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The Book of Revelation
Chapter Seventeen
One Bahá'í's Concept


This chapter deals with the relationship between the previous religions and the New Dispensation. Many have seen in this chapter the trials of the last days. This chapter may also be seen as a bridge between the prophecies that have been fulfilled in the past by the Islámic religion and those that are still being fulfilled.

The Seven Vials contain the Seven Plagues which are summarized in (Rev.18:8).

    And the breeding-ground of all these tragedies is prejudice: prejudice of race and nation, of religion, of political opinion; and the root cause of prejudice is blind imitation of the past -- imitation in religion, in racial attitudes, in national bias, in politics. So long as this aping of the past persisteth, just so long will the foundations of the social order be blown to the four winds, just so long will humanity be continually exposed to direst peril.
    Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá,
    p. 247)
    As to racial prejudice, the corrosion of which, for well-nigh a century, has bitten into the fiber, and attacked the whole social structure of American society, it should be regarded as constituting the most vital and challenging issue confronting the Bahá'í community at the present stage of its evolution.
    (Shoghi Effendi,
    The Advent of Divine Justice,
    p. 33)

Bible Verses

[1] And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:

One Bahá'í's Concept

V.1 One of the seven angels that had the vials came to talk to John. This is again a start of a series of the Seven Angels speaking and this being the first would again be identified with the Sabean religion although each one is an archetype for all the religions.

The Angel shows John why the judgment was made against the great whore. (The great whore, identified here as changing the Law of God, has been differently identified by various theologians as some religious institution to which they were opposed).

The major concept here is that the great whore is the changed religion or Law of God from the spiritual teachings of love and tolerance, to those of dogmatism and hatred, that has happened around the world. The explanation is given here by the First Angel because the root problem of prejudice is associated with all the religions of the world and with all mankind.

[2] With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.

V.2 The kings have committed fornication with the whore of religion (the changed Law of God) in that they have falsified the meanings and have used religion to arouse the hysterical emotions of the people.
    Therefore we learn that allegiance to the essential foundation of the divine religions is ever the cause of development and progress, whereas the abandonment and beclouding of that essential reality through blind imitations and adherence to dogmatic beliefs is the cause of a nation's debasement and degradation.
    Bahá'í World Faith,
    p. 273)
Note may be taken of the reference to the inhabitants of the 'earth', a theme central to the thought of the native people descendants of the Sabean religion throughout the world.

[3] So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

V.3 The angel carried John in the spirit into a 'vision of the world' in which he saw a woman (religion) sitting on a scarlet colored beast (scarlet is the color of the garb of royalty and purple, in the next verse, being that of high clergy). Being full of names of blasphemy means that the religious and political leaders were profaning the Name of God and religion by subverting them to their own selfish purposes.

The 7 heads (countries) and 10 horns (leaders) in the archetype of the Umayyad are a symbol of religion associated with political governments and oftentimes readers will go so far as to name specific governments. The woman is the 'law of God' or the religion of God which has been profaned by the rulers of the world.

Like all religions, the Native Religions have also let dogma, superstitions, and vain imaginings creep into the spiritual teachings they were originally given.

[4] And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:

V.4 The woman (religion) being arrayed in purple and scarlet colors indicates the relationship between politics (royalty) and (clergy). The gold and precious stones describes material wealth and the motivation behind the association.

With the power of wealth, prestige, honor and luxury, the rulers have persuaded the religions to act on their behalf - and vice versa. This has happened in all the religions. How many times opposing armies have gone into battle urged on by their military chaplains.

The cup being golden shows that it is from a divine source but its being filled with abominations and filthiness is the result of the misuse of the original pure teachings.


V.5 The name on her forehead (i.e. being central to her thought and being) was that she was a Mystery and described as Babylon The Great. Babylon, the archetype, was the capital of ancient Babylonian and was noted for its wealth, that is for its material wealth, as the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.

'Babylon The Great' is also seen by some as the archetype for New York, the materialistic capital of the modern day world. However, the proof of such speculations has to await their fulfillment.

