The Great Harlot, Revelation Chapter 17 Verses 1-6 (NASB)

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    And one of the seven ANGELS who had the seven BOWLS came and spoke with me, saying,

We first heard of these angels in Revelation 15:1 ,6 ,7 ,8 and Revelation 16:1 . It is as if John was puzzled by the judgments of the seven bowls and needed further explanation. In particular, the final bowl judgment (Revelation 16:17-21) so distorts the earth that geopolitical boundaries are erased. Governments are in shambles, and economies are struggling. These effects of the GREAT EARTHQUAKE needed further discussion.

    "Come here, I shall show you the JUDGMENT of the GREAT HARLOT

Through the imagery of a GREAT HARLOT, the angel will explain the character, the life, and the end of Satan's imitation religious system. The system is purposely devised to be confusion and deceiving. Right until the end, the devil does not or will not let the simple truth of God's salvation gift come forth.

  • who sits on many waters,
Verse 15 in this chapter explains that the "many waters" are "peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues." Since the expression "many waters" is used, it is clear that these next two chapters will be mostly symbolic. That is not to say this concept is new. In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 8:5-8 equates the waters of the Euphrates River with the kingdom of Assyria. Assyria has always been a thorn in the side of Israel much like the Satanic mock religious governments have been to true believers.
  • with whom the KINGS of the EARTH committed acts of IMMORALITY, and
A curious side of human nature is that when something rather scandalous is made known, the person tends to want to investigate it. The "harlot" is just such a curiosity. Even the leadership of the EARTH is not immune to this phenomena (Proverbs 25:1-2-5-7). Little do they realize that the allure of the "harlot" (wicked) leads to IMMORALITY (lack of righteousness).

From ages past, the KINGS of the EARTH are against God (Psalm 2:2). By this time in the tribulation period, the KINGS (as part of the whole world - Revelation 13:3-4) are totally involved with the sea beast (antiChrist). The whole world has been deceived (Revelation 18:3), and the nations have gone mad (Jeremiah 51:5-10).

Harlotry implies cohabitation. The inference here is that the socio-economic world will be merged into the religious world (or vice versa). James 4:4 points out this will not work. The "harlot" also discovers this too (Revelation 17:16).

  • those who dwell on the earth were made DRUNK with the wine of her IMMORALITY."
So intoxicating is this religious and socio-economic tryst, that those who dwell on the earth (unbelievers of the TRUTH) are reeling about as DRUNKARDS. This is totally opposite of believer's behavior (2 Corinthians 4:1-6).

As Tim LaHaye points out in his book, Revelation Unveiled, 1 "In viewing the Hindus, Buddhists, Confucianists, Taoists, Muslims, and primitive religionists, I have found that none of them teaches the moral standards of God. Instead, their practices are based on a loose form of behavior that permits sensual activities, producing guilt complexes that the religion in turn uses to enslave its people in forms of personal sacrifice and self abuse to atone for their own sin. The Babylonian religions of the world, whether they be Greek, Indian, African, Roman, or Chinese, are arrayed in gold, precious stones, and costly array. They use mystery and idolatry."

To make this alliance complete, the full force of "instant" marketing will be brought to bear upon those who dwell on the earth. When something is seen "to be good" enough times, it is human nature to accept that IMMORAL behavior. With the true believers taken from the earth by this time, there are precious few witnesses left to contradict the hype. The state of the earth is one acting as though it is on a collective DRUNK.
    And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness;

John knows this feeling of being in the Spirit (Revelation 4:2). In this state, John is protected from the ravages of the wilderness (symbolically, Satan's imitation religious system). This wilderness is an antichrist developed place (Daniel 9:24-27).

    and I saw a WOMAN

This is not a rising feminist leader but rather she is used to accentuate the sensual, enticing aspects of the false religious system. Just as in television commercials, this WOMAN is used during this tribulation to sell a product, antiChrist's world empire.

    (1) sitting on a SCARLET BEAST,

The color of the beast is not mentioned in Revelation 13:1 ; however, Revelation 12:3 describes a red dragon using the same characteristics. Recall the dragon was the devil. Thus this WOMAN is being transported about the earth to do her sales job by the devil. The scarlet color just reinforces that many believers have shed their blood because they opposed this SCARLET BEAST.

            (a)  full of blasphemous names,

Blasphemy, by definition, is against God and the TRUTH (Revelation 13:5 ,6). No need to expend energy running down something that is rotten and filthy already. These names are an attempt to disgrace God and to usurp His authority (on earth, at least).

Here we also see the devil's need for names. Without a name, it is difficult to receive accolades or to heap boastful kudos on devil workers. Compare this with our "Unknown-Name" Christ (Revelation 19:12).

            (b) having seven heads and ten horns.
Many scholars believe the seven heads are a revived Roman Empire. They use verse 9 to support their conclusion. However, this is a fairly limited viewpoint. From a symbolic view, this could be a way of saying seven major religions merge into one world religion (perhaps out of the need to survive). Or it could be interpreted as a succession of seven major religions. The former probably is more logical as this one world "church" would be supported by the political systems (10 of them - verse 12 ). It is left to the reader to determine the seven religions most likely to merge.
    And the woman was clothed in PURPLE and SCARLET,

From physics, purple is the combination of blue and red colors. Symbolically, blue is heaven(ly) and red is earth(ly). Thus we again see the earthly masquerading as religious (antiChrist at the head).

