The Great Harlot
Prior to 1840, there was no disagreement among Protestants, on the meaning of this passage. But, after the Seventh Day Adventist Church made the obvious interpretation of the “mark of the beast” as the changing of the Sabbath Day, there were many Protestants who sought to make a new interpretation of this Chapter.
Chapter 17 describes the judgment of the Great Harlot in the Reformation. The harlotry that is judged is the “fornication with the kings of the earth.” The woman sat on seven mountains, which are seven kingdoms. Through fornication with the kings of the earth, the beast gained power over the saints for “42 months.” In verses 8 to 18, we are going to see how that happened.
We must remember there was only one so called “Church” until the Reformation, which was the Great Harlot. The true believers, New Jerusalem, was “in the wilderness,” and known only to God, as described in Chapter 12.
The Great Harlot, called Babylon, and New Jerusalem continues today. But Babylon today, is not the Catholic Church alone. We need to understand the true meaning of “the beast” and “his kingdom.”
Jesus Christ established the true teachings of the Church during a literal period of three and a half years (42 months). The beast, or “antichrist,” meaning “substitute Christ,” is only a figurative person. He established false teachings over a period of 42 months, which are really 1278 years.
The Great City today is comprised of all those who follow the false teachings of the figurative beast, and “bow down” to him rather than Christ.
There are very simple relationships explained in Revelation:
his kingdom = the Great City = the Woman (Rev 17)
New Jerusalem= the holy City = the Woman (Rev 12)
one of the angels – this Chapter is thematically distinguished from Chapter 18 by the angels who appear in verse 1 of each Chapter. Although these two Chapters are closely related, they have separate “messages.”
who sits on many waters – by the late 15th and early 16th centuries, European missionaries and explorers had spread the teachings of the beast across the many waters of the earth, to the Americas, Asia, Africa and Oceania.
the kings of the earth committed fornication – the political fornication of the Church with the kings of the earth began as early as 150 AD, with “apologies” of doctrine made to the Emperor and the Roman senate. The rejection of the Catholic Church during the Reformation ended the “political relationships” that kept the saints under the power of Rome. The Reformation resulted in the separation of Church and State.
the inhabitants of the earth were drunk with the wine of her fornication – with the false religion of the beast. This drunkenness was first described in Isaiah 28:1, the “drunkards of Ephraim,” who became drunk with a corrupted religion.
into a wilderness – John must go into the wilderness to see the harlot. The saints are now “in the wilderness,” are described in Revelation 12:14. New Jerusalem is in the wilderness. And only the saints can understand who the harlot is, the world remains deceived, as we read in Revelation 13:8.
a scarlet beast – this is the beast from Rev 13:1-2, the description is the same. Scarlet represents sin, as in Isaiah 1:18. In Rome, on the ceiling of the Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls are the portraits of 109 Popes, all in scarlet. The Pope’s throne room, including its walls, ceiling and floor are also scarlet.
clothed in purple and scarlet – as we mentioned in the introduction, the Great Harlot up to the time of the Reformation was the Catholic Church. The clothing of the Catholic Church is purple and scarlet. Bishops wear purple. Cardinals and the Pope wear scarlet.
adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls – anyone who has been to the Vatican can tell you about this.
having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations – the “golden cup” of Babylon is first found in Jeremiah 51:7. An abomination is something that God hates. This expression is often used to describe pagan religious practices, especially when they are adopted by God’s chosen people. The mixture of pagan religious days with the true faith, the changing of God’s commandment, and the worship of a three headed god, are great abominations in the eyes of God.
The cup of communion, or remembrance of Christ’s death is the significant meaning here and throughout the Book of Revelation. The Apostle Paul told us
“whosoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.” 1 Cor 11:27
Those who worship the beast, and his image and receive his mark, drink “the wine of her immorality” (Rev 14:8), and “the wine of the wrath of God” (Rev 14:19).
on her forehead a name – this expression is used throughout Revelation. The number 666 “lateinos” is written on the forehead of those who worship the beast, and the saints have the name of God on their forehead.
Mystery – this is the spiritual kingdom of those who worship the beast, the false Christ. This kingdom of the beast continues today among those who exalt the teaching of the beast above the teachings of Christ.
Babylon – the Book of Daniel tells us the story of the kingdom of Babylon which took God’s chosen saints into captivity. The saints are again taken into captivity in mystery Babylon the Great, see Daniel 7:25.
Babylon is described as a great tree such that the “birds come and nest in its branches” (Dan 4:12). This is the parable that Jesus used to describe the growth of the corrupted kingdom of heaven, in Matthew 13:32. In Daniel, we are told that the tree will be cut down but only the stump will remain, (Dan 4:14-15). In other words, the corruption will be removed and the tree will be restarted from the stump, with “a band of brass and iron around it.” (The band of brass and iron prevents a tree from growing without killing it, allowing it to grow later when desired.)
King Nebuchadnezzar was made as “a beast” to eat grass, until he learned “that the most High rules in the kingdom of men.” Because he “exalted himself,” (compare Daniel 5:21 to Daniel 11:36-37), Babylon became “the kingdom of the beast.”
As the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar was made the head of the statue of the four kingdoms (Dan 2:38), which became “seven kingdoms” in the Book of Revelation. These are the “seven heads” on which the woman sits.
The Great – three “great” kingdoms are explained in Daniel 8. The first, belonging to the ram, in Daniel 8:4, who “magnified himself” – this was the kingdom of Persia, typified by “Cyrus the Great.” The second belonging to the goat, in Daniel 8:8, who “magnified himself exceedingly, typified by “Alexander the Great.” The final kingdom, in Daniel 8:9, “which grew exceedingly great” is “mystery Babylon the Great.”
the mother of harlots – the Catholic Church grew until the Reformation and became the “mother of harlots” – the mother of many denominations that hung onto a mixture of pagan religious practices and the teachings of Christ. This harlotry was described by Hosea: “they turn to other gods and love the raisin cakes (of the pagans)” (Hosea 3:1). The mother of Hosea’s harlotrous wife was actually named “Diblaim,” meaning “two cakes.”
and the abominations of the earth– virtually all of the significant deviations from the truth come from the 42 month period of 193 AD to 1471 AD.
drunk with the blood of the saints – drunk with the blood of 100’s of thousands, and even millions. This Harlot, in drinking the cup of the Lord’s death, is guilty of the blood of the Lord, and His saints.
the witnesses of Jesus – the Greek word for witnesses is “matyron” from which we get “martyr.”