Jesus Christ is coming back to earth. He is coming to bring righteousness to this earth. But before He can come and establish righteousness in the earth, a few things have to be done.
1. All the evil armies of this earth have to be destroyed. We just saw that in chapter 16.
2. All the religion in this world has to be destroyed. That is what we will be talking about tonight.
3. All the godless politics and governments of this world have to be destroyed. This we will see in the next chapter.
When these three things are done, then the ungodly and evil of this earth will be removed and Jesus Christ can come to earth and set up His kingdom of righteousness.
We have seen the armies destroyed in the previous chapter. Now God shows us how the false religion and the godless governments of this world will be destroyed. We need to know that false religion and godless government have always been on the earth, and they will be until the end time. In the end time, the antichrist and the false prophet will institute a one-world religion.
The subject of chapter 17 is the judgment of godless government and false religion, of what the Scripture calls political and religious Babylon. False religion has done more to doom people than any other single thing by its deception.
False religion promises life, salvation, peace, security, and hope in some kind of life hereafter. But it’s all a lie. And it will doom people for eternity. This is the reason this particular chapter is given in Revelation: to warn us about false religion and to warn us of religious Babylon, the false religion that is going to sweep the earth in the end time. PRAYER.
READ 1. An angel approaches John. He has just been shown the great devastation of the last war, Armageddon. John is standing there in shock when one of the seven angels comes over to him. He tells John to come and he will show him the future judgment of false religion in the earth. So John walks over and sees one of the most amazing sights a person could ever witness: the description and judgment of false religion in the world.
Religious Babylon is a great prostitute. In the Bible, prostitution stands for false gods, false worship, false religion, and false devotion. It stands for idolatry. It stands for worshipping something other than God Himself.
This religious Babylon sits on many waters. This is symbolic language that stands for people or nations. How do we know that? Because it is explained to us in verse 15. (Read verse 15) The picture is that religious Babylon will fill the earth. Many people and nations of all races will be caught up in the worship of the false religion.
Think about today. Think about how many millions of people are following a false religion and worshipping idols around the world. But even worse, think about how many profess Christ and yet don’t believe or teach Christ and the World of God.
READ 2. The governments of the world in the end time will encourage the worship of religious Babylon. Religious Babylon will seduce the world with the wine of her false teaching. She will entice the peoples of the earth to worship the antichrist and his government.
Remember that there are going to be a lot of devastating things happening during the great tribulation. There will be natural disasters. Sores, scorching heat, intense darkness, waters turned to blood red, a great earthquake, and on and on. The people are going to be looking for relief. They will be looking for answers.
The antichrist and his government will have the answers. At least for a while. The people will rely on the antichrist and they will be loyal to him and his government because he has the help they need. The government will become the god and man will become its servant. This is the whole principal behind communism or any other socialist or dictatorial state that is totally focused upon the government.
The point is, in the end time, there will be a worldwide religion, a religion of the state. This is where religious Babylon comes in. It will be the false religion that will try to seduce all the people of the earth into its control. It will have the support of the kings and leaders of the world.
READ 3. Let’s look at three things in this verse.
1. Religious Babylon sits upon a scarlet beast. The term sitting means that the false religion is supported and dependent upon the state.
2. The scarlet beast is the antichrist. TI is he who is covered with names that blaspheme God. This means that all the heads or governments under his authority blaspheme and revel against God. It really won’t be a religion at all. It will be the worship of the state itself.
3. The beast with seven heads and ten horns is the antichrist. The seven heads are the seven nations that will voluntarily surrender to the control of the antichrist. Now don’t get confused. Back in chapter 13 we talked about this. The antichrist will have conquered three nations. The three conquered nations and the seven nations who voluntarily subject to his control give the antichrist the power of ten horns or nations. That is, the ten horns refer to ten powerful nations that will be under his control. He will have the power of ten nations to support him in enforcing the state religion.
This false religion will be dependent upon the power of the antichrist and the government under his control. These governments will hold the false religion up before the world.
READ 4. The false religion of the end time will be extremely wealthy. This is what is meant by the purple and scarlet clothing and the gold and precious stones and pearls. Imagine a religion that is wealthy in the possessions of the world while so many in the world are in such desperate need.
There are 40,000 children who die from hunger every day, and this is only the children. It doesn’t count the adults. And remember, in the end time the needs will be far greater among the millions suffering from the devastation. Yet, the religion of the day will be wealthy and will even be hoarding its wealth.
I am reminded of when Jesus said to the rich, young ruler, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
Jesus also said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”
It was Jesus who said, “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
The false religion of the end time will be corrupt. It will offer a cup to help the people of the world, but the cup is filled with abominable things and filth. That is what the false religion offer, idolatry—a polluted and corrupt worship.
All false religions feed people nothing but abominable things and filth. The teaching and doctrines of false religion are disgusting and repulsive. That is what Scripture says we eat if we feast upon false religion.
READ 5. Here we have the name of religious Babylon, or false religion in the end time.
