Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Revelation 17:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters - That idolatrous worship is frequently represented in Scripture under the character of a whore or whoredom, is evident from numerous passages which it is unnecessary to quote. See 1 Chronicles 5:25; Ezekiel 16:1-63; 23:1-49, etc. The woman mentioned here is called a great whore, to denote her excessive depravity, and the artful nature of her idolatry. She is also represented as sitting upon many waters, to show the vast extent of her influence. See on Revelation 17:13; (note).

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials - See the notes on Revelation 15:1, Revelation 15:7. Reference is again made to these angels in the same manner in Revelation 21:9, where one of them says that he would show to John “the bride, the Lamb‘s wife.” No particular one is specified. The general idea seems to be, that to those seven angels was entrusted the execution of the last things, or the winding up of affairs introductory to the reign of God, and that the communications respecting those last events were properly made through them. It is clearly quite immaterial by which of these it is done. The expression “which had the seven vials,” would seem to imply that though they had emptied the vials in the manner stated in the previous chapter, they still retained them in their hands.

And talked with me - Spake to me. The word “talk” would imply a more protracted conversation than occurred here.

Come hither - Greek, δεῦρο deuro- “Here, hither.” This is a word merely calling the attention, as we should say now, “Here.” It does not imply that John was to leave the place where he was.

I will shew unto thee - Partly by symbols, and partly by express statements; for this is the way in which, in fact, he showed him.

The judgment - The condemnation and calamity that will come upon her.

Of the great whore - It is not uncommon in the Scriptures to represent a city under the image of a woman - a pure and holy city under the image of a virgin or chaste female; a corrupt, idolatrous, and wicked city under the image of an abandoned or lewd woman. See the notes on Isaiah 1:21; “How is the faithful city become an harlot!” Compare the notes on Isaiah 1:8. In Revelation 17:18, it is expressly said that “this woman is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth” - that is, as I suppose, papal Rome; and the design here is to represent it as resembling an abandoned female - fit representative of an apostate, corrupt, unfaithful church. Compare the notes on Revelation 9:21.

That sitteth upon many waters - An image drawn either from Babylon, situated on the Euphrates, and encompassed by the many artificial rivers which had been made to irrigate the country, or Rome, situated on the Tiber. In Revelation 17:15 these waters are said to represent the peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues over which the government symbolized by the woman ruled. See the notes on that verse. Waters are often used to symbolize nations.

Uriah Smith
Daniel and the Revelation, 657

Verse 1

IN verse 19 of the preceding chapter, we were informed that “great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.” The prophet now takes up more particularly the subject of this great Babylon; and in order to give a full presentation of it, goes back and gives some of the facts of her past history. That this apostate woman, as presented in this chapter, is a symbol of the Roman Catholic Church, is generally believed by Protestants. Between this church and the kings of the earth there has been illicit connection, and with the wine of her fornication, or her false doctrines, the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk.DAR 657.2

Church and State. — This prophecy is more definite than others applicable to the Roman power, in that it distinguishes between church and state. We here have the woman, the church, seated upon a scarlet-colored beast, the civil power, by which she is upheld, and which she controls and guides to her own ends, as a rider controls the animal upon which he is seated.DAR 657.3

The vesture and decorations of this woman, as brought to view in verse 4, are in striking harmony with the application made of this symbol; for purple and scarlet are the chief colors in the robes of popes and cardinals; and among the myriads of precious stones which adorn her service, according to an eye-witness, silver is scarcely known, and gold itself looks but poorly. And from the golden cup in her hand, — symbol of purity of doctrine and profession, which should have contained only that which is unadulterated and pure, or, explaining the figure, only that which is in full accordance with truth, — there came forth only abominations, and wine of her fornication, fit symbol of her abominable doctrines, and still more abominable practices.DAR 658.1

This woman is explicitly called Babylon. Is Rome, then, Babylon, to the exclusion of all other religious bodies? — No, from the fact that she is called the mother of harlots, as already noticed, which shows that there are other independent religious organizations that constitute the apostate daughters, and belong to the same great family.DAR 658.2

