THE JUDGMENT OF THE GREAT HARLOT
Rev 17:1-6 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
From the first century of New Testament history, the paganistic city of Rome, its brutal temporal government, and its apostate Catholic religious leaders, was the primary center of Christian persecution. Because of its dominant, anti-Christian character, three whole chapters of the Revelation letter are dedicated to foretell, describe, and symbolically record its final destruction. Chapters 17, 18, and 19, of this book record the heavenly vision given the apostle John, which serves as a continuation of the wrath of God, that was to be poured out of the vial by the seventh angel, which began in the 17th verse of chapter 16. Within these scriptures we find divine-inspired symbolism describing the downfall of the temporal powers of Rome, the destructive overthrow of the apostate Roman Catholic papacy, and the final triumph of the church of Christ. The coming destruction of Rome has already been foretold in Revelation 14:8 and 16:17ff. Beginning with the lesson text, the doom of the enemies of Christ, in the city of Rome, is depicted in more graphic and descriptive detail.
It was the seven angels, who poured out God's wrath from seven vials, that symbolized the various stages of the overthrow of Rome, the symbolical spiritual city of Babylon. One of these angels, not identified further, appeared to the apostle John with this request: Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters. Beginning here, and continuing through the next two chapters, John records the vision shown to him by this angel, which describes the fate of this great harlot. To help us to fully comprehend the symbolism used here, we must understand that the true church of Christ is characteristically described, in New Testament scriptures, as a pure woman, ultimately known as the Bride of Christ, while the apostate church, as it specifically relates to this prophetic symbolism, is the Eastern Roman Catholic religious order, and is depicted as a whore or harlot. The fact that she is sitting upon many waters is another symbolism, which is explained in the following verse 15 which reads: The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. Indeed, many nations, during this era of history, were either ruled by monarchs that had been chosen and installed by the authority of the Catholic papacy, or were nations having kings that were completely allied with Catholicism, which was, by direct edict, declared to be their national religion.
Continuing in verse 2, we find the symbolism continues by stating that the monarchs of these many nations, over which harlot (the Roman Catholic papacy) ruled, had committed an unholy relationship with her. That is, they committed spiritual adultery, which is similar to the commitment of the physical act of an unfaithful partner within a marriage. And, just as she had deceived men and women of the Roman Empire with her evil, self-edifying interpretation of God's word, so she did with the rulers of other nations. Like a majority of the inhabitants of Rome, her own country, so these monarchs had become intoxicated by her deceitful cup of false religion, submitted to its delusional doctrine, and, having lost all sober judgment, unwittingly followed the great whore wherever she led them. Such was Rome, and much of the known world, at the height of the religious dominance Roman Catholicism, as led by their power-seeking popes.
As this heavenly vision continues to be disclosed to the apostle John, the text says that the angel carried him in the spirit into the wilderness, or a deserted place. Biblical scholars seem to have difficulty explaining this scripture, however, as one writer described it, it seems that John was transported into the wilderness hiding place in which the church had fled to avoid the extreme, cruel persecution of the Roman authorities. John is now looking at the enemies of Christ from the vantage point of the members of His church. What he sees at this time is not the world-dominance of Roman Catholicism, but the symbolic, deceitfulness of its leaders, described here as a woman alluringly arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls. These were garments and accessories that were often worn by royal heads of state, as well as people of great wealth. However, because of their bright, highly visible colors, as well as the gaudy jewelry, as indicated here, they were also worn by harlots in order to attract attention during these biblical times, as well as all eras of time. The golden cup she held was very deceptive, because it falsely indicated that she was a pious follower of God commandments. However, because she had corrupted God's word, misinterpreted its teaching, and, as a false prophet, proclaimed an evil doctrine to the world, the golden cup, instead of being filled with righteousness, was full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication.
In this vision from heaven, shown to the apostle John, the symbolic whore was identified by the name that was written on her forehead. The name was not a personal birth name, but rather a title, or a description, of her character. One must keep in mind that this is a symbolic harlot whom we have already identified as the evil city of Rome, and further identified by the characteristics of its anti-Christian pagan, civil, and religious leaders, all of which were under the dictatorial control of the Roman papacy. It appears that she, the apostate Roman Catholic Church, had no remorse about the doctrine, which was humanly devised by their leaders, because it seems that they proudly displayed this inscription to be seen by the world. The first identifying title given to her was "MYSTERY." Although the complete title is written in capital letters, there is nothing in the original that warrants such a translation. It seems to have been written in this manner at the election of the King James translators for added emphasis, and is similar to the degrading title placed over the head of Jesus on the cross of Calvary, which read: "THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS." The only explanation for the title "MYSTERY," say bible scholars, is having an enigmatical, obscure, or hidden meaning as it relates to the following titles also given to this symbolic great whore.
She was called "BABYLON THE GREAT." Just as the city Babylon, located on the Euphrates River, was known as the chief city of the pagan world, Rome, symbolically referred to as Babylon the Great, was the head city of the Christian world. Not only was she a harlot herself, but she was also "THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS. That is, she promoted spiritual lewdness that established, nourished, and, without any shame, proclaimed her false religion as that which came directly from God through His Son, Christ Jesus. Rest assured, the use of the word harlot, or whore, is used upwards of fifty times in the bible to describe spiritual fornication - believing and teaching, as God's truths, all manner of corrupt religious doctrine and practices. The Scarlet Harlot is, indeed, the symbol used here to describe a faithless, apostate religion known as Roman Catholicism. As such, Rome, its pagan society, evil civil government, and its corrupt, self-righteous Catholic papacy, are truly depicted by its final title - the "ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."