A Study of Revelation 17:18

“And the woman which thou sawest is that GREAT CITY, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.”
(Revelation 17:18)

When scripture speaks of a “great city” we must realize that for God to exalt a city this way (in that it is great) would classify it as having something very special about it. The word “great” is used in a wide variety of applications, and so we cannot determine God’s definition of “great city” simply from the Greek or Hebrew word “great.”

Scripture teaches that there is one (and only one) true spiritual city, and that is the eternal dwelling place of all of God’s elect. It is this great spiritual city that so much of scripture focuses on. It is the new Jerusalem, or the “city” of which Abraham through faith looked for.

However, as Satan enters into the congregations “…so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (II Thessalonians 2:4), he will come with his own version of the true gospel. He will come with his “city” in attempting to be as great and as wonderful as God. He will come with his own city masquerading it’s pretense as the true spiritual city of God.

“And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”

(II Corinthians 11:14-15)

We find only seventeen references in all of scripture to “great city.” Among these references is the account of “Resen” as a great city, Genesis 10:12. In Joshua 10:2 we read that “Gibeon” was a great city. We next come to Jeremiah chapter twenty-two. It is there that we read once again of God’s judgment upon His church, Old and New Testaments. The gospel decree goes out in parabolic form as we read from Jeremiah 22:3:

“Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoil out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger [those who are aliens of the gospel], the fatherless [those who have no relationship with our heavenly Father], nor the widow [those who do not know Christ as their eternal husband], neither shed innocent blood in this place.”

This gospel decree is given to the king of Judah and all of his servants. God tells these servants that if they obey His command, they will be allowed to enter into the gates of this house as kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, Jeremiah 22:4. However, if they do not obey, their house will be made a desolation, Jeremiah 22:5. In verse six God likens this house of Judah to Gilead, “… thou [ART] Gilead unto me…”. God declares that He will prepare destroyers against this house, and they shall cut down the choice cedars (v. 7), a reference to the silencing of the gospel, or the spiritual killing of the true Word of God. In verse eight God says that many nations will pass by this city, and they will say “…wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this great city?” We see that these congregations, whether they be ancient Israel, as in this historic parable, or the corporate church of Christ – thus it is the church (corporate) and not the world that is viewed as a great city.

When we go to the book of Jonah, we find that the city of Nineveh is characterized as a “great city” in four verses, Jonah 1:2; 3:2-3; and 4:11.

Why does God depict Nineveh as a great city?

Could Nineveh also be a picture of the corporate church?

Very possibly, for two reasons.

First, she is typified as a great city.

Secondly, we read in Jonah chapter three that it’s people believed God, and they repented from the greatest of them even down to the least. Nineveh was spared the judgment of God.

When we go to the book of Nahum we find that all three chapters speak of Nineveh’s destruction. In verse one of chapter three Nineveh is called the bloody city. The word 54*“bloody” in the Hebrew is translated almost always as “blood,” other than fifteen verses which read “bloody.” This word is “dawn” in Hebrew, meaning blood, or death by the shedding of blood. It is rooted from the Hebrew word “daw-man,” which means to cease; to be cut off or cut down; to be silenced, etc.

Could the word “bloody” be picturing the city (the corporate church) as it’s true gospel is silenced and cut off (spiritually killed)?

The book of Nahum carries many similar passages to Revelation chapter eighteen. For example, Nahum 3:4 speaks of Nineveh this way:

“Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the wellfavoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcraft.”

Please take note that in the above verse the word “wellfavoured” is used only once, while the remainder of its usages is read over and over again as grace or favour. Many of these references speak of finding grace or favour with God, and yet scripture indicates that Nineveh once found favour in God’s eyes. Scripture is clear that once we find grace with God we cannot lose that salvation. However, as a corporate entity such as the church or a particular congregation, it can indeed lose God’s favour. Thus it is with this great city Nineveh, this bloody city. Please compare the above verse, Nahum 3:2 with the following two verses:

“…by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.” (Revelation 18:23)

“…Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication,” (Revelation 14:8)

Nahum 3:19 declares that there is no healing for Nineveh, because her wound is grievous. Revelation 18:1 declares that Mystery Babylon shall be thrown down and will never be found again.

