The apostle John’s vision changes its view again – now heavenward, but the timeframe remains at the beginning of the second half of the tribulations:
After these things I looked, and behold, the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened. And out of the temple came the seven angels having the seven plagues… Rv. 15:5, 6. NKJV
Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven bowls full of the wrath of God…And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God…and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues were completed. Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying…”Go and pour out the bowls of wrath upon the earth.” Rv. 15:7 – 16:1. NKJV
So, we see that there is a temple in heaven; and we see that God is inaccessible to anyone during the dispersal of His final judgments. Those who are still on the earth at this time, have no escape.
John’s vision expands to straddle both heaven and earth. We get to see the emptying of the bowls, which are God’s final judgments on those who steadfastly rejected Him.
The first bowl produced painful sores over the entire bodies of those who worshiped Satan’s beast. The second bowl pollutes all of the oceans, thus destroying all marine life. The third purifies all the fresh water on earth. The fourth bowl alters the sun – magnifying its heat so that people were literally being burned. Yet they still cursed God.
The fifth bowl is directed at the throne of the beast and his kingdom. It causes great pain to fall upon the devil’s followers and it envelopes this same throne in perpetual darkness. The sixth bowl dries up a section of the Euphrates River, so that the army from the east can cross over to attempt to engage Christ and His Father at the battle of Armageddon. At this point, the dragon, the beast and the false prophet send out demonic spirits to convince the world leaders of other nations to combine their armies with them in this battle on the final day of the tribulations.
Jesus momentarily halts John’s vision to address him directly – imparting a warning for all of us:
“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” Rv. 16:15 NKJV
Christ is urging us to stay alert and to behave as righteously as possible until He returns.
Jesus restarts John’s vision, where he sees Satan’s armies gather at the valley of Megiddo in Israel to do battle. In heaven, the last bowl (the seventh judgment) is poured upon the earth:
And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been seen since man was on the earth…The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of His wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people… Rv. 16:18 – 21. ESV
The city is Jerusalem, the headquarters of Satan’s false religion (i.e. Babylon). The seventh bowl brings cataclysmic destruction upon the earth, completely changing its surface.
At this point, an angel takes John, (in his vision), earthward and backward in time to show him more of the parts the devil has played in the downfall of man:
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked to 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.”
So he carried me away the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornications. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. Rv. 17:1 – 6. NKJV
In the Bible, when the word ‘fornication’ is not referring to sex out of wedlock, it always refers to idolatry, i.e. false religion. It is an institution that perverts the word of God to bring glory to itself. This scripture tells us that all of the earthly governments conspire with false religion to control its constituents.
We see that the ‘harlot’ (false religious institution) has grown wealthy from her association with the world and is literally astride (being supported by) Satan’s beast. So, it is fitting that she bears the cup full of ‘abominations’ (idolatry and all of its related practices).
The names on the woman’s forehead are also revealing. ‘Mystery’ is from the Greek mustering, meaning a ‘secret’ or ‘mystery’ – associated with the silence often imposed in the initiation of shady religious rites. It suggests the occult. ‘Babylon the Great’ (when not referring to the ancient empire that conquered Judah), is always used in the Bible to represent an institution of false religion.
The ‘mother of harlots’ depicts false religion as the pinnacle of earthly evil; and the ‘mother of the abominations of the earth’ tell us that false religion stands for everything that is against God. Finally, we see that false religion is responsible for the deaths of the saints throughout history.
The angel speaks again:
“…I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. The beast you saw was, and is not, and is about to come out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.” Rv. 17:7, 8. NASB
The beast was and then was not (is mortally wounded), and it will supposedly come back to life. He will then go to his destruction, because his time on earth is short. Until then, he will deceive all of the people who reject Jesus, i.e. those whose names are not found in the book of life.
The angel gives John further clarification:
“This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of which have fallen, one is, the other is yet to 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.” Rv. 17:9 – 11. ESV
Some interpret the symbolic mountains to be ancient Rome, other see it as the papacy, and still others believe them to represent all of the kingdoms that will rise up against God’s children.
There is yet another interpretation that references the events that were happening in the world about the time John received his vision (90 A.D.). This interpretation says that the seven mountains represent certain world empires: the first five being those that have already fallen – Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persian and Greek. The kingdom that ‘is’ would be the Roman empire during John’s time on the earth; and there hasn’t been a world empire since.
The seventh empire will be that of Satan’s world system (the beast), and the eighth is a representative of the seventh – the Antichrist, who uses false religion to bring himself to power until the time of the mid-tribulations, whereupon he declares himself to be God.
The angel continues to speak:
“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is the Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called chosen and faithful.” Rv. 17:12 – 14. NKJV
The ten horns are ten nations that give their alliance to the Antichrist – promising to stand with him in battle, against the Son of God. ‘One hour’ means that this alliance will be short-lived.
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 with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry his purpose of being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth. Rv. 17:15 – 18. ESV
When the Antichrist declares himself to be God, he will destroy the institution of false religion, because it cannot support his claim of divinity and keep itself relevant. Until that time, false religion will reign supreme over the world systems.
The ‘city’ is the false religion institution (in whatever form that is going to take).
It’s interesting to note that God uses the devil’s own devices to wipe out false religion. The plot thickens…
Goodnight and God bless.