"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
 
Rev 22:7

 
search
 
Visit us on
Facebook:

« back  Intro   Chapter   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22  next »
                                                                                                                            <-Coming Soon->
                                                                                                                       Unless Jesus Does First

harlot rides the beast




Revelation 17:1-7


Revelation 17:1 - 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...."

Revelation 16 brought us to the end of the Tribulation judgments in the Revelation narrative, with Babylon's destruction and a global earthquake. Chapters 17-18 take a break from the narrative in an interlude. Recall from the "Revelation Introduction," an interlude is a parenthesis in the main dialogue where we are given more information, or a different perspective to the main storyline. In other words, an interlude is a background story to the narrative, with clear indications that each interlude reaches back or forward in time, and generally returns to where the primary narrative left off. This last interlude of Revelation gives us background information on Babylon.

In chapter 17, an angel tells John that Babylon is a "great harlot," but later says that it is also "great city" (Revelation 17:18). John sees the destruction of the great city of Babylon in Revelation 18. Many try to identify the "great harlot" with other cities, but as we will see, the "great harlot" is an idolatrous religious system, but its base is clearly in the literal city of Babylon in modern-day Iraq, thus Scripture shows us two different aspects of the city Babylon religious and economic:

Revelation 17-18 vs Narrative

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls tells John about Babylon. Though it is not specified which of the seven angels, many speculate that the angel who destroyed Babylon in the seventh Bowl judgment is the angel who explains to John why God judged it in Revelation 16:19. The angel invites John to see the judgment of the "great harlot," using the phrase "come, I will show you," which is the same phrase later used again by one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls perhaps the same angel that shows John the judgment of the "great harlot":

Revelation 21:9-10 - Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, "Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife." And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God....

This angel shows John another city the heavenly Jerusalem the home of the bride of Christ. As discussed in Revelation 12:1, a woman used figuratively in Scripture always pictures a city, nation, or people group in covenant with God, or who has forsaken God for false gods. The inhabitants of Babylon forsake God, but the inhabitants of the heavenly Jerusalem are in covenant with God. When we compare Babylon the "great harlot" and the heavenly Jerusalem side-by-side we see that the two cities have some similarities, but are opposite in other ways:


Babylon the "great harlot"
Revelation 17
Heavenly Jerusalem
Revelation 21
One of the seven angels with seven bowls shows John the harlot that rides the beastOne of the seven angels with seven bowls shows John the bride of Christ
Sits on beast full of names of blasphemyFoundation has names of apostles
Mother of abominationsNothing containing abominations allowed
Religious apostate systemNothing that defiles, causes an abomination or lie allowed in the city
Of the worldHoly - Set apart from the world
A city built by menA city built by God
The people are identified with the cityThe people are identified with the city
Followers of the harlot and the beast are not found in the book of lifeFollowers of Christ are found in the book of life
Drunk with the blood of saintsHome of the saints
Destruction of the city avenges the saintsSaints inhabit the heavenly city
In the wilderness, the beast's heads are "mountains" or kingsThe heavenly Jerusalem is on a great mountain with one King
The harlot is adorned with gold and precious stones and pearlsThe walls of the heavenly city are constructed with gold and precious stones and pearls for gates
Clothed with purple and scarletClothed in light
DestroyedEternal

The Bible, from a broad scope, is a story of the two cities of Babylon and Jerusalem. After the flood, man rebelled against God in Babel, later called Babylon, but God offered redemption by offering up His Son to die in the earthly Jerusalem for man's rebellion. In the last days, Babylon and Jerusalem will come full circle when the last rebellion before Jesus returns is again centered in Babylon. After Babylon is destroyed in the last Bowl judgment, Christ will return and rule from the earthly Jerusalem during the Millennium, but after that the heavenly Jerusalem will replace the earthly Jerusalem on the renovated earth for eternity.

To understand the "great harlot" imagery of Babylon, we need to go back to the first rebellion against God in Babel. As discussed in Revelation 14:8, the mighty hunter Nimrod first built and ruled over Babel in the land of Shinar in modern-day Iraq:

Genesis 10:8-10 - Cush begot Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, "Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD." And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

The people of Babel tried to build a tower to the heavens:

Genesis 11:1-4 - Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."
Genesis 11:5-9 - But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the LORD said, "Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. 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; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

The reason the people built the city and the tower was because they wanted to make a name for themselves. God had commanded them to spread out and fill the earth in Genesis 9:1. Instead they decided to stay in one area. By making a name for themselves by building the tower, the people of the earth shook their fists at God in rebellion. This original Babylonian system was simply the gathering of the people under the leadership of Nimrod to do their own will and not God's will. To stop the rebellion, God confused their language and forced them to scatter over the earth, which He had commanded them to do in the first place.

Historical accounts tell us that Nimrod's wife, Semiramis, believed that after Nimrod died the people should worship him as a god. When her son Tammuz was born, Semiramis claimed that he was supernaturally conceived and the people worshipped both Tammuz and his mother as gods. This was the beginning of idolatry and mother/son worship, which resonates within many of the ancient religions of the past, as well as within many religions still today. This Babylonian system that started under Nimrod will come full circle as the religious system that Satan will use to deceive and rule over the masses through the first half of the Tribulation.

In Revelation 17:5 the angel calls the "great harlot" the "mother of all harlots," because this ancient religion that began in Babylon is the "mother" of all false religions. A harlot, in the physical sense, is a woman who commits fornication with other men who are not her husband for a price. In the spiritual sense, a nation, city, or people group who follow a harlot religion has forsaken the worship of the one true God, and instead worship false gods to gain material wealth and prosperity like a woman who is a prostitute. God illustrated Israel's harlotry to Hosea in a life lesson by telling him to marry a harlot:

Hosea 1:2 - When the LORD began to speak by Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea: "Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the LORD."
Hosea 2:4-5 - "I will not have mercy on her children, for they are the children of harlotry. For their mother has played the harlot; she who conceived them has behaved shamefully. For she said, 'I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.'"

