End Time Markers: How to Read the Book of Revelation
Christian teachers will often avoid discussing with God’s children the time of Jesus’ return, that is, the gospel of the Kingdom. An even greater portion have difficulty discerning the correct order of events described in the book of Revelation. Some teachers will treat this book like an historical document, believing that many of the events described in the book of Revelation had already occurred, while others will treat this book like an obscure puzzle, rearranging the order of chapters according to their own understanding of prior prophesies. Rarely will teachers consider that the time markers revealed within the narrative structure of the book of Revelation provide us with the most comprehensive map for its interpretation.
The book of Revelation is one of the most linear, chronological and simple books of the bible. Most events are described in perfect sequence. We can have confidence that chapter 2 immediately follows chapter 1. We can be comforted to know that chapter 7 occurs just after chapter 6. We were taught in preschool that one is first, two is second, and three is third. Therefore, the more convoluted or complex a Christian teacher will attempt to present the book of Revelation, the more we should readily distrust his ability to understand and teach this most essential book. If a Christian teacher tells us that chapter 13 goes before chapter 7, we must demand that he provide evidence within the book of Revelation that clearly proves his assertion. Revelation only deviates from its linear timeline in a few chapters when particular events or important figures need to be explained in greater detail, or when certain events overlap and intersect with other chapters. And in these few instances, we are always provided evidence that John is departing from the timeline.
The image below is a most simple timeline of the book of Revelation for your use and study. It is separated into two parts. The first part illustrates the sequence of seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls, as well as the events that happen to unfold between them. The second part illustrates the twenty-two chapter sequence of the book of Revelation, highlighting the four chapters that deviate from the linear timeline.
The first significant time marker revealed in the book of Revelation provides us with a blueprint for the entire text.
"Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.” (Revelation 1:19, NASB)
Jesus instructs John to write about their encounter (the things which John has seen), to write a message about the present state of affairs (the things which are), and then to write a message about the future (the things which will take place after these things). However, at what point is John instructed to write these things about the future?
After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things." (Revelation 4:1, NASB)
Chapter 1 concerns the things which John had just seen, chapters 2-3 concern the things which will take place during this present age, and Chapters 4-22 concern the things which will take place in the future. That is why, after chapters 2-3, John is told to write down what must take place afterward, which is a direct reference to Jesus' command to do the same. Chapters 2-3 are comprised of seven status reports to the churches, revealing the strong points of God’s children, the potential problems that will hinder the Church, the consequences for those who do not get their acts straightened, and the many rewards that will be given to those Christians who do get their acts straightened.
After the message to the churches in chapters 2 and 3, John is told to write about the future. Therefore, chapters 4-22 concern the future. Every event described from chapter 4 to chapter 22 are future tense. After a few intriguing scenes in heaven in chapters 4 and 5, the first order of events to occur on the earth in the future are laid out in Revelation 6, that is, increased global aggression, a world war, global famine and the death of 25% of the world’s population, followed by the systematic genocide of almost all of Jesus’ loyal servants. Immediately after these events, the sky splits open like a scroll and heaven is revealed to all mankind. Objectively, none of these events have occurred yet, which means that when Jesus declares that everything from Chapter 4 and on is future tense, we can have confidence that Jesus is telling the truth. Everything from chapter 4 to Chapter 22 concern a period of time known as the end times, which culminate with the return of Jesus, His reign on the earth for a thousand years, His judgment of all mankind, and His eternal rest on the New Earth among those faithful who belong to Him.
So how then do we treat these 19 future-tense chapters? Do they reveal a linear sequence of events or should we rearrange the order of chapters based on our understanding of prior end time prophecies?
the seven year antichrist error
Some Christians believe that the end time tribulation period is seven years long and that the antichrist is around during all seven of these years. They cite one verse in Daniel to support this idea.
