Summary: A brief introduction to Revelation 17-21-the contrast between the Prostitute-Babylon, and the Bride, and the distinctions between them
A brief introduction to Revelation 17-21:
A Tale of Two Women
Revelation 17 & 18 and 19-21 are a study in contrasts. The distinctions are clear. There is a prostitute (Chapter 17 & 18), and there is a virgin bride (I’ll call her the Lady). And there are many distinctions between them.
The prostitute is dressed in the finest fashion of her day. She wears red & purple-colors associated with royalty partly because the dyes are too expensive for most people. She also wears gold.
The Lady wears fine linen, clean and white and, get this, that’s her wedding gown. Peter said
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. 1 Peter 3:2-5
This doesn’t exactly say that godly women shouldn’t be concerned with their physical appearance, but that the condition of the heart should be their first priority. And here in India, many parents want their daughters to wear gold and/or jewels for their wedding-a tradition which probably is a carry over of an impulse for providing an inheritance in the form of wealth to the next generation, more than a concern about what things look like. In other words, even in this case, the appearance of the jewels should not be the important thing-it’s the legacy, what is passed on, that is in focus. Clearly, we should not be obsessed with what we look like on the outside, but, instead, the mental, physical and financial resources we might pour into appearance we need to invest in who we are. If a person is beautiful on the outside, but horrible on the inside, that person is ugly from God’s perspective (man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart). Likewise, if a person is not very attractive physically, but has good character and loves the Lord, that person is beautiful in God’s sight. I believe it is possible for a human to develop character to such an extent that they become Beauty Incarnate-the ideal, form, or model of beauty that Plato spoke of as only attainable in what he thought of as heaven. Maybe such goodness is unattainable for a mortal. Yet it seems like this is what God invites us to do-to pursue inner beauty till it leaks out in our eyes and words and work and expressions. Good gracious words, deeds, and responses are the most beautiful aspects of our humanity, and placed against these, no fashion model or beauty queen can compare. As says the proverb of the virtuous woman “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong (Proverbs 31:17 ESV) . . . She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue (Proverbs 31:25-26 NIV).” And this brings us to the next aspect of our considerations, words.
The prostitute boasts. The Lady praises God. I think I’ll leave it at that. Consider the implications.
The prostitute is destroyed and suffers in death. In the end she is wasted and desolate, a dwelling place of horrible creatures. The Lady enjoys the presence of God. She is in the presence of God, praising Him with the Elders and Living Ones and angels. She becomes, actually, as the New Jerusalem, the dwelling place of God. She is clothed in her righteousness and is, clearly, loved by God. Jesus said that you can’t serve the riches and power of this world and simultaneously serve God (Matthew 6:24). We have to choose where we will place the focus of our lives. Those of us who choose to focus on being beautiful in all those areas that are secret eternal and invisible will enjoy eternal and undying rewards as the dwelling place of God. Those of us who focus on the products and pleasures of this world will see temporary dingy glory. But those who focus on the quality of character rather than quantity of things will enjoy glory that does not fade, and joy that is indescribable.
Be careful what you wish for. Do you wish you were more physically beautiful? Probably most of us do. Do you wish to be more spiritually beautiful? I think too few of us do (those who bother to read this a likely among the exceptions). But to those who value spiritual beauty first, the promises of God are infinitely beautiful.
Prayer for Today
Give me eyes to see Your beauty.
Then enable me to become more like You.
In the name of your incomparably beautiful Son, Jesus