Jerusalem, Ninevah, and Tyre are all cities in Scripture that God called harlots because the people in these cities forsook God for idol worship. According to the apostle Paul, covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5), so it is not a surprise to see that these cities that played the harlot did so because they coveted the material wealth and luxuries offered by the pagan nations with whom they spiritually fornicated:

Jeremiah 2:2, 5, 13, 18-20 - "Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying... Thus says the LORD: "What injustice have your fathers found in Me, that they have gone far from Me, have followed idols, and have become idolaters....? For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns - broken cisterns that can hold no water.... And now why take the road to Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? Or why take the road to Assyria, to drink the waters of the River? Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you. Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing that you have forsaken the LORD your God, and the fear of Me is not in you," says the Lord GOD of hosts. "For of old I have broken your yoke and burst your bonds; and you said, 'I will not transgress,' when on every high hill and under every green tree you lay down, playing the harlot.""
Nahum 3:4-7 - Because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot, the mistress of sorceries, who sells nations through her harlotries, and families through her sorceries. "Behold, I am against you," says the LORD of hosts; "I will lift your skirts over your face, I will show the nations your nakedness, and the kingdoms your shame. I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile, and make you a spectacle. It shall come to pass that all who look upon you will flee from you, and say, 'Nineveh is laid waste! Who will bemoan her?' Where shall I seek comforters for you?"
Isaiah 23:15-17 - Now it shall come to pass in that day that Tyre will be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king. At the end of seventy years it will happen to Tyre as in the song of the harlot: "Take a harp, go about the city, you forgotten harlot; make sweet melody, sing many songs, that you may be remembered." And it shall be, at the end of seventy years, that the LORD will deal with Tyre. She will return to her hire, and commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth.

As mentioned earlier, the purpose of the angel showing John the "great harlot" is to explain why God judges her. The following passages show that God judges the "great harlot" to avenge the shed blood of His saints under her leadership:

Revelation 17:6 - I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.
Revelation 19:2 "For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her."

The fifth Seal judgment, which is a curse on the earth dwellers who kill the saints during the Tribulation, is complete when the Lord destroys the "great harlot" to avenge His saints:

Revelation 6:9-11 - When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.

Babylon is identified with both religious and economic systems who direct the earth dwellers to slaughter the saints throughout the Tribulation. We will see the religious aspect of Babylon destroyed in this chapter, and the city, along with the economic system destroyed in Revelation 18.

The "great harlot" sits on "many waters." The angel speaking to John explains what this means later in this chapter:

Revelation 17:15 - Then he said to me, "The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues."

Recall from Revelation 5:9, 6:15, 7:9, 11:9, and 14:7 that listing people into four divisions represent all people groups who dwell on the earth. We saw similar imagery of water representing people in Revelation 7:3, where the "sea" represents the Gentile nations, but the waters upon where the "great harlot" sits represent all people groups - Jew and Gentile, rich or poor, powerful or weak.

As discussed in Revelation 3:21, "sitting" on a seat of power like a throne shows rule and authority, so "sitting" on the waters show that the "great harlot" rules over all the people of the world, including the kings of the earth:

Revelation 17:18 - "And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth."

But the beast will rule during the second half of the Tribulation. As discussed in Revelation 13:5, and as we will see in Revelation 17:16-17, the beast will come to power after the kings of the earth destroy the "great harlot." This means the "great harlot" will rule over the people of the earth during the first half of the Tribulation in the form of a compulsory, global idolatrous false religious system. The timing of the rise of this ecumenical religion near the beginning of the Tribulation makes sense, as God said He will "reduce to nothing all the gods of the earth" when He judges the nations surrounding Israel in the "Great Middle East War" near the beginning of the Tribulation the "day of the Lord's anger":

Zephaniah 2:3, 11 - Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD's anger.... The LORD will be awesome to them, for He will reduce to nothing all the gods of the earth; people shall worship Him, each one from his place, indeed all the shores of the nations.

The void in "religion" made by the rapture that precedes the "Great Middle East War" and the "Gog and Magog War" that shortly follows will pave the way for a one-world religion to rise, led by the great spiritual harlot of Babylon in rebellion against God. God did not allow Nimrod to succeed when he tried to bring the world together in rebellion the first time (Genesis 11:1-9), but in the first half of the Tribulation God will allow the global rebellion to come to fruition at the helm of the "great harlot" from Babylon - the same city where the first global rebellion of men against God took place.


Revelation 17:2 "...with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication."

The angel tells John that the "great harlot... sits on many waters," which means she rules over the world, as discussed in the last section. The angel goes on to describe the relationship between the harlot and the kings of the earth as "fornication." As discussed in the last section, fornication in the physical sense means to commit sexual immorality or commit unlawful sex outside of a marriage covenant. In the spiritual sense, fornication, or "playing the harlot," means being unfaithful to God and worshiping false gods and idols, rejecting God's covenant relationship. Israel accepted His covenant and later broke it, so God put Israel away with a certificate of divorce, but He will restore His covenant relationship with them in the future:

Jeremiah 3:1, 6-8, 14 - "They say, 'If a man divorces his wife, and she goes from him and becomes another man's, may he return to her again?' Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return to Me," says the LORD.... The LORD said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: "Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. And I said, after she had done all these things, 'Return to Me.' But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also.... Return, O backsliding children," says the LORD; "for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion...."

In the passages below, we see that God judges Babylon because she "corrupted the earth with her fornication" by making the nations "drunk with the wine of her fornication," and for killing His servants:

Revelation 14:8 - And another angel followed, saying, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication."
Revelation 19:2 "For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her."

Wine, if drunk in excess can make one intoxicated, and it dulls the senses which can cause people to lack discernment and err in judgment:

Proverbs 20:1 - Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
Isaiah 28:7 - But they also have erred through wine, and through intoxicating drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through intoxicating drink, they are swallowed up by wine, they are out of the way through intoxicating drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.
Luke 21:34 - "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly."

Wine can also become an addiction for some. Spiritual harlotry is like wine, in that it can enslave people because it is appealing and addicting, yet it does not satisfy because it tries to fill a spiritual void only God can fill:

Hosea 4:10-13 - For they shall eat, but not have enough; they shall commit harlotry, but not increase; because they have ceased obeying the LORD. "Harlotry, wine, and new wine enslave the heart. My people ask counsel from their wooden idols, and their staff informs them. For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God. They offer sacrifices on the mountaintops, and burn incense on the hills, under oaks, poplars, and terebinths, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters commit harlotry, and your brides commit adultery.

