books have documented the above information.
Did God Personally Send Fire from Heaven to Destroy Babylon the Great?
Revelation 18:8 says, “…for strong is the LORD God who judgeth her.” And Revelation 18:20 says, “…for God hath avenged you on her.” Revelation 18:21 says that an angel threw a great stone into the sea, saying, “Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.” These verses don’t say that God sent fire down from heaven to personally destroy Babylon – as is always the case when God personally destroys anyone or any entity.
Examples of this are numerous. In Genesis 19:24, when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, it reads: “Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven.” In Revelation 20:9, when God judges the world for coming up to Jerusalem to attack the Lord after the Millennial Kingdom, it says, “and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.” Whenever God personally destroys anyone or anything, the text will make it abundantly clear.
The verses mentioned above in Revelation chapter 18, when compared to Revelation 17:16-17, which reads, “And the 10 horns [kings] which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall leave her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled,” agree perfectly.
“And the ten horns [kings] which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her. Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.”
How Is the Whore of Babylon and the City Where She Sits Destroyed?
“And the ten horns [kings] which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire” (Revelation 17:16a).
I can hardly expect this attack described by John to be anything other than a pin-point nuclear attack on the Whore of Babylon and the city where she sits (RCC/Vatican City/Rome). To “eat her flesh, and burn her with fire” couldn’t describe a nuclear attack more clearly than these words John uses to describe this destruction.
In Revelation 18:1-24, we see similar descriptions of an aftermath of a nuclear strike. “… her plagues come in one day… and shall be utterly burnt with fire” (verse 8). “And the kings of the earth… shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment,” describing a fear that can only be that of radiation fallout (verses 9-10). The merchants of the earth do the same, as they “… shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment” (verse 15). And, if that wasn’t enough, so do the shipmasters and sailors as they “… stood afar off, and cried when they saw the smoke of her burning” (verses 17-18). “… for in one hour, she is made desolate” (verse 19).
Other Confirmations of the Entity of Revelation 17 & 18 Are One and the Same
- Both are called Babylon the Great. Revelation 17:5 & Revelation 18:2
- Both are clothed in purple and scarlet. (A city isn’t clothed in apparel; people in a city are). In Roman Catholicism, Bishops wear purple and Cardinals wear red! Revelation 17:4 & Revelation 18:16
- Both persecuted the saints (and apostles and prophets in chapter 18). Revelation 17:6 & Revelation 18:24
- Both are women (The city and the system – Vatican City/Rome/RCC). Revelation 17:1-7 & Revelation 18:3-9
- Both state that the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her. Revelation 17:2 & Revelation 18:3
- Revelation 18:4 reads: “And I heard another voice from heaven say, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” What is God calling His people out of?
Point #1: God wouldn’t be calling out His people if they were in the Mark of the Beast economic system, as all who are in this system are damned and have no chance of redemption (Revelation 14:9-11).
Point #2: Some would say that God is calling out His people from the city of Rome before it’s destroyed. Really? The truth is, Christians are going to be on the run for the entire duration of the seven-year Tribulation period – they won’t be hanging out in Rome, or in any other city for that matter.
Point #3: God is calling out His people from the false religious system, and has been for the past 1,700 years. There will be those who are left behind after the rapture of the church of Christ who are Catholics; those who never put their faith and trust in Christ Jesus and instead trusted in the “mother church” for their salvation. Once they understand their error of following a false religious system, they will repent and give their lives fully to Christ. These are the one’s God is calling out of the Roman Catholic church – the “Whore of Babylon.” (Without getting into too much detail, many in the RCC can easily fall into idol, Marian, and “saint” worship, not to mention all the other sins and heresies the RCC teaches. God’s people, once truly saved, need to repent and leave this false religious system.)
There can be no doubt that the same entity is being spoken of in both Revelation chapters 17 & 18. This entity is the Roman Catholic church.
Revived Roman Empire
I believe the revived Roman empire, under the leadership of the Whore of Babylon (RCC) and the Antichrist, will last from the rapture of the church of Christ until the destruction of Rome/Vatican City by the 10 kings in the middle of the Tribulation. The last three and a half years of the Tribulation will be entirely Antichrist’s Kingdom, devoid of the revived Roman empire’s influence that he used to rise to power.
Who Are the Ten Kings?
