The Beauty and the Beast

Bible Book: Revelation  17 : 1-18
Subject: Beast; Tribulation, The Great
Series: Revelation

I probably don’t have to remind you that in this series of messages from the Revelation I am making no attempt either to deal with every issue we come to, or to present all the various interpretations one may hear or read on this great and mysterious book. As I have stated, my purpose is to skim the surface looking for the blessings promised all those who read this book (1:3), or hear it read (which was most often the case before the invention of the printing press). All those who read this book are aware of a great spiritual warfare that has raged, and is currently escalating between the forces of darkness and the forces of the Light, between the forces of Satan and the forces of Almighty God.

Satan is, as the Hal Lindsey title claims, Alive and Well on Planet Earth. Satan is alive and well in America today, perhaps even more so than during the Roaring Twenties, when bootleggers seemed to be taking over the country. Today, Satan is much more subtle in his attack. He seeks to destroy all who are created in the image of God, He seeks to bring down every institution that functions in the name of God, and he then turns on those he seduces and devours them, like a snake that receives a mortal wound and finding no enemy into whom he can inject his deadly venom, he turns and strikes himself - except for the fact that Satan is attacking and destroying all those who do his evil work. If Paul Harvey understands this, why are preachers not shouting it from the pulpit? Was it Robert Schuller who said he preaches repentance, but he presents it in such a positive way that people do not even know it has happened? What ever happened to a broken and contrite heart?! You cannot repent and not know it, and if you think you can you really need to hear what Paul Harvey broadcast (possibly in 2003 or 2004):

By: Paul Harvey

I would gain control of the most powerful nation in the world;

I would delude their minds into thinking that they had come from man's effort, instead of God's blessings;

I would promote an attitude of loving things and using people instead of the other way around;
I would dupe entire states into relying on gambling for their state revenue;

I would convince people that character is not an issue when it comes to leadership;

I would make it legal to take the life of unborn babies;

I would make it socially acceptable to take one's own life, and invent machines to make it convenient;

I would cheapen human life as much as possible so that the life of animals are valued more than human beings;

I would take God out of the schools, where even the mention of His name was grounds for a lawsuit;

I would come up with drugs that sedate the mind and target the young, and I would get sports heroes to advertise them;

I would get control of the media, so that every night I could pollute the mind of every family mamba for my agenda;

I would attack the family, the backbone of any nation;

I would make divorce acceptable and easy, even fashionable, because if the family crumbles, so does the nation;

I would compel people to express their most depraved fantasies on canvas and movie screens, and I would call it art;

I would convince the world that people are born homosexuals, and that their lifestyles should be accepted and marveled;

I would convince the people that right and wrong are determined by a few who call themselves authorities and refer to their agenda as politically correct;

I would persuade people that the church is irrelevant and out of date, and the Bible is for the naive;

I would dull the minds of Christians, and make them believe that prayer is not important, and that faithfulness and obedience are optional;

I guess I would leave things pretty much the way they are.

Paul Harvey........Good Day

Today, as we look at Revelation, Chapter seventeen, I trust that you will keep four things in mind:
(1) Satan wants to destroy you, (2) He can be very subtle; (3) he can be vicious, and (4) he cannot win, but he will destroy everyone possible before his final defeat. Now, let us look at the Scripture.


1) He Is Shown the Judgment of the Great Harlot, 17:1-2.

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me: “Come, I will show you the judgment of the notorious prostitute who sits on many waters. The kings of the earth committed sexual immorality with her, and those who live on the earth became drunk on the wine of her sexual immorality.”

The Scripture is from the Holman Christian Standard Bible. The reference to the seven angels link chapters 17 and 18 to the seven bowl judgments of chapter 16, which extend to the Second Coming of Christ, after the final bowl of God’s wrath is poured out on the earth (in 16:17, Jesus says, “It is done”). One of those seven angels came to John and announced that he was about to show him the judgment of the “notorious prostitute”, or the great harlot, which does not mean that an angel is sent from the throne room of God to show the aged apostle, the Elder John some prostitute on earth. He had seen plenty of them on the streets of Ephesus. Adultery is often used very graphically of idolatry or false worship. The church is the bride of Christ, and when it opens the door to false worship, false doctrine, or anything involving the occult, it is prostituting itself before God. It is guilty of spiritual adultery. That happens more than you may think. New Age religious practices have come into the church in many forms, just as an incipient Gnosticism invaded the early church. The modern day New Age Movements (often identified with post-modernism) has its roots in First Century Gnosticism, which in turn has its roots it ancient Babylon - which, by the way, has its roots embedded in the Fall in the Garden of Eden.

