Summary: Week 37 in a Wednesday evening study through the book of Revelation
The Harlot or Apostate Church
Date: May 14, 2003
Place: Allendale Baptist
Text: Revelation 17:1-18
The Description of Religious Babylon
Verse 1. John is called to come and see the judgment of Babylon, but in the process he also gets a description of the woman (Babylon). The subject of this section is the judgment of religious Babylon. The judgment describes her condemnation, sentence, and penalty passed. The emphasis is the particular character and nature of the penalty that God has in store for Babylon.
In keeping with the laws of the harvest, Scripture teaches that whatsoever man sows that shall he also reap. The harlot system has seduced men and nations and tried to rule them politically. Nations have bowed and scraped to her for centuries, but a time will come when they will revolt and destroy her.
Babylon’s description as “the great harlot” refers to the spiritual prostitution and fornication that categorizes the apostate church of the Tribulation which is unfaithful and rejects the Lord Jesus Christ as her husband (2 Pet. 2:1-2).
“Great” refers to the harlot system which will reach its zenith after the removal of the true church (genuine believers) by way of the rapture. The prostitute exists today in many forms (Roman Catholicism, liberal Protestantism, the cults, etc.), but after the church is gone, or perhaps even before it is gone, they will unite and become one great ecumenical religious system.
“That sits on many waters” refers to world-wide unification and control. “Waters” refers to the “nations” and the many people of those nations.
“Sits on” suggests the concept of control as well as unification. The nations are religiously united and politically affiliated with each other through the power and control of this religious system and its head. When the church is raptured, the apostate system which will already have spread its tentacles all over the world, will quickly unite and become the one-world church.
One of the things we should be watching for are tendencies and movements among the religious groups of the world toward a united world church, and we have been seeing this for years.
One of the recent “uniting factors” is the present day tongues movement. It seems the tongues experience becomes a uniting force that unites Roman Catholics, Charismatics, liberal Protestants, and even the cults, and this regardless of the divergent doctrinal views, many of which are clearly contrary to Scripture.
Verse 2. “With whom (the harlot) the kings of the earth have committed fornication” is a reference to the leaders of the non-communist block of nations in which the religious system has her tentacles.
This is an alliance of church and state which is an unfaithful act for both. This causes both to prostitute (compromise) their responsibility before God.
Both state and church were established by God, but must remain separate if they are to carry out their purpose. They are to support one another, but the moment they merge, both liberty and spiritual freedom are lost (at least eventually).
By separate, I am not talking about the separation of church and state that is being promoted today where prayer and dependence on God has been removed from the classroom while godless ideologies are being promoted.
Below is an extended portion quoted from the chapter entitled, “The Myth the Church Should Have No Voice in Government” in the book, Exploding The Myths That Could Destroy America, by Erwin W. Lutzer:
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17).
This statement of Christ’s was revolutionary. To those believers who were under the Roman yoke He said that we can, under certain conditions, have loyalty both to God and to the state. But Christ also knew that conflict between the two spheres would become inevitable when the secular authority would demand for himself honors that belong only to God. Yet, as far as possible, believers should live with loyalty to both authorities.
Church-state conflict goes back to the early days when Christianity was outlawed and was set in opposition to Roman rule. Early Christians died not because the Romans were intolerant (they would accept whatever god anyone wished to worship). What they hated was the exclusivism of Christianity. The belief that Jesus Christ is the only Lord galled the Romans and led many Christians to the lions.
Early Christianity was a minority religion in a secular state. But all of that changed under Constantine, who wanted to make Christianity coextensive with the state. In other words, everyone who would be born within the boundaries of the Roman Empire would be a Christian.
As a result of this development, the church and state were united. In the eleventh century, Pope Gregory VII struggled with the mightiest king in Western Europe, Henry IV of Germany The question was, Who would have the authority to appoint bishops? The king insisted that that was his prerogative, but the pope maintained that such a conclusion would place the church subordinate to the state and hence corrupt the faith. When King Henry visited the pope’s castle in Italy, he was required to stand barefoot for three days and ask for mercy before receiving the pope’s pardon. It made sense to the pontiff that the church should have authority over the state so that heretics could be punished and doctrinal purity maintained.