Tag Archives: Rev 17-18

Ranko Stefanovic on the Editorial Changes to His Lesson Manuscript on Rev 17-18

Ranko Stefanovic just checked in from Sao Paulo Brazil. He has been traveling and unable to send before, please accept his apologies. Better late than never. From here on is his brief analysis of the editorial changes followed by the original lesson as it came from his own hand:

Except here and there some minor editorial changes, the Sabbath School Quarterly week 12 has retained the intention of the pre-edited version.

In the Monday lesson, the last paragraph was removed: “Both groups are equally deceived and have put themselves into the service of Babylon: the world leaders serve Babylon for personal benefit while the general populace serves Babylon as a result of seduction. Revelation tells us that, at the time of the end, the world will once again be dominated by a religious system similar to the one of the Middle Ages. Yet, the time will come when the people will realize the impotence of Babylon and will turn against it, however, too late (see Rev. 17:12-16). This concept is depicted as the drying up of the Euphrates River, when the disillusioned supporters of Babylon withdraw their support from this apostate religious system.”

Lesson 12 * March 16-22

Judgment on Babylon

Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Rev. chaps. 17-18; 2:20-23; 13:5-8.
Memory Text: “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (Revelation 18:4-5, NKJV).
We saw that the sixth plague causes the symbolic drying up of the Euphrates, as the disillusioned people of the world withdraw their popular support from end-time Babylon. However, its fall will be followed by extensive demonic activities counterfeiting the work of God, doing miraculous signs, the most evident of which is bringing fire down from heaven (Rev. 13:13). The demonic activity is successful in uniting the whole world in preparation for the Battle of Armageddon against God’s faithful remnant.
At the outset of the final battle, a great earthquake occurs as part of the seventh plague. The earthquake shatters the unity of Babylon and splits it into three parts (Rev. 16:18-19). End-time Babylon is portrayed as a city, signifying the short-term union of the satanic trinity—the dragon, the sea beast, and the earth beast—in its alliance with the religious powers of the world in opposition to God’s people. This unity is shattered, causing the breakup of end-time Babylon.
We must keep in mind that Revelation 16:19 only pronounces the collapse of end-time Babylon. Chapters 17-18 tell us how this collapse will actually happen. Before describing the demise of end-time Babylon and the reasons for its fall (Rev. 17:12-18:24), Revelation 17 describes this end-time apostate religious system, this time in terms of a prostitute riding the beast who, in association with her daughters, seduces the world against God (vs. 1-11).
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 22.

Sunday March 17
The Prostitute Babylon
Read Revelation 17:1. Jeremiah 51:13 shows that the “many waters” upon which Babylon sits is the river Euphrates. According to Revelation 17:15, what do many waters symbolize?
A woman in the Bible is a symbol for God’s people. In Revelation, God’s faithful people are portrayed as a chaste woman (Rev. 12:1; 22:17). A harlot thus represents apostate and unfaithful people. In Revelation 17:5, this prostitute is identified as Babylon the Great. Just as ancient Babylon depended on the Euphrates River for its existence, so will end-time Babylon rely on the support of the governing world powers to enforce its plans.
Read Revelation 17:2 along with 14:8 and 18:2-3. What two groups of people are specified as involved in an illicit relationship with and being seduced by end-time Babylon?
The first group is the kings of the earth—these are the governing political powers. They are portrayed as being engaged in an adulterous relationship with the prostitute Babylon. In the Old Testament, the language of fornication is used frequently to describe how apostate Israel turned away from God to idolatry (Isa. 1:21; Jer. 3:1-10). The adulterous relationship between the kings of the earth and the harlot symbolizes an illicit union between end-time Babylon and the governing political powers in the final crisis.
The second group in an illicit relationship with the prostitute Babylon is the inhabitants of the earth. These are made spiritually drunk with the wine of Babylon’s fornication. In contrast to the governing political powers, the general populace is intoxicated by Babylon’s deceptive teachings and activities. When people are drunk, they do not think soberly, and are easily controlled (see Isa. 28:7). Only when they are sober will they come to realize their bad decisions and actions.
Both groups are equally deceived and have put themselves into the service of Babylon: the world leaders serve Babylon for personal benefit while the general populace serves Babylon as a result of seduction. Revelation tells us that, at the time of the end, the world will once again be dominated by a religious system similar to the one of the Middle Ages. Yet, the time will come when the people will realize the impotence of Babylon and will turn against it, however, too late (see Rev. 17:12-16). This concept is depicted as the drying up of the Euphrates River, when the disillusioned supporters of Babylon withdraw their support from this apostate religious system.
How does someone drink of the wine of Babylon? Must a person be in Babylon to drink of Babylon’s wine?

Monday March 18
The Prostitute Riding on the Beast
Read Revelation 17:3. While John was told that the prostitute sited on many waters, he sees her actually riding the beast. In what ways do the symbols water and beast suitably describe the supporters of Babylon?
As John is carried in vision into the wilderness, he sees a woman on a scarlet beast, not on waters. While the prostitute represents a religious entity, the beast symbolizes a political power. The picture of religion riding the secular and political powers points to two separate entities, something that was not the case in the past, when religion and politics were integrated. The prophecy shows, however, that these two will join together at the end-time. The concept of riding a beast denotes dominance; this shows that this end-time religious system will dominate the secular and political powers.
Which characteristics of the prostitute point to the sea beast of Revelation 13? Make a list of their common features.
The prostitute is pictured as extravagantly arrayed in purple and scarlet and adorned with ornaments of gold and precious stones and pearls; this was a practice of prostitutes in antiquity to enhance their power of seduction (Jer. 4:30). As the color of blood, scarlet corresponds to the oppressive character of this religious system.
The harlot’s dress also reminds one of the attire of the High Priest in the Old Testament, which included the colors purple, scarlet, and gold (Exod. 28:5-6). The inscription on her forehead also resembles the priestly inscription, “Holiness to the Lord” on the miter of the high priest (Exod. 28:36-38). The cup in her hand replicates the drink offering in the sanctuary (Exod. 30:9). With its historic religious appearance, this end-time religious system becomes Satan’s powerful tool in seducing the world away from God. However, regardless of its appearance, this religious system is a harlot and the mother of harlots. Babylon’s daughters are the world religious powers that will unite with the satanic trinity, forming an end-time religious confederacy.
The harlot Babylon is further described as drunk with the blood of the saints and the martyrs of Jesus who died due to their witness to Christ. This links end-time Babylon to the medieval apostate Christianity of western Europe, which was led by the papacy and responsible for the deaths of millions of Christians who remained faithful to the gospel.
The description of the prostitute Babylon reflects the image of Jezebel in the church of Thyatira (see Rev. 2:20-23). How do the parallels between these two women elucidate the character of end-time Babylon?

Tuesday March 19
The Identification of the Beast
Read Revelation 17:6b-7. Why is John so astonished when he sees the prostitute? The angel promised to explain to him the mystery of the prostitute. Yet, he instead places all the focus on the scarlet beast. Why?
The likely reason for John’s astonishment at seeing the prostitute was that he recognized in her the woman that had fled into the wilderness in order to escape the persecution of the dragon during the prophetic 1260-day period of the Middle Ages (Rev. 12:13-14). This suggests that this end-time apostate religious system was once faithful to Christ. The church that in the past was faithful to God will, at the end time, turn into the opponent of God’s people and lead people away from God.
In response to John’s amazement, the angel explains to him the mystery of the woman and the beast that carries her.
Read Revelation 17:8. Compare the wording of this verse with 13:8. How does Revelation 13:3 clarify the three phases of the existence and activities of the beast?
The scarlet beast is identified as the one that was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. This tripartite phrase is, first of all, a parody of the divine name Yahweh —“who is and who was, and who is to come” (Rev. 1:4; 4:8). It also further points to the three phases of existence through which the beast has passed:
(1) The beast “was,” as it existed in the past. This refers to the activities of the beast during the period of the prophetic 1260-days (see Rev. 13:5).
(2) “Is not.” With its deadly wound (see Rev. 13:3), the beast came into its non-existence phase; it vanished for some time from the world scene, yet it survived.
(3) Finally, with the healing of the deadly wound, the beast will come back to life again in full satanic rage against God’s faithful people.
Revelation 17 describes the beast of Revelation 13:1-8 at the time of the healing of its deadly wound. It is upon this resurrected beast that prostitute Babylon sits. Revelation thus tells us that once again there will be a short-lived union of religion and politics, as it existed during the Middle Ages. The revival of the medieval religious system will arouse the admiration of the inhabitants of the earth, all those whose names are not written in the Book of Life. This reiterates verbatim Revelation 13:8, which clearly links the scarlet beast that carries the prostitute Babylon with the medieval apostate religious system.

