Sunday, August 25, 2019

REVELATION 17, PART B

    All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Bible (ESV) unless they are attributed to another version.

    The latter part of chapter 17 gives an explanation of the vision of the woman or Prostitute and the Beast that she rides on.
THE EXPLANATION
  1.  THE WOMAN AND THE WATERS SHE SITS ON:  
Verse 17:18 gives a brief explanation of the Prostitute.  She is the “great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”  If we are reading this chapter for the first time, we are jolted upright by these words.  The Prostitute is a city!  It is described as a city that is not just the most important city in the world, but it is also the city that dominates the rulers of the world.  In 17:2a, we learn that the rulers have been seduced by her, and the outcome of that seduction is capitulation.  They have surrendered their power to her, and she rules over them.  
In 17:1b, the Prostitute is described as “seated on many waters.”  These waters are explained in 17:15:  they are “peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.”  This is a way of underlining the idea that the Prostitute dominates the world.
B.  THE BEAST (8, 11) AND THE SEVEN HEADS (9,10)
    In 17:8a, a synopsis of the “TIMELINE” of the Beast is given, as follows:
The Past:  The Beast “was” at some time in the past.
The Present:  At the present time the Beast “is not.”  We can assume that the “present” from this perspective is at the time that John is witnessing this vision.  How much into the future that present should be extended is an unknown.  So, does that mean that the Beast “is not” today, in 2019?  There is no clear answer, but my guess is that the answer is “yes, the ‘present’ condition still holds, and the Beast ‘is not.’”
Soon (“is about to”):  The Beast is going to rise, at some point, from the Abyss.  The English Standard Version translates the phrase as “is about to.”  However, New International Version translates it as “and yet will come up.”  Of 14 versions/translations that I looked at, 9 use “about to” or “soon” and 5 use “shall” or “will” or “is to.”  In fact, the very common “helper” verb that is used has a wide range of meanings, including “intend to,” “going to,” “be about to,” “will,” etc.  So, in this “timeline,” the issue of how soon the action will take place is not clear.  We can just say that the next step in the agenda is that the Beast will ascend from the Abyss or bottomless pit.  
The very fact that this entity--individual person, kingdom, whatever it might be--is coming from the Abyss is strange in itself.  The “Abyss” is mentioned in Luke 8:31, in which the demons, who are called Legion, who possessed the maniacal man who lived among the tombs, begged Jesus not to send them into the Abyss.  In Romans 10:7, in a loose paraphrase of Deuteronomy 30:12-14, Paul describes the Abyss as a place of the dead, where one might go to bring Christ up from the dead.  In Revelation 9:1-11 the fifth trumpet plague or judgment is described.  A horde of demonic-like locusts come up out of the bottomless pit (or at least appear to) and torment people.  Their king is Abaddon or Apollyon, who is called the “angel of the Abyss.”  In 11:7, the two witnesses are killed by the “beast that rises from the bottomless pit [Abyss].”  Since the Beast of chapter 13 seems to be the same as the Beast of 11:7, it seems to be consistent that the Beast of 17:8 is this same Beast described in the earlier passages.  
So, what does it mean that the Beast comes up out of the Abyss?  The Greek word meant “abyss, depth, underworld.”  For example, in Deuteronomy 8:7, the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) uses, literally, “fountains of depths,” which is just translated “fountains” in ESV.  In Psalm 33:7, the Lord “gathers the waters of the sea in a heap; [He] puts the deeps [abysses] in storehouses.”  The abyss is, according to Arndt and Gingrich, “unfathomable to the human eye...and discernible only by God…”  Arndt and Gingrich define its use in Romans 10:7 as “the abode of the dead...and of demons [as in Luke 8:31]...” as well as the abode of the antichrist or Beast and of “Abaddon...the angel of the underworld…”  None of this is of much help to us.  We can only say that there is a place where at least some of the dead go and where the Beast is holed up until he climbs up out of there.  If we try to spiritualize it, we might say something like this:  The antichrist spirit is temporarily held in check in some deep, dark, far away place.  At some point he will come out of that place in the person of the Beast, whoever or whatever that might be (see later commentary).  This event might correspond to the event that is described in Revelation 9:1-11, in which an angel opens the Abyss when the 5th Trumpet is blown.  This may also be alluded to in II Thessalonians 2:6-8.
