Osborne, Grant R. Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002. Location: Ellis BS 2825.53.O73 2002
“IV. Final Judgment at the Arrival of the Eschaton (17:1-20:15)” pp. 603-725.
Osborne finds the concluding section of Revelation to be logically broken into two main sections, 17:1-20:15 and 21:1-22:21. In the section 17:1-20:15 there are three divisions. 17:1-19:5 recapitulates the judgment of Babylon, 19:6-21 speaks of the coming of Christ (Osborne 2002, 603). Chapter 20 describes a millennial reign and some final destruction (Osborne 2002, 604).
“A. Destruction of Babylon the Great (17:1-19:5)” pp. 605-668.
Revelation 17:1-19:5 discusses the judgment and end of Babylon, normally recognized as Rome, the world power. While Osborne finds chapter 17 very complicated, chapter 18 is relatively easier to understand (Osborne 2002, 605).
“1. The Great Prostitute on the Scarlet Beast (17:1-18)” pp. 606-630.
Osborne considers Revelation 17 asa continuation of chapter 16, largely because it is introduced by one of the angels who had the bowls in chapter 16. “Most of chapter 17 deals with the angel’s interpretation of symbols, however, and the actual judgment is not carried out until 17:16 and then throughout chapter 18” (Osborne 2002, 607). The prostitute introduced is held in contrast to the Bride of Christ. This woman is identified as “Babylon the Great,” typically seen as Rome, leading the world away from God. Osborne notes that the imagery of prostitution is common in the Bible as a sign of infidelity to God (Osborne 2002, 608). Here, the prostitute “sits upon” the nation, which normally indicates a position of a conqueror who controls something (Osborne 2002, 609). The concept in Revelation 17:1-2 is that the prostitute has led the people, along with many kings, into a sort of morally drunken slavery.
In Revelation 17:3-6a, John, seeing this in the Spirit, perceives numerous details. The woman is present in great luxury, with a royal cup full of immorality, which Osborne recognizes as being of a religious nature and offensive to God (Osborne 2002, 611). Her name, on her forehead, possibly as a headband or tiara, shows John the mystery that she is “Babylon the Great” (Osborne 2002, 612). Historically, Babylon was known as the seat of all arrogance. Her identity as a mother of abominations would label her offspring, Rome’s subjects, as immoral. In their immorality they are “drunk with the blood of saints,” a bloodthirsty type of immorality.
In Revelation 17:6b-14, John’s confusion about the vision leads to the angel’s explanation, a rhetorical feature Osborne finds common in Scripture as a way of introducing descriptions (Osborne 2002, 614). The beast, in 17:8, is a parody of Christ, being temporary in his rule, as opposed to the eternal Christ. He comes out of the abyss, as wesaw in 11:7 and 13:1 (Osborne 2002, 615). He is headed to his destruction, not to rule but ot have his rule ended. The angel goes on to describe the beast’s seven heads, which the author says requires wisdom. Osborne considers the seven heads to correspond in some way with the seven hills on which Rome sits. However, the seven kings mentioned are much more difficult to interpret (Osborne 2002, 617). They may refer to emperors of Rome and the idea that Nero would be resurrected, but, especially since dating of Revelation is uncertain these theories are tenuous at best. Osborne reviews several ways of identifying these heads, finally concluding they may best be seen as kingdoms and that the number seven, as elsewhere in Revelation, is a sign of completion (Osborne 2002, 620). The coming one of 17:11 is going to be one like the others, of the same kind, but will bring the downfall of the system. The beast also has ten horns. Osborne notes that Rome was divided into ten provinces, which is a sensible interpretation of the passage (Osborne 2002, 621). However, it could also be a reference to client kings who had not necessarily arisen. They have authority for only a short time, and only as far as God allows it (Osborne 2002, 622). Their role is to gather consensus of the other kings of the earth as they try to wage war against the Lamb. Osborne considers this to point foward to a final, cataclysmic time of persecution in which the kings of the world and the people who have refused God will rise up against God and His people. Though they will cause great earthly destruction, God’s people are eternally safe and God will ultimately defeat the beast, his kings, and his people (Osborne 2002, 623). It is God and the Lamb who is the true and eternal king of kings.
In Revelation 17:15-18 the angel returns to the identity and the destiny of the prostitute. She is ruling over all the peoples of the world, those who have rejected God. The beast and his subject kings turn against the prostitute, as Osborne shows is a common theme in Scripture. Eventually the unbelieving world turns on its own (Osborne 2002, 625). The description, strongly reminiscent of Ezekiel 23, shows the prostitute’s allies turned against her. She is not only deposed, but is stripped, killed, and eaten. Osborne observes, again, that this is given by God. As in 17:16, God is using the forces of evil to judge evil (Osborne 2002, 627). In 17:18, the angel makes it plain that this is the destruction of Rome. Osborne considers that Rome didn’t fall for several hundred more years. He does not note that Rome’s fall was not complete even then (Osborne 2002, 628).