Answered by: BibleAsk Team


In Revelation 17, why is Babylon pictured as a woman riding upon the beast?

The meaning of the Mother Church Babylon pictured as riding upon the beast is that she has direct control of men as individuals, religiously, and also as directing the policies of civil government (v. 18). It has been characteristic of apostate Christianity to attempt a union of church and state, in order to consolidate religious control over public policy. In direct contrast, we see Jesus declaring that His “kingdom” is not “of this world” (John 18:36).

Beasts in Bible prophecy commonly represent political powers (Daniel 7:3–7, 17; 8:3, 5, 20, 21; Revelation 12:3; 13:1). The color of this beast may intimate that it is very evil, as the names of blasphemy with which it is covered indicate that it stands in opposition to God. Accordingly, the beast itself may be identified as Satan working through those political agencies, in all ages, that have submitted to his control.

The beast is full of “blasphemous names” (Mark 2:7; 7:2). In Rev. 13:1 the names are on the seven heads; here, they are scattered over the entire beast. These names indicate the character of the beast—it presumes to usurp the prerogative of Deity. That it is “full” of blasphemous names indicates that it is wholly devoted to this objective (Compare Isaiah 14:13, 14; Jeremiah 50:29, 31; Daniel 7:8, 11, 20, 25; 11:36, 37.)

In certain respects this beast resembles the great red dragon of Revelation 12:3, and in others the leopardlike beast of Revelation 13:1, 2. The chief difference between the beast of ch. 13 and that of ch. 17 is that in the former, which is identified with the papacy, no distinction is made between the religious and the political aspects of papal power, whereas in the latter the two are distinct—the beast representing political power and the woman, religious power.

In Revelation chapter 17, Jesus depicts the church (the harlot) and state (the beast) as separate entities, though related. The woman is astride the beast, which signifies that the church is in control of the state.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team



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