We noticed when looking at the previous chapter that the seventh bowl was the destruction of Babylon, the city with worldwide influence. The destruction is viewed as coming from heaven as God uses cosmic elements to bring the city to an end. Chapters 17 and 18 enlarge about the destruction and gives further information regarding how Jesus will defeat this city.
Of course, John is not describing a city of houses and streets when he refers to Babylon. Instead, Babylon is a way of looking at earthly society separated from the kingdom of God. So how is Babylon depicted? We can see that there are these features in the vision: a prostitute, a beast, several kings and the waters.
It is common in the Old Testament for cities to be described as prostitutes because they were the locations where people were led astray from God. In every location, there would be shrines and temples were idolatry was practised and it involved both literal and spiritual immorality.
The prostitute here is a description of Babylon and she is in an unhealthy union with the rulers of the earth. This was true in the past of the literal Babylon, but that city no longer has any power. The current Babylon is not a political power, although she influences the decision makers. She uses the political powers, whoever they are, to fulfil her desires – she is seated upon the beast, which represents political power. She loves luxury – her clothes, her jewellery, and her utensils all indicate this.
John is told that she is the source of all abominations, which means she must have universal influence. She entices everyone to sin. And among her victims are believers who were martyred for the faith. Whenever a Christian was martyred it happened in Babylon. Whenever a person sinned, it happened in Babylon. This should not be too surprising because Babylon is the city of man (17:1-6).