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Rome clearly appears to be meant in this chapter. Pagan Rome subdued and ruled with military power, not by art and flatteries. She left the nations in general to their ancient usages and worship. But it is well known that by crafty and politic management, with all kinds of deceit of unrighteousness, papal Rome has obtained and kept her rule over kings and nations. Here were allurements of worldly honour and riches, pomp and pride, suited to sensual and worldly minds. Prosperity, pomp, and splendour, feed the pride and lusts of the human heart, but are no security against the Divine vengeance. The golden cup represents the allurements, and delusions, by which this mystical Babylon has obtained and kept her influence, and seduced others to join her abominations. She is named, from her infamous practices, a mother of harlots; training them up to idolatry and all sorts of wickedness. She filled herself with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus. She intoxicated herself with it; and it was so pleasant to her, that she never was satisfied. We cannot but wonder at the oceans of Christian blood shed by men called Christians; yet when we consider these prophecies, these awful deeds testify to the truth of the gospel. And let all beware of a splendid, gainful, or fashionable religion. Let us avoid the mysteries of iniquity, and study diligently the great mystery of godliness, that we may learn humility and gratitude from the example of Christ. The more we seek to resemble him, the less we shall be liable to be deceived by antichrist.
Ellen G. White
The Great Controversy, 381-3

In Revelation 14 the first angel is followed by a second proclaiming: “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication.” Revelation 14:8. The term “Babylon” is derived from “Babel,” and signifies confusion. It is employed in Scripture to designate the various forms of false or apostate religion. In Revelation 17 Babylon is represented as a woman—a figure which is used in the Bible as the symbol of a church, a virtuous woman representing a pure church, a vile woman an apostate church. GC 381.1

In the Bible the sacred and enduring character of the relation that exists between Christ and His church is represented by the union of marriage. The Lord has joined His people to Himself by a solemn covenant, He promising to be their God, and they pledging themselves to be His and His alone. He declares: “I will betroth thee unto Me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies.” Hosea 2:19. And, again: “I am married unto you.” Jeremiah 3:14. And Paul employs the same figure in the New Testament when he says: “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:2. GC 381.2

The unfaithfulness of the church to Christ in permitting her confidence and affection to be turned from Him, and allowing the love of worldly things to occupy the soul, is likened to the violation of the marriage vow. The sin of Israel in departing from the Lord is presented under this figure; and the wonderful love of God which they thus despised is touchingly portrayed: “I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest Mine.” “And thou wast exceeding beautiful and thou didst prosper into a kingdom. And thy renown went forth among the heathen for thy beauty: for it was perfect through My comeliness, which I had put upon thee.... But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown.” “As a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord;” “as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband!” Ezekiel 16:8, 13-15, 32; Jeremiah 3:20. GC 381.3

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7 (EGW), 983

(Ch. 12:12.) Satan Mustering His Forces for Last Battle—The present is a solemn, fearful time for the church. The angels are already girded, awaiting the mandate of God to pour their vials of wrath upon the world. Destroying angels are taking up the work of vengeance; for the Spirit of God is gradually withdrawing from the world. Satan is also mustering his forces of evil, going forth “unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world,” to gather them under his banner, to be trained for “the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” Satan is to make most powerful efforts for the mastery in the last great conflict. Fundamental principles will be brought out, and decisions made in regard to them. Skepticism is prevailing everywhere. Ungodliness abounds. The faith of individual members of the church will be tested as though there were not another person in the world (Manuscript 1a, 1890). 7BC 983.1

14-17 (ch. 18:1). The Armies of God Take the Field—We need to study the pouring out of the seventh vial. The powers of evil will not yield up the conflict without a struggle. But Providence has a part to act in the battle of Armageddon. When the earth is lighted with the glory of the angel of Revelation eighteen, the religious elements, good and evil, will awake from slumber, and the armies of the living God will take the field (Manuscript 175, 1899). 7BC 983.2

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