THE FALL OF SYMBOLIC BABYLON
Rev 17:14-18 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful. And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil His will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.
Although the ancient city of Babylon is often used as a symbol of any power that deceives, wars against, captures, or enslaves God's people, it is used in the Revelation letter primarily to prophetically identify Rome, either its paganistic society or the papacy of the Roman Catholic religion, and their persecution of the church of Christ. This lesson begins with identifying temporal kings and kingdoms that will, and did, identify with, and become allies of the Catholic papacy in order to make war with the Lamb, which is, the New Testament gospel of Christ and His church, who have the awesome responsibility of proclaiming salvation through Christ Jesus throughout the world. Continuing in this verse we are assured of favorable results of this war - the Lamb shall overcome them. In spite of extreme opposition and persecution by the forces of evil, the New Testament church of Christ would never be defeated - the light of the world in Christ Jesus may grow dim at times in history, but it would never be completely extinguished. Why? It is because Jesus Christ is Lord of lords, and King of kings. His power is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. He has supreme power over all people, nations, and kingdoms. Be assured, that power will be finally recognized and believed, by all people of the earth, when it is exercised and made known at the end of time. And they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful. They are His followers who have obediently been baptized for the remission of their sins and added to His Church. They will endure all persecutions, prevail against all adversaries, and continue to proclaim His gospel of salvation throughout the world.
In verse 15 the pronoun "he" was the angel referred to in verses 1, 3, and 7 above. Therefore, it was this angel, this messenger of God, that said to the apostle John, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. "The whore," has also been identified as a harlot and also, symbolically, as the ancient city of Babylon, meaning Rome, and the papacy which rules it. This symbolic reference is to the ruling agencies of the Roman Catholic religion, the apostate church, and the various popes who reign over it. The papacy, at the time indicated, held a double supremacy (spiritual and civil) over numerous populations, signified here as many peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. From the spiritual realm, the popes, or the universal bishops as they were known, wore the crown of a dominant, but errant, world religion. From the temporal realm, they also wore the crown of imperial supremacy, as the ruler over the secular world.
In verse 17, John continues with the message delivered to him from the angel of God, saying that the kings, and kingdoms, previously allied to the ruling papacy of Rome in order to make war with the Lamb, would, in a future time, renounce that alliance, recognize the error of their teaching, turn and war against the Catholic Church and its hierarchy, destroying the power of their once dominant religious and secular authority. Having their power stripped from them, the nakedness of their apostate teachings would be made known throughout the world, and their final overthrow would be eminently assured, as symbolically indicated by her flesh being eaten and burned with fire.
We see in verse 17 the justice of God being carried out against the apostate church of Rome, who, for centuries, used both their religious and secular power to persecute the church of Christ. And, in doing so, they replace the spiritual, New Testament wisdom of God with a anti-Christian doctrine devised by the earthly, covetous, self-righteous wisdom of those appointed to the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. With His divine power, God's intervention resulted in the ten symbolic earthly kings, noted in the previous verse, turning against the Roman religious and temporal powers, defeating them, and restoring the earthly influence of Christ's church, and its ability to openly proclaim the gospel of eternal salvation to the world.
And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth. The woman, referred to in the first six verses of this chapter as the great whore and the mother of harlots, we are assured, symbolically represents the ancient city of Babylon, known here as Rome. Certainly these symbolic scenes, which came from heaven into John's view, and were recorded by him, depicts the destiny of papal Rome as it nears the end its world dominance. Its evil temporal power, and its apostate spiritual leadership that controlled the major portion of the known world for over a thousand years, would assuredly be overthrown and come to an end in the near future.