“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, “with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication“
The next two chapters do not advance the book of Revelation chronologically. They take an excursion into Babylonianism.
Chapters 17 and 18 take us to the fall of Babylon (14:8; 16:19). The Bible makes 280 references to Babylon. The events of these two chapters probably fall at the end of the Great Tribulation.
Chronologically, chapter 19 follows chapter 16. Chapter 17 is the religious fall of Babylon and chapter 18 is the political fall of Babylon. First, we come to the destruction of religious Babylon. Babylon is the fountain of ecumenical religion that is the antithesis of true Christianity. The first chapter then deals with the fall of worldwide ecumenical religion, a super-church inclusive of all cults and religions. The beast uses ecumenical religion to rise to power and then overthrows it later to suit his convenience.
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,
One of the seven-bowl-judgment angels requests John to observe the judgment of the great harlot. A whore is someone considered sexually promiscuous. The great harlot is promiscuous with the truth of the Word of God. A whore offers sexual satisfaction outside of marriage. Apostate religion offers religious satisfaction outside the principles of God’s Word. It calls itself Christian and yet consorts with godless systems of belief (James 4:4).
The phrase “sits on many waters” indicates the harlot’s authority to rule. She dominates the world religiously. John later interprets the “many waters” where the great harlot sits. People from all over the world will buy into her religion (v.15). This whore reigns over a worldwide religion at this point, which dominates the one-world government.
“with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”
The great harlot symbolizes world religion. The “kings of the earth” and “the inhabitants of the earth” “committed fornication” with her; that is, they became part of her world-wide religious system. In the beginning of the Tribulation, religion will have great power over governments. The great whore is very attractive. International religion is very attractive to many people.
The “wine” of the harlot’s fornication is her Babylonian doctrines of syncretism, internationalism and a single world order. She will assault any system of belief that holds to a mutually exclusive doctrine. Everyone must conform to a politically correct [or religiously correct, if you prefer] viewpoint. Christians will not be able to claim that Jesus is the only way to heaven without persecution (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
The inhabitants of the earth become “drunk” with these doctrines. They give themselves over to this worldwide ecumenical religion. Drunkenness with this system of belief deludes them.
“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:7).
So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
The angel carried John by a vision into the desert where he saw the great harlot. Blasphemous names covered her body.
The whore sat on a beast with seven heads and 10 horns (13:1). This is the beast of the Revived Roman Empire of a 10 nation confederacy of Europe and the centre of world government. The whore who sits on the beast probably means that world religion has the dominant position over world government for the first half of the Tribulation. World government will eventually put down world religion (vv. 17,18).
The “seven heads” are seven governments and refer to the most important heads of state in the Revived Roman Empire. The 10 horns are 10 kings who reign simultaneously (17:12).
The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls,
The great harlot dressed in religious paraphernalia similar to religions of our day. World religion is very wealthy in the Tribulation. Wealth attracts many people. A world religion is a glamorous thought.
having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.
World religion’s cup contains “abominations” and “filthiness.” These are not moral matters but truth issues. Her false ideas are the ideas of world religion. She takes a little from each religion in the world and molds them into one religious idea.
In the Tribulation, there will be a worldwide closed shop in religion.
Ecumenical religion has certain glamour (17:4) to many people in the world. They love religion for religion’s sake. Religion dazzles and blinds them to the truth. Religion impresses them.
Babylonianism is a counterfeit religion of universal oneness. This is the mother of religious apostasy. This system plagued Israel of the Old Testament and it plagues the church of the New Testament. There is great temptation even among evangelicals today to move toward one church. This is a temptation to build a monument to human pride as in the tower of Babel. Man by man will produce something that will save the world. This is a rebellious thought against God. It is a sad commentary on evangelicals of today that they have a desire to return to Babylonianism.
The Bible has very little good to say about religion per se. Religion feeds self- approbation and self-righteousness. Religion is always antagonistic to God’s provisions in Christ. Religion always goes autonomous from God’s grace and feeds ego lust. Religion will dominate your soul if you let it. But one-world religion in itself is the great whore. It is a perversion of what God did in Christ. It places emphasis on man and man’s efforts rather than God and His accomplishments in Christ.