Finally, the timeline of the Beast has an end:  “and go to destruction.”  The word that is translated as “destruction” is often translated as “perdition” in the King James Version.  The word is described in Arndt and Gingrich as “the destruction that one causes” or the “destruction that one experiences.”  The former is “waste,” as it is used in Matthew 26:8 in reference to ointment or perfume that the woman “wasted” on Jesus.  More often the latter sense is used, as in Matthew 7:18:  “the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction.”  This destruction may be the temporal destruction in this present life or it may eternal destruction.  The latter meaning is often rendered as “perdition” in the King James Version, in John 17:12 (Judas), Philippians 1:28 (enemies of the cross), and so forth.  
Note especially II Thessalonians 2:3 where the Man of Lawlessness is described in the King James Version as the Son of Perdition.  (“Son of” is a Biblical expression that can mean “having the characteristics of” but also “being destined for”)  So, King James Version uses “perdition” in Revelation 17:8 and 17:11.  Note that in 17:8, the Beast comes out of the Abyss and then winds up in a condition of perdition.  The “perdition” that is referred to is most likely the Lake of Fire.  See Revelation 19:20 (where the Beast is described as being thrown into the Lake of Fire).  Although “destruction” is an OK translation, “perdition” is an ancient word that carries the connotation of eternal or final judgment and hell, as is commonly understood.  Thus, the New World Dictionary includes the theological definition of “perdition” as “the loss of the soul; damnation (b) same as HELL.”  The Greek word, in some contexts, refers to “eternal destruction as punishment for the wicked” (Arndt and Gingrich).  Therefore, “perdition” seems to be an accurate term that translates the Greek.  
This means that the timeline of the Beast ends in eternal punishment.  
In Revelation 17:8b, the earth-dwellers “marvel to see the beast.”  I have tried to be consistent and render as “earth-dwellers” the expression that is rendered here in the ESV as “the dwellers on earth.”  This expression or something quite similar is found frequently in Revelation.  In fact the word for “dwell” is used 9 of 10 times in Revelation to identify a group of people (an overwhelming majority of people) who dwell on earth.  These people have the following characteristics and destiny (all references are to Revelation):  
  • They are guilty of the blood of martyrs (6:10).  
  • They rejoice over the death of the two witnesses (11:10).  
  • They worship the Beast (13:8, 17:8).  
  • They are deceived by the signs of the False Prophet (13:14).  
  • They become drunk on the wine of sexual immorality of the Great Prostitute (17:2).  
  • The “hour of trial” will try them (3:10).  
  • The final three trumpets will bring woe on them (8:13).  
  • They are forced to worship the Beast (13:12). 
  •  Their names are not written in the Book of Life (17:8).
Thus, the use of this phrase, “those who dwell on the earth,” or similar wording, consistently refers to persons who are caught up in the “world.”  That “world” is defined by an anti-Christ spirit that worships the Beast, whom we also know as the “anti-Christ” (I John 2:18).  It is a world that hates witness to the truth, that kills Christians, that is full of deception, that puts enormous pressure on people to conform to its ways.  
    All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Bible (ESV) unless they are attributed to another version.

    The latter part of chapter 17 gives an explanation of the vision of the woman or Prostitute and the Beast that she rides on.
THE EXPLANATION
  1.  THE WOMAN AND THE WATERS SHE SITS ON:  
Verse 17:18 gives a brief explanation of the Prostitute.  She is the “great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”  If we are reading this chapter for the first time, we are jolted upright by these words.  The Prostitute is a city!  It is described as a city that is not just the most important city in the world, but it is also the city that dominates the rulers of the world.  In 17:2a, we learn that the rulers have been seduced by her, and the outcome of that seduction is capitulation.  They have surrendered their power to her, and she rules over them.  