Karl Marx once said: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." (source) It is interesting that Marx compared the need of religion to drug addiction because people often seek after one or both to try to fill the spiritual void inside them. God made man in His image and was one in spiritual union with him until the fall. This broken union left a spiritual void that people try to fill with a variety of things from false religion, sexual immorality, drugs, alcohol, or materialism. These things seem to satisfy for a time, but can become idols or addictions, as they only give a temporary fix for the spiritual thirst that only the Holy Spirit can quench in a covenant relationship with God:

Ephesians 5:18 - And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit....
Psalms 63:1 - O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.
Psalms 42:1-2 -As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
Isaiah 55:1-3 - "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you - The sure mercies of David."
John 4:13-14 - Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

Drinking the wine of the wrath of Babylon's fornication means people will forsake God and lust after the material and fleshly luxuries the city has to offer. This is really another form of idolatry that is prevalent in the modern era. As mentioned in the last section, the Apostle Paul calls this idolatry covetousness:

Colossians 3:5-6 - Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience....

To drink, or take the cup of the "wine of wrath" is a picture of suffering God's judgment:

Job 21:17-20 - "How often is the lamp of the wicked put out? How often does their destruction come upon them, the sorrows God distributes in His anger? They are like straw before the wind, and like chaff that a storm carries away. They say, 'God lays up one's iniquity for his children'; let Him recompense him, that he may know it. Let his eyes see his destruction, and let him drink of the wrath of the Almighty."
Psalms 75:7-20 - But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another. For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is fully mixed, and He pours it out; surely its dregs shall all the wicked of the earth drain and drink down. But I will declare forever, I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. "All the horns of the wicked I will also cut off, but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted."

But the "great harlot" will make the nations "drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication," which means she will entice the nations to follow idols in spiritual harlotry, leading to global moral corruption or depravity (Revelation 19:2), and then to God's judgment. The following passages describes God's wine cup of wrath that the nations will drink in the Tribulation, because like Israel, the world will follow idols created by the work of their hands, instead of serving the Creator:

Jeremiah 25:6-10 - Do not go after other gods to serve them and worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands; and I will not harm you.' Yet you have not listened to Me," says the LORD, "that you might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt. "Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: 'Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,' says the LORD, 'and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations. Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp.
Jeremiah 25:11-17 - And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 'Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,' says the LORD; 'and I will make it a perpetual desolation. So I will bring on that land all My words which I have pronounced against it, all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah has prophesied concerning all the nations. (For many nations and great kings shall be served by them also; and I will repay them according to their deeds and according to the works of their own hands.)'" For thus says the LORD God of Israel to me: "Take this wine cup of fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it. And they will drink and stagger and go mad because of the sword that I will send among them." Then I took the cup from the LORD's hand, and made all the nations drink, to whom the LORD had sent me....
Jeremiah 25:27-30 - "Therefore you shall say to them, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: "Drink, be drunk, and vomit! Fall and rise no more, because of the sword which I will send among you." ' And it shall be, if they refuse to take the cup from your hand to drink, then you shall say to them, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts: "You shall certainly drink! For behold, I begin to bring calamity on the city which is called by My name, and should you be utterly unpunished? You shall not be unpunished, for I will call for a sword on all the inhabitants of the earth," says the LORD of hosts.' "Therefore prophesy against them all these words, and say to them: 'The LORD will roar from on high, and utter His voice from His holy habitation; He will roar mightily against His fold. He will give a shout, as those who tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth."

Belshazzar, the last king of Babylon, literally got drunk on wine served in the vessels from God's temple and gave praise to idols, along with his administration and family. Like the "great harlot," God judged Belshazzar and those who sinned with him:

Daniel 5:1-5 - Belshazzar the king made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in the presence of the thousand. While he tasted the wine, Belshazzar gave the command to bring the gold and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple which had been in Jerusalem, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken from the temple of the house of God which had been in Jerusalem; and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone. In the same hour the fingers of a man's hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.
Daniel 5:22-24 - "But you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, although you knew all this. And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified. Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written."
Daniel 5:25-31 - "And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians." Then Belshazzar gave the command, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. That very night Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

Babylon's intoxication that makes the nations deranged, like being drunk with wine, is the same idolatry that leads to God turning people and societies over to a "debased mind" (Romans 1). Without being able to reason, a debased society will be unable to repent, then they will "complete their iniquity," and God will judge them like He did in Egypt and in the nations that occupied Canaan before Israel conquered the land:

Genesis 15:13-16 - Then He said to Abram: "Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete."
Leviticus 18:24-25 - 'Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants.
Exodus 7:3-4 - And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not heed you, so that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.

In other words, God hardens people's hearts like He did Pharaoh before the Exodus, by giving them completely over to their sin to become deranged in a spiritual drunkenness, passing the point-of-no-return before He pours out His wrath in judgment. God will do the same with Babylon at the end of the Tribulation:

Jeremiah 51:5-8 - "For Israel is not forsaken, nor Judah, by his God, the LORD of hosts, though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel." Flee from the midst of Babylon, and every one save his life! Do not be cut off in her iniquity, for this is the time of the LORD's vengeance; He shall recompense her. Babylon was a golden cup in the LORD's hand, that made all the earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore the nations are deranged. Babylon has suddenly fallen and been destroyed. Wail for her! Take balm for her pain; perhaps she may be healed."

Note that all the Old Testament examples of the nations that followed after idols in spiritual harlotry did so at the lead of their kings. In Judah and Israel, there are some examples where kings who had a heart for God directed the people to cleanse the land of idols and high places of worship and turn their hearts toward God, but most of the kings in the Old Testament were evil and led the people away from God. Likewise, the kings of the earth in the Tribulation will choose of their own volition to commit spiritual fornication with the "great harlot," and then compel the people they rule over to also be drunk with the wine of the harlot's fornication by forsaking God to follow false gods and idols.

Virtually all nations across history largely followed a certain religion, and their leaders usually played a large role in deciding what religion their people would follow and how they should worship. Religious freedom is a modern idea, but nations who allow people to choose how to worship are still built on religious principles, mainly Judeo-Christian. However, recent generations have gradually abandoned their nation's foundational Judeo-Christian principles and leaders have changed laws allowing society to forsake God, leading to moral decline that has gone past the point-of-no-return that always ends in judgment (Romans 1).