There are two major interpretations on who the 10 kings are. The first is a 10-nation confederacy in the European Union. The second is that the world will be separated into 10 kingdoms as the Club of Rome and others have proposed. I believe it to be the latter.
These 10 kings hand over their kingdom (which is the world) to Antichrist, resulting in total control of the entire earth needed for the Antichrist to implement his Mark of the Beast system. These 10 kings and their kingdoms probably come into being after the rapture of the church, replacing all the nations of the world with 10 regional divisions.
In Revelation chapter 17, it speaks of these 10 kings as hating the Whore. But there are other kings mentioned in Revelation chapter 18. These kings have committed fornication with the Whore. The text in Revelation 18:8-9 reads:
“And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning, Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.”
Who Are These Other Kings That Have Been in Bed with the Whore?
The answer is that these are the leaders of the nations of the world before and after the world was split into 10 kingdoms. All the nations under the leadership of the 10 regional kings will still need their presidents, prime ministers, and local leaders that had been in cahoots with the Whore of Babylon before and after their nations’ autonomy was taken away from them when the division of the world into 10 regional kingdoms came into being. These “kings” will be leaders within the 10 regions, as there has to be national and local leadership under the authority of the 10 kings in their respective regions.
Why Is Heaven Rejoicing in Revelation 19:1-4?
Because, for the last two chapters, John has been seeing a vision of the great Whore, Babylon the great; so it makes perfect sense that he would now see the rejoicing of heaven over her destruction, as she has had 1,700 years of persecuting and killing the prophets, apostles, and saints.
There were no chapters and verses when the Scriptures were completed in either the Old or New Testaments (with the exception of Psalms). Revelation chapters 17 & 18 are what scholars call “parenthetical” portions of Scripture. That is, they are not in chronological order as are the seals, trumpets, and bowl judgments. Therefore, I suggest this parenthetical section should actually be one large chapter starting with Revelation 17:1 going on thru Revelation 19:4.
A Note on Revelation 14 and A Key to the Order of Events
Revelation 14:1-20 is an exciting chronological panorama of what will take place during the 7-year Tribulation.
Verses 1-5 are the 144,000 Israeli evangelists who witness in the first three and a half years of the Tribulation. Note that they are “redeemed from the earth” and “from among men, being the first fruits unto God and the lamb” (v. 3-4) as Jesus is preparing to usher them into heaven before the second half of the Tribulation period begins. In verses 6-7, the angel is declaring the everlasting gospel. Verse 8 is the destruction of the Whore of Babylon (Revelation chapters 17 & 18). Verses 9-11 are the last three and a half years of the Tribulation, the Mark of the Beast, and the judgment on all who take the Antichrist’s Mark. Verses 12-13 are a call to those who accept Jesus Christ to endure to the end. In verses 14-20, we see the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
A perfect outline of the Tribulation itself!
The Second Coming of Christ and the Final Bowl Judgment
Revelation 19:5-10 is the marriage supper of the Lamb (seemingly taking place sometime in the last three and a half years of the Tribulation). Revelation 19:11-21 is the second coming of Christ and would, therefore, be in line chronologically with the latter parts of chapter 16 (three and a half years after the destruction of the Whore of Babylon). In Revelation 16:18-21 (the seventh bowl judgment), we read:
“And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.”
Notice that this Babylon – and the rest of the world – is destroyed by thunder, lightning, and a great earthquake followed by a plague of hail; not by fire with no smoke as is described in Revelation 18:9. This judgment is not on Babylon alone, as is the Babylon of Revelation chapters 17 & 18. This judgment is on the whole earth as Christ destroys Antichrist and the armies of the world at His second coming.
If the Mark of the Beast system is destroyed at this time, how could the kings and merchants of the earth be bewailing her fall when there will be few people left alive that will enter the millennial Kingdom? It makes much more sense, to me, that the kings and merchants of the earth would be bewailing the destruction of Babylon the Great (Vatican City/Rome/RCC) during the middle of the Tribulation than the Mark of the Beast system at the end of the Tribulation.
I believe the Babylon in Revelation 16:18-21 refers to the rebuilt ancient city of Babylon in Iraq where the Antichrist will have his headquarters during the last three and a half years of the Tribulation. The Whore of Babylon, under the leadership of the Roman Catholic church, has been destroyed three and a half years earlier in the middle of the Tribulation (Revelation 17 & 18).
