In the book of Revelation, sexual immorality is referenced 12 times. Throughout history, sexual immorality, greed, and covetousness strongly motivated the people of the world. Satan has used these unholy desires “to make the world go round”. The last world empire immediately preceding Christ’s return will function likewise, only more vigorously than ever before so as to deceive all the world leaders and all the people of the world. The lone exception will be Christ’s faithful followers.
From the beginning of the Bible onward, we learn that sex has been a temptation for humanity. Before the fall of man, nakedness did not provoke shame. “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed [Genesis 2:25]. After they partook of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their attitude toward nakedness changed and has been a problem ever since. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.” (Genesis 3:7)
Genesis 6 informs us that sexual immorality was part of the sin that triggered the flood. Spiritual beings coinhabited with human beings producing wicked children. After the flood, recorded in Genesis 9, Ham “saw his father’s nakedness” and according to Leviticus and Deuteronomy, this phraseology implies sexual immorality. Genesis 19 tells of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, cities of gross immorality, demonstrated when the men of Sodom wanted to engage in homosexual relations with the strangers staying with Lot. This event became a hallmark referred to often in the Scriptures.
Months after leaving Egypt, while God was communicating with Moses on the mountain, the Israelites worshipped a golden calf as they did while in Egypt. They offered sacrifices, ate, drank, played, and danced to honor this virile bull. From paintings and etchings on the walls of tombs to clay figures, it is clear to historians and Egyptologists, that naked, erotic dancing was a common part of Egyptian life and worship. Israelites learned from the Egyptians. Shortly before entering the Promised Land, they were seduced by the Moabitess women to participate in sexual immorality that led them to idolatry. Twenty-four thousand Israelites died as a result.
Even the great King David committed sexual sin with Bathsheba. His son Solomon obviously had a problem in this area since he had 700 wives and 300 concubines, some of whom led him to idolatry of the worse kind. After Solomon, the kingdom was divided with Jeroboam as the king over the northern ten tribes. His first act as king was to make two golden calves placed at both ends of his kingdom for people to worship instead of Yahweh.
Ahab and Jezebel, according to 1 Kings 18:19 had 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah. Baal was worshipped as the sun god, storm god, and fertility god who provided children. The way he was worshipped was rooted in sensuality and involved ritualistic prostitution in the temples. At times, appeasing Baal required human sacrifice as stated in Jeremiah 19:5 – “…and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal”.
The mother or fertility goddess, Asherah, appears 40 times in the Hebrew Bible translated into English versions as “Asherim”, “Asheroth”, and “groves” in the King James Version. Worship of her included sexual immorality, prostitution, divination, and fortune telling. King Manasseh, according to 2 Kings 21:7, put an Asherah pole in the house of Yahweh. Archaeologists have uncovered Asherah poles that represented erect penises. Perhaps, their worship with these poles was similar to contemporary pole dancing.
The focus thus far has been limited to Israel; however, history reveals that sexual immorality was commonplace everywhere in the world throughout the generations.
In the latter part of the first century, the Apostle John wrote to the church at Pergamum and referred to the teaching of Balaam ─ “you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. (Revelation 2:14 ESV)
To the church in Thyatira, He wrote: But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. (Revelation 2:20-21 ESV)
Later in Revelation, information is provided about the end times world kingdom with the mention of Babylon. “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.” (Revelation14:8 ESV)
Babylon is used symbolically for the city that will be responsible for the spread of sexual immorality and greed in end times. Babylon of old apparently epitomizes this future kingdom. The goddess called Inanna, Ishtar, and Queen of Heaven was the most popular and beloved of all the Babylonian pantheon and gives an indication of why Babylon is used. Jeremiah 7:18 and 44:17-25 reveal that Israel chose the queen of heaven over Yahweh.
She was the goddess of sexuality, passion, fertility, love, prostitutes, and war. She was depicted as highly sexual, and able to "turn men into women" with passion and especially connected with extra-marital sex and with prostitution. Throughout Mesopotamia, her temples and shrines were numerous, and sacred prostitutes of both genders were employed to ensure the fertility of the earth and the continued prosperity of the communities. Male transgenders, known as kurgarra, castrated themselves; females who identified as males were known as galatur. Both were thought to have either been transformed by Inanna or created by the father god Enki to rescue Inanna from the underworld. Enki made them "neither male nor female", and the clergy of Inanna's temple honored this tradition by embodying it.
Sacred prostitution was the central part of the ritual in the temple. The new king copulated with the high priestess at the beginning of his reign to ensure the fertility of the country and great fortune for him. There were lesser priestesses who were prostitutes and men who also copulated with both men and women. The goddess had turned these men into women as a demonstration of her awesome powers.
The history of Babylon with its sexual immorality, greed, lust, and covetousness epitomizes the world that the “god of this age”, “the ruler of the world”, “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that works in the sons of disobedience” has molded since the fall of Adam and Eve. The Babylon foretold in the book of Revelation will be characterized by the worst ever sexual immorality and greed.
1 ─ Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters,
The seven bowls of God’s wrath will end this evil world and usher in God’s Kingdom. What is revealed in the vision is the prostitute’s destructive impact on the world through sexual immorality, greed, and covetousness, and her end.
This chapter is divided into two parts – verses 1-6, John’s vision, and 7-18, the interpretation of the vision. Scripture quotations are from the ESV.