Religious freedom will not exist in the Tribulation. Sometime near the beginning of the Tribulation, the kings of the earth will help the "great harlot" lead the people to forsake God and the harlot will seek to kill them if they don't comply in the second half of the Tribulation the beast will do the same:

Revelation 17:6 - I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
Revelation 13:4-5, 7 - So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, "Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?" And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.... It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.

Revelation 17:3 - 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 angel transports John away in the Spirit to see the harlot's judgment. Recall from Revelation 1:10, that being "in the Spirit" is different from being in-dwelt by the Spirit, where the Holy Spirit resides within the believer, guiding and directing them until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). God transported prophets like John and Ezekiel "in the Spirit" to show them future events.

The angel took John into the wilderness to see the vision. A wilderness is a barren desolate place, or an uncultivated place that is sparsely populated where flocks graze. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where Satan tested Him:

Matthew 4:1 - Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Mark 1:12-13 - Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.

Similarly, God brought His people into the wilderness, or made their land desolate at times to test them spiritually:

Deuteronomy 8:2 - And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
Jeremiah 12:10-12 - "Many rulers have destroyed My vineyard, they have trodden My portion underfoot; they have made My pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. they have made it desolate; desolate, it mourns to Me; the whole land is made desolate, because no one takes it to heart. The plunderers have come on all the desolate heights in the wilderness, for the sword of the LORD shall devour from one end of the land to the other end of the land; no flesh shall have peace."

As discussed in Revelation 12:6, God will bring His people out into the wilderness again to test them during the Tribulation, where God will bring His people "under the rod" before He comes back into covenant with them:

Ezekiel 20:34-38 - I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you are scattered, with a mighty hand, with an outstretched arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will plead My case with you face to face. Just as I pleaded My case with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will plead My case with you," says the Lord GOD. "I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; I will purge the rebels from among you, and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the country where they dwell, but they shall not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the LORD."

The base of the "great harlot" religion is in the city Babylon (Revelation 17:8) in modern-day Iraq, a largely desolate area which physically fits the setting described by the angel. But God will test His people under the rule of the "great harlot," not only those whom He protects supernaturally in the wilderness in Jordan (Revelation 12:6), but also those trying to survive around the world, and even in the city Babylon itself:

Isaiah 21:1, 9 - The burden against the Wilderness of the Sea. As whirlwinds in the South pass through, so it comes from the desert, from a terrible land. And look, here comes a chariot of men with a pair of horsemen!" Then he answered and said, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen! And all the carved images of her gods He has broken to the ground."
Jeremiah 51:44-45 - I will punish Bel in Babylon, And I will bring out of his mouth what he has swallowed; And the nations shall not stream to him anymore. Yes, the wall of Babylon shall fall. "My people, go out of the midst of her! And let everyone deliver himself from the fierce anger of the LORD."
Revelation 18:3-4 "For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury." And I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues."

The Holy Spirit shows John that the harlot is sitting on a scarlet beast that has seven heads and ten horns full of names of blasphemy. This is the same beast described in Revelation 13:1:

Revelation 13:1-2 - 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.... The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.

The dragon, or Satan, also has seven head and ten horns and red in color:

Revelation 12:3 - And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.

The heads and horns on the dragon represent Satan's authority over earthly Gentile kingdoms (Revelation 12:3), and the dragon gives the beast his authority (Revelation 13:2). Therefore, the beast has seven heads and ten horns like the dragon because the dragon gives the beast his power and authority over these kingdoms:

7 heads and 10 horns

The ten horns on both the dragon and the beast are ten kings who will rule over the seventh and last Gentile kingdom, as we will discuss in Revelation 17:12. One difference between the beast and the dragon is that the beast that rises out of the sea has ten crowns, but the dragon has seven diadems or crowns.

Crowns signify kingship, and the heads and horns represent kingdoms (Revelation 12:3). The ten crowns on the ten horns of the beast are ten kings who will reign over the seventh and last Gentile kingdom divided into ten regions, as we will discuss in Revelation 17:12. In contrast, the seven crowns on the seven heads of the dragon represent seven specific kings from each successive Gentile kingdom who oppressed Israel, with each king having a blasphemous name. Having a name shows fame, honor, or notoriety (Revelation 3:1). Therefore, a blasphemous name shows that each king exalted himself above God. In fact, history shows that each kingdom of the seven heads of the dragon and beast had a king that blasphemed God by exalting themselves above God, thus the beast is "full of names of blasphemy," as discussed in Revelation 13:1:


Kingdom Ruling King Oppression
1. Egypt Pharaoh The Egyptians believed the pharaohs were sons of the Sun god Ra (source). The pharaoh at the time of the Exodus of the Hebrews mocked God (Exodus 5:2).
2. Assyria Sennacherib Sennacherib verbally reproached and mocked God, exalting his gods and his power above God (2 Kings 19:15-16, 2 Chronicles 32:10-19).
3. Babylon Nebuchadnezzar Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar he was the head of gold of a statue that represented future kingdoms in his dream (Daniel 2). After his dream, Nebuchadnezzar made a statue of gold and forced the people to worship the image (Daniel 3). Nebuchadnezzar took all the credit for his power and majesty instead of giving credit to God (Daniel 4).
4. Medo-Persia Darius Darius established a decree that anyone who prayed to any god or man besides him would be cast into the den of lions (Daniel 6).
5. Greece (Seleucid) Antiochus IV Epiphanes Antiochus desecrated the Jewish temple and "exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host" (Daniel 8).
6. Rome Domitian Domitian revived the "imperial cult," which was the worship of the Roman emperor as a god. He called himself "master and god" (source).
7. Future Kingdom Beast/Antichrist The antichrist will exalt himself above all gods (Daniel 11).

As discussed in Revelation 17:1, "sitting" on a seat of power shows rule and authority. John describes the woman as "sitting" on the beast, but later the angel describes the beast as "carrying" the harlot:

Revelation 17:7 - But the angel said to me, "Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns."

