The Great Harlot/Mother of Harlots
and Abomination - Babylon

Angel shows


General:There have been many explanations in Revelation of Babylon. The scripture, if taken as written, says that the city is a real city called Babylon on or very near the Tigris and the Euphrates Rivers. However, there are many commentaries that take this city as a symbol. Those that accept this to be a real city, they say that it may be Rome, New York, or some other key city of the world. Why is there a reluctance to accept scripture as written? Did John mean Babylon when he wrote Babylon? In John's time, Babylon was a real city to be considered. It you study the written and oral law of the Hebrews, you will find that the two main Talmuds for the Jewish nation was the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud (which, even today, is generally considered accurate and more detailed) 500 years AFTER Christ. It is asking too much to force John's words to mean Rome when he says Babylon. Both John and Paul, as well as the other apostles, were not reluctant to write about "false teachers" or false doctrines. Since the word Revelation means an "unveiling" or "revealing", there is no reason for John to camouflage the real city. Iraq is, at this time, trying to rebuild Babylon. The UN might help finance such an activity.

Babylon is mentioned 6 times in Revelation (Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2; 18:10; 18:21). In 17:5, the city is called "Mystery, Babylon the great". The term means something else than the other verses but still refers to the same Babylon. Babylon is called a "city" four times (Rev. 17:18; 18:16, 18-19). So before we read and accept commentaries that are saying the scripture does not mean what it says, one must have a very good reason and a logical breakdown. One cannot say that the "real" meaning is something else because he simply cannot believe the supernatural aspect of the happening.

v1-2: "And God remembered Great Babylon to give her the Cup of Wine of the fierceness of his wrath ...." (Rev. 16:19). After seeing the Bowl judgments, John is shown by an angel details of what will happen (i.e. angel to show details of what John just saw). The concept of showing a summary, then the details, is done in the Bible is several locations. Many believe the Gen 1:1 ("In the beginning, ......") summarizes the creation. The following verses detail or explain what God created in the first verse. Therefore, Chapters 17 and 18 do not chronologically follow 16. John does not have to leave "come hither" to see what the angel has to show. The Greek deuro means "here, hither" or "here".

"The Great Harlot" represents the end-time religious system as an unfaithful and wanton woman. In OT the woman MUST be faithful to the husband.

The imagery of a woman is often used:
  • the earth has been made drunk with her [Babylon] wine (Jer. 51:7)
  • Jerusalem has proved to be false, treacherous, unfaithful. (Isa 1:21)
  • Babylon under siege called a "lady of kingdoms" (Isa 47:5)
  • Israel pictured as wife of Jehovah (Isa 54:5)
  • Portrayed as adulterous woman (Hosea 2:1; 3:1)
  • persecuted woman in end-time Israel (Rev 12)
  • Corinth church is "chaste virgin" (2 Cor 11:2)
  • Church of Christ as a whole is the "Bride"; Christ is the "Bridegroom" (Rev 19:7-9)
The word "whore" (Greek porne) is the same as harlot used in verse 17:5. It is related to porneia "fornications" and pornos "fornicator" or "whoremonger". It does not refer only to women who sell their bodies, but simply to any who commit fornication. Fornication is sometimes, depending on context, considered different than adultery. Fornication is usually referring to sex without marriage; adultery is usually referring to sex with someone other than your spouse while married. Physical fornication and adultery were often considered as symbolic of spiritual fornication; i.e. serving and loving other gods than the true Creator. This is the meaning of this context of these verses.

"Sitteth upon many waters" refers to the persecution, pressure, "sitting upon" of the peoples and multitudes and nations. Remember the waters or seas are often used in the Bible to refer to the people of nations.