"And [the prince who is to come] will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate." (Daniel 9:27, NASB)
If one week were seven years, and if the prince were the antichrist, then many Christians would believe that the antichrist must be around at the beginning of these seven years in order to make a "firm covenant with the many." The problem with this idea doesn’t lie with the assertion that the tribulation period is 7 years long, rather that the antichrist is around for all seven of these years. Nowhere in the early chapters of Revelation is there any mention of the antichrist and there is no evidence in Revelation to link the prince of Daniel 9:27 to the antichrist. In Revelation, the antichrist is referred to as the “beast,” who is raised up by Satan, the dragon of Revelation 12, after Satan loses the war in heaven and is cast down to the earth.
And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. (Revelation 13:1, NASB)
This beast is also said to “come up out of the abyss and go to destruction” (Revelation 17:8, NASB). When he comes out of the abyss, he will despise the state of the present world system, which is referred to as "Babylon the great," he will hate the city from which this system operates and he “will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire” (Revelation 17:16, NASB). This description of the antichrist is much closer to Daniel’s description of the one who arrives 3.5 years into the tribulation, who “makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” Both Daniel’s “one” and John’s “beast” arrive 3.5 years into the tribulation, they both make desolate, and they both will be made desolate.
Unfortunately, the more popular teaching is that the “prince who is to come” of Daniel 9:27 is the antichrist. From what we know, this prince is around at least throughout first 3.5 years of the 7 year tribulation, but there is no mention made of this prince or of his firm covenant in the book of Revelation. Even more, in the book of Revelation, this antichrist “beast” arrives 3.5 years into the tribulation. Revelation 13 is 3.5 years into the tribulation because the antichrist "beast" receives only 42 months, that is, 3.5 years of authority on the earth until Jesus returns.
There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. (Revelation 13:5, NASB)
Of course, that won’t stop some teachers from believing that the “prince who is to come” in Daniel 9:27 is the antichrist, so they will either find ways to fit him into the beginning chapters of the book of Revelation, or they will pull out chapter 13 and move it around until this “beast” appears to arrive at the beginning of the tribulation.
the rider on the white horse revealed
When teachers try their hardest to believe their own lies concerning the end times, they will not only abandon the time markers in Revelation, but they will abandon whatever ability to reason that they may have had. One common mistake that some teachers make to ensure the antichrist is in the beginning of the book of Revelation is to declare that the rider on the white horse in the beginning of Revelation 6 is the antichrist.
I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. (Revelation 6:2, NASB)
If this rider is indeed the antichrist, then that would place the antichrist right at the beginning of the tribulation, before all hell breaks loose. However, in all four instances that the riders are described in Revelation 6, they are noticed personifying specific events, such as the intent to conquer, war, famine, and death.
And another, a red horse, went out; and to him who sat on it, it was granted to take peace from the earth, and that men would slay one another; and a great sword was given to him. (Revelation 6:4, NASB)
...I looked, and behold, a black horse; and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. (Revelation 6:5, NASB)
I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him... (Revelation 6:8, NASB)
No matter how hard a teacher of Revelation may try to make this first rider appear to be the antichrist, there is no evidence within the text to support the claim. Even more, when someone intends to prove that the rider on the white horse is the antichrist, they will also have to prove the human identity of the three additional horsemen, which they cannot.
the kis method and the simplicity of revelation
The most principled method of interpreting the sequence of events that unfold throughout the book of Revelation is the KIS method, that is, Keep It Simple. If the word "revelation" means to "uncover" or "reveal," then the book of Revelation is not supposed to be a non-linear puzzle that is veiled in obscure, secret meanings and hidden symbols. It would not be called Revelation if we were supposed to treat it this way. It would instead be called the book of Confusion.
There are four primary sequences of events in Revelation that occur one after the other. These are the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven thunders, and the seven bowls of wrath. They each occur in sequence, therefore we should read them in sequence. However, since the seven thunders are undisclosed, they were not added to the image map above. Between these seals, trumpets, thunders, and bowls, John describes a handful of additional events. Sometimes he witnesses events and actions that unfold on the earth, and sometimes he witnesses events and actions that unfold in heaven. However, the majority of the time, he witnesses these events at the exact moment that they occur. For instance, the 144,000 are protected between seal 6 and seal 7. The war for heaven occurs between trumpet 7 and bowl 1. The seven undisclosed thunders occur between trumpets 6 and 7. In this way, the seals, trumpets, and bowls provide us with an understandable chronological structure. Jesus returns after bowl 7. The antichrist comes up out of the abyss before bowl 1. God's loyal children who were killed at seal 6 are standing near the throne just before trumpet 1, praying and petitioning for its sounding. This is the easiest and most simple way to read the book of Revelation. However, there are a few chapters that explain events that occur over a longer timespan or overlap other events. Let's look at these chapters to understand why they appear out of sequence in the image map above.
