The meaning of this chapter is pretty clear – Babylon is symbolic of all the evils of the world, and is depicted as a whore (because we all know that the personification of evil would have to be female). In v 1-6, John is told that kings have committed adultery with her, and her immorality has corrupted the world, and so god will impose his judgement on her. Babylon is depicted as a woman sitting on a red beast with 7 heads and 10 horns, and blasphemies written on it.
I find this confusing – is this the beast from chapter 12, or from chapter 13? The description has elements of both. She holds a goblet full of impurities and immorality, and is drunk with the blood of god’s people. From his description of her, I’d say that John tried to think of the most abhorrent characteristics he could to personify evil; and if this is the list, he has a few hang-ups, not the least of which is misogyny.
I read some notes about this chapter from a fundie website to try to gain some understanding. The color of the woman’s robes (v 4) is mentioned, with the comment “If you are familiar with pictures of the Vatican Council as published in national magazines, you will have observed that the bishops and cardinals wore purple and scarlet robes.” Methinks that fundies don’t have much use for Catholics! Yup, as I continue reading, he goes on to say “The Catholic Church is many times decorated this way, but I believe this includes all of the apostate church, Protestant and Catholic.” Slam!
In v 7-18 the symbolism is explained, and it’s complicated; I cannot begin to understand all of it. The beast that died but will rise again seems to be a reference to the Roman Empire waxing and waning before its final destruction. And of course, it goes without saying that anyone who is not marked in the Book of Life is doomed. V 9-10 The city of 7 hills is Rome – the centre of all evil. The 7 heads of the beast represent ‘kings’. Who are these kings? Apologists don’t agree.
Some say they are leaders of the Roman Empire. Some even allege that they are popes. Have fun with that.
V 11 The final world kingdom, ruled by the Anti-Christ, will be the 8th. V 12-14 refer to 10 kings who have not yet come to power, but who will unite and reign with the beast (ie rule the evil world). The fundie apologist believes that the European Union fulfills this prophesy. Scary or what? And worse – he continues on with “we Christians are in a battle… The flag we Christians fly is the banner of righteousness… Believers…are willing to lay down their lives for the cause of Jesus…We are the called, chosen and faithful. Hallelujah!”
V 16-17 are supposed to represent the evil world leaders turning against the world and the ‘world church’. I think this refers to all those ‘other churches’ that don’t preach fundamentalism (‘apostate churches’). According to one, this is deemed “false religion, humanity’s attempt for self-government in defiance of God’s will, and city dwellings for commercial and social purposes contrary to God’s command to be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. These great evils, which have damned the souls of millions by substituting counterfeit solutions to natural human problems that would ordinarily lead a person to God, will all be destroyed at the end of the Tribulation period.”
My feeling when I read V 17 (“God has put a plan into their minds, a plan that will carry out his purposes…”) was – so much for free will. Yahweh is back to his old tricks – the evil machinations of a sadistic manipulator. V 18 The ‘Great City’ is Babylon. Per the fundie site “Babylon has had the most harmful effect on mankind of all the cities of the world. For all idolatrous religion, greed-based commerce, and secular government were begun there. At the end of the Tribulation, God will destroy them all in the seventh or last vial judgment in fulfillment of prophecy in Isaiah 47:1 – 9 (Isaiah 21:9).”
Wow – I don’t know about you, but I find this just about as terrorizing as ISIS. Pot, meet kettle!
When I was looking for an image to accompany this chapter I came across another really wacko video. It would be funny if wasn’t intended to be serious.
V 1-8 Babylon has been destroyed, and John/god/the angel/believers in general are gloating. Whether Babylon is a literal city or just a metaphor for the evil world is not agreed on by apologists. But whichever it is, these verses depict schadenfreude. The level of hateful glee in others’ misery is more than a little sick.
And the words are not all original, by the way. John steals from Isaiah 21:9, Jeremiah 51:45, and Isaiah 47:7,8. I almost missed this, but the words of v 4 “Come away from her, my people. Do not take part in her sins, or you will be punished with her” are just another way of prohibiting believers from associating with the out-group and isolating themselves from the world.
In v 9-20, all the world weeps for Babylon. These verses are in interesting read and relatively self-explanatory. Obviously all those who did business with Babylon would grieve as the economy virtually shuts down and all trade ceases – even the slave trade (v 13). But the author of Revelation does not care; he is sure that they all had it coming, since Babylon represents the entire evil world system.
V 21-24 goes back to the schadenfreude – the angel is just rubbing it in. The destruction is final.