Note there are 2 women at end-time claiming to love Christ:
  • True church - the "Bride"
  • Apostate False Church - The "Great Harlot" of Babylon. However, she is a "Harlot" unfaithful to God she claims to love, loving others such as Humanism, communism, Satan, Antichrist.
The kings of the earth committed fornication and the inhabitants of the earth succumbed to the wine of her (Babylon) fornication. The question is: could it really be Babylon had made all nations and inhabitants drunk with the wrath of her fornication? Nebuchadnezzar was a great king but the kingdom of Babylon in John's time was nothing. So were the Persian and Greek empires. It was not the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar that made the nations drunk. There is a great deal of history that was studied in Daniel on his kingdom. We are justified Biblically and archeologically in inferring that the religious system established at the original Babylon was somewhat passed onto the following empires. Because of Babylon (Babel), it was passed into the tongues of the world. The following is a summary paragraph from The Revelation Record (see Bibliography and commentary for Rev. 17:2) on the religious systems developments.

"This is the reason why every nation and tribe of the past or present (except those whose cosmogony is based on Genesis 1 and 2, such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) has a religious system which is fundamentally pantheistic (believing that the physical universe, rather than the transcendent Creator of that universe, is the ultimate reality), polytheistic (believing that this deified cosmos manifests itself locally as various forces and systems of nature, which are personified as “gods” and “goddesses”), evolutionary (believing that these personified forces of nature somehow generate higher and higher orders of beings, including man and—in many cases—even spirits), animistic/spiritistic (believing that the spirits so generated, including the spirits of dead men and women, continue to survive and perhaps evolve into still higher beings), astrological (believing that the highest beings so developed either inhabit or are identical with the starry host of heaven, so that these stars control events on earth), and idolatrous (believing that these gods and goddesses, or personified forces and systems of nature, should be worshiped through images constructed to represent them and which they then possess and energize). This monstrous system of evolutionary, polytheistic, pantheistic, spiritistic, astrological idolatry has permeated practically every culture in the world in one form or another. Even modern evolutionary scientism is nothing but this same ancient paganism in more sophisticated garb." Thus, the world is corrupt with the lack of God respect, even now. So unless the people went to God, they were included in the above description.

v 3-5: During this time, John will see the judgment on great Babylon; but first, he must be instructed on the nature and deeds of Babylon. The "False or Apostate Church" has a great influence on other nations and rulers. "Wine" symbolizes the this church's doctrines and teachings of the apostate church. Remember, the apostasy must come before the end.

It is here ---!!

John is carried, in spirit to another place, into the wilderness which is probably the reference to chaotic the world. John has been observing the end of the tribulation. As stated earlier, John is now going back in time to see what was before the end of the tribulation.

Now the woman is sitting on a scarlet colored beast. You probably now can recognize the beast as the Antichrist ("blasphemy, seven heads, ten horns)
(Rev. 12:3). The church is "riding" with and on the political system of the Antichrist to pollute the world. The church and the Antichrist with 10 nations will support each other. The unclean woman (symbolic) was called the great whore sitting upon many waters. Since the whore is sitting on the beast when John saw her, the beast is also on the waters (symbolic of the various nations of the world). Therefore, the woman is identified as Babylon the great, except that she is Babylon in "mystery" form (verse 5). So Babylon is a system, political and religious. So, the dragon empowers the beast (Antichrist) and the beast supports the harlot. A neat system for the time.

The "Great Harlot" certainly has a royal appearance. She carries a golden cup filled with abominations and filthiness. She is certainly deceiving in appearance (impressive) but in its teachings and pronouncements (the cup) are spiritually and morally corrupt. She holds out her golden cup for all to take; but, it is full of abominations and her fornication (Psa. 5:3-5). The temptations and hypnotic spells she can produce is good for the weak spirited people who did not find God. Putting this into clearer understanding, The new religious system will look good to everyone. Everyone will be able to believe what they want as long as they worship the beast. Even with the new religious part of the "system", there will be still be certain ideals that the Antichrist may not advocate but will not care as long as they worship him.

