Chapter 17What do we mean exactly when we refer to ecumenical religion?
Ecumenism mainly refers to initiatives aimed at greater Christian unity or cooperation. These intiatives are often referred to as interdenominational. It is used predominantly by and with reference to Christian denominations and Christian Churches separated by doctrine, history, and practice. Within this particular context, the term ecumenism refers to the idea of a Christian unity in the literal meaning: that there should be a single Church. Not to be confused with Nondenominational Christianity.
The word contrasts with interfaith dialogue or interfaith pluralism aimed at unity or cooperation among diverse religions and referring to a worldwide "religious unity" by the advocacy of a greater sense of shared spirituality.
The word is derived from Greek οἰκουμένη (oikoumene), which means "the whole inhabited world", and was historically used with specific reference to the Roman Empire. The ecumenical vision comprises both the search for the visible unity of the Church (Ephesians 4.3) and the "whole inhabited earth" (Matthew 24.14) as the concern of all Christians.
By now one is aware that the revelation received by John deals with different events which do not always proceed in chronological order. Occasionally John is drawn aside to receive additional information about something previously introduced but now more fully explained. On these occasions a chapter or two is inset into the narrative. That is the case with chapters 17-18.
In Revelation 14:8 the destruction of Babylon is foretold. Now John is given greater detail about its fall. Chapters 17-18 deal with the destruction of Babylon, which represents religion and government in the end of the age. Revelation 17 records the destruction of ecclesiastical Babylon, and Revelation 18 records the destruction of political Babylon.
These two events do not take place at the same time. The destruction of Babylon, as representing the false religion of the future world church best fits into the period of the first three and one-half years of Tribulation.
When Christ raptures His church and we go to live forever with Him, it doesn’t mean the end of religion. Many churches and religious orders will function with “business as usual,” for the Lord Jesus Christ is not even a part of them today.
When as born-again believers we are taken to heaven, these religions will continue to thrive and Satan will even permit them to grow. The devil will use false religion for his own evil purposes until he no longer needs it. With the rise of the Antichrist, in the middle of the Tribulation, religious activity of all forms, except that instituted by the beast, will cease, and the great ecclesiastical Babylon will be overthrown. This event is described in chapter 17.
1. ¶ And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
We are immediately faced with the problem of identifying this great whore or harlot who is about to be judged. Scripture tells us in verse 5 that this harlot is Babylon the Great.
Here we begin to see the end of ecumenical religion. God is pinpointing His judgment. He calls ecumenical religion “the great whore.” The Bible portrays life like it is. This is reality.
Ecumenism is a vile and corrupt system.
Money and lust play a great part in the whoredom of religion. This system involves men with lust to do human good and get power. This is an attractive system.
“The great whore” is the false religion system.
“Come hither” means John was permitted to see this great false system.
“Judgment” means God’s mighty wrath.
“Sitteth” means the place or throne of the false religious system.
“Many waters” refers to people, nation of people. Read Ch. 17:15, this verse refers to races – nations refer to geographical areas – tongues refer to language – national units.
2. 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.
The leaders of the earth operate in this system under a strong delusion. They give lip service to this false system.
This is the international religion of the Tribulation.
This is the state and religion operating together.
God never intended for religion to control a state and He never intended for a state to seize authority over the church. Both are separate and both are free.
They can exist side by side without either losing their identity, but they cannot join together without one or the other losing their identity.
We see in this that the leaders of the earth joining up with false religious system and they become intoxicated with power and soon were engulfed by it.
For the mechanics of this system look at:
1. 2 Thess. 2:7
a. We already have these false religious systems in the earth. They are known by many names such as World Council of Churches, Romanism, Ecumenical Religion, New World Order, etc.
b. At present time, the ministry of the Holy Spirit is restraining or holding them back.
c. This system of false religion has not been able to conquer the world.
d. When the Holy Spirit is removed from the earth in church capacity, the false religions will come in full force.
2. 2 Thess 2:8
a. This is the dictator of the revived Roman empire and he plays an important role in the last days.