chapter 10: the seven thunders and the bittersweet book
From Revelation 6 to Revelation 9, everything seems to be going in perfect sequence. The seven seals are broken and 6 of the 7 trumpets are sounded. When the seals were broken, a global war broke out, one-fourth of the world's population was killed, and the majority of God's children were murdered on account of their unyielding loyalty to Jesus. After the sky splits apart and the heavens are reveled to mankind, 144,000 of God's remaining loyal children are sealed and protected from His impending judgments. As the trumpets are sounded, God begins enacting vengeance upon those people on the earth who killed His loyal children.
Then comes chapter 10, which is broken down into several parts. In the first part, John receives a message concerning seven thunders.
I saw another angel coming down out of heaven, clothed with a cloud; and the rainbow was upon his head, and his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire; and he had in his hand a little book which was open. He placed his right on the sea and his left on the land; and he cried out with a loud voice, as when a lion roars; and when he had cried out, the seven peals of thunder uttered their voices. When the seven peals of thunder had spoken, I was about to write; and I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Seal up the things which the seven peals of thunder have spoken and do not write them." (Revelation 10:1-4, NASB)
Throughout the book of Revelation, various objects are manipulated in the spiritual dimension in order to affect or unfold events in the physical dimension. The most pivotal objects are always arranged in groups of seven. There are seven seals, seven trumpets, seven thunders, and seven bowls. The seven thunders however appear to occur between the sixth and seventh trumpets. In tandem with how the seals, trumpets, and bowls are interpreted, the thunders are also objects in the spiritual dimension that affect events in the physical dimension. However, unlike the rest of the object, these thunders remain undisclosed, that is, we do not know what events will unfold on this earth when they are sounded. By withholding this information from the book of Revelation, God has seen it fit not merely to keep these events hidden from His people, but to also withhold them from the enemies of God. He seems to have some very important battle plans prepared between the sixth and seventh trumpets, and these seven thunders are vital for the completion of God's will, that is, the subjection of all things under Jesus, which begins at the seventh trumpet.
After John receives this message concerning the seven thunders, he engages in a brief encounter outside of the linear timeline.
Then the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking with me, and saying, "Go, take the book which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the seas and on the land." So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he said to me, "Take it and eat it, it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey." I took the little book out of the angel's hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. And they said to me, "You must prophecy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings." (Revelation 10:8-11, NASB)
This is the first instance between Revelation 6 and Revelation 22 where there is a break in the timeline. John's vision of the end times briefly stops so that he can receive some help remembering it. Again, objects or events in the spiritual dimension represent how John is affected in the physical dimension. When John ingests this bittersweet book in spirit, he receives the ability to accurately remember and record what we know now as the book of Revelation. After this brief moment, John's vision continues in chapter 11. However, chapter 11 is also a break in the timeline.
chapter 11: the two witnesses and christ's reign foreseen
Chapter 11 is divided into two parts. The first part concerns the 3.5 year mission of God's two witnesses.
"And I will grant my authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for twelve hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth." (Revelation 11:3, NASB)
John 11 briefly describes the degree of power God grants these witnesses, as well as the events that unfold after their mission is completed.
"When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them." (Revelation 11:7, NASB)
Here we have a significant break in the timeline of Revelation. The beast, that is, the Antichrist, does not enter the scene until chapter 13.
And the dragon [Satan] stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea... (Revelation 13:1, NASB)
So in this first part of chapter 11, God has chosen to depart from the timeline in order to reveal to John the entire 3.5 year mission of the two witnesses. These 3.5 years (1260 days) sit somewhere on top of the 7-year tribulation. The two witnesses could start their mission anytime during the first 3.5 years of the tribulation. There is no verse that confirms exactly when they will begin their loyal service, only that such a service will last 3.5 years and will end when the Antichrist kills them in Jerusalem. However, because the second part of chapter 11 concerns the sounding of the seventh trumpet, perhaps this may indicate that the mission of the two witnesses begins between the 6th and 7th trumpets.