In 17:1b, the Prostitute is described as “seated on many waters.”  These waters are explained in 17:15:  they are “peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.”  This is a way of underlining the idea that the Prostitute dominates the world.
B.  THE BEAST (8, 11) AND THE SEVEN HEADS (9,10)
    In 17:8a, a synopsis of the “TIMELINE” of the Beast is given, as follows:
The Past:  The Beast “was” at some time in the past.
The Present:  At the present time the Beast “is not.”  We can assume that the “present” from this perspective is at the time that John is witnessing this vision.  How much into the future that present should be extended is an unknown.  So, does that mean that the Beast “is not” today, in 2019?  There is no clear answer, but my guess is that the answer is “yes, the ‘present’ condition still holds, and the Beast ‘is not.’”
Soon (“is about to”):  The Beast is going to rise, at some point, from the Abyss.  The English Standard Version translates the phrase as “is about to.”  However, New International Version translates it as “and yet will come up.”  Of 14 versions/translations that I looked at, 9 use “about to” or “soon” and 5 use “shall” or “will” or “is to.”  In fact, the very common “helper” verb that is used has a wide range of meanings, including “intend to,” “going to,” “be about to,” “will,” etc.  So, in this “timeline,” the issue of how soon the action will take place is not clear.  We can just say that the next step in the agenda is that the Beast will ascend from the Abyss or bottomless pit.  
The very fact that this entity--individual person, kingdom, whatever it might be--is coming from the Abyss is strange in itself.  The “Abyss” is mentioned in Luke 8:31, in which the demons, who are called Legion, who possessed the maniacal man who lived among the tombs, begged Jesus not to send them into the Abyss.  In Romans 10:7, in a loose paraphrase of Deuteronomy 30:12-14, Paul describes the Abyss as a place of the dead, where one might go to bring Christ up from the dead.  In Revelation 9:1-11 the fifth trumpet plague or judgment is described.  A horde of demonic-like locusts come up out of the bottomless pit (or at least appear to) and torment people.  Their king is Abaddon or Apollyon, who is called the “angel of the Abyss.”  In 11:7, the two witnesses are killed by the “beast that rises from the bottomless pit [Abyss].”  Since the Beast of chapter 13 seems to be the same as the Beast of 11:7, it seems to be consistent that the Beast of 17:8 is this same Beast described in the earlier passages.  
So, what does it mean that the Beast comes up out of the Abyss?  The Greek word meant “abyss, depth, underworld.”  For example, in Deuteronomy 8:7, the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) uses, literally, “fountains of depths,” which is just translated “fountains” in ESV.  In Psalm 33:7, the Lord “gathers the waters of the sea in a heap; [He] puts the deeps [abysses] in storehouses.”  The abyss is, according to Arndt and Gingrich, “unfathomable to the human eye...and discernible only by God…”  Arndt and Gingrich define its use in Romans 10:7 as “the abode of the dead...and of demons [as in Luke 8:31]...” as well as the abode of the antichrist or Beast and of “Abaddon...the angel of the underworld…”  None of this is of much help to us.  We can only say that there is a place where at least some of the dead go and where the Beast is holed up until he climbs up out of there.  If we try to spiritualize it, we might say something like this:  The antichrist spirit is temporarily held in check in some deep, dark, far away place.  At some point he will come out of that place in the person of the Beast, whoever or whatever that might be (see later commentary).  This event might correspond to the event that is described in Revelation 9:1-11, in which an angel opens the Abyss when the 5th Trumpet is blown.  This may also be alluded to in II Thessalonians 2:6-8.
