Revelation Chapter 17, Part 1
The following view of Chapter 17 is one which I personally believe to be the most scripturally sound; it
is taken primarily from the “New Albany Notes on Revelation” along with excerpts from Brother Frank
Shallieu’s work “The Keys to Revelation”, any other sources of information including the Reprints will
be duly noted. It has always been my opinion that no one particular brother, including the Pastor has
been given all knowledge, all the truth on a particular subject especially one as complex as that of
Revelation, therefore it would seem logical that the safest course to follow here would be to follow the
Lord’s admonishment to consult with a multitude of counselors, “In the multitude of counselors
there is safety” (Prov 11:14).
In the end however it’s going to be up to each individual Student of the Word to investigate for him or
herself (“proving all things”) to one's self in order to determine which particular view point appears the
most scripturally sound and harmonious with the plan of God as they have come to understand it, keep
in mind that we are dealing primarily with prophecy, some fulfilled, some in the midst of fulfillment, and
some yet still to come, and until such time it is still uncertain.
As always my own thoughts in this study will be presented in italics.
“At least a part of the understanding of this chapter is reliant upon knowing the times which are
referred to. It is significant that the angel can be identified as the seventh angel. We thus see that the
John Class comes to understand the history and judgment of Babylon during Brother Russell’s ministry.
Verses 1 and 2 “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying
to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the
kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine
of her fornication.”
These verses date from the 1870’s to 1916 (-- and beyond by his writings.)
Verse 3 “So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet
beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.”
This verse specifies the “wilderness” -- the 1260 years from 539-1799 about which we learned
in Chapter 12.
Verses 4 and 5 “The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious
stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her
fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF
HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”
It is this (“wilderness”) period which is described in Verses 3-5 -- a look backward at history.
Verse 6 “I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.”
This verse brings us back to the Pastor’s day. It is from this perspective that we must view the
explanation given in Verse 8 and following.
Thus the Lord locked into place the understanding of Chapter 17.
Until we understand and accept the place of the Seventh Messenger in the scheme of things, we
CANNOT successfully interpret this chapter.
It might well be asked how Brother Russell (as this angel) explained the details of Verses 8-14,
as we do not find a clear and detailed explanation in his writings -- only a generalized one. As with all
prophecy not fulfilled or only partially fulfilled, Revelation 17’s key verses were not meant to be fully
comprehended in minute detail prior to the time for understanding them.
The pertinent words from the angel are found in Verse 9 -- “Here is the mind which has
wisdom.” These are the words which answer the question posed above.
The angel did not say that this head is this entity. He simply explained the symbolism and then
said YOU must apply wisdom to the symbolic keys that I gave you. It was the commission given
to this angel to supply the John Class with the needed symbols so that the John Class could
watch and recognize the fulfillment’s as they came due. When Bro. Russell (seemingly flippantly) said
that someone else would have to write the Seventh Volume (the answers to Revelation), he was, indeed,
summarizing his commission to us: He would instruct us in the Divine Plan’s outline, in the methods
of study of the Divine Word, and in the manner of interpreting the meanings of symbols. WE
must ultimately apply “the mind which has wisdom.” Chapter 17, as noted, ENDS (Verses 15-18)
with the angel’s doing this very thing: He explains the meanings of symbols. WE must now apply
PARTS OF THE BEAST
It is immediately noticeable in this chapter that Babylon is portrayed as a harlot SITTING ON a
beast. In Chapter 13, church and state were all amalgamated into the beast. The story of the fall of
Babylon and of the destruction of the beast, however, requires the SEPARATION of the symbols for
church and state.
Note also that this is NOT Papacy riding the beast. Papacy was (Chapter 12) portrayed as the “man-
child” and as a “mouth”, which spoke great or pompous words (Rev 13:5, 6; Dan 7:20). While we
cannot EXEMPT Papacy (the leadership, i.e. those in charge directing the affairs of the church) from
the fall of Babylon, IT (Papacy) is not the focus of this chapter; the Church itself, i.e. the Roman
The change is probably due to several factors:
(1) Papacy has always (except Chapter 12) been pictured as a horn on the beast -- a picture which is ill-
suited to the narrative of this chapter.
(2) The use of a harlot stresses the fornication sin of the church, the Lord thus indicating His MAIN
objection to this apostate.
(3) The Revelator probably wants us to understand the destruction of the CHURCH, not just its
Brother Russell provides a very important clue to the interpretation of this chapter in Volume II, page
354 of the “Studies in the Scriptures” series.
On this page he subtly hints that, though we’ve discussed heads and horns, we might do well to
consider the beast’s BODY -- which he suggests is the PEOPLE. Notice how 17:1 establishes and
emphasizes the import of the PEOPLE in this prophecy: “… the great harlot who sits on many
waters.” a comparison of 17:1 with 17:3 virtually establishes that the people ARE (at least in part)
Thus we can break down the beastly parts as follows:
(1) THE RIDER: The apostate Roman Catholic Church which has, indeed, by harlotry controlled the
direction of the beast.
(2) THE BODY of the beast: The People who either have nominally supported, or have by coercion been
functionally a part of the arrangement.
(3) THE HORNS: The supportive powers (nations) which, throughout the age, have fluctuated in identity.
(4) THE HEADS: The forms of authority which have acted as kinds of umbrella philosophies over this
CAVEAT: It seems that KINGS in this chapter have more than one meaning. They are somewhat akin to
the heads (Verses 9-10) in one application; they are akin to the horns, (Verse 12) in another. The
reason for this varied application will become clear in the narrative.” (N.A.N.O.R. Pages 130, 131)
In our next post we will begin with Verse 1
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