Wednesday March 20
The Seven Heads of the Beast
Throughout history, the beast existed and functioned by its heads—one head at a time. The angel proceeds to explain the meaning of the beast’s heads.
Read Revelation 17:9-11 along with 13:18. The requirement for understanding the seven heads is a mind of wisdom. What kind of wisdom is in view here? How does one obtain this divinely imparted wisdom (see James 1:5)?
The angel explains that the seven heads are seven mountains. Some translators think that these are the seven hills upon which the city of Rome is situated, and this is why they translate the Greek word oroi [“mountains”) as “hills.” However, the angel makes clear that Rome was not meant because he immediately explains that these mountains symbolize seven kings. Also, these mountains are successive, not synchronic.
These mountains are not individual kings because Revelation does not deal with individual persons but systems. In the Bible, mountains often symbolize world powers or empires (Jer. 51:25; Ezek. 35:2-3). In biblical prophecy, “kings,” mean kingdoms (see Dan. 2:37-39; 7:17). Thus, the seven mountains represent seven great successive empires that dominated the world throughout history, through which Satan opposed God and harmed God’s people.
As the angel now identifies these seven kingdoms, he does it from John’s time perspective, rather than from the perspective of the future.
Five of these empires have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. The five that have fallen are the great kingdoms that in the Old Testament times dominated and harmed God’s people: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. The “one is” kingdom was the Roman Empire of John’s time. The seventh kingdom that “has not yet come” is the beast of Revelation 13—the medieval church led by the papacy that dominated and harmed God’s people—that was to come after the time of John and after the fall of the Roman Empire.
John is further told that the scarlet beast is in the phase of the eighth head, although it is one of the seven. Which of the seven? Most likely the seventh head that received the deadly wound. It is at the time of this eighth head that the scarlet beast carries the prostitute Babylon. Today, we live at the time of the healing of the deadly wound. The eighth head will appear on the scene right before the end, and will go to perdition.
John was told that the seventh power “must continue a short time.” How does Revelation 12:12 explain that this “short time” does not refer to a length of time?

Thursday March 21
The Fall of Babylon
Read Revelation 17:12-15 along with 16:12-16. What do you learn from the text about the “ten kings”?
Different interpretations have been offered regarding the identity of the ten kings. However, Revelation does not tell us who they are; like any unfulfilled prophecy, only the future will reveal their full identity. All we can derive from the text is that they are a short-lived political confederacy appearing right before the end. Their number denotes the totality of the world powers that will render their allegiance to the beast. The beast will use them to enforce its plans and purposes, which will last only for a short time.
Now, Revelation 17:13-14 reiterates in a nutshell the Battle of Armageddon—introduced in Revelation 12:12-17. Induced by the satanic trinity, the worldwide political confederacy will make war with the Lamb. This shows that the final battle is not a military battle in the Middle East, but a battle between Satan and his confederacy and Christ and His faithful people. Babylon’s aim is to destroy God’s people. The battle will conclude with the triumph of Christ and the destruction of the worldwide confederacy that loyally supported Babylon (see Rev. 19:11-21).
Read Revelation 17:16-18. From what we saw in Revelation 16:2-12, what lies behind the ten kings’ change of attitude towards Babylon? Who is behind what happens to Babylon?
This whole scenario is another description of the drying up of the Euphrates River (Rev. 16:12). The ten horns, filled with hatred, suddenly turn against the harlot Babylon, making her desolate and naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. In describing this scene, John employs Old Testament language that depicts His judgments against adulterous Jerusalem (Jer. 4:30). Burning by fire was the punishment for a daughter of the high priest who was involved in prostitution (Lev. 21:9), which is a further indication that the prostitute Babylon denotes a religious system that was once true to God. As Revelation 16:10-12 indicates, the deceived political powers have become disillusioned because of the impotence of Babylon to protect them from the plagues. They feel deceived and in hostility attack her, bringing her to ruin. This end-time apostate religious system experiences the fullness of divine judgment together with all those who chose to identify themselves with it.
Read Revelation 18:1-3 and 7-19. Revelation states that Babylon is judged and charged on three grounds: religious, political, and economic. How do those who cooperated with Babylon and caused its destruction lament, realizing that Babylon’s destruction means their own loss of power and wealth?