The harlot will rule over the people and the beast initially, but history shows that false religious systems have always relied upon political power to advance, but as discussed in the last section, the political leaders generally dictated the religious system the people would follow. So, while the "great harlot" is ruling over the beast by sitting on him, she still needs the support of the beast carrying her to prosper. However, the ten horns on the beast, which are ten kings (Revelation 17:12) will later kill the "great harlot" and allow the beast to take over and rule over the world himself:

Revelation 17:16-17 - 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.

After the ten kings kill the "great harlot," the beast will replace the false religious system of the "great harlot" with worship of himself and an idol made in his image:

Daniel 11:36-39 - "Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all. But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain."
Revelation 13:11-15 - Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth - by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

Revelation 17:4 - 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 abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.

After describing the beast to John, the angel goes on to describe what the "great harlot" riding the beast looks like. She wears items of great luxury and wealth, and as we will see in Revelation 17:5, on her forehead is a mysterious name. This woman's adornments have a striking resemblance to the adornments in the temple of the Lord in the Old Testament:


The Great HarlotTemple of the Lord
Blasphemous name on forehead"Holiness to the Lord" on a plate of gold worn on the forehead (Exodus 28:36-38)
Golden cup full of abominations and wine or filthiness of her fornication (forsaking God and rejecting His covenant)Golden cups used for wine in drink offerings, which represents the covenant Jesus made with His blood (Exodus 37:16, Numbers 28:14, Luke 22:20)
Adorned with gold and precious stones and pearlsThe Temple was adorned with gold and precious stones and marble (1 Chronicles 29:2)
Arrayed in purple and scarletThe tapestries of the temple and garments of the high priest were woven with purple, scarlet and blue thread (Exodus 26:31, 26:36, 28:8, 28:15, 39:29)

Note that while purple, scarlet, and blue threads were used to make the tapestries in the temple and the garments of the high priest, the harlot does not wear anything blue, which is curious, considering what the color blue represents and why God told Israel to make blue tassels on their garments:

Numbers 15:37-40 - Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God."

Recall from Revelation 4:3, that God's throne in Heaven is sapphire, a blue colored gem, and God may have cut the ten commandment tablets from this sapphire stone (Exodus 24:9-12). The sapphire stone is the fifth stone on the breastplate of judgment (Revelation 4:3), which represents the tribe of Dan (Exodus 28:18). Dan's name means "God has judged" (Genesis 30:6). Thus, the blue colors in the tapestries of the temple and the garments of the people and the priests were to remind the people to follow God's commandments.

Incidentally, the greatest commandment God gave to Israel was to love the Lord with all their heart (Mark 12:29-30) and not follow after their own desires and forsake the Lord like a harlot. But Israel did play the harlot, following after the false gods of their neighbors, breaking the covenant they made with God. Note that God describes Israel like the temple, adorned with jewelry and fine clothes similar to those of the "great harlot":

Ezekiel 16:8, 11-14 - "When I passed by you again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine," says the Lord GOD.... I adorned you with ornaments, put bracelets on your wrists, and a chain on your neck. And I put a jewel in your nose, earrings in your ears, and a beautiful crown on your head. Thus you were adorned with gold and silver, and your clothing was of fine linen, silk, and embroidered cloth. You ate pastry of fine flour, honey, and oil. You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to royalty. Your fame went out among the nations because of your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendor which I had bestowed on you," says the Lord GOD.
Ezekiel 16:15-17 - "But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it. You took some of your garments and adorned multicolored high places for yourself, and played the harlot on them. Such things should not happen, nor be. You have also taken your beautiful jewelry from My gold and My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images and played the harlot with them."

So, we see that the "great harlot" is a counterfeit religion that has taken elements that God commanded Israel to use in His design of worship and has perverted them to use in the worship of a false religious system.

In Scripture, "scarlet" and "purple" are associated with luxury merchandise, wealth and notoriety (Proverbs 31:19-23, Ezekiel 27:22-24, Luke 16:19, Revelation 18:12), and worn by valiant men, rulers, and royalty (Judges 8:26, 2 Samuel 1:24, Esther 8:15, Lamentations 4:5, Ezekiel 23:5-6, Daniel 5:7, Nahum 2:3). The soldiers dressed Jesus in scarlet and purple to mock Him as the "King of the Jews":

Matthew 27:27-29 - Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!"
Mark 15:16-20 - Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison. And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head, and began to salute Him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him. And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.

The harlot is adorned with gold and holds a gold cup. Recall from Revelation 1:13 that gold can represent holiness and purity, as it retains all of its qualities when refined in fire, and when God holds a gold cup it signifies judgment (Jeremiah 51:6-7). Gold can also be associated with kingship, as illustrated throughout the Old Testament, with the great amounts of gold bestowed to many of Israel's kings. Gold was also one of the three gifts the magi brought to Jesus, who were looking for the "King of the Jews" (Matthew 2:1-2).

Like gold, precious stones were also bestowed upon kings (1 Chronicles 20:2, 2 Chronicles 9:1, 32:27). Precious stones adorned the temple of the Lord (1 Chronicles 29:2) and were placed on the high priest's "breastplate of judgment" (Exodus 28:15-21). Precious stones will also adorn the saints' crowns (1 Corinthians 3:12) and make up the foundations of the heavenly city of Jerusalem with a pearl for each gate (Revelation 21:19-21). But God also covered Satan with precious stones and gold when he created him (Ezekiel 28:13), and the beast will honor "a god of fortress" with precious stones along with gold and silver - probably Satan - after he exalts himself as a god above all other gods (Daniel 11:37-38). Therefore, the precious stones and gold, and the scarlet and purple garments that the harlot wears show that this counterfeit religious system is wealthy and has power like a king to rule over the people who become drunk from the wine in the great harlot's golden cup (Revelation 14:8, 17:2).

Note that the golden cup in the harlot's hand is full of contaminated wine full of abominations and the filthiness of the harlot's fornication. Recall from Revelation 17:2, drinking the wine of Babylon's fornication means people will forsake God and covet the material and fleshly luxuries the city has to offer, which is really another form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5-6). Sinful behavior designated as abominations in Scripture include sexual immorality, sacrificing without a heart for God, or sacrificing to idols or demons, witchcraft or sorcery, defiling the temple, child and human sacrifice, stealing, murder or violence, or swearing falsely (Leviticus 18, Deuteronomy 18, Isaiah 66, Jeremiah 7, Ezekiel 8). God told Israel that these abominations pollute the land making it unclean, which requires that the occupants be evicted in order to cleanse it:

Leviticus 18:26-28 - You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you.
Ezra 9:10-11 - And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? For we have forsaken Your commandments, which You commanded by Your servants the prophets, saying, 'The land which you are entering to possess is an unclean land, with the uncleanness of the peoples of the lands, with their abominations which have filled it from one end to another with their impurity.