Finally, the timeline of the Beast has an end:  “and go to destruction.”  The word that is translated as “destruction” is often translated as “perdition” in the King James Version.  The word is described in Arndt and Gingrich as “the destruction that one causes” or the “destruction that one experiences.”  The former is “waste,” as it is used in Matthew 26:8 in reference to ointment or perfume that the woman “wasted” on Jesus.  More often the latter sense is used, as in Matthew 7:18:  “the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction.”  This destruction may be the temporal destruction in this present life or it may eternal destruction.  The latter meaning is often rendered as “perdition” in the King James Version, in John 17:12 (Judas), Philippians 1:28 (enemies of the cross), and so forth.  
Note especially II Thessalonians 2:3 where the Man of Lawlessness is described in the King James Version as the Son of Perdition.  (“Son of” is a Biblical expression that can mean “having the characteristics of” but also “being destined for”)  So, King James Version uses “perdition” in Revelation 17:8 and 17:11.  Note that in 17:8, the Beast comes out of the Abyss and then winds up in a condition of perdition.  The “perdition” that is referred to is most likely the Lake of Fire.  See Revelation 19:20 (where the Beast is described as being thrown into the Lake of Fire).  Although “destruction” is an OK translation, “perdition” is an ancient word that carries the connotation of eternal or final judgment and hell, as is commonly understood.  Thus, the New World Dictionary includes the theological definition of “perdition” as “the loss of the soul; damnation (b) same as HELL.”  The Greek word, in some contexts, refers to “eternal destruction as punishment for the wicked” (Arndt and Gingrich).  Therefore, “perdition” seems to be an accurate term that translates the Greek.  
This means that the timeline of the Beast ends in eternal punishment.  
In Revelation 17:8b, the earth-dwellers “marvel to see the beast.”  I have tried to be consistent and render as “earth-dwellers” the expression that is rendered here in the ESV as “the dwellers on earth.”  This expression or something quite similar is found frequently in Revelation.  In fact the word for “dwell” is used 9 of 10 times in Revelation to identify a group of people (an overwhelming majority of people) who dwell on earth.  These people have the following characteristics and destiny (all references are to Revelation):  
  • They are guilty of the blood of martyrs (6:10).  
  • They rejoice over the death of the two witnesses (11:10).  
  • They worship the Beast (13:8, 17:8).  
  • They are deceived by the signs of the False Prophet (13:14).  
  • They become drunk on the wine of sexual immorality of the Great Prostitute (17:2).  
  • The “hour of trial” will try them (3:10).  
  • The final three trumpets will bring woe on them (8:13).  
  • They are forced to worship the Beast (13:12). 
  •  Their names are not written in the Book of Life (17:8).
Thus, the use of this phrase, “those who dwell on the earth,” or similar wording, consistently refers to persons who are caught up in the “world.”  That “world” is defined by an anti-Christ spirit that worships the Beast, whom we also know as the “anti-Christ” (I John 2:18).  It is a world that hates witness to the truth, that kills Christians, that is full of deception, that puts enormous pressure on people to conform to its ways.  
These earth-dwellers “marvel” to see the Beast (17:8b).  And the reason they do so is because of its time-line:  “because it was and is not and is to come.”  That may strike the reader as odd.  I mean that it is odd that they marvel at the time-line of the Beast.  I think that, in our vernacular it goes like this:  “We thought he (it) was dead and gone, but, look! Here he (it) is again.”  I shall try to sort that out as I dig into the verses that follow.  It is not an easy task.  At this point in the story, we can simply say that the reason that is given for the earth-dwellers’ marvelling at the Beast is because of its time-line:  “it was and is not and is to come.”
One other comment that verse 17:8b makes about the earth-dwellers is that their “names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.”  I have referred to this portion of the verse in comments on Revelation 13:8.  It is a statement of the foreknowledge of God.  The “Book of Life,” which belongs to the Lamb, is the ultimate deciding factor of salvation.  The negative of that proposition is found in Revelation 20:15:  “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”  The earth-dwellers are, in our vernacular, unsaved people.  The facts--that  they wonder at the Beast (17:8), that they have become drunk on the Great Prostitute’s wine of immorality (17:2), that they worship the Beast (13:8), that they are deceived by the false prophet(13:14)--are ultimately due to the fact that they are unsaved and so do not have the spiritual life needed to discern and resist the spirit of the anti-Christ (I John 2:26-27).
