a. The Scarlet Woman: Rome, 17:1-18
Such great importance was attached to Rome as the center of the persecuting power
of the first century that three whole chapters are given to portray her doom.
This is a series of scenes in the pageant to show the fate of Rome as it had already been
foreshadowed in 14:8 and 16:19.
Here Rome is pictured as a great harlot who sits upon many waters and practices her fornication
with the kings of the earth.
She is guilty of spiritual fornication in her idol worship, and she entices the kings of the provinces
as she conquers them to partake of the evil with her.
The waters upon which she sits are symbolical of the people over whom she reigns.
She is thus described to John.
But when they reach the stage where the pageant is being shown, she is seated upon
a scarlet-colored beast, which is full of blasphemous names, has seven heads and ten horns.
The beast, the color of the dragon-devil in chapter 12, is no doubt the Empire
which supports this wicked city.
The woman was dressed in luxurious and haughty splendor and held in her hand a cup.
The cup held the unclean things of her fornication.
This is evidently the same as what is pictured in verse 6, where the woman is drunk
all the time (present participle) with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus.
" The unclean things of her fornication " are, then, the evils
which have come out of her idol worship and persecution.
Her " offspring" is quite different from that of the Radiant Woman of chapter 12.
Her name is written upon her forehead, " Mystery, Babylon the Great,
the Mother of the Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth."
She was a mystery, a wonder.
What a woman and what a beast to be ridden by her!
She is the great harlot, the one responsible for the idol-emperor worship,
and she is the mother of a family of harlots.
She delights to drink the blood of the martyrs.
She is intoxicated by it.
Many of the futurist hold that this speaks of the city of Babylon which is to be restored in the last days.
The continuous-historical group says that this is the apostate Roman Catholic Church.
Perhaps the safest method is to take the explanation which the angel gave to John:
"Wherefore didst thou wonder?
I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her."
He explains that the beast " was, and is not; and is about to come up out of the abyss,
and go into perdition."
This is a reflection of the Nero redivivus myth.
The Roman Empire is thus pictured as personified in Domitian, the reincarnation of Nero.
The empire is about to suffer destruction.
The heathen world wonders at the history and progress of Rome.
Those who are Christian do not wonder at her because they know she is doomed.
Beginning with verse 9, the angel explains that the seven heads of the beast are seven mountains.
Rome was built on seven hills.
They are also seven kings which a form the basis of the great empire:
Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Vespasian, and Titus.
There is an eighth who is to have a part in this history, but he is one of the seven already mentioned.
He was and is the reincarnation of the evil, persecuting work of Nero.
The 10 horns of the beast represent the power of the Empire.
Her power was in her provinces, so this symbol which the angel identifies
as " ten kings, who have received no kingdom as yet; but they receive authority as kings,
with the beast, for one hour."
This must refer to the vassal kings, rulers of Rome's provinces, who receive authority from Rome
and enjoy this delegated authority for a very short time -- " one hour."
They have only one thought, and that is to obey the Roman Empire which is personified in Domitian.
That it is the reason they have been so zealous to persecute the Christians.
They war with the Lamb, but the Lamb is victorious because He is " Lord of lords, and King of kings."
The time will come when these provinces will have their part in her destruction.
This was one of the greatest fears that Rome had.
Everywhere in the book of Acts there are indications of Rome's fear of any kind of turmoil
and unrest which might possibly turn into a revolution.
The chapter closes with a statement that the woman, the harlot who met this destruction,
was the great city which lorded it over the kings of the earth.
The first triumph pictured to the Christians is a certain doom of imperial Rome.
Next: b. The Oracles Of Doom: Rome's Allies, 18:1-20