3. 2 Thess 2:9
a. How does this dictator operate?
b. Satan works through him.
c. Matthew 4 – Satan offered Christ the kingdoms of this world if He would bow down and worship him and Christ refused.
d. Here, Satan offers these kingdoms to this dictator and he accepts the offer.
e. This dictator will use his personality to get ahead in the world.
f. He will employ tongues and all kinds of miracles to impress people and this world is charmed by his miracles.
g. Even today, people are elated by the works of Satan, but during the Tribulation, they will fall head over heels.
4. 2 Thess 2:10,11
a. Strong delusions – means God removes all restraint from negative decisions.
b. When we read the “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart,” it simply means that God removed all restraint and took off the brakes and allowed Pharaoh to go completely over to negative choice.
3. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
We have been studying the 7 deadly drinking cups and the judgment of God poured out on the earth during the last part of the 7-year Tribulation.
The 7th drinking cup judgment was poured out on interdenominational religion.
In the next verses, we see this religion compared to a prostitute. Power lust and lust for money are both involved in this operation.
In this verse, John is carried away in the spirit to Rome, not literally, but in a vision.
Remember the Bible never has anything good to say about religion.
Remember also, what religion is, it is man’s effort to do only what God can do.
Religion emphasizes human works and ignores God’s grace (Matt. 23).
The worst people in the world are not immoral people, but they are religious people.
“Wilderness” refers to wasted area or spiritual desolation under satanic rule.
“Scarlet coloured beast” is the dictator of the revived Roman empire. The Roman army wore scarlet colored coats. This place is Rome.
“Full of names of blasphemy” simply means something that contradicts Bible doctrine. A name can refer to a person or a principle and here it refers to a principle that is anti-biblical.
“Seven heads” refers to the seven nations that have inflicted discipline unto the Jews in the past. They are Egypt, Assyria, Chaldea, Persia, Greece, Rome and the revived Roman empire.
“Ten horns” are the 10 nations making up the federation of the nations. If the United States is in Bible prophesy, it will be one of the 10 nations or part of one of the ten nations.
The revived Roman empire will have two legs, they are religion and politics.
4. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
“Woman was arrayed.” This is the glamor of this interdenominational religious-political system.
“Arrayed” is in the perfect tense and means purple and scarlet are her permanent type of apparel.
“Purple and scarlet” these were the two royal colors of the ancient world, representing religion and politics.
“Decked” means to wear something. It is an old English word for dress.
This woman was “decked out” as we say in her expensive robe.
This woman is the dictator of Rome.
“Gold and precious stones and pearls” refers to her fabulous wealth.
“Having a golden cup in her hand” refers to her pleasure.
“Abomination” refers to sensual pleasure and means she only lived for pleasure.
“Filthiness” refers to that which is contrary to true Bible doctrine.
5. And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
Why is this in capital letters? There is nothing in the original language that would suggest this passage should be in capital letters.
The reason was someone who was translating this passage when the King James translation was made put these words in capital letters and they have remained ever since.
The Church of England at that time was having a great struggle with the Roman Catholic church and that fact accounts for these letters being placed in large type.
“Upon her forehead was a name written” means upon the seat of her thinking.
“Mystery” refers to a doctrine not known in the Old Testament which was revealed in the New Testament. This part of Tribulation was never revealed in the Old Testament.
Read Colossians 1:25, 26 and Romans 16:25, 26.
“Babylon” means confusion and is the title given her because Babylon is where religion started.
The matter of identifying this great city is a subject of much debate. There are many good Bible scholars who believe that this refers to the once great capital of the Babylonian Empire, now lying in ruins. They maintain that the city will one day be rebuilt and become both the religious and commercial center of the world (Her 50-51). However, this may not be the case. Babylon is frequently used in Scripture to refer to a system of idolatrous religion. It is important to bear in mind that in Revelation Babylon refers to both a city and a religious system, just as Wall Street refers to both a street and a system of free economy. It is highly likely that this Babylon represents another city and religious system which displays the characteristics of the once evil Babylon.