In my next post, I shall continue discussing chapter 17.  I must say that the verses that follow are just as difficult, or more so, than what I have been dealing with.  Please have patience. 
Thank you for your faithfulness as a reader of this website.     
REFERENCES:
Arndt, William F. and F. Wilbur Gingrich.  A Greek-English 
    Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early 
    Christian Literature.  Chicago:  The University of 
    Chicago Press, 1957.
Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09). ESV Study Bible. Good 
News Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Guralnik, David B., Ed. in Chief. Webster’s New World 
    Dictionary of the American Language.  New York: 
    Simon and Schuster, 1986.



Monday, August 27, 2018

A SURVEY OF REVELATION 17, PART A

Scripture quotations are from English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise state.

         Chapter 17 is a complex chapter that may be a little difficult to follow.  Nevertheless it contains valuable information.  It contains several symbols, but is careful to define or explain those symbols.  Although, at first reading, there does not seem to be any action, when one carefully reads the chapter, one can discern either certain actions or preparation for actions.
         In presenting this chapter, I shall divide it into four functional sections.  These sections do not follow the order of the chapter throughout, but they are helpful in understanding the role of each part of the chapter.  The four functional sections are “Title/Introduction,” “Description,” “Transition to Explanation,” and “The Explanation.”  Again, note that these sections will not follow the verses in strict order.
TITLE/INTRODUCTION:  
         The first two verses serve as the introduction. Verse 17:1 refers back to the seven angels with the seven bowls of wrath.  One of those angels will be John’s tour guide to characters of this chapter.  The angel is not interested so much in showing John the Great Prostitute, but, rather, he will show him the judgment of the Great Prostitute.  This prostitute sits on many waters.  This will be explained later.
         In verse 17:2  the prostitute is, well, a prostitute, so her sexual immorality is defined as ensnaring two groups of people.  First, “the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality with her.”  This expression depicts her as having the characteristics of a prostitute.  A prostitute is someone who has intimate relations for hire.  This means that a person who hires a prostitute crosses the boundary into forbidden sexual behavior with someone who is not his or her spouse.  
         It is jumping ahead of the story, but we need to recognize that this “woman” is a metaphorical representation of a “city.”  It is possible that the “city” is also really a metaphor, but I shall discuss that later. The present point is this:  the “woman” is a metaphor and, therefore, her prostitution is a metaphor.  The “kings of the earth” likely are those persons who exercise political power throughout the earth, whether or not they are designated “kings.”  These powerful people have entered into a relationship with the “woman” that has the characteristics of prostitution.  If we think of a prostitute as one who sells sexual favors, then the powerful of the world have bought favors from this woman. 
It is possible that her “favors” are one of two kinds.  It may be that power and influence are the favors she is selling.  The “kings” have sought the power and influence of the “woman.”  Perhaps, they have paid a price of liberty and independence. They have agreed to give up their independence in order to be in on “what is happening.”  They lusted to be a part of enormous success of this “woman” and sold their souls—and the souls of those within their spheres of influence—in order to have a share of the shimmering glory and power of this “woman.”  
It is also possible that this woman is simply selling degeneracy.  The kings are giving up their independence as they slip into the oblivion of a party-hardy atmosphere.   This seems to be the case of the other group of persons who fall under the spell of the woman.