That this notorious prostitute “sits on many waters” suggests that this Satan spawned idolatry hovers over the whole earth. This past week I found myself in the sauna at my health club with an old friend, an atheistic Jew, and a new friend, Vietnamese man who told us he is a Catholic. My eighty years old Jewish friend was on his stump, going on an on about how bad it was that we ever got involved in Viet Nam, and then about how evil religion is: “Religion has killed more people than anything else in the world.”

I did not point out the fact that this 36 year old Vietnamese man has a good life in American, along with his wife and two small children. In fact, he is planning a new business venture at this time. I would like to think that the fifty six thousand soldiers who poured out their life’s blood in Viet Nam made some contribution to the freedom Pham enjoys today. I did, however stop my friend when he began talking about the evils of religion. I said, “No, religion has not killed more people than anything else in the world. Communism has killed more people than anything else in the world, just as Communism destroyed Pham’s country.”

Verse 2 tells us that “The kings of the earth committed sexual immorality with her, and those who live on the earth became drunk on the wine of her sexual immorality.” The “notorious prostitute” will ally herself with the “kings of the earth” - the political powers of the world. The world will be seduced by false religion, idolatry, which here is portrayed as sexual immorality.

2) The angel continued the revelation about the great harlot, 17:2-5.

“So he carried me away in the Spirit to a desert. I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names, having seven heads and 10 horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She had a gold cup in her hand filled with everything vile and with the impurities of her prostitution. On her forehead a cryptic name was written:


John says, the angel “carried me away in the Spirit to a desert.” Some may think this means that the angel gave John a vision of the woman, but the Scripture seems to demand that the Holy Spirit transported John, in this revelation, to a deserted place, possible so he could get a better look at this woman. The revelation moves forward now as John sees the woman sitting on a scarlet beast. The scarlet beast “was covered with blasphemous names.” There can be no doubt that this is a satanic beast whose goal and purpose is to fight against God. The word blaspheme means to speak evil against, and that is what this scarlet beast is doing.

This scarlet beast, the Antichrist, has seven heads and ten horns. Some students of Revelation see the seven heads as seven world empires and the ten horns as the Antichrist’s political alliances. Others will note that the number seven is the complete number and the number ten is the human number, possibly meaning that the Antichrist has, at least for a time, complete world power, and that his dominion includes all the peoples of the world. As a matter of fact, the latter does not necessarily contradict the former, if we not force either interpretation here. We will not stop to deal with the imagery here because that is revealed a little later in this chapter.

The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet. These are the colors of royalty, nobility, and wealth. The woman has become very wealthy and powerful in her ungodly profession. This means that the false religions of the world have amassed power and wealth. May I illustrate? Consider Islam. In Exodus 17, God warned that Israel will have war with Amalek from generation to generation. Today, it is not Amalek but radical Islamic powers. It may well be that we will be at war with Islam until the rapture, and that this satanic religion, this notorious prostitute, will be a vital part of the blasphemous forces of the Anti-Christ during the Tribulation.

John adds that the woman had a cryptic name written on her forehead. The idea may come from the practice of prostitutes in Rome to wear a headband with their name on it. This identified them with their profession. This scarlet woman will parade her vile practice for all the world to see her. Remember that we are talking about false religion. The idea is that there will be an effort to being the pagan religions of the world together under the Anti-Christ. This vile woman, symbolizing idolatrous religions of the world, “had a gold cup in her hand filled with everything vile and with the impurities of her prostitution. On her forehead a cryptic name was written:


Let me assure you, I am overjoyed, not that this will take place, but that in Jesus I will be spared this vilest of vile things that can be produced on earth. I am, however, disturbed when I see so many people embrace Islam and hold it up as a religion of peace. Anis Shorrsh is an Arab Christian who debates Islamic clerics all over the world. He loves it because as he says, the Islamic holy book cannot stand up to the Word of God. Anis explained something that concerned me. He said that people may wonder why President Bush continues to call Islam a religion of peace. Anis said that President’ Bush’s proclamation has prevented further terrorist attacks in American.

