Lamb Overcomes the Beast and Harlot

SynopsisThe Lamb overcomes the Beast and the kings of the earth, only in paradoxical waysRevelation 17:14-18.

Lamb Appears - by Hetty Stellingwerf on Unsplash Next, John is provided with the interpretation of what he has just seen. The “Harlot” is the “great city” that reigns over the political powers of the earth in alliance with the Beast. Her persecution of the saints is an extension of the Dragon’s war against the Lamb. Inevitably, the Lamb overcomes the Beast, the Harlot, and the “kings of the earth,” however, in a most ironic fashion.

In describing the Lamb’s victory, the passage uses Daniel 7:21 but in a reverse fashion from previously (“The little horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them”). Now, Jesus will use the “kings of the earth” to destroy the very Harlot with whom they have “fornicated,” and from whom they have profited.

  • (Revelation 17:14-18) – “These, with the Lamb, will make war; and the Lamb will overcome them, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, — and they who are with him are called and chosen and faithful. And he saith unto me — The waters which thou sawest, where the harlot sitteth, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest and the wild-beast, these shall hate the harlot and desolate shall make her and naked, and her flesh shall they eat, and herself shall they burn up with fire. For God hath put into their hearts to do his mind and to do one mind, — and to give their sovereignty unto the wild-beast, until the words of God shall be completed. And the woman whom thou sawest is the great city, which hath sovereignty over the kings of the earth.” [Source:  The Emphasized Bible].

These will make war with the Lamb.” The demonstrative pronoun or “these” refers to the “ten kings” or “horns” that have not received “sovereignty yet but will receive authority as kings for one hour” (verses 12-13). The victory of the Lamb over the “kings of the earth” was anticipated in the sixth seal opening when the “kings of the earth and the great men…hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:15-17).

The present text does not explain how these “ten kings” wage “war” with the Lamb; however, the Greek word for “war” or polemos was used previously for the “war,” singular, that was waged by the earthly minions of the Dragon against the “saints,” in each case, alluding to Daniel 7:21:

  • (Daniel 7:21) - “The little horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them.
  • (Revelation 11:7) – “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the Abyss will make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.”
  • (Revelation 12:17) – “The Dragon was enraged with the woman and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
  • (Revelation 13:7) – “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them.”

The Lamb will overcome them, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings.” The designation of the Lamb as “Lord of lords and king of kings” alludes to the (ironic) words of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar recorded in Daniel 2:47. After the prophet interpreted his dream of a great image, Nebuchadnezzar declared, “Of a truth it is, your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, seeing that you could reveal this mystery.”

The Lamb is not alone in his victory - “They who are with him are called and chosen and faithful.” The terms refer to “overcoming” saints and anticipate the vision of the Rider on a White Horse who is accompanied by an army of “saints arrayed in fine linen, white, pure.” That Rider is also identified as the “King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 2:10, 2:13, 19:11-16).

New York waterfront - Photo by Tim Stief on Unsplash
East River, New York

The angel continues to interpret what John sees - The “waters” on which the Harlot sits are “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.” The image of Babylon sitting on “many waters” is derived from a prophetic dirge against the ancient city of Babylon by the prophet Jeremiah:

  • (Jeremiah 51:13) - “Yahweh has stirred up the spirit of the kings of the Medes; because his purpose is against Babylon, to destroy it…for Yahweh has purposed and done that which he spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon. O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, the measure of thy covetousness.”

The old city of Mesopotamia was located inland on a broad alluvial plain, not along the seashore. However, it straddled the Euphrates river and, thus, conducted commerce with the nations via ships that arrived from the sea. Also, the city had built numerous canals many of which were used to transport cargo.

The plain on which Babylon was built provided no natural resources other than fertile soil for agriculture and mud for bricks - No trees for lumber, no sources of minerals for metals and jewels, not even stones for building purposes.  Almost all non-agricultural resources had to be imported - The city was completely dependent on international commerce. In the end, Babylon was overthrown when an army of the “Medes and Persians” dammed the Euphrates to create an entryway into the city along its dried riverbed.

The fourfold description of “peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues” is frequent in Revelation. Here, it echoes Revelation 11:9 where the “people and kindreds and tongues and nations” of the “great city” rejoiced over the corpses of the Two Witnesses martyred by the “Beast that ascended out of the Abyss.”

The Beast and the kings of the earth hate the Harlot and render her “desolate and naked, and her flesh shall they eat, and herself, shall they burn up with fire. This again alludes to Jeremiah’s judicial pronouncement against ancient Babylon:

  • (Jeremiah 50:13) – “Because of the wrath of Yahweh she shall not be inhabited, but she shall be wholly desolate.”
  • (Jeremiah 50:41-42) – “Behold, a people shall come from the north, and a great nation, and many kings shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth. They shall hold the bow and the lance: they are cruel, and will not shew mercy: their voice shall roar like the sea, and they shall ride upon horses, every one put in array, like a man to the battle, against thee, O daughter of Babylon.”
  • (Jeremiah 51:58) – “The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly overthrown, and her high gates shall be burned with fire; and the peoples shall labor for vanity, and the nations for the fire; and they shall be weary.”

God put into their hearts to do his mind and to do one mind.” That is, to destroy Babylon. He remains in firm control of events. In this way, the “ten kings” receive their “sovereignty” in an ironic fashion. They presume that by giving their allegiance to the “Beast” it will destroy the Lamb; however, God uses their action to destroy the enemy of His saints - Babylon.

The kings receive sovereignty “until the words of God should be completed.” This is a verbal link to the preceding “seven bowls of wrath” that “completed the wrath of God.” The last bowl overthrew Babylon, the “great city,” after which a voice from within the heavenly sanctuary declared, “it is finished!” The narrative is moving inexorably toward the complete destruction of the enemies of the Lamb (Revelation 15:1, 15:8, 16:17-21).

The woman whom you saw is the great city, which has sovereignty over the kings of the earth.” The Harlot is identical to the “great city” mentioned elsewhere in the book. Thus, the dead bodies of the two witnesses lie in the “street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.” In the final “hour,” a tenth of the city falls when it is struck by an “earthquake.” The Son of Man treads the winepress of the wrath of God outside the “city.” And when the seventh angel emptied the seventh bowl of wrath, the “great city was divided into three parts and the cities of the nations, fell” (Revelation 11:8-13, 14:20, 16:19. Cp. Revelation 18:18-21).

The last verse also confirms that the “ten kings” are identical with the “kings of the earth” seen elsewhere in Revelation allied with the Beast to make war against the saints of God (Revelation 6:15, 16:12, 17:2).

The downfall of Babylon and the victory of the “saints” is described in detail in the next chapter with a special emphasis on her the destruction of her economic means and its influence over the nations of the earth.

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