Friday March 22
Further Thought: Right before the demise of Babylon, a voice from heaven urges God’s people still in Babylon to, “Come out of her, My people” (Rev. 18:4). There are many worshippers of God who are in Babylon for various reasons. To them, God sends His final appeal to disentangle themselves from this apostate religious system and not participate in its sins. They must come out of it in order to escape its fate. God does not want anyone in Babylon to perish. Revelation 19:1-10 shows that many God-fearing people in Babylon will respond to the call.
Discussion Questions:
As Revelation 18:4 shows, there are many God-fearing people in Babylon who God calls, “My people.” Reflect on the following statement: “This message must be given, but while it must be given, we should be careful not to thrust and crowd and condemn those who have not the light that we have. We should not go out of our way to make hard thrusts at the Catholics. Among the Catholics there are many who are most conscientious Christians, and who walk in all the light that shines upon them, and God will work in their behalf. Those who have had great privileges and opportunities, and who have failed to improve their physical, mental, and moral powers, . . . are in greater danger and in greater condemnation before God than those who are in error upon doctrinal points, yet who seek to live to do good to others”—Ellen G. White, Evangelism, p. 575.
At the time of Daniel, Babylon was an evil power opposing God (see Isa. 14:12-14) and the enemy of God’s people. However, there were many sincere people in Babylon, who God wanted through Daniel to win for Himself. Do you see God-fearing people in Babylon today? While Babylon is an evil apostate religious system, God still loves the Babylonians and wants to save them. The question that deserves serious consideration is: where are God’s Daniels of today?
Some spend much time in making detailed timetables and prophetic charts regarding the final events. Should our time be better used in analyzing geographical maps for the purpose of reaching others for Christ?
Revelation 17 describes a prostitute sitting on a scarlet beast. While the woman in chapter 12 symbolizes God’s faithful church, the one in 17 refers to an apostate church seducing the world away from God. In your view, are these two women related?

Revelation Teacher’s Quarterly, Week 12, March 16-23 Analysis of Changes Made in the Editorial Process for the Teacher’s Edition

Basic theme: Revelation 17-18

The changes to the Teacher’s Edition of the Adult Sabbath School Study Guide (known popularly as the Sabbath School Quarterly) for January to March 2019 were probably the most substantial of the whole quarter, so this blog will be longer than most.

In the Introduction to the Overview (and elsewhere in this week’s lesson) the word “prostitute” was changed to “harlot” in reference to Rev 17:18. This at first made no sense to me as the word “harlot” is no longer in common use, at least with the younger generation. But in light of my discovery that the editor(s) are working with the New King James Version, it made sense. There is a strong lobby in the SDA Church to retain the King James Version or its updated equivalent, the NKJV, as the Bible of choice for the English-speaking church. Such a move is not helpful for the younger generation and it is not supported by solid scholarship. There is nothing wrong with either version but to compel others to limit themselves to dated language and an inferior source text is not appropriate. I am not suggesting that the editors are compelling anyone, but their preference is no doubt grounded in the backlash that would come if they showed a preference for other versions of the Bible.

In Lesson Theme I a substantial editorial change improved the outcome.

In Main Theme I of the Commentary section the concept of a worldwide alliance of secular, political power was retained, but the Euphrates River (Rev 16:12) and “many waters” (Rev 17:1) were removed as examples. I can live with that.

