“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.’” Revelation 17:1-2.
Revelation chapter 17 is one of the most difficult chapters in the book, in fact in my mind it is the toughest. Let us establish a few facts before we begin.
The subject herein has not been clearly revealed in prior chapters; it is the super-church which comes into existence after the rapture of the true church out of the world.
This church, as we will see, will be destroyed at the end of the first 3 ½ years of the tribulation. The super-church will wield more murderous power than the church did in the dark ages.
With these things in mind, this chapter will become a little clearer as we go along.
If you read the entire chapter you will find that everything is encompassed within its eighteen verses.
The reason this is important is that some chapters in the Bible do not begin and end in the correct place. This is because chapters and verses were not in the original manuscript.
They were added later to aid in readability and ease in finding a particular passage by name, chapter and verse, like John 3:16.
Bible chapters and verses were done by different men, at different times, so it was many years before the Bible had the divisions we see in our modern version.
Chapter divisions are credited to Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, England. The chapters were first printed in the Wycliffe English Bible in 1382 A.D.
Verse divisions by Robert Stephens were printed in a 1551 A.D. version of the Bible. Having been done by men, not everything is perfect, though they are very convenient.
Please do a computer search on the addition of Bible chapters and verses, or check out a Christian bookstore if you desire a more complete story.
A couple of examples of where poor chapter division causes a problem may help you see the importance of being careful when reading Scripture.
Chapter 9 of the gospel of John tells the story of a man born blind being healed by Jesus and of his eventual salvation; this could have ended at John 9:38. Instead the chapter ends at 9:41, three verses into a dialogue with the Pharisees and stops.
Chapter 10 then seemingly begins with a new subject, this is not so, it is a continuation of the dialogue which started at the end of chapter 9.
“And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see [that Jesus is the Messiah] may see, and that those who [supposedly] see may be made blind.’ Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, ‘Are we blind also?’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, “We see.” Therefore your sin remains [John 9:39-41]. Most assuredly; I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber [John 10:1].’” John 9:39-10:1.
If you read the whole paragraph above as a unit, you may be able to see how much the chapter break disturbs the context of Jesus’ message, which goes all the way to John 10:21.
In fact if you wish, all of John 9:1-10:21 could be considered one chapter, chapter 9, without doing damage to the flow of the narrative.
A friend recently pointed out that the same problem exists with Isaiah chapters 52 and 53. Chapter 52 begins with a description of Israel being released from captivity in ancient Babylon (about 538 B.C.) and allowed to return to their land.
Then abruptly Isaiah 52:13 begins to prophesy of the suffering Messiah, Jesus; this continues to Isaiah 53:12.
“Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently, He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men; so shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; for what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider [52:13-15]. Who has believed out report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Isaiah 52:13-53:1.
Once again if you read Isaiah 52:13 through 53:12, you will note that they contain a complete thought and the chapter break disrupts that train of thought. This does not happen too often, but careful Bible study means that you have to watch out for chapter breaks and verse numbering.
However that does not mean that the entire Bible is filled with chapter and verse errors, the Holy Spirit was involved in the whole process of making these breaks, yet men are fallible. Consider the following example.
The first 4 books in the New Testament are, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, yet they were not written in that order.
The book of Matthew was written in the 60’s A.D. Mark was written in the 50’s A.D. Luke was written in 60 A.D. and John was written around 85 to 90 A.D.
These books all examine Jesus’ life from a different standpoint and since the entire New Testament is about Jesus Christ God the Son these 4 books are at the beginning of the New Testament, yet they are not in date order.
These first 4 books are in supernatural order which proves that no matter where chapters and verses are placed God’s word remains the same and is safe to trust.
Here is a small idea of what I mean by supernatural order.
The first book, Matthew depicts Jesus as a King which is often depicted as a lion in Scripture.
The second book, Mark depicts Jesus as a servant which is represented by a working animal a calf.
The third book, Luke depicts Jesus as a man as He is described by the prophets throughout Scripture.
The fourth book, John shows Jesus as God the Son and He is depicted as an eagle.
Jesus represented Himself as the Messiah, the Son of Man, the Savior of mankind, all during His time here on earth and always gave glory to God the Father.
Here is the proof of the supernatural works of the Holy Spirit in the order of the books, chapters and verses in Scripture.
In Revelation 4 we have 4 living creatures who worship God and are named in the same order as the 4 gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
“Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion [Matthew the King], the second living creature like a calf [Mark the servant], the third living creature had a face like a man [Luke the man], and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle [God the Son]. And the four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” Revelation 4:6-8.
Things like this may not impress the unbeliever, but to the Christian they are one of many of the things that confirm that all Scripture is God breathed.
“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12.
Having said these things let us return to Revelation chapter 17; careful study will show you that the chapter encompasses an entire thought, beginning with the revelation of the worldwide church in Revelation 17:1 to its utter destruction in verses 16-18 at the chapter’s end and goes no further.
Having shown (hopefully) that chapter 17 is concerned only with the worldwide church and her relationship with the worldwide government; only one other thing needs to be established, and that is the method of interpretation.
Many confirm that this chapter records events that were happening during the first half of the tribulation. None however that I have read mention that chapter 17 falls under the Law of Recurrence.
That is with the exception of Dr. Fruchtenbaum in the introduction to his book, “The Footsteps of the Messiah”. It is here that he points out the Rules of Interpretation, compiled by Dr. David L. Cooper.
The sixth law of interpretation is the Law of Recurrence; stated this way, “The Law of Recurrence involves the recording of an event and the repetition of the account which gives added details”.
A simple illustration of this is Genesis 1:1 through 2:3, wherein God describes the six days of creation, beginning with the words:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1.
The narration ends on the seventh day with the words:
“Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” Genesis 2:3.
Then beginning with Genesis 2:4, God expands the narration by giving us more information about what went on.
“This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown. For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Genesis 2:4-7.
The first phrase here tells us that these verses are the history of something which has already happened; in other words this is falling into the category of the Law of Recurrence.
By referring to the plants and herbs He is taking us back to the third day of creation; and in the creation of man, we return to the sixth day of creation.
Then from Genesis 2:8-17 God narrates the creation of the Garden of Eden. And upon putting the man into the garden, He warns him not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Now watch what happens.
“And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.’ Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them.” Genesis 2:18-19a.
Notice here how God describes the formation of the animals as if He just did it, yet the birds were created on the fifth day and the animals on the sixth day, and this event takes place after God had placed man in the Garden of Eden.
This is the reaffirmation that God created them, and referring back to Genesis chapter one we are reminded that careful consideration of rules like the Law of Recurrence will clear up many mysteries.
There is nothing wrong with the phraseology in chapter 2, unless one wants to twist God’s word to fit their preconceived notions. It does show that we need to stay awake when studying Scripture.
“And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.” Genesis 2:19b-20.
The chapter goes on after this to describe how animals are not helpmates comparable to man. God created woman and the commandment is given:
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24.
I hope this sheds some light on the law we will be using while deciphering Revelation chapter 17.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
Revelation Chapter 17 Introduction taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 2-14-17, updated on 10-2-22.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.