Tag: Who is the Harlot of Revelation 17?

Who is the Great Harlot in Revelation?

Who is the Great Harlot in Revelation?

Revelation 17 talks about “the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters” (Revelation 17:1). But who is this prostitute that John is referring to in this passage? Is it possible to come up with the correct interpretation without being labeled a bigot and an extremist?

Religious Idolatry on the Rise

A harlot or prostitute is an individual who has been unfaithful in her wedding vows. In Revelation 17, John portrays an apostate church. Although it professes loyalty to Christ, it cleaves to idols and a false religious system. The Bible calls this spiritual idolatry.

God tells John that the influence of this apostate church is worldwide. “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues” (Revelation 17:15). Indeed, the great harlot is a worldwide false religious system.

In Revelation 17:2, we discover that this “great harlot” seduces “the kings of the earth,” not just the general population. They are stupefied and mesmerized by this worldwide religious system centered in Babylon.

The Ancient City of Babylon
Photo Credit: Learnodo Newtonic

Revival of the Roman Empire

John further writes, “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” (Revelation 17:3).

Going back to Revelation 13:1, we read, “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.”

What we see in Revelation 17:3 and Revelation 13:1 is the same. The great harlot sits upon the revived Roman Empire or the nations represented by the European Common Market.

A Deadly Beauty

In Revelation 17:4, John describes the apparel of the great harlot. “The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls.”

She has the outward appearance of royalty; she is wearing gold and precious stones and pearls. This means she has unlimited wealth. In her hand is “a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.”

Outwardly, the great harlot is beautiful, but the contents of her cup are poison to the nations of the world.

John identifies the great harlot in Revelation 17:5. “And on her forehead, a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”

Babylon is the “Mother,” which means the source, or the polluted fountain from which all spiritual prostitution flows.

The word “mystery” in the New Testament does not refer to something mysterious. Rather, it refers to some truth not previously presented by God to men. The “mystery” is in the last days, there will be a great worldwide apostate church that will reject Christ and dishonor God.

Worldwide Confusion

Nimrod's Tower of Babel This identification of Babylon as the source of spiritual unfaithfulness takes us back to the Tower of Babel, where it started.

Nimrod, who was the arch apostate of the post-diluvian world, built the Tower of Babel. He was four generations after the flood and is recorded as “the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel” (Genesis 10:8-10).

Nimrod’s generation built the Tower of Babel to cast God and His influence out of the earth. They proposed to build a great tower that would reach into heaven so that they could have the benefits of God without submitting to Him.

God’s reaction was, “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So, the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth” (Genesis 11:7-9).

Here’s the critical point: the first organized, idolatrous, religious system in the history of the world was introduced at Babel. John calls Babylon “the Mother of Harlots” because it was the birthplace of spiritual adultery.

One day, the great religious system that began after the Flood will return to the forefront. Man will again organize in rebellion against the Creator just like at the Tower of Babel.

Judgment of the Great Harlot

How will it all end for the great harlot? Revelation 17:16-17 reads, “And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.”

In essence, Joh is saying that in the middle of the 7-year Tribulation, the European Common Market will realize that they are mere puppets of the great harlot. They will then turn on her and destroy her with a vengeance.

Conclusion

Revelation 17 focuses on Babylon’s religious character, climaxing in a world religion during the first 3 ½ years of the Tribulation. The major indictment against Babylon is the city’s spiritual idolatry (Revelation 17:4-5).

Millions of Christians will disappear at the Rapture. Meanwhile, the church institution left on earth (void of true believers) will quickly fall into the hands of opportunists. Arnold Fruchtenbaum says this of the prostitute in Revelation 17:

“Babylon the Harlot that represents the one-world religious system will rule over the religious affairs during the first half of the Tribulation. She rules over the nations of the world fully controlling the religious affairs and has the reluctant support of the government. The headquarters of this one-world religion will be the rebuilt city of Babylon, the mother of idolatry, for it was here that idolatry and false religion began.”

Robert Thomas also says, “She leads the world in the pursuit of false religion whether it be paganism or perverted revealed religion. She is the symbol for a system that reaches back to the Tower of Babel which extends into the future when it will peak under the regime of the beast.”


References:

  1. NKJV Prophecy Study Bible edited by John Hagee
  2. The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days by Mark Hitchcock

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Recommended Resource: Revelation (The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentaries) by John F. Walvoord

The book of Revelation has long fascinated and even confused readers and students of the Bible. Yet the Bible is written to be understood, and Revelation is no exception.

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In this first in a renewed series of commentaries from Dr. Walvoord, he points out that much of the book’s symbolism can be interpreted literally. At key points, different views and approaches to interpretation are explored. Walvoord devotes special attention to textual and doctrinal issues while avoiding technical language.

Refined, updated with the English Standard Version (ESV), and streamlined, this classic text is set to help you interpret the last book of the Bible and gain a better grasp of current trends and the climax of history!