THE GREAT HARLOT IS IDENTIFIED
Rev 17:6-8 I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, (whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world), when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is. (Also See Rev. 17:9-13)
The first verse of the lesson text tells us that, whoever the great whore figuratively represented, was a Satan-inspired persecutor of the church of Christ, who had slain multitudes of God's children. Saints in Christ were slain simply because they had scripturally become a member of His church. Of these, some had become martyrs of Jesus. These were probably elders who oversaw the spiritual needs of individual congregations, as well as faithful gospel preachers of New Testament Christianity, both of whom were totally dedicated to the cause of Christ, and refused to renounce their faith by the threat of death. The anti-Christian slayers of these members of the church of Christ, became drunken with the blood of the saints. It was comparable to a feeding frenzy of avidly hungry sharks. The sight of the blood that was shed was intoxicating. Each Christian slain created a desire to kill others in order to satisfy their insatiable addiction to slay more, and destroy the church of Christ.
With this prophetic scene before him, John wondered with great admiration. Certainly there was no high esteem, delight in, or approval of the character of this symbolic harlot by the apostle. This expression seems to be describing John's stunned amazement over the indiscriminate passion of a nation's blatant determination to attack, and destroy,those that uphold the teaching of God's plan of eternal salvation through His Son, Christ Jesus. In a sense John was overwhelmingly astounded, beyond his comprehension, that true followers of Christ would be slain in order to defend an apostate religion devised by man's wisdom.
Recognizing John's astonishment, the angel asked John, Wherefore didst thou marvel? As God's messenger, the angel more than likely knew that the outcome would be favorable in the pending battle between the forces of good and evil. In the remaining verses of the lesson text, the angel proceeds to explain to John, and relieve his apprehensions, by describing God's will, and His complete control, over this future conflict. Not only was the angel going to explain the woman, symbolically referred to in verse one as the great whore, but he would also reveal the mystery of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.
This beast is referred to three times in this book, in Revelation 12:3, 13:1, and 17:3. The explanation of one beast sufficiently explains all three. The seven heads of the beast depict the seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth (Vs. 9), which was the city of Rome. As previously referenced, they also refer to kings and/or kingdoms, because they wore seven crowns (12:3). References also tell us that at the time of the recording of the Revelation by the apostle John, five of these kings had fallen, one of them currently existed, and one remained to come into power in the future. Paraphrasing Adam Clarke, in his commentary on these verses, the beast refers to the Latin kingdom, which began under the emperor Latinus and culminated with Numitor, the last of the Latin kings. Here the Roman Empire, under the authority, power, and control of the Catholic papacy, waned into an almost non-existent world power. However, the symbolic prophecy of this text tells us that it will survive and ascend out of the bottomless pit, that is, it would be revived by the evil followers of the anti-Christian will of Satan. As the prophecy continues we see that this revived power will, once again, go into perdition, which means that it will again fail, be overthrown, defeated, and destroyed. The fall of this restored power will amaze both the pagan world as well as those that follow the irreligious doctrine of the apostate Roman Catholic religion. The ones described here are the unsaved people of the world that do not have their names written in the book of life.
Continuing with verses 9 through 13, which follow the lesson text, we find one having the mind which hath wisdom, who has the divine ability to fully disclose the mystery of the woman noted in verse 7 above. It is the same revealing wisdom spoken of in Revelation 13:18. Ordinary minds having only worldly wisdom cannot understand and reveal this mystery. Only minds having spiritual understanding are able to wisely reveal the true meaning found in the symbolic prophecy of these scriptures, which record John's heavenly vision. Here the spiritual revelation of this mystery is revealed to the true followers of Christ, but remains unknown to those that are worldly-wise, and reject God's New Testament gospel of salvation.
The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth. Since Rome is the only city ever referred to as being built upon seven mountains, undoubtedly that city is meant here, which is historically referred to as Septicollis Roma. The woman, described here as sitting upon the seven mountains of Rome, is the same as the woman gaudily clothed as the great whore noted in verses 1 through 6 above. To sit upon a nation means to unilaterally, and completely, rule that nation's government. Here, she symbolically represents the Roman Catholic religion and its governing papacy, who chose, dominated, and dictated every decision made by the emperors of the Roman Empire's civil government. And in doing so, the papacy demanded that they use their policing, and military, might to persecute the church of Christ, and destroy its religious influence from the world.
Seven kings are also described, five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space. And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition. Each mountain on which Rome was built represents a king and/or a kingdom. This symbolic analogy was previously discussed in the study of Revelation 13:1-8. Within these dynasties, five monarchs had either died or had been dethroned, and one was currently ruling, but is soon to be succeeded by the seventh ruler who will have dominion over the same realm for a short period of time. The power of one of these rulers waned almost into extinction but was resurrected and his power restored by the "beast." This is considered to be the eighth ruler that is of the seven. Some historians and biblical scholars consider these rulers to be these specific emperors, and in this particular order: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, and Galba, with Nero the, so called, eighth ruler who lost his power, but was restored to the temporal throne of Rome by the Catholic papacy
Verse 12 tells us that the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings. These symbolic horns were previously identified as those worn by the scarlet-colored beast (Vs. 3), and they represented ten kings, or the kingdoms over which they ruled. At the time the apostle John recorded his heavenly vision of prophecy, these kings had received no kingdom as yet, however during the period, which this text foretold, they would come into existence, and be empowered to rule over certain Roman kingdoms. They would assume this ruling power in the near future, which is the meaning of the time given as one hour. That power would be bestowed on them by the beast, which symbolically refers to the papal powers of Roman Catholicism. This assures us that these kings would rule under the dominant influence of the Roman popes.
These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. The meaning here is that these ten kings, who rule over all, or some portions, of the Roman world, have one mind, that is, the same united objective. And that goal was to protect, serve, and promote with all their power and strength, the dominating religious authority of the beast. She was also known as the great whore (Vs. 1), - the woman ...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 (Vs. 4), - the mother of harlots (Vs. 5). Without any doubt, this great harlot symbolically represented Roman Catholicism under the evil, dominating, Christian-persecuting rule of their popes during this era of history.