ARE YOU CONFUSED AFTER READING CHAPTER 17? If you are, don't feel too bad. You're in good company. Even after all of the incredible, fantastic things John has witnessed so far in this apocalypse (revelation), he was "totally astonished" at what the angel has brought him to see now.
BACK TO THE BEGINNING: Once again the angel brings John (and us with him) back to the beginning of the story in chapter 17. This new perspective introduces another character: a harlot named Babylon. She is a seductive temptress, but she represents much more than just sexual sin. As her name infers, she represents the aspect of every society in history that has had its focus on the sensual pleasures of the world (not just the actual Babylon where Israel was exiled to).
Reformed commentator William Hendriksen explains what the woman has in her cup this way: The woman and her golden cup filled with abominable things represents:
whatever is used by the world in order to turn believers away from their God is in this cup: pornographic literature, sports in which one becomes completely absorbed, luxuries, worldly fame and power, the lusts of the flesh, and so on. Let everyone make his own list.
TOTAL DEPRAVITY: One of the key elements of Reformed theology is the doctrine of total depravity. By this we don't mean to say that the world is the worst it could possibly be, rather we mean that the effects of sin have totally affected all things. There is nothing untouched or uncontaminated by sin. This woman we're introduced to in Revelation 17 consorts with the kings of the world throughout history who have poisoned every possible realm such as art, education, commerce, industry and so on by conscripting those otherwise good things and making them serve evil rather than glorifying the creator.
APOCALYPTIC PARODY: Don't miss the humor that the angel uses to describe the beast four different times in this chapter (v8 (twice), 10, 11):
the beast who once was, now is not, and yet will come again (only to be destroyed)
Notice how this is a parody of how the Lord God Almighty is described multiple times at the beginning of this book:
Him who is, and who was, and who is to come
Whereas the Lord is described as one who transcends time (who always has been and always will be) and whose being is within Himself, the beast has no control over its own being and the day will come where it is and will be no more.
Follow the AAA Prayer Pattern:
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: King of kings and Lord of lords (v14)
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Thank God that He has chosen you to be His own, and ask Him for strength to be His faithful follower (v14)
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: