A City on Seven Hills

Sermon Series in Revelation # 33 Revelation 17:1-9, 18 

1    Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters,

2    with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”

3    And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.

4    The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.

5    And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”

6    And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly.

7    But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her.

8    The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.

9    This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated;

18  And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.” [1]


The whole book of Hosea is based on the accusation from God that the people of God had prostituted themselves for what the world had to offer.

God wanted to illustrate the relationship between God and the unfaithful church, so God commanded one of His very godly men to marry a very silly girl who was in love with this world. Her unfaithfulness to Hosea proved a valuable visible lesson for Israel and every church ever since. It is imperative that we understand this danger for our church.

Hosea 1:2 When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the LORD.”

Some angry and negative preacher didn’t call God’s people Children of Whoredom. God did.

We call that incendiary language. It’s provocative. People talk like that when they are angry and want to invoke a strong reaction.

Name calling from God has the potential to bring a Sinner to repentance as they see themselves as God sees them. The word of God breaks the heart and moves them to repentance.

I’ll make this the first lesson from our passage.

God labels people according to their actions. If you let hate grow and fester in your heart, then God will call you a murderer. If you let your mouth tell lies then God will call you a liar. If you don’t work a full day for your employer, but take a full day’s pay, then God calls you a thief. In some respects we are what we do.

If we don’t repent before we face Jesus in Heaven’s Courtroom, then we will forever be known by those deeds. Even in this life, until we repent, seek Christ’s forgiveness and attempt to make some sort of restitution, we are known by our sins. Only the death of Jesus has the power to unshackle us from those sins. The blood of Jesus will wash away our transgressions and make us white as snow.

Here’s the shocker, even the redeemed can pause their love for God and become intoxicated with worldly things. God often describes Himself as a jealous husband and He will not watch in silence as we pursue the world more than Him.

God was jealous when Israel stopped looking for Divine protection and blessings. Israel turned from trusting God and trusted Egypt for military protection. Israel stopped seeking God and went a whoring after the world instead.

Ugly mental images to be sure. We like to downplay the ugliness of what we are doing. In Revelation 17 God paints the unfaithful church as it truly is: a  Prostitute.

You might be shocked to connect this end-times unfaithful Woman with the Woman of Revelation 12:1 And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.

The Church is the glorious visible institution of God. She is clothed with the Light of God.

Her good works reflect God’s light upon the Earth. She wears the fixed truth of God like stars, twelve represents the twelve apostles or the twelve tribes (the organized people of God).

She is given the great privilege of bringing the Promised Seed into the world. The Eternal Word becomes the incarnate Word through the life of the Church.

She is constantly pursued by the Dragon. The persecutions from the Devil upon the Church are legendary. Foxes Book of Martyrs covers the first millennium, but in the last century it has increased significantly. Estimates are that in the 21st Century almost 200,000 Christians die every year for their faithful witness.

How does God protect His Church? By using the persecution from the Dragon to disperse the Church out of Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and to the remote regions of the Earth.

God sends her into the wilderness. But when she comes out of the wilderness she isn’t the same woman. She has internalized her solitude into doctrines of monastic orders. She has spiritualized her austerity into vows of poverty. She has abandoned her godly virtues and replaced them with vows that nuns and monks today are unable to keep.

I included verse 18 for those of us who didn’t know that this passage could be so clearly connected with the Roman Catholic Church.

Vatican City is literally built on seven hills. Verse 9 This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; 18 And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.

The angel helps John identify this religious city that abandons God.

Incidentally, Rio De Janeiro is built on seven hills, but they did not exchange their alliance with God for alliances with the Kings of the Earth. The only city that fits that description is Rome and the global power it represents.

The Church that was started in the Book of Acts settled their leadership in Rome. That Church has now become, like Israel became, an unfaithful spouse. What does that look like?

The Beast was described as arising from the waters of the Earth. The waters are the nations of many peoples. This religious organization sits over many nations too.

And she has left the Lord to gain what she can through alliances with the world. Specifically, our text says that this church has immorally connected with Kings.