These two colors also represent wealth and prosperity and are associated with royalty (Judges 8:22-26-28 ; Proverbs 31:10-22-31 ; Ezekiel 27:12-16-24 (used for commerce along with emeralds, rubies, and artisan works); and Daniel 5:5-7-9).

Bright colors are used in advertising to attract your attention. Likewise the woman will attract those in power and ordinary persons alike using their earthly desires.

    and ADORNED with gold and precious stones and pearls,

Contrast this adornment with how godly women are to be ADORNED (1 Timothy 2:9-15).

AntiChrist will use these items to honor a "god of fortresses" (Daniel 11:36-38-39). While much of the world today has abandoned the "gold standard", in the end times, the antiChrist will revive it as standard payment/honor. This implies that electronic or floating currencies will have failed, or that inflation after the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments will have forced a return to these items as the mediums of exchange.

    having in her hand a gold cup FULL of abominations and of the UNCLEAN things of her immorality,

What a contrast to the Lord's cup of His blood! Also, at this time, those who drink of it are "guilty of the blood of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:17-27-34).

UNCLEANNESS and idolatry go together (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Abominations or detestable things irritate God and require purging (Ezekiel 20:27-39). Note: this woman, too, will disappear (Revelation 17:16 -17).
    and upon her FOREHEAD a name was written, a mystery,
The devil has a need to know names. Without a name, it is difficult to recognize a person's accomplishments, to take credit, or to show pride. So it is not unusual for this woman to have a name on her forehead. Furthermore, at the time the Revelation was written, prostitutes wore a band around their forehead to indicate they were "available". So, too, this woman is saying to the earth, "I am here, choose me!" (Jeremiah 3:1-3-5)

There are two previous mysteries in Revelation: 1) "mystery of the seven stars" (Revelation 1:20) and 2) "mystery of God" (Revelation 10:7). Those two mysteries are good mysteries. This mystery is of the imitation church and also is "spiritual" in nature. A mystery is associated with any religion; for TRUE BELIEVERS, the mystery of Christ (Ephesians 3:1-4-13) and the mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:10-19-20). To the earth (and particularly those who took the mark of the beast), the religion of this harlot also is a mystery.

    "BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."
Nimrod (name means 'the rebel') founded Babylon (Genesis 10:6-10-20) as the center of a cultist and idolatrous religion. Historians indicate that it was Nimrod's wife who championed this religion. Almost all religions that are against true God worship demonstrate some of the characteristics of that Babylonian religion. Throughout the Old Testament and even today, Jews have struggled to remain apart and untainted by the Babylonian influence.

Babylon = wicked woman (Zechariah 5:1-11).

Observation: One often hears militant Arabs use the phrase "the Mother of all ....". Here, this woman is MOTHER of many other HARLOTS. She also is "the Mother of the ABOMINATIONS". These are not localized to the Middle East but rather are "of the earth". Most likely the abominations are forms of evil and idolatry (Deuteronomy 7:17-25-26). At this point during the tribulation, the world will be practicing a unified religion that is evil to its core and centered around idolatry (Revelation 13:4 ,15)
    And I saw the woman DRUNK WITH THE BLOOD of the saints,

Many churches/religions claim they have many moral virtues, but if they take the life from people (saints, witnesses of Jesus, or ordinary people), they are exposed as not being the TRUE church (Revelation 16:5 -6)

It is this BLOOD which will be the evidence to seal the doom of the apostate church (woman/Babylon). This blood is the guilty verdict against them (Revelation 18:21-24).

Many scholars distinguish the use of 'saints' here to mean those people who stood for righteousness and fought against idolatry and evil prior to Christ. Recall that Babylon physically existed long before Christ (Hebrews 11:32-38).

    and with the BLOOD of the witnesses of Jesus.

It is difficult to understand why the devil thinks he can destroy us by killing us. Apparently, he doesn't believe that the BLOOD of Jesus is an everlasting life event. Jesus knew, though, that the devil would try (Matthew 10:16-23).

The expression "drunk with the blood" has been used from old to mean "lust for violence". It is in this context, the expression is used here. Somehow, we, too, understand this through the use of words like "jihad", "holy war", etc.

    And when I saw her, I WONDERED GREATLY.

The anti-TRUE church/religion thrives on murder and bloodshed. It is part of the "Babylonian" religious system to try to eliminate anyone who doesn't believe what they believe (whatever that may be). To think that was only in the past is faulty thinking. It still is going on today, and among liberal churches it includes abortions ..... how can a tiny heart in a fetus not be pumping the very BLOOD being talked about here?

I feel that what caused John to WONDER GREATLY was the duration and intensity of this DRUNKENNESS. While he personally grieved over the violent losses of fellow apostles, this must have been overwhelming to him when he saw this vision.

This verse concludes the vision (verses 1 - 6); the interpretation by the angel follows.

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"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 Used by permission."

References to the Revelation of Jesus Christ are in bold italics. All other references are in bold only