TEXT: Revelation 17:1-18.
Memory Verse: “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).
This chapter of the book of Revelation reveals many things concerning “the great whore”, a woman “with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication,” and who has corrupted “the inhabitants of the earth… with the wine of her fornication” (verses 1,2). She was “arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold”, holding “a golden cup… full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication” (verse 4). The woman, “drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (verse 6) was also pictured as sitting upon “many waters”. John, the Beloved, who saw the vision of the woman sitting on the scarlet-coloured beast, was astonished at her appearance and apparel. He wondered with great amazement at what the woman and the beast symbolised. “And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns” (Revelation 17:7). One of the seven angels, pouring out the vials of God’s wrath observed that John was amazed at what he saw and offered to interpret the vision to him.
DEPICTION, POSITION AND PERVERSION OF THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS
(Revelation 17:1-6; 13:1-6; Deuteronomy 18:9-12; Jeremiah 25:6,7; 51:47-49; Ezekiel 8:5-18; 24:13,14; Matthew 4:10; Ephesians 5:5; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; Colossians 2:18; 1 John 5:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; Revelation 18:12-16,20-24)
Apostle John was invited to closely observe the judgment determined by God upon the whore: “And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters”. The judgment of the great whore and the inhabitants of the earth who have drunk the wine of her fornication is certain. Who does this whore (harlot) represent? A harlot or prostitute is an unfaithful and sensual woman who engages in sexual activity for money. The Scripture uses harlotry to express non-committal to a single person in relationship or involvement with multiple persons for filthy lucre. She is different from a faithful, upright and loyal woman who remains attached to her husband. In the Old Testament, Israel was portrayed as the wife of Jehovah (Isaiah 54:5; 62:5; Jeremiah 2:2,3) but her unfaithfulness to God made her to be tagged a whore or harlot (Hosea 2:2-13). In the New Testament, the true Church is pictured as the bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-30; Revelation 19:6-9). So, this “great whore that sitteth upon many waters” represents the unfaithful, false, apostate church – a worldwide church that loves the world instead of Christ (1 John 2:15-17). It is the nominal church that calls Christ “Lord, Lord” but would not follow His teachings (Luke 6:46). This is the counterfeit church that persecutes true followers of Christ (Matthew 23:34-38; Galatians 4:29). The apostate church will have world-wide control during the great tribulation. The religious system of the last days will be an unmistakable manifestation of Satan’s counterfeit of true Christianity.
Question 1: What does the “mother of abominations” represent?
The lewd and abandoned whore or harlot, representing the corrupt, unfaithful, idolatrous and apostate church of the last days will be influential during the great tribulation. Her position of sitting “upon many waters” shows her intercontinental perversion. “The waters where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues” (verse 15). Here, “waters” symbolise nations as explained in Revelation 17:15. This harlot or false religious system will have and exercise great, world-wide and sovereign power. Her position is that of a ruler seated on a throne, ruling and controlling the nations of the world. Historically, the apostate church had seduced the rulers of the earth, leading them to idolatry, false worship and corruption. Even today, many princes, nobles and great men are entirely under the influence of the corrupt, unrighteous religious organisation. “And the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” When the Lord showed Apostle John the Bride of Christ, He took him to a mountain, great and high. But when He showed him the apostate church, he was carried into the wilderness. “So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy.” Wherever there is spiritual adultery, there is desolation and a desert of dreary waste. Scarlet is the colour of luxury, splendour and royalty. The scarlet-coloured beast, the Antichrist, for a time will support and use the false religious system to bring about world unity. Eventually, he will openly bear names and titles of blasphemy. “And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls.” The woman, representing the church that has departed from the faith, is portrayed as a prostitute who has plied her trade successfully and become extremely wealthy. There is “a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication”. The life and secret acts of leaders and members in the apostate church are full of abominations, filthiness and all forms of uncleanness.
Question 2: What do the name and clothing of the great whore signify?