         Not only have the powerful rulers of the world entered into this fornication with the “woman,” but also the earth-dwellers have become drunk with the “wine” of her “sexual immorality.”  The imagery has shifted somewhat now.  Rather than a transaction of prostitution, there is now the free-flowing wine of a party. This woman is the hostess, generously filling everyone’s cup.  And everyone—all the “earth-dwellers” are drinking thirstily of her cup.  In verse 4, the woman is said to hold a cup “full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.”  The wine that makes the world drunk is “abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.”  The abominations may include religious abomination as well as common immorality.
         Thus, we are introduced to the central character of the chapter—the woman filled with abomination and immorality and dragging the rest of the world down with her.
         Although there is no cross-reference within the chapter to other parts of the book, this chapter is the beginning of the fulfillment of what has been anticipated earlier in Revelation. In 14:8 we read:  “Another angel, a second, followed, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.’”  And 16:19 says:  “and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath.”
DESCRIPTION:  
I have labeled 17:3-6a as the “Description.” I mean the description of the “great prostitute.”  
In order to see the prostitute, John must be transported “in the Spirit” to a wilderness.  It seems strange that this woman is in a wilderness.  The fact that John travels there in the Spirit may imply that this scene is a spiritual display.  In order to understand the prostitute, one must visit her in the Spirit and see, in the power of the Spirit, her full significance.  Thus, the Spirit takes John away from all other distractions to see the prostitute.  The wilderness may also signify the spiritual emptiness of the prostitute.  
The description in these verses is really of two of the characters of the chapter—a woman and a beast, which she sits on.  As the chapter progresses, it becomes evident that the prostitute has a very integral relationship with the beast she is riding.  
The beast is described as “scarlet,” which may signify boldness and perhaps immorality.  Sins are said to be “red like crimson” (Isaiah 1:18b).  In the Septuagint (the Greek version of the OT), the word for “crimson” is the same as the word for “scarlet” in Revelation 17:3.  The dragon of Revelation 12:3 is described with a word meaning “fiery red.”  Probably, neither the exact color nor the exact significance of the color is being communicated.  More likely, the reader is told that this beast’s color is similar to the dragon of chapter 12.  Moreover, a bold, brazen entity is being described.  
The beast is “full of blasphemous names.” Blasphemy  involves pride and presumption in elevating oneself to a place of contempt for God.  It is the direct opposite of the Biblical concept of the fear of God.  The Beast of Revelation 13 gives us examples of blasphemy in 13:5-6:  “And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months.  It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven.”
         The beast has seven heads and ten horns.  It quite obvious that that this beast corresponds to the Beast of chapter 13, with similarities to the dragon of chapter 12.  See the following.
Color:  Dragon of 12—fiery red, Beast of 13—no color, Beast of 17—scarlet
Heads:  Dragon of 12—seven, Beast of 13—seven, Beast of 17—seven
Horns:  Dragon of 12—ten, Beast of 13—ten, Beast of 17—ten
Diadems:  Dragon of 12—seven on his heads, Beast of 13—ten on his horns, Beast of 17—not mentioned
Blasphemy:  Dragon of 12—not mentioned, Beast of 13—blasphemous names on his heads, Beast of 17—full of blasphemous names
The woman was clothed (ESV: “arrayed”) with “purple and scarlet.”  Purple suggests royalty, for this woman has rulership (see verse 18).  The scarlet may refer to her brazen immorality.  She is adorned with precious jewels, which reflect tremendous wealth which is flaunted.  She is holding a golden cup, and it is filled with abominations and uncleanness.  This cup is what she drinks:  She fills herself with all the filth of the world. 
         The woman has her name written on her forehead.  The older versions, especially King James Version, include “Mystery” as part of the name. The modern versions (including NIV and ESV) consider the word “mystery” to be a modifier of “name.”  So, ESV reads as follows:  “And on her forehead was written a name of mystery:  ‘Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.’”  King James Version reads as follows:  “And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”  I’m not sure the manuscripts help with this.  It seems more natural to me that “mystery” should be included in the name.  “Mystery” is removed some distance from “name.”  That does not always count for much in Greek.  But the fact that “Mystery” begins the series of names also persuades me that it should be part of the name.  Whether it should be rendered “Mystery Babylon” or “Mystery, Babylon…”—I’m not so sure.  
