To emphasize this John sees yet another picture of Rome as one of the seven angels with the bowls carries John "in the Spirit into a wilderness." And what does he see there?
|The Beast With Seven Heads|
... I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: "Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations." And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly. - Rev 17:3-6 ESV
John marvels at this vision, marvels as had many of Jesus' disciples when he performed His miracles and signs (Matt. 8:27; 9:33). So the angel explains the symbolism.
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 whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet 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. And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful." - Rev 17:9-14 ESVAncient Rome was built on seven hills. She is a prostitute, the courtesan of the world, resplendent and seductive, "adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality" (Rev. 17:4).
The Roman historian Tacitus was a fierce critic of Emperor Nero. In his annals he described what happened to those who followed Christ after a great fire burned down a large part of the city:
Yet no human effort, no princely largess nor offerings to the gods could make that infamous rumor disappear that Nero had somehow ordered the fire. Therefore, in order to abolish that rumor, Nero falsely accused and executed with the most exquisite punishments those people called Christians, who were infamous for their abominations. The originator of the name, Christ, was executed as a criminal by the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius; and though repressed, this destructive superstition erupted again, not only through Judea, which was the origin of this evil, but also through the city of Rome, to which all that is horrible and shameful floods together and is celebrated. Therefore, first those were seized who admitted their faith, and then, using the information they provided, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much for the crime of burning the city, but for hatred of the human race. And perishing they were additionally made into sports: they were killed by dogs by having the hides of beasts attached to them, or they were nailed to crosses or set aflame, and, when the daylight passed away, they were used as nighttime lamps. Nero gave his own gardens for this spectacle and performed a Circus game, in the habit of a charioteer mixing with the plebs or driving about the race-course. Even though they were clearly guilty and merited being made the most recent example of the consequences of crime, people began to pity these sufferers, because they were consumed not for the public good but on account of the fierceness of one man.Translated by Richard Hooker
So Rome was drunk, not with wine, but with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus, killed by dogs, nailed to crosses, set aflame and murdered in the Circus games, all under the command of Emperor Nero.
Such type of atrocities continue in our day. And they will continue, but not forever. The beast with the ten horns . . .
...will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful." - Rev 17:14 ESVIn the next post we will continue our study of the beast and the fall of Rome as described in the end of Rev. 17 and on into Rev. 18.