Chapter 17

The Harlot and the Beast

john sees the futureThis chapter (as well as the next) concerns the judgment of Babylon. In this, John is given the details surrounding the destruction of BABYLON THE GREAT – the ungodly “religious” system that reaches its apex during the Tribulation.

v.1-2 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”

It is one of the angels who deployed the bowl judgments in the last chapter who comes to John. So we can conclude that this “judgment of the great harlot” occurs during the discourse those judgments during the second half of the Tribulation.

It will help your study, dear ones, to understand that Babylon represents three entities that will be judged and fall as the angel declared earlier (Rev.14:8):

  1. A religious system (this chapter)
  2. A world system (next chapter)
  3. A literal city (next chapter)

She is called “the great harlot” because she is a spiritual fornicator that serves and worships gods other than Jehovah God. The term “harlot” speaks of idolatry (see—Jer.3:6-9; Ez.16:30; Hosea).

She is said to be one who “sits on many waters” because she holds power, authority, and influence over many people, nations, and tongues (see v.15).

She is the one “with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication” because she has caused world leaders to join with her in her idolatry, spiritual wickedness, and contempt for God and His people. It is interesting that the kings are not accused of committing adultery with her because that would imply marriage. Pagans, however, never considered themselves married to their gods, so they are characterized as fornicating with the harlot.

She is the one who has made the earth “drunk with the wine of her fornication” because she has caused the inhabitants of the earth to become intoxicated (deranged) because of her many idols, and in so doing multitudes have been led away from the truth of God and the knowledge of Jesus Christ because of her influence.

This has been the indictment against the “great harlot” over the centuries, and shall be particularly true in the global “religious system” that she becomes during the Tribulation.

v.3-5 So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness, And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of the abominations and the filthiness of her
fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

The angel carries John away to the “wilderness” (or a “lonely and desolate” place) that some suggest might be some remote area of the earth, or even the earth itself. We don’t know. But it’s not where John was, and it’s clearly far removed from the other activities in heaven.

Okay, let’s examine John’s eyewitness account of the woman, beginning with her name.

“MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH”

How she came to earn this name is explained in her history.

Babylon first appears in the Bible as a kingdom named “Babel” (Gen.10:10) which means “confusion” due to God’s confusion-of-tongues judgment upon the rebellious who lived there (Gen.11:9). Following the great flood God instructed man to disperse and “fill the earth” in order to replenish it with humanity (Gen.9:1). In blatant disobedience to the will of God, however, a descendent of Cush called Nimrod rallied the people to built a city whose tower “may reach unto heaven” to gain “a name” for themselves lest they “be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Gen.11:3-4). As a result, God changed their languages to prevent them from communicating amongst themselves and thus forced them to disperse (Gen.11:5-8).

But not before Satan impregnated them with a taste and irresistible desire for a commercial and pagan “world-system” in defiance of God (which they in turn carried away with them to every region of the planet). The self-same God-less system of materialism, vain philosophy, and malignant religious practices known as “the world” which has opposed God in every generation since (Jas.4:4) and hence given breath to the spirit of Babylon in all ages, including our present age.

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