In the second part of chapter 11, the seventh trumpet is sounded and a series of declarations are made.
Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, "We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth." (Revelation 11:15-18, NASB)
The interesting thing about this declaration is that it affirms events that take place over a duration of time. The beginning of the kingdom, that is, the beginning of Jesus' reign over all things, does not commence until Revelation 12:10.
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night." (Revelation 12:10, NASB)
The fulfillment of God's wrath against those on the earth who are enraged by Jesus occurs at Revelation 19:15.
From His [Jesus'] mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. (Revelation 19:15, NASB)
The time for the dead to be judged and the dispensation of rewards occurs at Revelation 20:12-13.
And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. (Revelation 20:12-13, NASB)
The final destruction or ruin of those who are hostile to Jesus occurs at Revelation 20:15.
And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15, NASB)
All of these events are acknowledged at the sounding of the seventh trumpet. Therefore, the seventh trumpet is an affirmation of the restoration of all things, that is, the beginning of the completion of God's ultimate will to bring all things under Jesus' rule and authority. According to Revelation 11:15-18, this ultimate will begins with the defeat of Satan in the war for heaven in Revelation 12 and ends with the judgment of all creation, where the righteous receive rewards according to their deeds - living with God on the New Earth for eternity - and where the unrighteous are exiled to the lake of fire - eternally separated from God for eternity.
After these future events are acknowledged at the sounding of the trumpet, the timeline continues.
In chapter 12, the war for heaven begins and Satan and his armies lose this great battle. In chapter 13, after Satan is permanently cast down to the earth, he raises up the antichrist and false prophet in order to have them gather the nations together to war against Jesus when He returns to the earth. In chapter 14, however, there are a couple departures from the timeline, as John is taken aside to discuss a few details regarding Jesus' entourage and His imminent return to the earth.
chapter 14: jesus' entourage, the fall of babylon, the mark of the beast, and the return of jesus
Chapter 14 is divided into four parts. In the first part, John departs from the timeline in order to tell us that there exists an entourage of men who will always remain alongside Jesus. This 144,000 is very different from the 144,000 of Revelation 7. In chapter 7, the 144,000 are faithful children of God who reside on the Earth.
And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads." And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. (Revelation 7:2-4, NASB)
In chapter 14, the 144,000 are different. They are a chosen group of men who are near to Jesus in heaven.
Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless. (Revelation 14:1-5, NASB)
After they are noticed on Mount Zion, they are noticed in heaven before God's throne. This brings some to wonder, "Are they on earth or are they in heaven?"
John notices that Jesus is on Mount Zion. If this Mount Zion is the actual physical location in Jerusalem, then this is a future event John is witnessing, because Jesus does not return to the earth until Revelation chapter 19. Even more, the first thing Jesus does when He returns to the earth is to touch down on the Mount of Olives, not Mount Zion.
Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. (Zechariah 14:3-5, NASB)
Therefore, if the first verse of chapter 14 is indeed referring to Jesus and the 144,000 on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, John is witnessing a an event that occurs sometime after Jesus returns to the earth. After John witnesses Jesus on Mount Zion in chapter 14, John describes the present, where the 144,000 surround Jesus in heaven.
The second part of chapter 14 describes the gospel of the kingdom being preached to all the nations, as well as the fall of babylon.
And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters." (Revelation 14:6-7, NASB)
First, an angel preaches to the entire world that the time of God's judgment is arriving. This gospel of the kingdom refers to the time of Jesus' return, which involves everything at the end of age concerning the subjection of all things under Jesus, including the war for heaven, the war for earth, the resurrection from the dead, and the final judgment.
This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come. (Revelation 24:13-15, NASB)
Because this angel warns the nations of God's imminent judgment, and because this warning is preached prior to "the end," it would be accurate to conclude that the timing of this event occurs sometime before the return of Jesus. Jesus' return to the earth is a pivotal moment for the nations that dwell on the earth. At His return, many of the nations will war with Jesus near Jerusalem and they will be struck down.