3) The scarlet woman who rode the scarlet beast was drunk on the blood of the saints, 17:6.

“Then I saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the saints and on the blood of the witnesses to Jesus. When I saw her, I was utterly astounded.”

Earlier in the Revelation, the martyrs around the throne of God cry out for vindication. Here, John sees that the woman, idolatrous religions, was drunk on the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus. In the First Century, a monstrous religion was created around Roma, the goddess of Rome (or spirit of Rome) to promote patriotism and loyalty to Rome. Every citizen was required to burn a pinch of incense on an altar and say, “Caesar is Lord” once a year. Christians, who could not do that were slaughtered in vicious and evil ways - slain by gladiators or devoured by half-starved animals for the amusement of the Caesar and the crowds in the Roman arena. During the days leading up to the rapture, the hatred of Christians and the slaughter of the saints will escalate - in fact, it is already doing that today. During the Tribulation period there will be a full blown assault on believers. Is there any wonder John was “utterly astounded”?


A. The Angel Will Tell the Secret Meaning of the Woman and the Beast, 17:7.

“Then the angel said to me, “Why are you astounded? I will tell you the secret meaning of the woman and of the beast, with the seven heads and the 10 horns, that carries her.”

The angel may have questioned why John was astounded, but I can certainly identify with him. At the same time, recalling all John has been shown up until now, we can understand why the angel was surprised that John was so overwhelmed. The angel announces that he will tell him the meaning of both the woman and the beast.

B. The Angel Explains the Meaning of the Scarlet Beast, 17:8-17.

1) The beast was, is not, and about to become, 17:8.

“The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up from the abyss and go to destruction. Those who live on the earth whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will be astounded when they see the beast that was, and is not, and will be present again.”

The beast is the Antichrist, who will stage a false resurrection. He is the beast who was (the Anti-Christ before his staged resurrection); who is not (his fake death), and “will be present again” (The Anti-Christ after the staged resurrection). Those whose names are not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will be astounded when they see this. It is amazing to note what the fallen world finds astounding. Just look at how lost people practically worship the most vile entertainers in the world.

The book of life is the book in which God has recorded the name of all those who believe in Him. Their names were written in the book of life from the foundation of the world. Does this mean that it was written in God’s book at the foundation of the world that all who believe in Him will have their names written in the book of life, or does it mean that the names of all believers of all ages were recorded from the foundation of the world. If so this is a strong statement about the foreknowledge of God. This means that God foreknows us redemptively even before we are born, let alone born again!

The term “from the foundation of the world” speaks of Gods pre-creation plan. Only those who names are written in the book of life will escape the deception of the Antichrist..

2) The seven heads are identified, 17:9-11.

“Here is the mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated. They are also seven kings: five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes, he must remain for a little while. The beast that was and is not, is himself the eighth, yet is of the seven and goes to destruction.”

a. Spiritual discernment is needed - “Here is the mind with wisdom.” The Bible Knowledge Commentary makes the point that “The truth that is being presented here symbolically requires spiritual insight to be understood, and the difficulty of correct interpretation is illustrated by the various ways it has been interpreted in the history of the church” [BKC].

b. The seven heads are explained - “ the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated.” He continues, “They are also seven kings: five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes, he must remain for a little while.” Since the word translated mountains here may be translated hills, many people immediately jump to the conclusion that this refers to Rome, the city built on seven hills. It is possible, However, that the reference is to the kingdoms, ruled by the seven kings.

c. There are seven kings. “They are also seven kings: five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes, he must remain for a little while.” These seven kings represent seven great world empires: (1) Egypt, (2) Assyria, (3) Babylon, (4) Medo-Persia, (5) Greece, (6)Rome, and (7) the kingdom of Antichrist.