Every church is tempted to leave God and go to the King Makers of the Earth for the success and popularity they can provide. The powers of this Earth can intoxicate a good man to surrender Bible truths for worldly acceptance.

A few months back I was asked to be on television to discuss Freedom of Speech and Politics in the Pulpit. Friends I hadn’t contacted in 20 years contacted me from around the world after seeing me on television. The power of the world to give me my 15 minutes of fame was intoxicating.

This world can make your name a household name with one evening of broadcasts. They can lift you up in the eyes of the community. They can build your ministry and fatten your wallet.

After the interview I wanted more of what they had to offer. I called the television station and made sure they knew I was willing to give commentary on other topics of religious interest. I caught myself wanting what they could give me.

Whole denominations have exchanged their light for darkness that they might become popular. They stop speaking God’s opinions about homosexuality or the moral hazards of prolonged social welfare. They use their relationship with the world to build huge ministries.

God says that they are riding the Beast. They have abandoned their first love and they are a whoring after the advantages that the world offers. They are no longer trusting in God for their blessing. They are seeking the world for worldly blessings.

The Roman Catholic Church has done this throughout history. Their control over European countries is legendary. They are the only religious institution that has legal alliances with secular nations. Only the Roman Catholic Church receives ambassadors from the nations of the Earth.

The Church offers the world various indulgences. They offer forgiveness in advance for any sins people want to commit in exchange for money. The Church prostituted themselves.

The end of verse 2 the dwellers on earth have become drunk. They world became unhinged from godliness and basic morality with the help of the church.

Churches do that today. They help young people living together without the benefit of marriage not feel guilt by labeling what they are doing as normal for this generation. Unfaithful churches guide our culture into more darkness in exchange for being popular.

Faithful churches hold firm to God’s commandments and call people to flee God’s wrath by running to Jesus. The blood of Jesus washes away our guilt. That’s true freedom from the Dragon.

By Revelation 17, the glorious Church from chapter 12 has become friends with the Beast. She is no longer wearing the glorious garments her Husband provided. She is no longer desiring her husband. She desires another. Now she is clothed by the world. She holds a golden cup of Blaspheme.

Verse 6 reminds us that most martyrs throughout history were first identified by the false church and then handed over to a secular government for execution.

The death of Jesus was orchestrated in this way. A corrupt religious organization, the Sanhedrin, sold themselves to the world for the protections that Caesar had to offer. Those unfaithful people of God then helped identify the real Christians for martyrdom.

And it blew John the Apostle away that the church could fall so far. When I saw her, I marveled greatly.

Friends, every generation of Christians are only a few steps away from making the same mistakes. This world holds great power for our temporary success. We can sell God’s word for the false promises of the Dragon. We can easily fall in love with the world.

We can even help the world not feel guilty for abandoning God’s commandments by explaining away God’s law. Lots of liberal churches explain away God’s laws to make their community tolerate them.

ARP’s are in danger of not requiring discipleship or a heart for evangelism. Every church has it’s weakness.

But the rest of the Church marvels when this happens. The ARP marveled three years ago when we called the PCUSA Church to repentance when she started ordaining homosexuals into the Gospel ministry.

What a shock to watch a sister in Christ leave her faithful husband, exchange His holy garments and clothe herself with the worldly garments of a prostitute.

What will God do with His bride when she falls in love with someone else? Will God abandon His children who try to ride the Beast to fame and popularity?

Happily, this sermon ends on a note of GRACE.

Listen to Hosea 3:1 The LORD said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites.”

God still loves His unfaithful wife. Hosea’s wife left him and entered the sex trade. She eventually hit rock bottom and was sold to the highest bidder.

God offers Himself as your highest bidder.

God told Hosea to go buy her back. “Go get her Hosea!” “Go find your wife and purchase her out of the sex trade. Remake your vows to her. Purify her. Cleanse her with your love and show what is possible for those churches which leave God!”

Friends, God is looking for some of us today. Some of us have left our God. We have gone into the world to find what they have to offer us. We have stopped trusting God and we are trusting the world to help us get ahead.

Jesus has shed His blood and wants to buy you back for Himself. He is ready to purify and cleanse you. He loves you with an eternal love. May we run back to Jesus.


[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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