“The Great Harlot”
Revelation 17:1-18

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,…’” [Rev 17:1]

Chapter 17 begins a last parenthetical in Revelation.  It is actually an addendum with the seven bowl judgments in Rev. 16 taking us to the end of the Tribulation.  At the pouring out of the seventh bowl judgment [Rev 16:17-21], the entire earth is shaken to its core; 75 pound hailstones are rained upon the earth, and still, “Men blasphemed God.”

Also there is the reference to Babylon; “And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.” [Rev 16:9b]  While Jerusalem is spared [although its geography changes in the great earthquake; ref. Rev 16:19a]; Babylon is removed from the face of the earth.  Chapters 17-18 provide a parenthetical on the details.

“Chapters 17 and 18 are dedicated to the description of the final destruction of Babylon in both its ecclesiastical and political forms.  It is evident from these chapters that the events described precede the events represented in the seven bowls by a considerable period of time.

In general it is helpful to consider chapter 17 as dealing with Babylon as an ecclesiastical or spiritual entity and chapter 18 as dealing with Babylon as a political entity.

John is invited by one of the seven bowl angels to view the destruction of Babylon, representing false religion, and also to view the judgment of a woman, the symbol of Babylon, described as “the great prostitute,” who is seen sitting on many waters – the many nations ruled by Babylon.” [Walvoord]

The “great harlot” is the evil source behind false religion that goes back to Babylon’s beginning [ref. Gen 10].  She is drunk with immorality.  She is a symbol of the spiritual adultery of those who outwardly profess to be joined to God but inwardly they are joined to darkness [ref. Matt 23:27].

Notice it is the “earth dwellers” that are ruled by this great harlot.  They have spiritual lingo and religious ritual but they are ruled by the god of this world.

Is it possible to look and sound like a Christian and not be one?  The parable of the Wheat and Tares gives us our answer [ref. Matt 13:24-30, 36-43].  A true child of God is known by their fruit [ref. Matt 7:20]; and that great fruit is love [ref. Gal 5:22-23].