The Harlot – Part 1

Revelation 17:1-18
1Then 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, 2with 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.” 3And 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. 4The 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. 5And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” 6And 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. 7But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. 8The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. 9This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; 10they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. 11As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. 12And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. 13These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. 14They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.” 15And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. 16And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, 17for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. 18And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”

John has seen the final destruction of the earth. It is now time to see God’s judgment on the unholy trinity that has plagued His people since the Fall of Adam. It’s probably easiest just to detail this out so that all of the images come together and make sense. Now that the seven bowls of God’s wrath have been poured out (in the last chapter) one of the angels is now sent to show John what happens to Satan and his two beasts.

“The first beast, which has the seven heads and ten horns, represents everything of the human sphere (society, government, economics) that the dragon uses in his warfare against the church. That so-called ‘political’ beast does not evolve but remains the same. In contrast, the lamb-like beast, which speaks for the dragon represents every spiritual and religious entity that the dragon deceitfully uses against the true church of Christ. This so-called ‘religious beast’ evolves and develops until it finally and especially represents false Christianity and the apostate church. Therefore what this second beast represents changes from all false religions and spirituality in general into the false prophet and the harlot, that is, pseudo-Christianity and the false church, the most deadly form of the religious beast.”
Brighton, L. A. ©1999. Revelation (p. 436). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House.

So, the religious beast is now called “the harlot” (and was called the false prophet in chapter 16) and that harlot is riding on the back of the political beast. They work as a team and at the bidding of Satan. The description of this harlot is fascinating. The look of this monster is so compelling it causes John to “marvel”; whether that marveling is at the beauty or the audacity of this creature, we don’t know. What is probably the most disgusting is that she is drunk on the blood of the saints.

”God himself also has his own cup of judgment from which he makes all the pagan nations drink, the cup of his wrath (Isaiah 51:22; Jeremiah 25:15–16; 49:12; Revelation 16:5–7; 18:4–6). The Lord God also made his own sinful people to drink from the cup of his wrath. For example, in Jeremiah 25:15–29, Jeremiah is told to make all the nations to whom he is sent drink from the cup of God’s wrath, starting with Jerusalem and Judah (Jeremiah 25:18; 25:29). This same cup of God’s wrath is the one from which Christ Jesus himself drank in his passion and vicarious suffering and death to atone for the sin of the world (Matthew 26:39, 42). Because Jesus drank that cup to the dregs, the cup he gives in the Lord’s Supper is not a cup of wrath, but instead is the cup of his blood, shed for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:27–28).”
Brighton, L. A. (1999). Revelation. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House.

I just had to share that quote from Dr. Brighton about Christ drinking the cup of God’s wrath for us. In that concept we again find Jesus at the center of our study – right where He belongs. Even as God dispatches this harlot we know that He has reserved a place for us in heaven because of Jesus. While Satan may think our blood makes a tasty drink God has already planned his demise and we will be secure in the arms of our Savior. Even in the ugliness we are saved.