[6] And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.

V.6 The woman is drunk with the blood of the saints. New religions are often rejected by the established religions. The Jews rejected Christ, as they did not want their religious system changed. The early Christians were treated with disdain, being thrown to the lions, by the Romans, as sport. In the same way, persecution happened to the early believers of the Bábí Faith and later to the Bahá'ís.

    Matthew 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
Killing seems to be easy for followers of many religions as they believe that they will have a place in Heaven, if they follow the directives of the Mulláhs, or priests. John wondered about this with admiration, which is not to say that he liked it but rather that he was astounded by it.
    John 16:2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
    (King James Bible)
    We behold it [the world], in this day, at the mercy of rulers so drunk with pride that they cannot discern clearly their own best advantage, much less recognize a Revelation so bewildering and challenging as this. And whenever any one of them hath striven to improve its condition, his motive hath been his own gain, whether confessedly so or not; and the unworthiness of this motive hath limited his power to heal or to cure.
    The Summons of the Lord of Hosts,
    p. 91,
    Suriy-i-Haykal / Surih of the Temple /
    Queen Victoria:175)

[7] And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.

V.7 There is a mystery of the relationship of the woman (religion) to the beast (rulers) as it existed in the historical period of the Umayyad/Abbasid dynasty and which has also been typical of all the worldly powers in their relationship to religion.

The woman was the pure religion until the Islámic rulers (and religious rulers) carried it away. The Umayyad, was one of the tribes of Mecca in the days of Muhammad which was violently opposed to the Prophet; and they later seized the leadership of the Islámic Faith.

[8] The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

V.8 Islám started out pure, (was) but became corrupt (and is not) and yet 'is'. The writings are still intact, for those who desire to follow the writings. People look at the religion in wonder because the followers are strong in their belief of prayer and fasting, and the writings are pure. However, in the culture there is deceit, dishonesty and destruction since the Umayyad took over.
    The beginnings of all great religions were pure; but priests, taking possession of the minds of the people, filled them with dogmas and superstitions, so that religion became gradually corrupt.
    'Abdu'l-Bahá in London,
    p. 125)
[9] And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.

V.9 The seven heads are the seven world religions. The 'seven mountains' are a symbol of each man made institution of each of these seven religions.

The woman is a symbol of the 'Law of God' for all peoples of the world, all nations, all tongues; from which they are governed by the Teachings of the Prophet / Revealer of each religion. (Explained in V.15).

[10] And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.

V.10 This verse is like a riddle. Like all riddles it becomes clear when once it is explained. To understand this riddle one must remember that it was written at the time of John.

Of the seven kings, (Prophets) five are fallen; this includes all the religions before Christ. When a new Prophet comes, the 'previous times' for each have ended, so in this case the five that have fallen are those of Abraham, Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster and Buddha. The Christian Faith is the one that is in power and the Islámic religion at that time is not yet come.

The short space for the Islámic Faith (the one to come) is while the control was with Muhammad and His successor Ali.

[11] And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.

V.11 When Muhammad died, the Umayyad Caliphs seized leadership and killed anyone they thought qualified for leadership. This group would be the 'is not'. The Umayyad group used Muhammad's powerful teachings to carry them on in their own 'religion', but which is not truly the religion of God and is the 'eighth' religion that goeth down into perdition.

The TRUE 'eighth' religion was that of the Báb, who came from the 'Seventh' the Prophet of the Islámic Faith; He was the return of the twelfth Imam, the one promised in Muhammad's writings. After seven short years of proclamation and teaching He was martyred.

[12] And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.

V.12 The ten horns (Umayyad leaders) were not in power at the time of Christ, but when Muhammad came the new teachings were changed after Muhammad's death, by the takeover of Islám by this group of ten leaders.

[13] These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.

