In our study of verse 2, we discussed which city Revelation chapter 17 refers to. Elsewhere, we have usually referred to that city simply as ‘the greatest city in the world’. In verse 16, we saw how cruelly the antichrist (Christ’s great enemy) will destroy it. Perhaps we are now asking ourselves whether this is a word-picture for something. It will be very terrible if antichrist really does destroy the greatest city in the world.
Firstly, we must recognise that the antichrist will be a completely evil man. It should not surprise us that such people carry out acts of great cruelty; that is in their nature. It is how we must expect completely evil people to behave.
Secondly, however, we need to understand that Bible passages such as Revelation chapters 17 and 18 are about a kind of power. They are not only about one particular place, as if only that city had that power. God’s judgement is not just against one place; it is against that kind of power everywhere. We can see that from the reaction to this judgement in chapter 18. It affects people across the whole world.
So now our question becomes, what kind of power that is. It is the kind of power that has control over the world’s financial and trading systems (18:11-20). It also controls the world’s rulers and political leaders (18:9). It is the power that causes this world’s people to deal cruelly with God’s people (18:24). It is the power by which people build great cities (see Genesis 11:1-9 and Genesis 19:1-29). It is a power that the devil controls (Isaiah 14:11-22).
We think that all these passages may describe the power of selfish human effort. People achieve great things by their efforts - but their acts are often evil. God’s judgement is against that kind of effort because people should serve God, and not their own selfish desires. Antichrist will oppose it because he wants people not to serve themselves, but to serve him alone (13:16).
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© 2016, Keith Simons.