And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality." (Revelation 14:8, NASB)
Next, an angel affirms that Babylon is fallen. However, Babylon is also mentioned falling in Revelation 17 and 18.
And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast [Antichrist], these will hate the harlot [Babylon] and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her with fire. (Revelation 17:16, NASB)
After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory. And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!" (Revelation 18:1-2, NASB)
If the Antichrist is the one who causes Babylon to fall, then Babylon's fall must occur sometime between the Antichrist's rise in Revelation 13 and the return of Jesus in Revelation 19. In order for the Antichrist to reign over the earth, he must remove Babylon first and cause it to fall. Babylon is not only an immoral city, but it is also an oppressive and immoral system that governs the earth. In order for the Antichrist to reign over the earth and establish his own system of rule and authority, he must first get rid of the current system. This would considerably narrow down the time frame for Babylon's fall, placing this event moments after the rise of the Antichrist in Revelation 13.
When Babylon falls the Antichrist will set up his system immediately afterward. The Antichrist's system is the marking system, which is evidenced next.
Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. (Revelation 14:9-10, NASB)
After the Antichrist is raised up in chapter 13, the Antichrist destroys Babylon and establishes his rule over the earth. Those who worship the beast and receive his mark will not only fall under the wrath of God's judgments in chapter 15, but they will also be killed by Jesus when they wage a war against Him in chapter 19.
At the end of chapter 14, John receives a very creative vision of this future point in time when Jesus returns to the earth to war against the nations.
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and sitting on the cloud was one like a son of man, having a golden crown on His head, and a sharp sickle in His hand. (Revelation 14:14, NASB)
So the angel swung his sickle to the earth and gathered the clusters from the vine of the earth, and threw them into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses' bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles. (Revelation 14:19-20, NASB)
Compare these verse with Jesus' actual return in chapter 19.
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horses, and He who sat on it is called Faith and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. (Revelation 19:11, NASB)
From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. (Revelation 19:14, NASB)
There is a connection between the creative, figurative nature of the last portion of Revelation 14 and the violent, literal nature of Jesus' return in chapter 19. The concept of treading the wine press of the fierce wrath of God is evidenced in chapter 14 and in chapter 19. However, while this event is only declared in chapter 14, it is actually implemented in chapter 19.
To recap, within chapter 14, we first notice a break from the timeline when John describes the future event when Jesus will touch down on Mount Zion with His entourage of 144,000. Then John returns to the timeline in order to describe in detail the 144,000, who will still be residing in heaven before God's throne. Next, the world receives several announcements from various angels, who declare that judgment is coming, Babylon is fallen, and anyone who receives the Antichrist's mark will fall under God's impending wrath. Since the Antichrist rises in chapter 13, these announcements must occur sometime before the Antichrist brings down the Babylon system and establishes his own system. After these announcements are made, John departs once again from the timeline in order to provide us with a creative analogy for the impending judgment Jesus will bring upon those that worship the Antichrist and receive his mark.
The events in chapter 14 either refer to moments during Jesus' return, which occurs in chapter 19, or they refer to moments before or during the time when the Antichrist establishes his rule over all the earth, which is found in chapter 13.
chapter 17-18: the fall of babylon
John departs once more from the timeline in chapters 17 and 18 in order to describe Babylon and its eventual destruction. In chapter 17, Babylon is represented as a harlot.
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, "Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters..." (Revelation 17:1, NASB)
And on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, "Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth." (Revelation 17:5, NASB)
This Babylon is a port city.
"The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth." (Revelation 17:18, NASB)
...And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea, stood at a distance, and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning... (Revelation 18:17-18, NASB)
Babylon is defined by its oppression, immorality and violence. Humanity is also very much governed by the systems of oppression and immorality that disseminate from Babylon.
..."Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality." (Revelation 17:1-2, NASB)
And he said to me, "The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are people and multitudes and nations and tongues. (Revelation 17:15, NASB)
...She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird. For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality. (Revelation 18:2-3, NASB)
Interestingly enough, Babylon is supported and upheld by the Antichrist, which is represented as a beast that Babylon is riding.