In briefly looking at Ezekiel chapters twenty-two and twenty-four, we do not find the phrase “great city” used, but we do find Israel and Jerusalem answering to the name of “bloody city.”

As we have shown, the word “bloody” comes from its root meaning to cease, silence, cut off, etc. This is precisely what is in view in this chapter. As punishment for Israel’s sins, God declares in Ezekiel 22:31 that He has consumed them with the fire of His wrath.

Does this mean that God literally burned up Jerusalem and Israel?

No, this is figurative language and must be understood that way. The second half of Ezekiel 22:31 clearly states what the punishment would be: “… their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God.” This is their punishment.

Is it so bad?

To have one’s own way apart from the gospel is a sure guarantee of eternal damnation. Yes, it is worse than having been burnt up and annihilated. God states in verse four that He will make these people (Israel and/or corporate church) a reproach unto the heathen, and a mocking to all countries.

Isn’t this the way much of the world views the church today?

This bloody city must be a spiritual “type” of the end-time corporate church, Babylon that great city, the mother of harlots.

The last book in which we find the term “great city” used is of course Revelation chapters 11:8; 14:8; 16:19; 17:18; 18:10,16, 18,19,21; and 21:10. These are all given in reference to Babylon, except one. We read a perplexing statement in Revelation 11:8:

“And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.”

God is giving us a clue to the identity of this great city in this verse. He is revealing two important pieces of information that will further identify this great city. First, we note that after we read “great city,” God says “which spiritually is.” Therefore, we know it must have a very non-literal meaning or identity to it. This same city is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, and God states that it is where our Lord was crucified. Christ was crucified at Jerusalem, outside of its walls, but nevertheless still at Jerusalem. Therefore, this great city is typifying Jerusalem. This verse is not typifying the literal Jerusalem in its ultimate view. The name Jerusalem in it’s literal form is used in typifying the spiritual Jerusalem, God’s kingdom, represented by the earthly corporate church.

But why does God depict this city also as Sodom and Egypt?

It may be that Sodom represented all things that are spiritually repulsive to God. Egypt, in it’s spiritual essence, would typify all who are still enslaved to Satan, and in spiritual bondage to their sins. Egypt represents those who do not have the precious faith of Christ to redeem them. It is within the streets of this great city, this spiritual Sodom and Egypt, this spiritual Jerusalem (where also our Lord was crucified), wherein the dead bodies of two witnesses shall lie during the great tribulation. These witnesses are killed within this city, and not elsewhere. Peculiar? Not at all when we realize that the two witnesses can only be portraying the true Church during the great tribulation. Their witness is spiritually killed, that is to say their testimony for Christ is silenced within the corporate church. This is where Satan’s attack is aimed. God is judging His corporate church by allowing Satan to set up the abomination of desolation within the Temple of God. This great city is again Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abomination of the earth. The abomination of desolation has turned this city into a spiritual Sodom and Egypt. Yet, at the same time this city still claims to belong to Christ. It still claims to be God’s spiritual bride, the holy and heavenly Jerusalem ………. “where also our Lord was crucified.”

This is the counterfeit church, Mystery Babylon, that great city!

Finally God reveals in His Word the one true “great city” without it’s defilement by Satan’s final assault at the end of time. God shows us His true undefiled church, without spot and without blemish, being both great and holy:

“AND HE CARRIED ME AWAY IN THE SPIRIT TO A GREAT AND HIGH MOUNTAIN, AND SHEWED ME THAT GREAT CITY, THE HOLY JERUSALEM, DESCENDING OUT OF HEAVEN FROM GOD.”
(Revelation 21:10)

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FOOTNOTES:

54* “dam” (dawm) #1818 Strong’s Hebrew. From #1826; blood (as that which when shed causes death) of man or an animal; by anal. the juice of the grape; fig. (espec. in the plur.) bloodshed (i.e. drops od blood): – blood (-y, guiltiness, innocent.

“damam” (daw-mam’); a prim. root; to be dumb; by impl. to be astonished, to stop; also to perish: – cease, be cut down (off), forbear, hold peace, quiet self, rest, be silent, keep (put to) silence, be (stand) still, tarry, wait.

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