Summary: This will not be a popular message with the apostate religions of the world as this chapter deals with the great harlot.
THE HARLOT OF REVELATION 17
The great religious harlot is about to be destroyed, along with its political and economic counterparts. This and the next chapter show how God judges a system that had its beginnings way before the New Testament Church was even formed. This system is a wicked counterfeit system that is both economic and religious in nature. With it being a system that involves both the religious and the economic, it also merged with the political systems upon the earth. This system had its beginnings when Nimrod started building his empire at the Tower of Bab-El (which means Gate of God).As the people of Nimrod’s day attempted to reach heaven by building a tower, God came down and destroyed their efforts by confusing their languages. Nimrod’s grandfather was Ham and Ham, if you remember, was associated with the curse that involved Noah’s drunkenness. This curse came in response to Ham’s wicked behavior of uncovering his father’s nakedness. By this family association, you can recognize that Nimrod did not have a very honorable start.
The counterfeit attempt to establish a religious empire was the beginning of the spirit of Babylon. This same spirit showed up when Nebuchadnezzar built an image of himself, trying to forcefully bring together everyone to worship him (Daniel 3). Once again, God did not permit him to achieve his wicked goals. God had a trio of Hebrews, and another by the name of Daniel, who faithfully challenged the Babylonian system. It was at this time that the three Hebrew children were cast into the fiery furnace and because they would not bow, they also would not burn.
This wicked system has its own wicked enduring qualities that have permitted it to survive for several thousand years. This chapter shows how God will finally deal with this system that has long deceived worshipers upon the earth. This system has often looked very Christian while involving both apostate Catholic and apostate Protestant groups. This was only because of its counterfeit qualities. At the time of this judgment, all of the religions upon the earth will be connected and called the “great whore that sitteth upon many waters”. We now will consider the predicted fall of this religious harlot.
I. THE INTRODUCTION CHARACTERIZING THE RELIGIOUS HARLOT. (Vv. 1-6)
Before advancing this study any further we need to define some terms as they are being used in our Text. The first being the words great whore. When this system is described as a great whore, it is in respect to its unfaithfulness. The counterfeit religion that is to be destroyed has its very seductive elements at work and has had since Satan invaded the human race. He influenced the mind of Cain, making Cain think that he was doing well by offering his own offering of his own design. But God did not have respect for his offering. This was the first incident of satanic worship. Satan mimics that which is true by mixing Truth with error. He does it in a very attractive package.
Just as a woman can have seductiveness about her for the purpose of captivating a man, so does the counterfeit religious systems of the world. As we continue, as believers, to embrace the true fundamentals of the faith, we will receive criticism for being too “straight-laced” or “hellfire and brimstone” in our preaching. We may be criticized for not using a contemporary music program with the heavy beat and rock sound that is so characteristic of the world’s music. Satan bridges the world and the church as closely as he can. He uses music as one of the means of accomplishing this. Counterfeit translations of the Bible are other ways that he accomplishes this. By him using these and other similar devices, there is a wedding of the church to the world. To God this is Spiritual fornication, for the Lord wants a chaste bride, a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle. The subtleness of these counterfeit movements takes its ongoing toll on the true church.
This system is also called the MOTHER OF HARLOTS, which is another inference to unfaithfulness. The true Church is a called-out assembly that is to be separated from the world according to Scriptures such as Acts 15:14; Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15; and James 4:4. This does not mean that the true Church should be isolated, but it should be separated.
A. The Religious Harlot Is Described. (Vv. 1-4a)
John had an invitation by one of the seven angels to witness the “judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters”. John was able to give a very graphic description of this religious system as he likened her to a whore whose unfaithfulness has affected many people groups across the world and across time. This may seem to be a very caustic way of describing the religious system of Satan in this manner, but we must remind ourselves of the wickedness and the hurt that she has caused under her very seductive religious pretense.