The name of religious Babylon is a mystery. That is, the fact that false religion is false is not known to all people. Many don’t know that they are worshipping a false religion. How true it is. Think how many millions are worshipping a false god or a false Christ, and they don’t realize it’s wrong.
Religious Babylon will be the mother of many false religions. This tells us who religious Babylon is. It goes back to the building of the tower of Babel in the Old Testament. Under a leader named Nimrod, man decided to build the ideal state or utopia. Man turned away from God and set out to make himself secure by building a tower straight up to heaven.
Man sought security, provision, and help from other men rather than from God. He joined hands with other people in trying to build the perfect and ideal world by their own efforts and without God. They omitted God. They left Him totally out of the picture.
The tower of Babel is the founding of the city of Babylon, the very first time the word Babylon is mentioned in the Bible. Form then on, Babylon came to mean either godless religion or godless government and society.
The point is that religious Babylon stands for all false religion. It stand for all the religions that seek after heaven or utopia or the perfect life by man’s own works and self efforts, by his own goodness, his own rituals, his own ideas of God, his own religion, his own government.
But man’s dream for a one-world government will, in the end time, become a reality. This one-world government will spread its filth over all the world under one state religion. This religion will become symbolized in the very city of which its center is established—Babylon.
READ 6. The religious power of religious Babylon in the end time will be fierce. This false religion will be the leader in launching the holocaust for the antichrist.
READ 7. This false religion is a mystery. How a body of people can claim to believe and follow God and yet honor and put leaders, governments, states, doctrines, and rituals about God is a mystery. It is counterfeit religion. How a body of people can claim to believe and follow God and yet slaughter millions of people because the people don’t believe as they do is a mystery.
Yet that is just what John witnessed. He saw a picture of what false religion will be like in the last days. While he stood there somewhat shocked, the angel stepped forward and told John that he would now reveal the mystery and details of religious Babylon.
READ 8-14. We see the source of power of religious Babylon—the antichrist. We have already covered most of these facts in our previous studies and so there is really no need to repeat it all. So let’s hit the highlights of it all.
1. We see the greatness of the beast that supports false religion, that is, the greatness of the antichrist. We have already explained the seven heads and the ten horns.
-We have discussed the great supernatural power of the antichrist. He will be out of the Abyss or bottomless pit.
-But then there is the end or doom of the antichrist. The antichrist will be destroyed in that he will lose his well being. It does not mean that he will cease to exist. It means that he will be condemned to a worthless existence. He will suffer waste and loss and ruin forever and ever.
And this says something to us. No matter how great a person may be, if he does not know Jesus Christ he will face destruction. The antichrist will be a great man in the eyes of the world. He will rule the whole world, but he will be doomed, all because he never have his life and heart to Jesus Christ.
2. Then we see in these verses the power of the beast that supports religious Babylon. The power is phenomenal. Note four things about this power.
a. In verse 9, the beast can be understood only by believers who are spiritually minded.
b. In verses 9-10 we see that this great earthly power enables the antichrist to sit on seven mountains and embodies seven great kingdoms. The seven mountains or seven heads are said by many to refer to Rome. In the end time, religious Babylon will sit in Rome. This is because Rome was known in ancient times as the city on seven hills. But we must note that this is not what John says.
He clearly says in verse 10 that the seven heads represent seven kings or governments. By seven mountains, he means that false religion sits upon seven kingdoms or empires that have complete and full rule and power. The seven mountains and seven heads mean seven kings. There are a lot of ideas of who these kings are but the Scripture doesn’t identify them.
READ 15-18. Here is the destruction of religious Babylon. In the end, it will be state that will give everything to the people. So they will demand first loyalty. The antichrist will turn against religion and utterly destroy it. Let’s look at three facts about this and we will stop.
1. Religious Babylon will have enormous power. V. 15 says that it will be supported by the multitudes. Everyone will be worshipping the image of the beast.
2. Religious Babylon is utterly destroyed by the antichrist. Why? Because of power and money. Imagine all the money it takes to keep a world wide religion going. Imagine all the wealth that a world wide religion would have through contributions and through the property it would hold. Now remember all the world wide devastation that has taken place and what it will cost to meet the needs of cities and nations.
Once the antichrist and his state have the loyalty of the people committed to the state, they will no longer need the religion. The state will have the loyalty of the people. What it will not have is the money and wealth of the religion. So it will destroy the religion for its wealth and power.
In verse 16 it says the state will hate religious Babylon, it will make religious Babylon desolate, it will strip religious Babylon and it will eat her flesh. It will consume her and take everything that is worth while and beneficial for the state. The state will burn religion with fire. There will nothing left but ashes.
3. Lastly, religious Babylon will be destroyed by God. In the final analysis God is the one who will cause false religion to be destroyed. God will plant the idea to destroy religious Babylon within the mind of the antichrist. God will then arouse the ten other governments to support him. And religious Babylon, or false religion, will be wiped off the face of the earth once for all.
You see, it will be much as it is today. God did not have to zap the antichrist and the religious Babylon to wipe it out. He simply withdrew His blessings and it basically destroyed itself—all because of the same evil that destroys today—money and power and the love of both.