A Woman Rides the Beast

Sermon Series in Revelation # 34 Revelation 17:10-18 

10  they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while.

11  As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.

12  And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast.

13  These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast.

14  They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

15  And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.

16  And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire,

17  for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.

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

A healthy faith requires the Bible be interpreted literally when possible. For instance: the Serpent really tempted Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. The whole world was literally flooded and Noah escaped it with his family and all the animals onboard an Ark. Israel literally crossed over the deep waters of the Red Sea on dry land. There was a Hittite Empire despite liberal theologians saying there wasn’t. Moses really wrote the Pentateuch.

Some places in the Bible requires a literally interpretation, or our faith would be worthless. Jesus was literally born of a virgin. Jesus literally hung on a cross, died and then arose from the grave. Jesus is literally coming back in His physical, yet ascended and glorified body.

Many literal interpretations of the Bible are at odds with our culture. The six days of Creation are a good example. How can days four, five and six not be lunar 24 hour days? While the first three days might allow a day-age interpretation, days four through six don’t make any sense if they are not literal days as we understand them today. Yet, the whole world laughs at people of faith who dismiss evolution or the Big Bang in favor of God’s version of Beginnings.

Our willingness to interpret the Bible literally, and then defend the doctrines that emerge, becomes a litmus test to our willingness to suffer for Jesus sake.

But, not all passages are best understood literally. Some passages in the Bible should be interpreted allegorically. Many people reference Matthew 5:30 as an example of a verse that needs to be interpreted allegorically.

Jesus said And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

That’s actually not an example of an allegory and therefore does not need allegorical interpretation. Jesus uses extreme hyperbole. Jesus is making an absurd statement to make His point.

Jesus most often taught in parables, but parables aren’t allegories either. A parable doesn’t need to be a real historical story to teach truth. Parables can be made up and still communicate doctrine. A parable is a tool for public speakers to illustrate truth.

Finally, a metaphor is not an allegory. A metaphor is a single idea that illustrates a truth.

So, what is an allegory? An allegory is a multifaceted metaphor that keeps providing truth throughout our life as we meditate on it’s meaning. For instance: the Bible is speaking allegorically when declaring Jesus as the Lamb of God. Jesus became an incarnate human being, not an incarnate wooly lamb. This statement is not literal. It’s allegorical.

To understand that statement we must research the purpose of a lamb in the Bible. We have to understand the sacrificial system and God’s promise of forgiveness by a vicarious sacrifice. We have to understand the role of the Jewish father who offered the lamb for his children. We have to understand the sprinkling of blood in the Lord’s Supper and the Passover.

Allegories force us to study the whole Bible to receive the meaning and the blessing.

The allegorical statement of Jesus being the Lamb of God connects us to the promises God made to Eve in the Garden, to God’s shedding of blood to make Adam and Eve clothes, to the rejection of Cain’s bloodless worship with fruit, to Abraham’s call to sacrifice his son, and on and on throughout the Bible. Passage after passage is unlocked as we consider that Jesus is the Lamb of God.

God is so powerful, and so creative, that He orchestrates human history in the past, and human history in the future, as His allegories that teach His eternal truths.

Let me illustrate. Galatians 4:22-26 Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia;[a] she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.

Abraham and Sarah had two children. Their son’s, while literal history, are set up by God as an allegory to unlock our understanding about our struggle against sin and our salvation being by grace and not works. The nature of the two covenants are explained allegorically by that literal history. We could give many examples, but let’s get back to the Revelation.

John saw a vision of the Church that was just like the history of unfaithful Israel. For both organizations of God’s people, the allegory is the same. A once righteous woman rides an unholy beast for temporal profit.

The spiritual lessons are multifaceted. The more we consider this allegory the more we will understand God’s relationship to His people, the people of God’s faith responsibility, the nature of temptation, the nature of the world, the nature of Satan’s lies, of the Covenants, etc.

But the church doesn’t learn the lesson. We get comfy with our culture like Lot in Sodom. We lose our saltiness. We cover our light. We moderate God’s commandments and become unfaithful for what the world offers.

The Dragon is still offering the same lies he told in the Garden of Eden. That the best blessing are not with God, but are in the world. “Look at the fruit”, Eve was told. She tasted and gave it to Adam who also sought blessings from the world outside of God’s will.

Some churches look for blessings from the world instead of waiting for God’s blessings. They enter into dialogue with the world to find ways to stay hip and relevant. Many churches water down the Gospel and make it nothing more than a call to moralism. “You be good and the church will praise you.” “Give money and we will write your name on the walls of our new construction.”

Some churches offer entertainment in place of worship. Every Sunday there’s a new spectacle to behold. Like going to the circus, ever Sunday is meant to tickle your ears or stoke your adrenaline. I’ve watched my children protect their hearing with their hands over their ears as worship music grew louder and louder.