The "great harlot" will make the inhabitants of the earth drunk with her contaminated wine full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication, thus God must judge the world and evict its inhabitants to cleanse the land:

Isaiah 13:9-12 - Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine. "I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, A man more than the golden wedge of Ophir."

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.

The "great harlot" has a name written on her forehead that shows she is in defiance against God, being the mother of spiritual harlots, or false religions, and the mother of the abominations of the earth. Incidentally, God's servants have His name on their foreheads, which shows they belong to God because they gave their allegiance to Him, accepting Him as Savior and King - this is in contrast to the beast followers who take his mark on their forehead as allegiance to the beast in Revelation 13:16:

Revelation 22:3-4 - And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.
Revelation 14:1 - Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads.

The following excerpt from the "Holman Bible Dictionary" explains the significance of the forehead:

    The Emblem of Holiness was placed on Aaron's forehead (Exodus 28:38). This symbolized acceptance before the Lord....

    The Bible indicates that a person's character can be determined by observing the forehead. A set forehead indicates opposition, defiance, and rebellion (Jeremiah 3:3). Hardness of the forehead indicates determination to persevere (Isaiah 48:4; Ezekiel 3:8-9)... The forehead is used as a very dishonorable word when read of the harlot's forehead (Jeremiah 3:3), indicating utter shamelessness.

    Source: StudyLight.org

As the author notes, a harlot's forehead shows lack of shame:

Jeremiah 3:1-3 - "They say, 'If a man divorces his wife, and she goes from him and becomes another man's, may he return to her again?' Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return to Me," says the LORD. "Lift up your eyes to the desolate heights and see: Where have you not lain with men? By the road you have sat for them like an Arabian in the wilderness; and you have polluted the land with your harlotries and your wickedness. Therefore the showers have been withheld, and there has been no latter rain. You have had a harlot's forehead; you refuse to be ashamed."

When someone is no longer ashamed and refuses correction, God gives them over to judgment:

Jeremiah 5:3-4 - O LORD, are not Your eyes on the truth? You have stricken them, but they have not grieved; you have consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return. Therefore I said, "Surely these are poor. They are foolish; for they do not know the way of the LORD, the judgment of their God."
Jeremiah 6:15 - Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down," says the LORD.

Even though the name on the harlot's forehead clearly shows she is in defiance against God, John notes that the name is a "mystery." Recall from Revelation 1:20 that a mystery is something not known or hidden that only the Holy Spirit can reveal:

1 Corinthians 2:7, 10-12 - But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory.... But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

Some believe that "mystery" is part of the title or name on the forehead of the harlot, but later the angel tells John that he is going to explain the "mystery" showing that there is hidden meaning to the name that needs interpretation, but "mystery" is not part of the name itself:

Revelation 17:7 - But the angel said to me, "Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns."

Nevertheless, many commentators use the coined name "Mystery Babylon" when speaking of the "great harlot." The first part of the harlot's name is "BABYLON THE GREAT," which shows that this false religious system is based in the great city of Babylon, and the angel verifies later we are dealing with a literal city:

Revelation 17:18 "And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth."

Although the angel interprets the "mystery" of the name of the "great harlot" in Revelation 17:8-18, many are adamant that the "mystery" of the name suggests that "BABYLON THE GREAT" is a symbolic name for another city because Babylon has been left mostly desolate and in ruins. However, Babylon has never been completely destroyed or made uninhabitable, as described in the following unfulfilled prophecies about the city's future destruction:

Isaiah 13:19-20 - And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans' pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation; nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there.
Jeremiah 50:13, 39-40 - Because of the wrath of the LORD She shall not be inhabited, but she shall be wholly desolate. Everyone who goes by Babylon shall be horrified and hiss at all her plagues.... "Therefore the wild desert beasts shall dwell there with the jackals, and the ostriches shall dwell in it. It shall be inhabited no more forever, nor shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation. As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah And their neighbors," says the LORD, "So no one shall reside there, nor son of man dwell in it."
Jeremiah 51:29 - And the land will tremble and sorrow; for every purpose of the LORD shall be performed against Babylon, to make the land of Babylon a desolation without inhabitant.

There are many other prophecies regarding Babylon that have yet future fulfillment in the Old Testament, along with the future destruction of the city described in Revelation 14:8, 16:19, and Revelation 18. These prophecies show that Babylon will be rebuilt from its present-day ruins before the city is utterly destroyed at the end of the Tribulation.

The second part of the harlot's name is "MOTHER OF HARLOTS." As discussed in Revelation 17:1, after the "tower of Babel" rebellion in Genesis 11, God confounded the people's language and spread them across the earth to stop their rebellion. But historical accounts tell us that Nimrod's wife, Semiramis, believed that after Nimrod died the people should worship him as a god. When her son Tammuz was born, Semiramis claimed that he was supernaturally conceived and the people worshipped Tammuz as a god and Semiramis as the "Queen of Heaven." This was the beginning of idolatry and the source of mother/son worship.