The mystery (Greek "musterion") of the woman is made clear by the name on her forehead. Much of the old Greek was written in a system of Capital letters. Therefore, we are not sure if John meant "MYSTERY, BABYLON ......EARTH" was on the forehead or just proclaiming a mystery. Then "BABYLON ...... EARTH" is correct. Without the indefinite article "a" we can't be sure. It really doesn't affect the meaning here.

The word "abominations" (Greek bdelugma) is specifically associated with idol worship. It is the same word used by Christ when He prophesied the blasphemous image which would be set up in the temple by the beast (the abomination of desolation) (Matt. 24:15). Some say the spiritual Babylon may be the Roman Catholic Church. Many of the doctrines and sacraments of the Babylonian religion were transmitted to pagan Rome and ultimately to papal Rome. However, to say the Roman Catholic Church grossly underestimates the power of the great mystery, Babylon the Great. From Babylon the Great comes all the pagan cults, eastern religions, witchcraft, etc.

v 6: The Great Harlot is guilty of the blood dropped of the saints and martyrs. What will the Great Harlot be? Who knows? Many modern "go back to the bible" people see the dilution of all the world religions as the start. We all see apostate conditions - those who know Christ (the truth) but still turn their backs on His teachings and will not follow Him. Society now claims and desires tolerance as a "religion" or as a minimum, a major part of religion. In fact, Jesus was one of the most INtolerant persons on earth when it came to the spiritual aspects of life. Anything false was uncovered by Him and thrown back at His condemners. In fact, the "tolerance" of today is actually "intolerance". I will leave it with you by saying society is now and has always been grossly intolerant of Christianity. That is what Christ said to expect.

The term "admiration" is not an admirable or good term. It really means with "awe" or "amazement". If we saw the history John saw, we would also shudder in awe. John now has seen the awesome power in history and now in the Babylon influences.

v 7: The angel asks John why he wonders about what he has seen. The angel then says that he will tell John the mystery of the woman and the beast. The words sound like a rebuke or reprimand. It is as if John and we Christians should have known more about what was going to happen. We should have been aware of the world influences and movements that changed the world to be Godless. We should have seen it coming; but, we did not. The mystery is about to be uncovered.

Hosea 2:1;3:1; Gen 1; Isa 23:17; 54:5; 2 Cor 11:2; Dan 7:7, 19-20; Matt 27:28; 2 Thes 2:3

v 8: The angel further explains the woman and beast.

This may be the most difficult verse in the bible to interpret. We will not be sure until the end. However, you now know me, let's try to examine the verse:

The beast :
  • existed in the past
  • Cannot now be seen
  • Shall appear again after having ascended from the nether (down or below) world
  • Shall be returned to perdition, Hell, Hades, and Lake of Fire

Since only spirits can go in and out of Hades (i.e. not nations), it seems the verse may primarily be about the Beast and the Antichrist as individuals.

Most think it was Satan. He :
  • Existed in the past
  • Cannot now be seen; although, because he controls, we can see people he has entered (Judas)
  • Shall appear again (out of bottom-less pit)
  • He will be returned to the Lake of Fire

Empires have come and gone. There is said to be a residual Roman empire still existing. All the leaders of the past are dead. Only God can raise up from the dead. Satan cannot. Most of the empires came from and through Satan. However, only God controls the book of life. So John saw the beast that was; the beast is no more (at the this time of John's vision); and will come back. The people on the earth will wonder whether their names are in the book of life.

v 9-11):"Now here is the mind which hath wisdom" is an introduction to minds that have the answer. Many feel this means that those whose names are written in the book of life (i.e. born again persons) can discern not only the beast but also the woman. Remember we saw wisdom being associated with understanding
(Rev. 13:18). Now we are going to discuss the seven heads. Remember, the Beast had 7 heads and 10 horns. The Harlot is somehow sitting on the 7 heads. This appears to be the representation of her sitting upon 7 "mountains" (Greek Oros) or "high hills". Could it be the 7 continents are the 7 hills of Rome which infers the Roman Catholic Church as some scholars say? This is felt to be wrong for several reasons. The Roman Catholic Church does not sit on the seven hills of Rome. They are all over the world. Only the headquarters is in Vatican City. Many cities have seven hills. The Greek word bounos means "hill"; the word oros means "mountain". The word for "mountain" is used in this scripture.

