Revealing Revelation – Introducing…The Harlot

18Jan11

This is going to be long…

We now turn the corner in the book of Revelation. Behind us are the three primary cycles of judgments found in the seals, trumpets and bowls. Before us lies the description of the two great enemies of the Church and the purpose of their judgment explained fully. We will encounter an odd vision to start Chapter 17 and then will receive a visit from an angel with an explanation of that vision.

This angel guide will make clear to those “who have ears to hear” as to the identity of the beast and woman. There are many clues to the identity of these characters that make the previous exposition easier to understand and should help in connecting the dots. We will also note the Covenantal ideas behind these images.

Rev. 17:1-3 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, [2] with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” [3] And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.[4] The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. [5] And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” [6] And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly.

This is a rather large chunk of information and we will walk through the points in bold above systematically in this post.

The first character we come across is the prostitute, or as is best know, the Harlot. She is juxtaposed in the book against the true Bride of Christ. Where one is adorned with a white robe and is a perfect bride, the harlot is adorned with purple and scarlet with gold, pearls and precious stones.

We are also told that she “sits” on many waters which shows how widespread her harlotry extended. She was not only an adulteress, but a wicked whore that spread her wares across the many gentile nations. One would assume this is a present and a past reality.

At this point John is transported by the angel to the wilderness to get a larger and fuller picture of this harlot. This is interestingly also juxtaposed against the majority of the visions which were from the point of view or centered in Heaven. This time the wilderness is the geographic placement of the vision.

Immediately we are shown that this harlot is in league with the beast, which previously we discovered is the nation of Rome. This will later be confirmed in this chapter. But this section is more concerned with the harlot than the beast. The beast is simply revealed to show that this harlot has whored herself with this beast and sits on the beast, symbolic for receiving support for her actions from the beast. Dr. Ralph Bass states it best in his work, “Back to the Future,” when he notes, “It indicates not identity with Rome, but dependence on Rome.”

The confirmation that this beast is the same beast as was seen in Chapter 13 is noted by the identical description. Once again this beast has seven heads and ten horns. Remember, though, that the same physical description of that beast is identical to the beast in Chapter 12 which was clearly Satan. This should not be forgotten since the actions of the Beastly Nation of Rome and the support it gives to the harlot both are centered in the heart and actions of Satan!

The colors of her wardrobe may serve a dual descriptive device. It may from the outset appear to be the lavish wardrobe of a middle eastern prostitute or Roman religious prostitute, but in actuality the garment best resembles the garments and adornation of the Jewish Priestly wardrobe.

This connection to the Priestly class of the Jewish leadership makes even more sense when we are told that she has in her hand a golden cup full of the abominations and unclean things of her immorality. This cup may have meant an abominable use of the Temple wares symbolic of her unBiblical and immoral actions. The cup meant to be used for holy uses is used symbolically to describe her whoring ways. Jesus own words in Matt 23 ring true here.

Matt 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

So now this cup used for holy means has been dirtied by the abominations of the Jewish religious leaders. That same cup makes her drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs. This is clearly a picture of Jerusalem as the words match Jesus’ own.

Matt 23:32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. 33You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

Here we see a similar indictment as is found in passage in Revelation 17…

[6] And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus

Though some argue that this should be applied to Rome, the fact that the “she” is associated with Rome, but is not Rome itself is apparent as she sits upon Rome (beast) but is clearly a separate character.. But more importantly there are two issues that need to be resolved to help the readers understanding as to the relationship between Jerusalem and the Harlot.

Both clues are found within the context of the passage in question…

Rev 17:5 And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”

First is the use of the term “Babylon.” Many have immediately made this relate to Rome as some sort of revived Babylonian Empire. But since this is related to the harlot and Rome is distinct and represented as the Beast there must be another consideration. In fact we will find later that the Beast will hate the Harlot and make her desolate (Rev 17:16). This should make it more obvious that the Harlot is Jerusalem, but we will deal with that in a later post.

But for now let us consider this term, Babylon the Great, and how it should be seen as a description of Jerusalem and apostate Israel. This is the view that has been assumed in previous discussions, but now must be addressed specifically.

Babylon the Great is a symbolic description of the formerly great city of Babylon. This is the same Babylon that was Israel’s greatest enemy and the first to destroy the city and the first Temple. This sworn enemy and despised people of the Jews would now become the ultimate insult to Israel as her beloved city would be referred to using this same name. The point that a city is in view is found later in the same context as John is told that the woman is the “great city.”

Earlier in Revelation we find that Jerusalem is called Sodom and Egypt. At that same time she is called a “great city” using the exact same language applied to the harlot in Revelation 17.

Revelation 11:8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.

In case John’s readers were confused as to which “great city” was in view with the symbolic reference to Egypt and Sodom, he confirms it as Jerusalem by adding to it the description that it is the same “great city” in which the Lord was crucified. There should be no confusion here as the words are quite clear.

So when we read that Babylon is the “great city” we must first consider that the first previous usage of that term is in relation to Jerusalem. The second time the term “great city” is used is when we see Jerusalem divided into three parts. This is dealt with in the previous post in the seventh bowl. This can only relate to Jerusalem as no comparison to Rome can be found.

Much of Revelation 18 will deal with the fall of the “great city” and how it took place at the hands of the beast. This will serve to further the point that this is speaking of Jerusalem.

The other point can be found in the embodiment of the character herself. She is a harlot. As has been asked several times in the blog, one must answer the question as to “who can be a harlot” to God and Jesus. Can a nation (city) that has never been Covenanted to God ever be considered a harlot against Him? Assuredly not!

For a nation to Harlot herself with others would mean that at one point she had to be contracted/covenanted to someone else. Only the nation of Israel ever had the status of a nation that was covenanted to God. He made that Covenant binding at Mt. Sinai and she broke the covenant over and over until a final breaking took place with the murder of His own Son, Jesus Christ. It is through that murder that the  Covenant is officially broken and the vineyard (symbol of the Covenantal promise) belonging to that nation is taken from them and given to another (Matt 21).

This also matches a similar and consistent description of Jerusalem or apostate Israel found in the Old Testament. The story of Hosea is in itself and blatant picture of this Truth.

Isa 1:21 How the faithful city has become a whore, she who was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers.

Isa 57:8 Behind the door and the doorpost you have set up your memorial; for, deserting me, you have uncovered your bed, you have gone up to it, you have made it wide; and you have made a covenant for yourself with them, you have loved their bed, you have looked on nakedness.

Jer 2:1 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 2″Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown… 20″For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said,’I will not serve.‘ Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore.

The Old Testament is replete with this imagery and the picture of Israel whoring herself with the other nations and their gods is common. So, as a result, the official symbol of that covenant’s dissolution would come with the temple not having one stone left upon another and the city that housed it utterly destroyed.

There are few more points worthy of discussion as well as they too point to Jerusalem as the Harlot and why Rome cannot be seen as such. Plus the Harlot is contrasted with the Bride of Christ and there would be sense in contrasting a pagan nation with no covenant relationship with God against the true and eternal Bride of Christ. So, let’s quickly consider the following.

1. As mentioned previously Rome cannot be said to attack itself as we are told later in Chapter 17 that the beast will despise the harlot and desolate her.

2. If, as we have shown, the Olivet Discourse is a more concise treatment of similar events, it should be noted that Rome is not seen as “falling” in the Discourse.

3. The greatness of the city derives from it’s covenantal status and using that term to describe Jerusalem makes complete sense covenantally.

In the following post we will examine the explanation given to John by the angel as the discussion of the harlot is expanded and the identity of the Beast is more obviously revealed.

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