Therefore it very well may be that the city of Babylon doesn’t exist, but her spirit lives on in Rome and in this verse Babylon may speak of Rome.
6. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
Religion always persecutes the truth.
In the Tribulation, they will use their power to eliminate those who are born again and who believe the truth.
Here we see the attitude of religion toward Bible truths.
“Drunken with the blood of the saints” means that she was saturated with power and ruthlessness. This speaks of the martyrs of the Tribulation.
“When I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.” This really means, “When I saw her, I was utterly shocked.”
Shocked at her tremendous power and at the slaughter she brought to the world.
In the next few verses, John is going to explain why he was shocked and amazed.
7. ¶ And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.
“Angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel” or, John, why are you shocked?
“I will tell thee the mystery of the woman.” The woman is the dictator of the revived Roman empire.
“That carrieth her” is the interdenominational religious system.
“Ten horns” are the ten federated nations that make up the revived Roman empire.
8. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
This beast is the same one referred to in 11:7 as coming out of the abyss. It is said to carry the harlot, and is described as having seven heads and ten horns.
Remember, John wrote this in A.D. 95.
This was toward the end of the Augustine era of Rome. Julius Caesar had been killed and replaced by the Flavian Caesars. They will rule from A.D. 96 to 192. This was Rome’s greatest era. Other rulers came to Rome and the Roman empire lasted until A.D. 476.
“The beast that thou sawest was” Was is in the imperfect tense and it means came to a close.
“Was” until A.D. 476.
“And is not” came to a close.
“Shall ascend out of the bottomless pit” means it shall arise. This is the revived Roman empire at the end time.
“Bottomless pit” refers to satanic forces. Bottomless pit is used because the dictator has a league with Satan and is evil as Satan.
“Perdition” refers to judgments that are coming. Christ will come and destroy him and throw him into perdition.
“They that dwell on the earth shall wonder”
“Whose names were not written in the book of life.” Every member of the human race has his name written in the book of life from the foundation of the world. But if one does not believe in Christ, his name is rubbed out of the book, and at the end time those names in the book of life are only those who have been born again.
Book of life in eternity, only names of believers. It ends up as the “Lambs Book of Life.”
Book of works in Revelation 20:11-15 contains the names of unbelievers.
“From the foundation of the world.” This phrase simply means from the ultimate source of God.
“Beast that was” refers to the Roman empire that existed until A.D. 476.
“And is not” refers to the Roman empire coming to a close.
“And yet is” refers to the future of the Roman empire, it will rise again.
9. And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
The scripture here interprets itself. The seven heads of this beast are seven mountains.
Rome is called the city of seven hills because the city is built on seven mountains.
“Here is the mind which hath wisdom.” Here is one who has been listening.
“Seven heads” refers to the seven nations that have ruled Israel. (Discussed in verse 3).
“Seven mountains.” In history mountains symbolized empires or governments, but in this verse, it means nations.
10. And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
The identification of the seven heads of the Beast, however, is symbolic of seven kings. These apparently have something to do with Rome.
“Seven kings” are heads of seven nations. The same seven that has ruled Israel.
“Five are fallen.” They are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece.
This must indicate a selective list of kings prior to John’s day (more than seven had ruled); one is John’s contemporary, and one is yet to come.
“And one is” The one that is, is the one that existed during the moment that was spoken to John and that being the Roman empire that ruled in A.D. 95.
The Beast himself is identified as the eighth king, whose doom is certain.
“And the other is not yet come.” This is the revived Roman empire at the end time.
“When he cometh, he must continue a short space” means the revived Roman empire will only rule a short time at the end time. This refers to the seven year Tribulation.
11. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
“Beast that was” Roman empire that ruled in the time of John.
“And is not” came to a close in A.D. 95. It did not completely die, because it will be revived.
“Even he is the eighth.” This beast comes out of the seventh thus it is called the eighth.
“And is of the seven” means he comes from the seventh kingdom.
12. And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
The horns of the Beast are ten kings (Dan 7:23-24). These form the nucleus of the Beast’s power. Their power is subject to the Beast’s.
