Revelation 17

Need Father God's wisdom / mind to understand this, not mans! Intensity of Revelation creats problems for us. Would have spoken to the original recipients, in a time on intense persecution, giving them hope and reassurance. Regardless of whether we are amongst those who struggle, like they did, or live in relative ease we need to remind ourselves that we are in the middle of a war, waging all around us. See Ephesians 6:12, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (side comment - beware judging other followers of the lamb & their situation - 1 Samuel 30:10, Matthew 20:1-16).

Things are not as they seem. Here in Revelation 17 we see 3 lies being spread around and 3 truths to help us.
Here we see personified the forces which wage against the followers of the lamb (God's children).

The woman here represents Babylon - which is a codeword with a long history.
  From tower of Babel - man united in rejection of God.
    Came to symbolise any society which rejected God and had man at the centre.
  Through to Babylon representing Rome - which is explicitly referred to in mention of 7 hills.

Revelation is a study in contrasts - followers of the beast v. followers of the lamb (God).

Use of the imagery of a prostitute comes from the Old Testament.
  Cult prostitution
  Physical adultery - analogy for idolatory
  All that entices us away from God

The Lies

Lie 1 Revelation 17:1-2
We are not dependent on God.
We belong to no one, we owe God nothing.
Less about surrender to God, more about asking Him to join us!
Original lie in garden - we can be our own God.

What happens to sex?
Sex finds its rightful place in us as we find our rightful place under God.
Babylon says we belong to noone.
We start looking around to define who we are - we look to sexuality.
We downplay sex and use it as a renewable resource we have at our disposal.
Sex misuse is just a symptom of a larger issue. Romans 1:24-28.

Our foundation should only be God - we belong to God.
Do we believe Babylon?
Do we believe we are not responsible for anyone except ourselves?

Lie 2 Revelation 17:3-6
Babylon can fullfil all our desires.
Beautiful Rome enticing us in hundreds of ways.
All she asks - stop fighting the current, let her pull us in.
  Nothing easier to do, promises instant fullfulment.

We worship Babylon whenever we put something or someone ahead of our obedience to Jesus.
We feel the pull of ego, fear of man, lust of the flesh, pride of life, unfilled desires, sickness of heart.

We lose the small battles a lot.
But He is ever faithful to us, despite out faithlessness towards him.
Jesus is interceding for us - Romands 8:34
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of grace.

Babylon's beauty is only skin deap.
She is clothed like a queen, but instead of a sceptre she holds a cup.
She is drunk (v6).
In reality Babylon is hideous.
Even John is drawn to marvel at her (v6b).

As long as we are looking to Babylon we will miss the life Jesus died to give us.

Refer back to Revelation 13 for more on the character and nature of the beast.

Lie 3 Revelation 17:7-18
Resisting Babylon is an act of futility.
Heads symbolise authority, horns symbolise power / strength.
The beast with woman on back appears to have total authority and perfect power.
Have you given up resisting pull of this world? - are Jesus' demands unrealistic?

Who are the Kingdoms referred to?

One school of thought places them like this...
  First five : Egypt, Niniveh, Babylon, Persia, Greece
  Sixth : Rome (in 1st century)
  Seventh : ???
  Eight : the anti-christ himself.

Others see these heads as rulers of ancient Rome - Roman emperors.
  Attractive approach, but problem - you have to get creative when counting emperors.

In apocolyptic literature, such as Revelation, numbers are always symbolic.
  Numbers 7 and 10 are numbers of completion.
  The 7 heads will represent the whole history of Babylon - all who reject God.
  The 8th head represents to beast - the power behind the others.
With this approach we see the woman as every power which sets itself up over God to whom we rightly belong.

The Truths

We have a sympathetic High Priest. Romans 8:34.
Satan lies to Jesus same as us. Hebrews 4:15.
We do not need to cower in fear - we combat with truths from God's word.

Don't say "peace, peace" when there is none.
There is no 'ordinary Christian life' - we are in a war.
Look to Jesus and come to Jesus for His grace.
Jesus wants to be your strength.
He is the only way we can overcome.

Life is short, the stakes are high, the King is coming.

Truth 1 Revelation 17:14
The Lamb will conquer.
There is no fight here, the Lamb is Lord of lords and King of Kings.
We are His creation, we belong to Him.

Truth 2 Revelation 17:15-18
The beast turns on woman.
Babylon cannot take care of itself!
Babylon will let you down.

Truth 3 Revelation 17:14
Resisting Babylon will lead to everylasting life.
In Revelation 21,22 we will see the bride of Christ.
These two women are very different - bride of Christ, robed in white.

City on Seven Hills

This designation for Rome is commonplace, has ancient traditions and in keeping with the time when Revelation was written. See:
Seven hills of Rome
Septimontium festival and the creation of Rome
Other places which lay claim to 'seven hills' fame

There are also what has been called the Seven Mountains of Society :
Arts & Entertainment

In Matthew 28:17-20 we read that "all authority has been given to Jesus ... he instructs us to make disciples of all nations ... and teach them ... and we can do that because he is with us (see John 16:5-16)". In order to truly transform any nation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ these 'seven mountains of society' need Jesus's people in the midst (see Matthew 5:13-16). What is your metron / sphere of influence? See Different kinds of Prophets.

Further Reading

Revelation 16:1-8
Exodus 7:17-21, 9:9-11
Revelation 16:9-21
Psalm 78
Mark 13:24-27; John 19:30; Revelation 21:6
Exodus 9:22-25; Ephesians 6:10-17