18 ─ The prostitute is not a person, rather “the great city”.
15 ─ The many waters “are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.” The evil that will flood the world will emanate from this city.
2 ─ with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.
History reveals that many monarchs have been seduced into sexual immorality such as David, Solomon, Ahab, Herod, (and more recently) John Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Mobutu, Prince Andrew, King Charles, and so on. National leaders often influence their people, and this will certainly be the case in the last world empire. Sexual immorality is referenced four times in this chapter.
3 ─ And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.
In chapter 13, the beast is identified as the last tyrant, world emperor. The seven heads and ten horns represent his kingdom. The end times prophecy recorded in Daniel corresponds with the book of Revelation and explains this image as we have seen in previous sessions (Daniel 7:7-8, 19-20). The beast, also called the little horn, defeats three of the ten kings and rules in their stead. So, the seven heads and ten horns represent the last world empire.
Revelation 17:4-5 The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: "Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations."
Hold in mind that the woman, the mother of prostitutes, is the great city. Apparently, this end time city is going to become the vehicle by which the devil, working through the beast, will entice the kings and the people of the world with greed and sexual immorality. She is adorned with riches (gold, jewels, and pearls) and the golden cup designed to allure people to drink. The word “abominations” is most often connected to sexual and spiritual immorality. She leads people away from the true God to worship the beast as God. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 and Revelation 13:4-15 corroborate these abominations that will impact everyone in the world except those written in the book of life.
6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly.
In this city, the saints were persecuted and martyred and will be again in the end.
7-8 But the angel said to me, "Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.
The phrase “you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise” refers back to chapter 13:3,12-14. The beast will be killed by the sword and then raised from the dead signaling to all that he is uniquely god-like.
9:1, 2; 11:7 The “bottomless pit” symbolizes horrendous evil. When he is raised from the dead, the world begins to worship him as God, and he will cause enormous destruction.
9 This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated;
Wisdom is required to understand. Many theological debates have ensued regarding where this city with seven mountains is located. Rome is known as the city of seven hills. The Vatican sits on one side of the Tiber River, facing the seven hills. In ancient times, hills were considered sacred high places and were used to worship and offer sacrifices to deities. Therefore, many theologians think the great city is Rome. However, seven mountains’ peaks also surround Jerusalem. Albany, New York claims to be upon seven mountains as do other cities. Some think the city of Babylon will be rebuilt and fulfill the prophecy. We will see more as we go on.
10-11 they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while.
As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.
The seven heads represent two distinct things – 1) the great city on seven mountains and 2) seven kings. The kings that have fallen begin with Nimrod recorded in Genesis 10-11. This kingdom ended with the Tower of Babel. The four successive world empires were Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, and Grecian. They all have fallen. The one that existed in the time of John’s writing was the Roman Empire. The one that has not yet come refers to the final world empire under the rule of the beast, the same kingdom prophesied in the book of Daniel.
In the end, there will be ten kings over ten kingdoms. A separate man defeats three of the ten kings, takes their place, and thus becomes the eighth.
12-13 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast.
The ten kingdoms were not yet in John’s time and still are not. They will all unite under the rule of the beast, but only for a short time, seven years.
14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful."
Jesus will destroy them at Armageddon (16:16).
15-18 And the angel said to me, "The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.
And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire,
for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. "The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth."
Throughout the Scriptures, Jerusalem is distinguished as God’s holy city where He connects with His people. Some of her names included holy city, city of God, city of Yahweh, and Yahweh is there. However, due to Israel’s continuous idolatrous ways, Ezekiel tells us God removed His glory from the city, and according to Hosea and Romans, it has not yet returned. Thereafter, she has received derogatory names such as Sodom, Gomorrah, Egypt, and in the book of Revelation, Babylon. According to 2 Thessalonians 2, the Book of Daniel, Jesus’ Olivet discourse, and the book of Revelation, the beast will rule his kingdom from the temple in Jerusalem until he turns against the great city and destroys it. To have Jerusalem as his capitol city desecrates the once holy place in the face of God. The beast is the personification of Satan who hates Jerusalem.
Ezekiel 28 tells us that the fallen cherub once was on “the holy mountain of God” in Eden; however, because of his sin, God “cast you as profane from this mountain of God”. As retaliation, Satan has hated Jerusalem and influenced evil men to desecrate and destroy her numerous times throughout history and will again one final time before his demise.
Where evil began with the cherub’s prideful rebellion is also the place it will all end. The great city will be destroyed, but King Jesus will revive and restore it to glory when he reigns as King of kings over God’s coming Kingdom.
“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great”, a previous vision in`4:8 states the same and is also quoted in Isaiah 21:9. The city’s doom is still future, but it is so certain that it can be spoken as already accomplished.
Some believe this is a quotation of its future; however, considering all we read in chapter 17, it would seem to be present before it’s destruction. After Jerusalem is destroyed, Jesus will again rebuild so it becomes God’s Holy City.
3 repeated from 17:2 and again stated in 18:9
4-5 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Ephesians 5:3-8; Colossians 3:5-6
The beast is the personification of the devil – Revelation 12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 7. They worshipped the beast because of what he represented to them – wealth and sexual immorality. In that they worshipped the beast, they indirectly worshipped the devil. Sexual immorality, lust, and covetousness are indirectly worship of the devil.
6-20:15 Hallelujah! The old world with all its evil will be gone forever!