Five had already fallen. “One is”- that refers to Rome, the empire that was persecuting the church at the time of John’s vision. Remember that this the Revelation of Jesus Christ, given to John on Patmos. It is not the revelation of John, regardless of the title given to Revelation by printers and publishers. The other which has not come is the kingdom of Antichrist, who would remain for but a little while - but we are not through with him yet.

d. The eighth kingdom is explained, vs. 11. “The beast that was and is not, is himself the eighth, yet is of the seven and goes to destruction.” The likely meaning is that the Anti-Christ’s kingdom is counted as both the seventh and the eighty kingdom, based on his staged death and resurrection (which are designed to duplicate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ). He is the seventh king before his feigned death, and the eighth king after the feigned resurrection.

3) The Ten Horns are Explained, 17:12-14.

“The 10 horns you saw are 10 kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they will receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings. Those with him are called and elect and faithful.”

a. The ten horns are ten kings, 17:12. These ten kings seem to be regents or sub-rulers under the Antichrist. That assumes that the kingdom of Antichrist will be divided into ten administrative districts. A lot of people have tried to identify ten nations that fit that description today, just as others have made the attempt in the past. If there is one thing all those in the past had in common it is that so far they have all been wrong. If the Antichrist rises during the Great Tribulation, we may may not be able to accurately or authoritatively identify them according to nations of the world today. There must be some consolidation during the reign of Antichrist.

b. The ten kings support Antichrist. “These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.” They receive their power from Antichrist, and in turn, empower him to accomplish his purpose. Satan will rally all his forces to accomplish his purpose - or so he thinks!

c. “These will make war against the Lamb,” 17:14. These ten kings will make war against the Lamb of God, “but the Lamb will conquer them because He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Those with him are called and elect and faithful. Jesus is coming in the end, not as suffering Servant, but King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Believe me, no one will scourge Him then. No one will force a crown of thorns on His head then. No one will spit on Him then. No one will crucify Him then. He will come with those who are “called and elect and faithful” and He will put all enemies under His foot. No one will stand against Him and those who follow Him into battle. I thank God that I will be counted in that number! What about you?

4) The Angel Gives John the Rest of the Story, 17:15-17.

“He also said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute was seated, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages. The 10 horns you saw, and the beast, will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, devour her flesh, and burn her up with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to carry out His plan by having one purpose, and to give their kingdom to the beast until God’s words are accomplished.”

a. The waters where the prostitute was seated are the people of the world, 17:15. The angel identifies them as the “peoples, multitudes, nations, and languages” of the entire world. This means that false religion, fostered by Satan and incubated in the bottomless pit, will dominate the world. What is the mission of Islam today? But please do not think Islam is the only false, idolatrous religion with which the Lamb must contend.

b. The horns and the beast will hate the prostitute, 17:16. How ironic! They use the prostitute and then turn against her. “The 10 horns you saw, and the beast, will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, devour her flesh, and burn her up with fire.” The 10 horns and the beast have built up and encouraged false religions of the world. They have ridden to power on the back of religious leaders. Once they get power they turn on the prostitute, the religious leaders of the world and destroy them and their religions. You talk about a hostile take over! Think of the politicians and business executives who use others and then when they feel secure in their position they either forget those who helped them, or they seek to destroy them. Satan is using the same principles and methods today that he will continue to use to the bitter end.

c. God is in complete control of all of this, 17:17. Why do you think the Lord gave John the Revelation, with all the imagery, all the hideous beasts, the vile prostitute, and the vicious world powers? Was His purpose to frighten us? Why could God not prevent all of this from happening? Well, this verse provides part of the answer. God is not going to try to prevent it, any more than He tried to prevent Pharaoh from hardening his heart against Moses and the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob some 34 00 years ago. Pharaoh hardened his heart against God and before long we find God hardening the heart of Pharaoh.

Now, look again at verse 17 and see who is in charge. It is not the Antichrist, it is not the ten kings, it is not the beast, it is not Satan. “For God has put it into their hearts to carry out His plan by having one purpose, and to give their kingdom to the beast until God’s words are accomplished.” When you read this verse, sing Victory in Jesus! Shout hallelujah. Praise the Lord. He is in charge. Everything that happens will have been orchestrated by the Lord God Almighty. It is His plan and He will see it through to final victory.

5) The Woman Is a City, 17:18.

“And the woman you saw is the great city that has an empire over the kings of the earth.”

