Word@Work, Let God's Word energise your working day!

Wickedness Personified 1

Revelation 17:1-4
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, 'Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.' Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. (NIVUK)

This chapter is occupied with a description of a wicked woman who seduced the world leaders into giving her whatever she wanted. Her identity is not a female human being but a city (or better, world system) to which the governments have given their allegiance (Revelation 17:18). However, the picture language of this vision, shown to John by Jesus, casts this global ideology as different from the Antichrist (the beast) and the false prophet of Revelation (the other beast) in Revelation chapter 14. It is an ideology which is mobilised by the Antichrist (Revelation 17:3, 7).

In the Last Days, this deception will be welcomed as the universal way to satisfaction and security. But there is no faithfulness to the truth. A new normality will be adopted which is the reverse of biblical morality. It will be a heady liberation for leaders and their people alike, encouraging what God forbids and forbidding what God commands. Blasphemy will be right and honouring God will be wrong. The beast (Antichrist) is the same as in Revelation 13:1 and covered with blasphemous names. A contemporary example for John would have been the Roman emperors who liked to deify themselves: Emperor Domitian, for example, was addressed as 'Our Lord and God'.

This 'woman' was sensual, rich, and powerful. She demanded much from her lovers and in return offered poison. It is the classic scenario of wickedness which offers much, becomes highly desirable and then entraps the tempted person so there is no escape (Proverbs 6:25-29). The waters, by which the temptress sits, are the inhabitants of the world in their country and language groups (Revelation 17:15). The scene is being set for a battle against the Lamb, Jesus Christ, who will overcome because He is Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 17:14).

Many suggestions have been made about who this bad woman represents: obsolete, apostate or false religion; a new morality; an organisation or egocentric philosophy. This spectrum, although each idea has its adherents, should encourage us to expect a variety of distortions or denials of Biblical lifestyle in the future, and each societal shift away from Biblical norms as being a prelude to the turmoil of the Last Days. What does the church do in response? In democracies we can use our right to express our view, but righteousness in a society is achieved by the Lord's hand and the faithful witness of believers who refuse to be intimidated (Zechariah 4:6). Our responsibility is to hold onto Jesus, His Word and His Spirit, living in obedience and courage, proclaiming that Jesus is Lord.

Lord God. It seems hard to anticipate such dreadful days, and yet we thank You for not only explaining that they will come, but also that they will be short-lived and that all who belong to You are kept safe by You. Forgive me if I have ignored this coming reality and I ask that You will help me to hold on to Jesus and actively proclaim His lordship in my life and in what I say to others. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
Bible Book: 

© Dr Paul Adams