There was a major revision in Main Theme III. I had written “The seventh ‘king’ would be the medieval papacy and the ‘eighth’ (Rev. 17:11) king, who is one of the seven, would be the revived Babylon of chapter 17, an entity that in its fullness is still in our future.” The editors removed that sentence and added the following: “The seventh kingdom is the medieval Roman papacy, and the “eighth” kingdom (Rev. 17:11), which is one of the seven, would be the revived Roman papacy—the Babylon of Revelation 17, which includes the other two members of the satanic triad (the “dragon” of paganism/spiritualism and the “false prophet” of apostate Protestantism). This globalized form of Babylon riding on the scarlet beast of secular political power is still in the future.” The latter is based more on what Ellen White says in The Great Controversy than on direct exegesis of the text. From a scholarly perspective, that would be appropriate to a lesson on SDA Eschatology or Ellen White’s use of Revelation. In a lesson on the Book of Revelation, the text itself should be the primary source, in my view. But I’m not the one tasked to make that editorial decision.

Even larger changes occurred in Main Themes IV. I will share them in full, so the lesson teacher can be aware of the changes and their significance. I wrote about an alliance of “religious institutions in opposition to God, an alliance of secular political power, and an alliance of the saints. All three are precipitated by the final worldwide proclamation of the gospel (Rev. 14:6-7) and its evil counterpart (16:13-14). Through the counterfeit gospel of demonic angels (16:13-14), Babylon (demonic trinity—16:19). . .” This was removed and the following was added in its place: “the saints composed of an enlarged remnant church that includes those who have come out of Babylon to join them, an alliance of religious institutions, and an alliance of secular political powers. The last two alliances are precipitated by the final, worldwide proclamation of the gospel by the remnant (Rev. 14:6, 7; Rev. 18:1–4). Through the counterfeit gospel “inspired” by the demonic angels (Rev. 16:13, 14), Babylon (the satanic triad [Rev. 16:19]). . .” Again, this is a shift from exegetical language to language more familiar to traditional Adventists, which has a place in a diverse church. I am glad that at least my direct textual references were retained.

Later on in the same paragraph my statement “But when God intervenes (Rev 17:17), drying up Babylon’s support system (secular/political powers (Rev. 16:12), it turns. . .” was replaced with “But the drying up of the Euphrates (Rev. 16:12) symbolically portrays the time when the secular/political powers that supported the harlot Babylon turn. . .” This changes the wording but not the basic meaning of what I wrote. I will have a concluding comment on the challenges of editing in a theologically charged environment in the next and last blog in this series.

Editing the Sabbath School lessons and their Teacher’s Editions is a challenging task. One cannot simply utilize editorial skills and Bible knowledge, there is a whole world of expectations to satisfy both from central leadership and from the wider field of pastors and lay people. Today anyone can have a “bully pulpit” and attract a small or large segment of followers from around the church. Such groups exert pressure and sometimes affect editorial decisions. Although the results are sometimes (some would say often) disappointing from a scholarly perspective, I respect the process. As regards my own Teacher’s Edition, the outcome is probably the best that could have been expected.

Again, for those who don’t have access to the standard printed edition of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide or the Teacher’s Edition for this quarter, you can access them online week by week at https://www.absg.adventist.org/. My original pre-edited Teacher’s Edition manuscript for this week is provided in the previous blog. You can also download audio of me teaching the lesson ahead of time each week at http://pineknoll.org/sabbath-school-lessons.

Original Teachers’ Notes for Rev 17-18 (Week 12)

I share here in blog form my original manuscript of this week’s (March 17-23) Sabbath School Adult Teacher’s Edition for people to compare with the edited version. The changes were not massive or disruptive in most cases. I share my analysis of the changes in the next blog. These comments are not a comprehensive overview of these chapters, they are elaborations of the standard quarterly edition written primarily by my friend Ranko Stefanovic.


Part I: Overview

Key Text: Rev. 17:14.

Study Focus: Revelation seventeen and eighteen focus on the fall of end-time Babylon in the closing days of earth’s history.

Introduction: Rev. 17 describes the rise and fall of end-time Babylon as symbolized by a woman, the great prostitute (Rev. 17:18). Rev. 18 also describes the fall of Babylon, but this time in the image of the great city (Rev. 18:10, 16, 18, 19).