         Mystery could refer to the mystery religions, which were getting started in the first century. These religions specialized in secret knowledge that was known only by the initiated.  The Gnostics also emphasized knowledge as the key to salvation. Salvation for them was freedom from the material realm.  This notion grew from the idea that matter is evil and spirit is good.  These ideas led either to asceticism or libertinism (see Stott, 45ff, and Carson, 15, ff).  
         Although modern-day “mystery” does not seem to correspond to the ancient cults, we can certainly see some similarities.  The ancient mystery cults made THE mystery—a secret known only to the initiated—to be central to their cult.  Mystery today is often associated with religious practices.  Some versions of Christianity emphasize mystery in worship--that we are in awe of the greatness of God, who is beyond our understanding. Other forms of Christianity seek to be open and emphasize that Christ has opened up the way to God and made that way available to all who receive Christ.  Rather than shroud God in mystery, the emphasis of this style of the faith is see all as understandable and available.  One can see a need for both emphases.  Mystery reminds us that we are finite and limited in our grasp of God.  Openness reminds us that we follow a revealed religion that God has made known to us through Christ, the Word, and the church.  
         The final observation in the description of the woman is that she is “drunk.”  She is not drunk with wine; she is drunk “with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.”  The word “martyr” is from the Greek word (martus in the nominative, but marturos in genitive) that means “witness.”  The verb form means to “bear witness,” and there is a cognate noun for “testimony” or “witness.”  However, the word for “witness” also could mean “martyr” in some places, such as Acts 22:20 and Revelation 2:13.  Thus, there is a close connection between “witness” and “martyr.”  Some translations render Revelation 17:6 “the martyrs of Jesus” (ESV and King James Version”), and others translate the phrase as “witnesses of Jesus” or an equivalent (New American Standard Bible, New Revised Standard Version, and New International Version).  Probably both are implied.  In many cases, to be a witness is to risk martyrdom.  One does not think that drinking blood makes one drunk. But there is a form of drunkenness that comes from habituation to evil.  Like all habits, the need to do evil must be satisfied again and again. So, this woman must get her fix by killing more Christians.  
         As much as anything, this is the “back story” of Revelation:  the martyrdom of those who stand for Jesus.  As John and the churches he oversaw faced the threat of the pagan Roman system, the Lord assured the church that the he always is acutely aware of the suffering of his saints, his witnesses, his martyrs.  That was true in the first century and will be true in the last days.  
TRANSITION TO EXPLANATION:
Verses 6b-7 are a transition from the description to the explanation.  In the description, the two major characters are a “woman” and a “beast.”  Such characters cause consternation, so John “marveled.”  The guiding angel responds by saying that these characters are really a “mystery.”  The use of the word here seems to mean:  a symbol or riddle that needs to be explained.  The angel responds to the fact that John marvels by promising to unravel the mystery.  Whether this means that John marveled at how perplexing were the things he had seen or that he marveled at how frightening and horrifying they  were is not clear.  It may mean both.  Unraveling the mystery does not seem to reduce the horror quotient.  So, perhaps the angel responded to John’s perplexity by explaining these mysteries.  

REFERENCES:
Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09). ESV Study Bible. Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Carson, Herbert M.  The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians and Philemon.  Tyndale 
         New Testament Commentaries. Vol. 12.  R. V. G. Tasker, Gen. Ed.  Grand 
         Rapids:  William B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1980.
Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ of the 
         United States of America. New Revised Standard Version. 1989.
The Lockman Foundation.  New American Standard Bible.  LaHabra, CA: Lockman 
         Foundation, 1995.
Stott, John R. W.  The Epistles of John.  Tyndale New Testament Commentaries.                Vol. 20.  R. V. G. Tasker, Gen. Ed.  Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publ.               Co., 1980.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publ., 2002