[I also believe Antichrist will have a base in Jerusalem after the Abomination of Desolation. The reason Antichrist wants these two bases would be to thumb his nose at God. In Babylon, because that’s where all false religions started (and where human worship began with Nimrod), and Jerusalem, because he wants to be the king of God’s “city of the Great King.” What God has, Satan always wants, and he’s possessing Antichrist in an attempt to acquire those things.]
This is when our Lord and King comes down to earth – with us, His saints – to put an end to the Antichrist, the False Prophet, their armies, the Mark of the Beast system, and to judge the world and the nations in order to set up His glorious millennial Kingdom.
Why Are There Two Babylons?
In Genesis 11:1-9, we obtain a quick look into the birth of Babylon. These Scriptures reveal that not too long after the flood, all the people of the earth gathered to the plain of Shinar – in direct disobedience to God’s command to fill the earth – under the leadership of Nimrod. They built the famous “Tower of Babel” and seemed to have incorporated the first anti-God religious system – probably the worship of Nimrod himself with a priesthood (so says tradition and extra-Biblical history).
Once God confused the languages by tribes and people groups, God drove them from Babel into different areas of the earth as he originally commanded them to do. And they took the original false, God-rejecting, religious system with them. Through centuries and centuries of time, this original religious system morphed into the different religious systems we see today.
In the early 300’s AD, the Roman Emperor Constantine claimed to have converted to “Christ” and started his own brand of “Christianity”; a melding of church and state, if you will. Taking an already established pagan priesthood and changing their customs, icons, and traditions into a “Christian” veneer, Constantine birthed the Roman Catholic Church.
This is the entity of Revelation chapters 17 & 18.
The word “Catholic” means “universal.” The Roman Catholic church has been pushing the diverse world religions back together – united under one umbrella – in an ecumenical movement started in earnest by Pope John Paul II and accelerated with Pope Francis. This move is essentially resurrecting the ancient anti-God, Babel religion. But this religious system will no longer be needed by Satan and the Antichrist. The system they want to bring in is human worship, and will ultimately be Satan worship when Satan indwells the “man of sin.”
Antichrist’s Headquarters and Base of Operations
After the Whore of Babylon is destroyed, I believe the Antichrist will move his headquarters from somewhere in Europe (where he ascended in power alongside the Whore of Babylon – using her for his own purposes only to have her destroyed) to a rebuilt Babylon in Iraq that he has, more than likely, been building since the rapture of the real church of Christ. This is where he will run his Mark of the Beast economic system, intrinsically linked to the worship of himself.
After the Abomination of Desolation of the temple in Jerusalem, I suggest he will also provide himself a base to keep watch of his image he has erected in the temple and to oversee his persecution and murder of the Jews.
A Simple Outline for My “Combined Scenario of Revelation 17 & 18”
- Revelation 17 & 18 are one combined prophecy. That is, the religious Whore of Babylon and economic Babylon is the same entity in the same place – The Roman Catholic church in Rome/Vatican City.
- The destruction of Babylon in both chapters are the same – they are not separate attacks.
- This attack comes from the 10 kings in, or around, the middle of the Tribulation period just before Antichrist sets up his Mark of the Beast economic and worship system.
- The Antichrist will “take his spoil” from the fallen Whore of Babylon; but his base, or “throne,” will be moved to ancient Babylon in Iraq and Jerusalem after the Abomination of Desolation.
- At the end of the Tribulation (three and a half years after the destruction of the Whore of Babylon), Christ comes back at the Second Coming to save Israel, destroy the Antichrist, False Prophet, their armies, and the Mark of the Beast system.
- Christ sets up His Millennial Kingdom.
Donald Rumsfeld, past Defense Secretary for the United States, once famously quipped, “…because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.”
This is a pretty good way of looking at end-time prophecy.
Both Daniel and John, when receiving their visions and prophecies, were extremely perplexed and confused. In Daniel 12:8-9, Daniel exclaimed: “And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.”
What I’ve laid out here seems very plausible to me, but – in terms of end-time prophecy – time will tell. The fact is, in regard to this interpreted scenario, I may be right, but I could also be wrong. And that’s the case, and the unvarnished truth, for every prophecy student, teacher, and scholar this side of the rapture.
We won’t know for sure how these events will play out exactly. It is ultimately written for those who go through it. As Donald Rumsfeld said, “…that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.”
In any case, “Come out of her, my people!” (Revelation 18:4).