Lesson Themes: The lesson and the focus passage introduce the following themes:

1. Three Worldwide End-Time Alliances. The multiple symbols of Revelation’s end-time coalesce into three great worldwide alliances: 1) religion, 2) secular/political power and 3) the “saints.”
2. The Difference Between Visions and Their Explanations. In a vision the prophet can be taken any time and any place, but explanations of the vision to the prophet, in order to make sense, must come in the time and place of the prophet.
3. The Identity of the Seven Kings of Rev. 17:10. In order to understand the identity of the seven kings of Rev. 17:10 one must determine the time of the sixth king.
4. The Narrative of Rev. 17. Summary of end-time events in light of Theme 1.

Life Application. The Life Application section explores how the presence of faithful people within “Babylon” to the very end should impact the way we treat Christians of other faiths. It also explores the similarities and differences between the women of Rev. 12 and 17, and readiness for the Second Coming.

Part II. Commentary

In Rev. 17 and 18 Babylon gains the support of the secular/political powers of the world for its war against the saints (Rev. 17:6), but eventually they turn on Babylon and destroy her (Rev. 17:16). Rev. 18 expresses their three-fold regret for having done so (Rev 18:9-19). While the fall of Babylon is mourned by the world, it brings rejoicing to the saints (Rev 18:20).

Main Themes of Lesson 12 Elaborated:
1. Three Worldwide End-Time Alliances. Rev. 16-18 contains a bewildering variety of images describing end-time powers and groupings. But upon careful analysis it becomes evident that many of these images are different ways of describing the same thing. For example, the seven heads of the beast are also described as seven mountains and seven kings (Rev. 17:9-10). Likewise, the great prostitute (Rev. 17:1) is clearly the same as the woman who rides the beast (17:3) and Babylon the Great (17:5). We have noticed earlier, in Lesson 11 (Theme 1), that God’s people are also named by many names in the book of Revelation.
The variety of images in these chapters can all be linked to three great, worldwide alliances that develop in the final period of earth’s history. 1) There is a great worldwide alliance of religious institutions that join together in opposition to God and His faithful people. This alliance is named by many names: Babylon, the great prostitute, the great city, and the woman that rides the beast.
2) There is a great worldwide alliance of secular, political and military power. This alliance is also named by many names in Revelation: the Euphrates River (Rev. 16:12), the kings of the whole inhabited world (16:14), the cities of the nations (16:19), the many waters (17:1), the kings of the earth, the earth dwellers (17:2), the beast (17:3), the seven heads, the seven mountains, the seven kings (17:9-10) and the ten horns (17:12-13). These secular powers are also represented by the kings (18:9), merchants (18:11) and sea-farers (18:17) of chapter eighteen.
3) There is also a worldwide, end-time alliance of the saints, which is named by many names: the sealed (Rev. 7:1-3), the 144,000 (7:4-8), the great multitude (7:9-12), the remnant (12:17), the saints (14:12; 17:6), the kings of the east (16:12), those who keep their garments (16:15) and the called, chosen and faithful followers of the Lamb (17:14). In Theme 4 we will briefly explore the narrative of these three alliances in the final days of earth’s history.

2. The Difference Between Visions and Their Explanations. In apocalyptic prophecy, there is an important distinction between visions and explanations. In a vision, the prophet can travel anywhere in the universe and to any point of time. The events of the vision are not necessarily located in the prophet’s time and place. But when the vision is explained to the prophet afterward, the explanation always comes in the time, place and circumstances of the visionary.
For example, in Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar is taken down to the end of time in his vision of the great image and the stone that became a great mountain that filled the whole earth (Dan. 2:31-36). The explanation of the vision by Daniel, however, is firmly grounded in the time and place of Nebuchadnezzar. It begins with a straightforward, unambiguous assertion, “You are that head of gold (Dan 2:38).” Nebuchadnezzar is then told that the series of kingdoms that follow are “after you” (2:39) in point of time.
As was the case with Daniel 2, the apocalyptic prophecy of Dan 7 is also divided into two parts; the vision (Dan 7:2-14 and 21-22), and explanations of the vision (Dan 7:15-20, 23-27). Even though Daniel experienced all elements of the vision, including the final events, the explanation clarifies that the vision is essentially about the future experience of Daniel’s people (Dan 7:17-18, 23-27). The same pattern can be seen in Daniel 8 and Zech 4:1-14.
Prophets don’t usually seem to understand a revelation from visions alone. An explanation is necessary for the revelation to be understood. Since that explanation is given for the benefit of the prophet, it is based on the time, place and circumstances in which the seer lives. This principle has profound implications for the interpretation of difficult apocalyptic texts like Rev 17:7-11, as we will see in Theme 3.