This ancient religion that began in Babylon is the "mother" of all false religion, or spiritual harlotry which resonates within many of the ancient religions of the past, as well as many religions still today. References to the Canaanite deities of Tammuz, the "Queen of Heaven" or Ashtoreth, and Baal are prevalent through the Old Testament in Scripture. The names and rituals vary from religion to religion and region to region, but three central deity characters are a common theme in the "daughter" religions that originated from the "MOTHER OF HARLOTS," as shown in the examples of some major ancient religions below:


City or nation Chief deity "Queen of Heaven" or fertility goddess Messianic figure or chief deity son
Babel Nimrod Semiramis Tammuz
Mesopotamia Marduk Sarpanitu Nabu
Sumar Dumuzid Inanna Shara
Akkad Sin Ishtar Shamash
Egypt Osiris Isis Horus
Phoenicia El Baalat Adonis
Canaan Baal Ashtoreth Tammuz
Assyria Assur or Enlil Istar or Ninlil Ninurta
Persia Ahuramazda Anahita Mithra
Greece Zeus Hera Ares
Rome Jupiter Juno Mars
German/Scandinavia Odin Jord or Gaea Thor
India Vasudeva Devaki Krishna

The Catholic Church gradually began to take on many of the ancient pagan traditions starting with the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Notably, the Catholic Church named Mary the "Queen of Heaven" (source), giving her a goddess-like role. They made Mary, along with God the Father and Jesus the Son comparable to the three central deities of the harlot religion of Babylon. Also like the "great harlot," the Catholic Church worships and prays to idols, follows pagan rituals, is wealthy, the clergy deck themselves in gold, precious stones and pearls, array themselves in purple and scarlet, and the pope and other clergy are often pictured taking communion in a gold chalice:


gold cup, purple, scarlet

Source: Wikipedia Pic 1 Pic 2 Pic 3

The striking resemblance of the Catholic Church to the "great harlot" does not mean they are the "great harlot" in the Tribulation as many assert; it simply shows that the Catholic Church is a "daughter" of the "MOTHER OF HARLOTS" because they follow many of the same pagan traditions as the "great harlot" this is the marriage of Christianity to Babylonian paganism, as discussed in Revelation 2:12-17. Christian author and evangelist Tim LaHaye came to this same conclusion:

    My wife and I visited some fifty temples and religious shrines of the major religions of the world. We were appalled to find the strange chords of similarity in all these forms of religion. Mystery, darkness, incense burning, superstition, ignorance, immorality, priesthood, nuns, sprinkling, idolatry, and many other Babylonian customs appeared repeatedly. I can only conclude that Rome is not the only form of Babylonian mysticism, but merely the one that has infiltrated Christianity.

    Source: Revelation Revealed, By Tim La Haye

Even Islam venerates Mary as the "greatest of all women" who bore the great prophet Jesus, whom they believe was a forerunner to Muhammed and will return to establish peace on the earth (source). But Islam rejects that Jesus is God incarnate or the Son of God (source).

So, we see that all false religions since Babel are really "daughters," to the "great harlot." But the "great harlot" herself will rise again after God reduces all the false gods to nothing near the beginning of the Tribulation, as discussed in the "Great Middle East War" study:

Zephaniah 2:11 - The LORD will be awesome to them, for He will reduce to nothing all the gods of the earth; people shall worship Him, each one from his place, indeed all the shores of the nations.

Since all the daughter harlots or false religions share central themes with the mother of harlots, it is not a stretch to see that the followers of these false religions could be brought together under one unified religion, as they already share many common beliefs in worship of three central deities.

The "great harlot," as the "MOTHER OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH," birthed the sinful behavior God designated as abominations sins that are so vile that they defile the land, as discussed in Revelation 17:4. Abominations in Scripture include sexual immorality, sacrificing without a heart for God, or sacrificing to idols or demons, witchcraft or sorcery, defiling the temple, child and human sacrifice, stealing, murder or violence, or swearing falsely (Leviticus 18, Deuteronomy 18, Isaiah 66, Jeremiah 7, Ezekiel 8). "Daughter harlots" have continued the sin of their mother, committing these abominations throughout history.

All false religions do not necessarily stem directly from the "great harlot" most follow a family tree of sorts that originate from the "great harlot," where daughters become mothers of other religions, and so on down through history. For example, Judah became a "daughter harlot" when she ironically decided to follow the false gods of the nations they defeated, who were "daughter harlots" themselves:

Ezekiel 16:1-3 - Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations, and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem: "Your birth and your nativity are from the land of Canaan; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite."
Ezekiel 16:15-18 - "But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it. You took some of your garments and adorned multicolored high places for yourself, and played the harlot on them. Such things should not happen, nor be. You have also taken your beautiful jewelry from My gold and My silver, which I had given you, and made for yourself male images and played the harlot with them. You took your embroidered garments and covered them, and you set My oil and My incense before them."
Ezekiel 16:19-22 "Also My food which I gave you - the pastry of fine flour, oil, and honey which I fed you - you set it before them as sweet incense; and so it was," says the Lord GOD. "Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, that you have slain My children and offered them up to them by causing them to pass through the fire? And in all your abominations and acts of harlotry you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, struggling in your blood."
Ezekiel 16:23-27 - "Then it was so, after all your wickedness -'Woe, woe to you!' says the Lord GOD - that you also built for yourself a shrine, and made a high place for yourself in every street. You built your high places at the head of every road, and made your beauty to be abhorred. You offered yourself to everyone who passed by, and multiplied your acts of harlotry. You also committed harlotry with the Egyptians, your very fleshly neighbors, and increased your acts of harlotry to provoke Me to anger. "Behold, therefore, I stretched out My hand against you, diminished your allotment, and gave you up to the will of those who hate you, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior."
Ezekiel 16:28-31 "You also played the harlot with the Assyrians, because you were insatiable; indeed you played the harlot with them and still were not satisfied. Moreover you multiplied your acts of harlotry as far as the land of the trader, Chaldea; and even then you were not satisfied. "How degenerate is your heart!" says the Lord GOD, "seeing you do all these things, the deeds of a brazen harlot. "You erected your shrine at the head of every road, and built your high place in every street. Yet you were not like a harlot, because you scorned payment."
Ezekiel 16:43-45 "Because you did not remember the days of your youth, but agitated Me with all these things, surely I will also recompense your deeds on your own head," says the Lord GOD. "And you shall not commit lewdness in addition to all your abominations. "Indeed everyone who quotes proverbs will use this proverb against you: 'Like mother, like daughter!' You are your mother's daughter, loathing husband and children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and children; your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite."

Judah followed after the gods of many nations around them, but the following analysis makes a compelling case for why God calls the Hittites and the Amorites the mother and father of Judah's harlotry:

    An Amorite - the Amorite, a term denoting the whole people. The Amorites, being a principal branch of the Canaanites, are often taken to represent the whole stock Genesis 15:16; 2 Kings 21:11.

    An Hittite - Compare Genesis 26:34. The main idea is that the Israelites by their doings proved themselves to be the very children of the idolatrous nations who once occupied the land of Canaan. Compare Deuteronomy 20:17.