V.13 These ten leaders are of one mind which was for power and wealth, which they gave to the 'beast' (Mu'ávíyyih) which became their 'religion'. The archetypical experience of what happened to the true religious spirit held true for all the religions. For example:
    Unlike the bold offensive which an avowedly atheistic movement had chosen to launch against it [the Christian Religion], both within the Soviet union and beyond its confines, this nationalistic philosophy, which Christian rulers and governments have upheld, is an attack directed against the Church by those who were previously its professed adherents, a betrayal of its cause by its own kith and kin. It was being stabbed by an alien and militant atheism from without, and by the preachers of a heretical doctrine from within. Both of these forces, each operating in its own sphere and using its own weapons and methods, have moreover been greatly assisted and encouraged by the prevailing spirit of modernism, with its emphasis on a purely materialistic philosophy, which, as it diffuses itself, tends increasingly to divorce religion from man's daily life.
    (Shoghi Effendi,
    The World Order of Bahá'u'lláh,
    p. 182)

[14] These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.

V.14 This combination of ten ruler and religious powers would make war with the Lamb (the Báb). In the seven short years the Báb proclaimed His Cause, He found over twenty thousand followers. He had never studied in school, yet with innate knowledge, He wrote beautiful prayers and verses. This illustrious soul arose with such power that He shook the customs of the Persians, into accepting, new rules, new laws, a new religion. He imparted divine education to an unenlightened multitude, and produced marvelous results.

The Báb was twenty-five years old when He Declared. The great personages of the state, nearly all the clergy, and public men arose to annihilate him. The Báb's purpose was to proclaim the coming of the Promised One of all ages. He is called the Lamb, because He, like Jesus knew His life would be sacrificed. He thus fulfilled His purpose. He truly can be called Lord of lords, and King of kings.

[15] And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.

V.15 The angel told John that the waters that he saw, where the whore sits, are the people of the all nations, and all tongues. All have drifted away from the teachings (waters) of their prophets. The whore is a symbol for the 'Law of God' defiled by mankind of the world: which is not acceptable.

[16] And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.

V.16 The ten rulers are symbolic of the Islámic countries who actually hate the whore, although they, like political leaders in the rest of the world, give lip service regarding their love of their religions. Their attack, actually the attack of government upon religion, is deadly to the already profaned religions. While the spirit of religion has already been consumed they now consume also its outer forms.
    The second word We have recorded on the second leaf of Paradise is the following: "The Pen of the Divine Expounder exhorteth, at this moment, the manifestations of authority and the sources of power, namely the kings and rulers of the earth -- may God assist them -- and enjoineth them to uphold the cause of religion, and to cleave unto it. Religion is, verily, the chief instrument for the establishment of order in the world, and of tranquillity amongst its peoples. The weakening of the pillars of religion hath strengthened the foolish, and emboldened them, and made them more arrogant. Verily I say: The greater the decline of religion, the more grievous the waywardness of the ungodly. This cannot but lead in the end to chaos and confusion. Hear Me, O men of insight, and be warned, ye who are endued with discernment!"
    Epistle to the Son of the Wolf,
    p. 28)

[17] For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.

V.17 God put into their hearts these thoughts to fulfill His will, to let the world go forward in its folly, without chastisement, until the Faith of Bahá'u'lláh had been proclaimed, and established.
    .investigate independently, free from the restrictions of dogmatic beliefs, blind imitations of ancestral forms, and the influence of mere human opinion; for as we enter this question we will find some who declare that religion is a cause of uplift and betterment in the world, while others assert just as positively that it is a detriment and a source of degradation to mankind. We must give these questions thorough and impartial consideration so that no doubt or uncertainty may linger in our minds regarding them.
    Bahá'í World Faith,
    p. 270)

[18] And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth. with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!

V.18 The angel explains that spiritually, this woman, the whore, is a symbol of that great city Babylon, the perverted law which has taken control of the kings and rulers of the earth.

Materially, the premier city that is "Babylon" is a symbol of the Great Whore and the gold, precious stones and pearls are the symbols of the riches with which she controls the world.

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