We will not find the conclusion to the prophecies in this passage in the last verse of chapter 17, because the passage continues through chapter 18. However, the angel who was explaining the revelation to John reveals that “...the woman you saw is the great city that has an empire over the kings of the earth.” The great city is Babylon - at least Babylon is a metaphor for Anti-Christ’s capital city.

Babylon is a good choice to represent the capital of Anti-Christ’s kingdom. At first, one may wonder about the choice of Babylon over the capital cities of other great world powers. One might thing of Nineveh as a likely choice, or Athens, or Rome. Why Babylon? Before there was an Assyrian Empire, a Babylonian Empire, a Medo-Persian Empire, a Greek Empire, or a Roman Empire, there was Babylon. In fact, before there was an Egyptian Empire, there was Babylon, the city founded by Nimrod, the mighty hunter of men, and founder of cities and nations. He conquered a great territory and established both Nineveh and Babylon. Babylon was the first great center of false worship, of idolatry, and the attempt by man to create his own religion this side of the Flood.


the Bible is very clear about God’s plan for the ages. God will plant his plan in the mind of His enemy and have them serve His purpose. God’s victory is assured. How can anyone who has seen what God has done in the past, doubt what He plans to do in the future. Now, here is the beauty of God’s plan for you and me: all those whose names are written in the book of life will share in the victory. “Victory in Jesus!”

The question that is most important to you is not how all of these end-time events will play out in the end, but whether or not you are in on what God is up to! God both invites us to come to Him, and warns us against refusing to come to Him. The wisest thing you can do right now, if you have never received Jesus Christ as Savior, is to call on Him right now.

I have invited people to come to Jesus Christ in some unusual situations: individuals in homes, groups in Bible School, individuals sitting with others in worship services, indicted murderers in the county jail, and convicted murderers, thieves, and other criminals in the penitentiary. I have seen people who have committed vile, despicable deeds come to the Lord. I have seen some who were equally as guilty refuse to come to the Lord. I was talking with George Williams, a representative of Broadman and Holman at the Louisiana Baptist Convention in 2005 about a prison ministry. As a member fo the LifeWay board of trustees, I receive some books each quarter and we discussed one book, which Chuck Colson calls the definitive book on prison ministries. We talked for a while about this, George told me about a former mobster who had become a Christian. I do not personally know any big time mobsters (or know for sure how big they are!), but I do know someone I can run names by and get information. I told George that I once met a man at Parchman, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, who would have been a hero to any mobster who might have been sent to Parchman in his day. George waited for me to identify the man. I asked, “Do you remember Kenny Wagner?” He did. I remember when Kenny Wager’s name was in the Jackson Clarion Ledger all the time. Kenny Wagner assured me he had nothing against Jesus Christ. He was totally blind to God. Eight day after I tried to witness to him he was dead.

I witnessed to a cousin a number of times, and he never felt any need for God. He worked with people who professed to be Christians who would do thing he would not do. He committed himself to living a good, moral life (possibly to make up for past sins). He died without the Lord. The Biblical Illustrator illustrates this point with thoughts from Bonhoeffer:

“He is gone, but his works survive. His manuscript Temptation is one of the best I've ever read on the subject. Bonhoeffer's vivid description of our tendency to turn off the warnings when sin's allurements wink at us needs to be declared to every generation:

“In our members there is a slumbering inclination towards desire which is both sudden and fierce. With irresistible power desire seizes mastery over the flesh. All at once a secret, smoldering fire is kindled. The flesh burns and is in flames. It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, or love of fame and power, or greed for money, or, finally, that strange desire for the beauty of the world, of nature. Joy in God is... extinguished in us and we seek all our joy in the creature.

“At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real; the only reality is the devil. Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God. And now his falsehood is added to this proof of strength. The lust thus aroused envelopes the mind and will of man in deepest darkness. The powers of clear discrimination and of decision are taken from us. The questions present themselves: "Is what the flesh desires really sin in this case?" "Is it really not permitted to me, yes -- expected of me, now, here, in my particular situation, to appease desire?" The tempter puts me in a privileged position as he tried to put the hungry Son of God in a privileged position. I boast of my privilege against God” [Bible Illustrator].

“It is here that everything within me rises up against the Word of God.


God has a word for you today: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life,” John 3:16.