    Source: Barnes' Notes on the Bible

As mentioned earlier, all the daughter religions will cease to exist at the beginning of the Tribulation (Zephaniah 2:11), allowing the mother religion to rise again in Babylon as one religion for all people in rebellion against God (Revelation 17:1). This "MOTHER OF HARLOTS" will make the nations drink from the "golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication," as discussed in Revelation 17:4. The fact that her cup is full shows that her iniquity is complete and God is ready to judge her, as discussed in Revelation 17:2.


Revelation 17:6 - I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.

In Revelation 17:2 we saw that the "great harlot" makes the inhabitants of the earth drunk with the wine of her fornication, but here John describes her as being drunk with the blood of the saints and the martyrs of Jesus. Getting drunk is to become intoxicated to the point of impairment of the senses. The "great harlot" starts killing saints, which becomes a demonic addiction to the point of spiritual drunkenness, like Hitler who tried to commit irrational, senseless genocide against the Jews during the Holocaust. The great harlot's massacre can be compared to God's slaughter at the end of the Tribulation, where the birds and beast cleaning up the carnage become drunk with the blood of God's enemies:

Ezekiel 39:17-20 - "And as for you, son of man, thus says the Lord GOD, 'Speak to every sort of bird and to every beast of the field: "Assemble yourselves and come; gather together from all sides to My sacrificial meal which I am sacrificing for you, a great sacrificial meal on the mountains of Israel, that you may eat flesh and drink blood. You shall eat the flesh of the mighty, drink the blood of the princes of the earth, of rams and lambs, of goats and bulls, all of them fatlings of Bashan. You shall eat fat till you are full, and drink blood till you are drunk, at My sacrificial meal which I am sacrificing for you. You shall be filled at My table with horses and riders, with mighty men and with all the men of war," says the Lord GOD.'"

As discussed in Revelation 17:1, the "great harlot" rules over the inhabitants of the earth. The "great harlot" apparently compels her worshippers to kill God's saints for her, as the third Bowl judgment is punishment on the earth dwellers who shed the blood of the saints:

Revelation 16:4-7 - Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying: "You are righteous, O Lord, The One who is and who was and who is to be, Because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, And You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due." And I heard another from the altar saying, "Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments."

An angel from the altar praises the Lord for His justice on those who shed the blood of His saints and prophets. This is the justice the martyred saints wait for since the fifth Seal judgment near the beginning of the Tribulation:

Revelation 6:9-11 - When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.

The harlot religion is destroyed in the middle of the Tribulation, as we will see in Revelation 17:16, but the slaughter against the saints will continue to the end of the Tribulation at the hand of the antichrist:

Revelation 13:7 - It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.

The Lord will judge the beast and destroy the "great harlot" religion to avenge the shed blood of His saints:

Daniel 7:21-22 - "I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom."
Revelation 19:1-3 - After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her." Again they said, "Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!"

John distinguishes between those who die as saints and those who die as martyrs of Jesus. The Greek word translated "saints" means "holy" or set apart for God. The Greek word translated "martyr" means "witness." As discussed in Revelation 11:3, a witness gives testimony, which is evidence or proof for something. So, a martyr is a saint, who is a witness that testifies publicly for Jesus. This means that some saints are killed for their arguably provoking public testimony, but the rest of the saints are killed just because they are saints. God will later destroy the city Babylon to avenge all of His servants that have been slain from the beginning of time, including His holy apostles and prophets:

Revelation 18:10, 20, 24 - ...Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.... "Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her...! And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth."

But the city Babylon was not even in existence at the beginning of time when Cain killed God's first servant Abel. Nevertheless, God will hold Babylon accountable for the blood of all His servants, like He did Israel who actually killed God's holy apostles and prophets:

Matthew 23:29-36 - "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.' "Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' guilt. Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.""

God will hold Babylon accountable because the murder of Abel eventually led to a global rebellion that was first realized at Babel. This rebellion against God spread to the nations through false religions that infiltrated Israel that directly led to them killing the prophets and the holy apostles. God's vengeance will be complete when He destroys the city at the end of the Tribulation.


Revelation 17:7 - But the angel said to me, "Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns."

John marvels over the image of the "great harlot" with great amazement. The Greek word translated "marvel" means he was awestruck with wonder or perplexment. Perhaps John was even overwhelmed with fear by what he saw in the vision like Daniel when God gave him visions of the future (Daniel 7:28, 8:15-18, 10:7-9). But the angel tells John he doesn't have to be confused or wonder about what he saw, because he is going to explain to him the mystery of the "great harlot" riding the beast. The angel first describes how the beast rises to power over the next several verses before getting back to the mystery of the "great harlot," who rides the beast.

One thing to note is that John first described the "great harlot" as sitting on the beast in Revelation 17:3, but here the angel says that the beast carries her. Recall that "sitting" on a seat of power shows rule and authority. The harlot will rule over the people and the beast initially, but history shows that false religious systems have always relied on political power to advance. So, while the "great harlot" is sitting on and ruling over the beast, she still needs the support of the beast carrying her to prosper.

The angel describes the beast as having seven heads and ten horns. John already noted this description of the beast earlier in Revelation 17:3 and is the same beast he saw in Revelation 13:1. The seven heads and ten horns identify the beast with the dragon, or Satan:

Revelation 12:3 - And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.

Recall from Revelation 12:3, that the heads and horns on the dragon represent Satan's authority over Gentile kingdoms. In Revelation 13:2 we see that the dragon gives the beast his authority. Therefore, the beast has seven heads and ten horns like the dragon because the dragon gives the beast his power and authority over the kingdoms of the world. The ten horns on both the dragon and the beast are ten kings who will rule over the seventh and last Gentile kingdom, as we will discuss in Revelation 17:12.

«  Revelation 16:12-21   Revelation 17:1-7   Revelation 17:8-18   »
« back  Intro   Chapter   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22  next »
                                                                                                                            <-Coming Soon->
                                                                                                                       Unless Jesus Does First

Revelation Flow Chart:

Revelation Flow Chart

Copyright © Amy Van Gerpen and trackingbibleprophecy.com. All Rights Reserved.
 
Home   About Me   Links   Contact Me   Search   Disclaimer   Sitemap