Summary: So in Chapter 17 of Revelation John gets whisked away in the Spirit and he comes upon this woman sitting on a scarlet beast. From the description of the beast we know who it is already, but what or who is this new woman we are introduced to?
So in Chapter 17 of Revelation John gets whisked away in the Spirit and he comes upon this woman sitting on a scarlet beast. From the description of the beast we know who it is already, but what or who is this new woman we are introduced to?
Imagine the most beautiful, seductive woman you could ever see, adorned in the most expensive clothes and jewels. She’s drunk and holds in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality – the ultimate temptress.
But once she had you under her spell, once you gave into her seduction, you would see her inner ugliness, she would transform into something disgusting, and she would kill you like a black widow. I personally find nothing uglier than a staggering drunk woman, no matter how she looks.
Chapters 17 and 18 provide us with a little sideline here as John describes this world system known as the great prostitute Babylon, and its relation to the beast and Satan. I want to begin by looking at the Desolation of the Harlot.
The first thing we hear is that she is seated on many waters. This is simply telling us that Babylon rules over many nations. There is pretty much no nation or race that is immune to the prostitute, and her seduction.
Verse 2 is very interesting, because I think it accurately identifies the effect that spiritual adultery has. It is again equated with sexual fidelity, and it talks about dealings with Babylon causing the earth dwellers to be drunk. We all know the power of sex in this culture. It’s right up there with money and drugs and alcohol in terms of influencing our emotions and behaviour, and especially our judgment. The Bible often tells us to be sober-minded.
This state of being drunk in scripture is very similar to our usage of the word, and it refers to an altered state of consciousness where judgment is greatly affected, and it’s typically a very pleasant state that people pursue, especially when their regular state of mind or body is not very comfortable.
In essence this verse is saying that Babylon, the world, all that we choose instead of God, intoxicates us and makes us desire it over God, probably mostly because it gives us immediate gratification.
Now in these ancient times prostitutes usually wore a headband with their name on it to identify their profession. We see in this passage that this woman has a headband calling her Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations. And it says she is drunk with the blood of the martyred saints.
This woman has existed as long as mankind and she basically rides on the beast, she is controlled, carried by the beast, and she represents everything in the world that is desirable to the flesh but opposed to God and his desires.
She is the little devil that sits on your shoulder. She’s what sort of lives in our flesh to make us want something over God. She is the mother of all things sinful, and all things that cause us to worship the world rather than God. Many see this woman as the religious system of the beast that entices us away from worshipping the true God. Since the tower of Babel which was the beginning of the Babylonian false religious system, people have worshipped self and their creations over God.
The word used here for prostitute or harlot is “porneo” where we get pornography from. Clearly access to pornography has increased in my lifetime, and it has taken over many men, and women’s lives. But the bible doesn’t limit the term to this, it is much more the unfaithfulness to God, but obviously today pornography is one of those things that draws us away from living as God would approve of.
John is asked why he marvels at this image? A rhetorical question, any man would marvel at this incredible woman riding a beast. But follow carefully here. The angel says this beast was and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction.
This beast, it says was a scarlet color, who was (who existed before Christ was resurrected), is not now because it has been defeated through Christ’s resurrection, has a mortal wound on its head, and is restrained in the bottomless pit, but will eventually rise again for a short time only to be destroyed forever. This is a foreshadow of what we will see happen to Satan and his beasts in later chapters.
The seven heads are then explained as seven mountains on which the woman is seated, this refers to Rome as we know already. Babylon was a code word for Rome amoung the first century Jews, so that they wouldn’t get in trouble when they bad mouthed Rome. But these heads are also seven kings, five of who have fallen, a sixth that is currently reigning, and one that is yet to come. Then it says the beast is an eighth, but it belongs to the seven.