“Ten horns” refers to the ten federated nations that make up the revived Roman empire.
“Ten kings” are the leaders of these ten nations.
“Which have received no kingdom as yet.” This means when John was writing this, these nations had not and have not as of now risen to form the revived Roman empire.
“But receive power as kings one hour.” One hour refers to the seven year Tribulation and then only will these kings receive power.
This expression is to be understood as meaning unity of purpose not brevity of time. These ten kings are unified under the power of the Beast.
“With the beast” The beast here is the anti-Christ or dictator of the revived Roman empire and these ten kings and nations will reign for a short time in the dominion of the beast.
13. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
“These have one mind.” This means they all have the same goal, that is to rule the world.
“Shall give their power and strength unto the beast” refers to their dedication to the beast and displays their strong leadership.
Such unity of purpose will cause the ten kings to give their power and strength unto the beast. All the resources and armies of these ten nations and their kings are at the disposal of the Beast.
They all blended into one international unit or one world government.
They use whatever means they desire to cause people to bow down to the beast.
14. ¶ These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
“These shall make war with the Lamb” These in this verse are the ten nation federation or the revived Roman empire and the dictator.
The Beast attempted to proclaim himself king and exert lordship over the nations of the world, but nothing can alter the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord of lords, and King of kings.
“Lamb” in this verse is Christ.
The man of sin leads the kings and nations to war with Christ.
“And the Lamb shall overcome them.” This is the second coming of Christ.
“Lord of lords” speaks of His deity.
“King of kings” speaks of His humanity.
This is the stone of Daniel 2:45.
“They that are with him are called.” These are the Old Testament saints.
The faithful and chosen on the Lord’s side anticipate a complete victor, and they shall have it.
“Chosen” refers to the church age saints.
“Faithful” refers to the Bride of Christ.
When this happens, all believers will be there.
15. And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
“The waters which thou sawest.” Waters refer to the nations of people.
Peoples and multitudes refer to races.
Nations refers to geographical units.
Tongues refer to languages and dialects.
The religious system of ecclesiastical Babylon is described as a harlot sitting on many waters. She is portrayed as committing spiritual fornication with the inhabitants of the earth.
We have already noted that in the book of Revelation the figure of a woman symbolizes religion.
Jezebel represents the pagan idolatry of the past (2:20), the sunclothed woman represents Israel (12:1), the bride of Christ represents the true church (21:9), and here we have the great harlot representing the false church.
The woman is arrayed in purple and scarlot, bedecked with gold and precious stones and pearls (17:4). That the woman is sitting upon seven mountains, which usually refers to the city of Rome, makes it difficult to escape the conclusion that this woman refers to the Roman Catholic Church.
Even though the Roman Church may be the basis for ecclesiastical Babylon, there are certainly Protestant churches, Moslem temples, Jewish synagogues and other forms of religions involved here.
This false system of worship described as the great harlot will include many groups as well as the mother church. This is the interdenominational movement at its height. Here we see one world church, based in Rome (religious Babylon) and practicing a system of worship which began back in ancient Babylon.
The one-world church movement is part of the program of Anti-christ. Ecclesiastical Babylon symbolizes apostate religion, religion without the power or presence of the Holy Spirit.
This composite, apostate church will make political alliances with the nations in order to gain power. The fact that she rules over peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues is proof positive that this will indeed be a politically minded interdenominational church.
But what will be the future of this ecclesiastical Babylon?
What is to become of the one-world church movement and this idolatrous church?
16. And the ten horns 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.
“Ten horns” represents the political side of the revived Roman empire.
“These shall hate the whore.” The political side of the empire makes a split from the religious side of the empire.
The point is the church and state cannot survive together.
“Shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.” This is like a civil war. The political side will strip the religious side of her wealth, burn her so-called churches and cathedrals with fire, and try to remove all her power. This will be terrible and the political side will shed much blood.