It should be clear to you by now that the Harlot's False Religion has and will dominate universally.

In verse 10 "and there are" and "and they are" are 2 translations for Greek eisin. There are 7 Kings or Leaders represented by the hills. It is stated five have already died. One was living and one had not lived yet. When the one does come, he won't last long in power. It is not unusual that a kingdom is represented by a mountain with a king on top. Isaiah prophesies of the messianic kingdom coming in the millennium (Isa. 2:2). Recall also that Daniel refers to a mountain kingdom (Dan. 2:35;
Dan. 2:44-45)
. Keep in mind, the understanding of symbolic language is usually found around its use. If not, it is in scripture. Sometimes it is hard to find. However, Isaiah and Daniel are always two good areas to start looking.

Domitian, who originally exiled John to Patmos, is in power.

Keith Brinkley of Grace Theological Seminary in "Meaning of the Seven Heads in Rev 17:9" defines the 7 heads as representing 7 kingdoms influences by paganism: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece are the past 5 heads. The Roman Empire was the "is" head. The Revived Roman Empire" is yet to come. The Beast is the eighth but comes out of the seven (the Revived Empire). However, the last king yet to come is not to last long. The argument is that Domitian is in power at the time of John's writing and is therefore the "is" king. There is going to be a revived Roman empire (some say already here). The most likely representation of prophecy came from Daniel with the toes of the image of Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2:42).

The interpretation that the 7 heads are the line of Roman Emperors is not normally accepted.

The teaching of this verse is in summary:
"The False Religion has ridden and will ride along with the 7 heads (the political government of this world which serve Satan and the Antichrist)." However, it will not last very long (essentially 7 years). The verse 11 clears up the eighth that comes out of the seven. This states that the seventh king will probably come out of the revived Roman empire. Then the 7 year kingdom will come out of the revived Roman empire. Babylon will be a resurrected city. That may be being built right now by Saddam.

v 12-13: The angel tells John the 10 horns refer to 10 Kings. Kings (Greek Basilious) refers to rulers of leaders no matter what their titles are. The 10 horns are those "Kings" identified in Daniel as the 10 toes - the end-time of the Roman Empire. Remember: since the toes were mixed with clay., they were weaker than solid iron. However, the weakening did not stop the empire. There will be a "Revived Roman Empire" of the 10 nation confederate.. They will receive their power for one hour. That one hour is significant in that is means a very short time, not a literal one hour. This will probably be actually 3-1/2 to 7 years. There is no way of identifying now what countries will be in the 10 country alliance with the Antichrist. However, nations such as the United States, England, France, Italy, Germany, and Poland (in west), and Hungary, Greece, Yugoslavia, and Rumania in the east could satisfy the prophetic specifications.

As stated in previous verses, the ten horns on the seventh head of the beast constitute the confederation coming out of the remnants of the sixth kingdom. The confederation will be the seventh head. Although all the leaders will start out the same in power, out of this alliance a world dictator, the Antichrist, will rise. This world dictator will receive unquestioned loyalty from the confederation. If not, the nation leader will be eliminated. The nations will surrender all armaments and authority (power and strength) to this leader. This alliance will not come about over night. However, the whole organization of the Antichrist will take place in the first 3-1/2 years.

Keep in mind the seals and trumpets are plaguing all nations. This causes much distraction from the nations political goals and military pursuits. The plagues are seen as coming from the two witnesses (Rev. 11:6). Of course, for 3-1/2 years the people cannot get rid of the witnesses or the 144,000.