John speaks allegorically about the Church. She is predisposed to be as unfaithful as Israel.

Last Sunday we looked at verse 18 which connects the New Testament Woman specifically to the Vatican. God chooses the Roman Catholic Church to represent all unfaithful churches as Babylon represents all hostile secular governments.

Babylon wasn’t the worst secular government, and the Roman Catholic Church isn’t the worst unfaithful church, but they provide allegorical lessons for us today.

Why did God choose the Vatican? Because no other religious city in history has tried to harness the powers of this world for her own benefit. More than any other church in history, the Pope has signed deals with Kings, Parliaments, Presidents, Ambassadors, Dictators and Tyrants.

They are the only Church to which secular America sends an ambassador.

Karl Marx cynically called religion the “opium of the people.” Our world turns to religious groups to fill the emptiness of their soul. People go to church to get their spiritual card punched. Religion makes their heart feel less empty.

Everywhere you look people talk about being spiritual. They talk about how yoga opens up their spiritual understanding. Outdoor walks makes them feel connected to the spirit of the Earth. People climb Mount Everest to gain enlightenment.

The Roman Catholic Church makes these same offers. They offer retreats of silence and obedience where people do chores around the Abbey or monastery.

Here is the opening webpage for one of these vacations.

Sacred Voyages are experiential journeys deep into Spirit. These transformational life changing experiences take place in the Hawaiian Islands and Mount Shasta, two of the most powerful places in the world. We also bring the power of these places and teachings to you, in your living room, through DVDs and CDs. During our retreats, we venture out to the most powerful vortexes of concentrated energy in the world. These power sites exponentially amplify and accelerate all transformation, spiritual connection and change. In these exotic and powerful places, where the veils are thinner, miracles regularly happen and anything is possible.

This sounds like the mystic Druid religions that were cast off a thousand years ago. Listen, chiropractors don’t unleash spiritual energy that flows through your body for holistic healing. Recycling can’t fill your spiritual void. Buying a hybrid car or replacing all your incandescent light bulbs can’t make you right with God.

Being religious is not the same as being spiritual. Many mega churches use modern rituals and loud/moving music to invoke strong emotions that make us feel like we worshipped. These are secular schemes being used by the church for “success.”

I have visited many of these huge churches. Sermons are often nothing more than group therapy for baby boomers who are looking for a hug. Churches gallop to ever increasing financial and congregational numbers as they cater to the needs of the “seekers.”

But the ride isn’t going to last forever. And this is the big lesson of our passage. The world will stop tolerating the church. The world doesn’t want to hear that the family unit is a man and a woman, that children should be desired and pursued as a divine blessing, and that abortion is a sin.

The secular powers of the world, the kingdoms listed in verses 10-13, will not tolerate the outdated moral mandates of the Woman.

Which nations are listed in our passage? Most people try to identify these seven kings as Babylon who was the Lion, Persia who was the Bear, Greece as the 4-Headed Leopard, then Turkey, Syria (Assyria), Egypt and Rome. The Beast is considered an eighth kingdom, a summary of them all, that Jesus sends to destruction.

Everyday this world works to increase the secularism of our culture. The united ten kings only rule for a short period of time compared to the eternal rule of Jesus.

The Dragon is working to increase the secularism of our culture. We feel the influence of the False Prophet and the power of the Beast as public references to God are taken out of the public square. Prayers before football games are on the decline. Even at our nation’s most recent inaugural the name of God was intentionally left out.

These are all illustrations of the Beast casting off the Woman. What else can we learn from this allegory? Here’s a few last applications.

Don’t water down God’s Word to gain favor with the world. It’s temporary. They will become impatient with other doctrines that you hold and will require you moderate those doctrines too if you want to maintain their favor. Seek God’s favor instead. Rejoice that your suffering unites you with the suffering of Jesus.

Instead, drink deeply from God’s sufficiency. God installs a river of living water in our hearts that will keep flowing as we stay connected with God in daily fellowship. Seek God and not sentimental religious experiences. Jesus is the reality you seek.

Let me end with this: I remember witnessing to one of my uncles as a pre-teen. I was worried he wasn’t a professing believer. I shared with him the Gospel as best I could. His reply was to tell me a story about walking high up in the mountains and seeing an eagle fly past him. He said that when the eagle flew by it gave him a spiritual experience and he knew that God loved him. Even as a ten or eleven year old child I knew that wasn’t the Gospel experience he needed.

What sort of religious experience are you counting on to get you into heaven? Are you seeking blessings in the world to satisfy your soul? May God bless you to find a faith beyond the fake religions in this world, that you might be saved. May God bless you to find Jesus.


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


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