3. The Identity of the Seven Kings of Rev. 17:10. Theme 2 helps us solve one of the most vexing problems in the whole book of Revelation. Who are the seven kings of Rev. 17:10? They are clearly sequential, but where do they begin and when is the “one is” of the angel’s description? Is it a power in John’s day, one at the very end of time, or is it located somewhere else in the course of history? Various Seventh-day Adventist scholars have drawn each of these three conclusions.
One popular option is to see the seven kings as seven consecutive popes. The sequence usually begins with the year 1929, when Mussolini restored Vatican City to the sovereignty of the church, and ends with the very last pope of earth’s history. This view has frequently suggested that a current pope is either the last or the next to last. So this view has led people into date-setting.
A second view is quite popular among SDA scholars. It suggests that the time of the sixth king (the “one is” of 17:10) is the time from 1798 to 1929, when the papacy had no temporal power. The five fallen kings would then be Babylon Persia, Greece, Rome, and the medieval papacy. The “one that is” would be the time when the church has no temporal power. The seventh king would be today, the restored Vatican power.
But Theme 2 above would rule out both options if applied here. The passage about the seven kings is not in the vision (Rev. 17:3-6), it is in the explanation of the vision (17:7-18). So the “one is” king would have to be present at the time when John himself received the vision in order to make sense. If the “one is” kingdom is the pagan Rome of John’s day, the five who are “fallen” would be the super powers of the Old Testament world; Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Greece. The seventh “king” would be the medieval papacy and the “eighth” (Rev. 17:11) king, who is one of the seven, would be the revived Babylon of chapter 17, an entity that in its fullness is still in our future.

4. The Narrative of Rev. 17. As we saw in Theme 1, there are three worldwide alliances that develop in the end-time; an alliance of religious institutions in opposition to God, an alliance of secular political power, and an alliance of the saints. All three are precipitated by the final worldwide proclamation of the gospel (Rev. 14:6-7) and its evil counterpart (16:13-14). Through the counterfeit gospel of demonic angels (16:13-14), Babylon (demonic trinity—16:19) gathers the secular/political powers of the world to its cause (16:14, 16). She “rides” the beast (17:2-7). For a short time, united institutions of religion dominate the world’s governments, turning their fury against the saints (17:6; 13:15-17). But when God intervenes (17:17), drying up Babylon’s support system (secular/political powers—16:12), it turns on her and destroys her (17:16). By this means God saves His end-time remnant from destruction (17:14). After the fall of Babylon, the secular powers of the world meet their end at the Second coming (19:17-21).

Part III: Life Application

In a passage completely focused on the events of the end-time, life applications can be difficult to find. The following suggestions may be helpful.

1. What are the implications for today in the fact that God has His people in the midst of Babylon almost to the very end (Rev. 18:4)? The realization that end-time Babylon has a Christian face should not lead us to harsh and disparaging statements aimed at Catholics or others (see statement from Ellen White, Evangelism, 575, in Friday’s lesson). While the religious leaders and the Zealots both opposed the mission of Jesus, He nevertheless dealt graciously with individual representatives of those groups (Luke 6:15; Mark 12:28-24).

2. What can we learn from the connections between the women of Rev. 12 and 17? There are startling similarities between the women of Rev. 12 and 17. Both women are located in the wilderness (Rev. 12:6,14; 17:3). Both are religious in nature (prostitute Babylon is dressed like the High Priest in 17:4). But the woman of 12 is the church as seen in the middle period of Christian history, the 1260 day/years (see Teacher’s Edition for Lesson 8). What causes John amazement (Rev. 17:6) is that the end-time opponent of God and His people wears a Christian face! This should sober all who follow Jesus. Our pride and stubbornness can lead us to destruction even when we think we are following God (John 16:2).