...And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. (Revelation 17:3, NASB)
The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. (Revelation 17:8, NASB)
When the Antichrist returns, he will no longer have any need for this harlot and will swiftly do away with her and rule in her place.
And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.(Revelation 17:16, NASB)
Afterward, the Antichrist will establish his marking system in order to control humanity, assemble the kings of the earth, build a global army and gather the nations together to war against Jesus.
And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand of on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. (Revelation 13:16-17, NASB)
And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war for the great day of God, the Almighty. (Revelation 16:13-14, NASB)
And they gathered them together to the place which is Hebrew is called Har-Magedon [Armageddon]. (Revelation 16:16, NASB)
"These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful." (Revelation 17:14, NASB)
And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. (Revelation 19:11, NASB)
From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. (Revelation 19:15, NASB)
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, "Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great." And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. (Revelation 19: 17-19, NASB)
At the end of chapter 16, the nations are gathering together for war. In chapter 19, the war actually begins. In chapters 17 and 18, John departs from the timeline to describe in detail Babylon and its fall, which actually occurs after the Antichrist returns in chapter 13. However, it would seem fitting to describe the fall of Babylon immediately before the return of Jesus because Babylon represents not only a city, but also a system of oppression and hostility toward God that persists even after the city is destroyed.
Although the city is destroyed by the Antichrist after his appearing, the oppressive and immoral social, economic, and political systems that defined Babylon will only be completely and entirely done away with at Armageddon.
What is really done away with when the city is destroyed is the end of prosperity for wicked men. Their utopian dream quickly becomes a nightmare in chapter 18 when they can no longer prosper from this evil city and the systems of oppression and immorality that emanate from it.
"And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, 'Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.' And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes anymore." (Revelation 18:9-11, NASB)
"The fruit you long for has gone from you, and all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and men will no longer find them. The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, saying, 'Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls; for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!'" (Revelation 18:14-17, NASB)
Although Babylon is referred to as a wicked and prosperous city, Babylon as a system is not only a physical location, but a collaboration of multitudes of people who enjoy obtaining great wealth and luxury at the hand of unrighteousness. And in the process, these people also saw fit to massacre God's loyal and righteous children.
And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. (Revelation 17:6, NASB)
"...For your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery. And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth." (Revelation 18:23-24, NASB)
When the Antichrist appears and removes the city referred to as Babylon - along with whoever is governing this city - he will set himself up as the supreme world ruler over whatever remains of the Babylonian system, and he will govern it much more perfectly than any human ever could.
For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled. (Revelation 17:17, NASB)
The Antichrist's system will be much more focused, organized and exponentially more controlled. The single purpose of the Antichrist system is to kill off all of God's loyal followers from the face of the earth and gather the rest of humanity together to wage an epic war against Jesus when He returns.
At present, the power hungry elitists who govern the system or city referred to as Babylon are so focused on personal gain and self-ambition that they are barely realizing why the system was established in the first place. The main objective of Babylon's social, economic, or political systems is the eventual annihilation of God's loyal children and the gathering together of wicked men to prepare for battle against Jesus. However, the men and women who presently belong to this system are so focused on their own ambitions, it will take the Antichrist to return in order for this objective to be fully realized. Oppressive and unrighteous men are so intent on securing as much fame, fortune and power as they can for themselves that the pace for the fulfillment of Babylon's main objective is slow at best. However, when the Antichrist takes over, the self-ambitious men and women who once profited off of Babylon will be utterly woeful and terrified. They won't know what hit them.
"And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning, saying, 'Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!'" (Revelation 18:19, NASB)
When the Antichrist returns and takes over the Babylonian system, the objective will be fully realized. The Antichrist will focus much more intently on killing off anyone who is loyal to Jesus as he gathers everyone else together to war against Jesus. And when Jesus returns at chapter 19, He will once and for all destroy them and their system at Armageddon.
Babylon as a city is destroyed a little over halfway into the tribulation, after Satan raises up the Antichrist at chapter 13. Babylon as a system is destroyed in the war for earth at chapter 19, when Jesus returns and finally brings all things under His rule and authority.Back