By comparing other scriptures, we may place this annihilation of the one-world church midway through the seven years of the Tribulation. During the first half of this period religious freedom is extended to all. All the religions of the world, apart from those who remain true to Christ, will gather in one great world church. The climax of this gathering is seen in the pomp and ceremony of the harlot riding on the Beast.
With the revival of the Roman Empire, the Beast no longer needs the church to sustain his power. Thus he destroys the world church and substitutes the worship of himself. The false system of religion called Babylon, the harlot, will vanish, and the Beast will be unchallenged as world leader and his False Prophet as world religious leader.
Using the power he has over the ten horns, the league of ten nations, Anti-christ will utterly destroy all forms of religion, even the apostate Christianity known as ecclesiastical Babylon centered in the church of Rome.
17. 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.
Notice whose will is being done. (It is God’s will.)
This verse says God has a plan in history and even though man tries to rise up and altar that plan, he cannot.
God will win the victory. The devil and all his forces are losers.
Religion will damn those who hold to it.
All of this is in the will and plan of God. God has never been pleased with systems of worship which do not give Him His rightful place, and counterfeit or divert the honor that is due only to God.
Therefore the interdenominational movement and those Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Moslem, and other groups so intimately involved in it are doomed to be destroyed by the Antichrist after he has used them to gain world rulership.
18. And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
“Woman” here is the beast and his religious system.
“That great city.” This is the city of Rome, the great seat of the false religions of the earth.
Just what will be the status of the Roman Catholic Church at that time, I do not know.
“Which reigneth over the kings of the earth”. This verse reminds us of the power this anti-Christ has over the powers of this world.
THE REVELATION: A MOST BELOVED BOOK
The book of Revelation is one of the most beloved books of the Scriptures. In fact, it seems to have a life of its own, as increasing numbers of seeking souls all over the world are intrigued by it, endeavor to delve into it and seek to ascertain its meaning.
The book was given to John about 60 years after Jesus ascended (Acts 1:9-11) up to Heaven. This book has 22 chapters, 404 verses and about 12,000 words.
REVELATION IS A BOOK OF SEVENS
There is such a thing as Bible arithmetic “gematria”, and most of the numbers in the Scriptures have spiritual meanings. One of the most significant numbers in the Scriptures is the number seven.
The number 7 is especially noticeable in Revelation. Here we find it 44 times.
· 7 time the “overcomers” are mentioned.
· A book or scroll is said to have 7 seals.
· 7 beatitudes and a sevenfold song of praise.
· 7 churches appear and a letter addressed to each one.
· We read of 7 candlesticks or lampstands.
· There are 7 spirits and 7 stars.
· There is a sevenfold description of Christ, 7 angels, 7 trumpets
· Sevenfold description of the locusts which are disguised demons.
· We note also 7 thunders, 7,000 men slain, 7 heads and crowns, a 7-headed beast, a sevenfold description of the 144,000 with the Lord
· 7 angels and 7 plagues of wrath, 7 vials poured out upon the earth, 7 crowns of the dragon
· Babylon the world capital is built upon seven mountains.
· 7 dooms: Babylon, beast, false prophet, kings, God and Magog, Satan and the unbelieving dead.
· 7 new things: new Heaven, new earth, new people, new Jerusalem, new temple, new light and a new paradise.
· Some of the most important words in the Bible are found in Revelation 7 times and only 7 times. Some of these are: blessed, church, cloud and clouds, earthquakes, horses, light, patience, people, prophecy, quickly, repent, Satan, sharp, sickle, tree, worthy, world, wine, etc.
The name “God” is found 99 times in the Revelation, 7 times in chapters 3, 7, 16, and 22.
The word come is found 50 times in the book including 7 times in chapter 22.
The word angel is used 51 times in the book, including 7 times in chapter 8 and also in chapter 16.
The word angels is found 23 times in the book.
The word heaven is used 56 times in Revelation.
Clark, Neal. Survey of the Book of Revelation. Pensacola, Florida: Thee WFBI Press, 1999. Print.
Falwell, Jerry. Liberty Commentary on the New Testament. Lynchburg, VA: Liberty Press, 1978. Print.