The woman in Revelation chapter 17 means the greatest city in the world. Really, therefore, she means the greatest thing that people can achieve by their own efforts in this world. Nothing could be greater than to build the great city that rules the world (see Daniel 4:30).
When people do such things, they consider themselves to have great power. Clearly, this woman considers herself to have great power. She rides on the back of the most terrible, fierce and dangerous beast (wild animal) in the world. She imagines that she can control the beast. Really, however, the beast will kill her (17:16).
That beast looks very much like the devil himself (12:3). Really, however, it would seem to be the antichrist, the great ruler of the world who is Christ’s enemy (13:1). So, even the greatest city in the world will support the antichrist. That city imagines itself able to control him, even as it already controls many other great men (17:2). However, the antichrist will only use that city for his own advantage. Then he will actually destroy it completely.
In this matter, the city is behaving like a proud prostitute (a woman who sells her body for sex). She imagines that she can control any man. She constantly desires to sleep with richer and more powerful men (compare Ezekiel 23:5-31). She does not realise that, one day, she may be unable to control such a powerful man.
This world’s cities and its governments constantly try to increase their own power. They do it by clever political schemes, by agreement with those who are more powerful than them. They often carry out, or permit, evil acts for the same reason. Perhaps they do not realise that, by such behaviour, they are making agreements with the devil and his agents. They may support the devil, but the devil will not support them. His desire is to ruin those cities, and to send their inhabitants to hell (Isaiah 14:12-17).
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© 2016, Keith Simons.