Suddenly two things happen:
  • Amazing "resurrection" of the Antichrist
  • Success in killing the two witnesses
With these things, now total commitment and worship is given to the Antichrist by the nations.

v 14-15: This alliance with the Antichrist will make war with the Lamb (Jesus) in Armageddon. The Lamb shall overcome them because of His power. Jesus will take over with the elite army of the called (Greek kletos), chosen (Greek eklectos), and faithful (Greek pistos) followers. The Antichrist is deceived at the middle of the tribulation into thinking he REALLY DOES have the power to overcome God. He certainly deceives his followers. Mobilizing ALL of the nations of the earth will not overcome the power of the Lord. John is told again by the angel that the waters that he saw (where the whore sat) are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. These were explained in previous verses.

v 16-18: For a while, the Harlot and Antichrist ride and fight together. Now the 10 nations hate the Harlot. The Apostate Church (Harlot) now is hated. Probably because she rivals the Antichrist for power. The church probably had a humanistic view of religion that had no relationship to what the Antichrist wanted or even allowed. At this point the church is probably considered in competition with the worship of the Antichrist. This universal church really has no major use anymore. The Antichrist appears to have resurrected himself and proved to all he was divine. There was no need for any other "organized church" Therefore, it was not needed anymore. The relationship gets worse all the way to total destruction of the Harlot. God allows the 10 heads to get behind the Antichrist.

The confederacy and the Antichrist shall strip the harlot or church of all her power and shall "eat her flesh" (devour her) and "burn her with fire" (another strengthening of completely annihilating the harlot. The kings will "mourn" the church (actually just recognize the demise) later (Rev. 18:9) but will be joyful of its demise. The woman, Harlot, False Church is called Babylon (vs 5) will be gone. Verse 17 appears to say, God's plan will now be fulfilled. The 10 will agree to fulfill the Antichrist's will and will give their kingdoms to him. Now the plan of God will be fulfilled. The interesting thing is that at this point in the tribulation man will be fulfilling God's will by trying NOT to do God's will. They did it also for purely selfish and wicked motives. However, the 10 turning over their kingdoms to the beast is an act to try to assure being able to fight God more effectively. Prophecy has stated that God is drawing all together under the beast. This would accomplish a all-powerful world government (Joel 3:2; Zech. 14:2). The woman represents the great city of Babylon, a real city, and shall reign over the kings of the earth. Earlier it was said that Babylon was a system, a political and religious system. The woman had on her forehead "Babylon the Great". The religious part of the system was destroyed. The political part of the system did not want or need the religious part anymore. However, the political part of the system must also go. Some commentators do not want to accept the fact that the city is real (Rev. 18:10, 21). Isaiah (Isa. 13:1-14:27) and Jeremiah (Jer. 50:1-51:64) prophesy the destruction of Babylon. Form the prophet's perspective, the destruction of Babylon and Medo-Persian empires were in the future and sometimes seem to merge together. However, by study, the two can be discerned. There are no contradictions. The need is that Babylon will have to be brought to its original power and beauty. Even now, Babylon in a smaller way still exists. The town of Hillah is on a part of the old Babylon territory. Much of the ancient city i in ruins. It is a prime candidate for renewal. It is said that is being done in Iraq. Its engineers and top consultants have developed the water supplies of the two great rivers through dams and canals; so the agricultural and hydroelectric resources. The tourist potential of a restored Babylon cannot be overstated. Many changes in Moslem ideals would have to change before that could happen. Computer studies by the Institute for Creation Research have shown, that Babylon is very near the geographical center of the earth's land masses. It is easily navigable from all over th world. One of the greatest historian of modern times, Arnold Toynbee, used to stress that Babylon would be the best place in the world to build a future world cultural metropolis, maybe the future capital of the "United Nations Kingdom". Babylon is definitely destroyed; but, it will be rebuilt first.

Dan 7:24; Prov 21:1; Exod 4:21; Isa 10:5; 46:9-11; Eph 1:11

Return to Revelation TOC email to Bill
Return to BJM Master Home Page