The name on the forehead of the harlot referred to spiritual Babylon, the mother or source of harlotry and abominations of the earth. The name identified the whore to be a religious system fostering and tolerating all the abominations that go with idolatry and spiritual fornication. As a harlot, she would promote the amalgamation of all false and Christ-less religion with a common purpose to defile and persecute the true Church. False religion has killed millions of believers over the centuries and the false religious system of the last days will be far deadlier than any that preceded it. “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration” (verse 6). History tells us that Queen Mary was a religious woman who ruled England from July 1553 until her death in 1558. She was also known as “Bloody Mary” because under her reign, over 280 Christians were burnt at the stake because of their Christian stand. Believers will surely experience trials but the comfort of the Scripture is, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
Question 3: Describe the method used by “worldly churches” to draw people away from true gospel.
DESCRIPTION AND DESTINY OF THE ANTICHRIST (Revelation 17:7-13; 9:1-3; 13:1-18; 11:7; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10; Daniel 7:7,8,20-26; 8:23-25; 11:36,45; 1 Timothy 4:1; Zechariah 1:18,19)
“The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit.” This refers to the Antichrist. He had an existence in the past (in the form of evil, wicked, anti-God government), but ceases to exist for a time. Then he would ascend from the bottomless pit, that is, he will be an incarnation of Satan and evil beyond anything ever seen before. He will embody all the terrorising traits of the ancient empires. “The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth” – undoubtedly referring to Rome, the seven-hilled city. The kingdom or government of the Antichrist will subdue and embody seven great kingdoms. His power will be great and supernaturally evil. He will conquer three more kingdoms. “And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings.” These ten kingdoms will be under the power of the Antichrist and form a great alliance with him. The beast carrying the woman is connected with that of Revelation chapter thirteen; the beast will flourish for a while but will eventually be destroyed (Revelation 17:10,11). “And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast” (Revelation 17:12,13). These ten horns on the seven-headed monster are united in the promotion of the same evil plan – to fight against Christ, the Lamb of God. These ten horns are ten kings which receive power to reign as kings one hour (for a brief period) with the beast (Revelation 17:12). The revived kingdoms of the end-time Roman Empire will be united in support and submission under the government of the Antichrist. The Antichrist will be so mighty and powerful as all the kings would give their power and strength to him. There is currently a high level of fraternity between the apostate church and the world. This is part of the satanic conspiracy to deceive multitudes and cause them to remain in wickedness which will lead to the eternal damnation of their souls. Believers must be wary of Satan’s subtle allurements which are aimed at inducing them to fall from steadfastness and faithfulness to the Lord. Christ’s warning remains, “Take heed that no man deceive you” (Matthew 24:4,5,11,24).
Question 4: Why is it needful for believers to be watchful in these last days?
As believers, we must not allow anyone to deceive us. Multitudes have been deceived from the simplicity of the gospel and have fallen into a false system of worship that permits a worshipper to call Jesus “Lord, Lord” but do not the things which He says. They blindly follow leaders who “promise them liberty”, but “they themselves are the servants of corruption”. Such people who follow the pernicious way will, no doubt, partake of the judgment reserved for the mother of abominations. The judgment of all who sell their souls to the apostate church and false religions will be terrible, fearful and eternal. The path of wisdom today is to repent genuinely and have faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
DEFEAT AND DESTRUCTION OF THE ANTICHRIST AND APOSTATES (Revelation 17:14-18; 16:14,19; 19:15-20; Psalms 2:1-5; 21:8-12; 110:5; 149:5-9; Jeremiah 51:13; Micah 5:7-9; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Isaiah 14:27; Revelation 16:19; Romans 8:37)
“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” The ten kings and the Antichrist shall join forces to make war with the Lamb but He shall overcome them. As believers, we should rest assured that the Antichrist and his mighty army will fight against the Lamb but will not prevail. Christ must reign till all enemies are put under His feet. Though there are and will be myriads of opposition against His kingdom, He is sure to have the victory. Though many affronts may be raised by the enemy to frustrate us on our heavenward journey, we are more than conquerors through Jesus our Saviour (Romans 8:37). Christ’s victory is certain and predetermined over all forces of evil, the power and army of the Antichrist. Christ is Lord of lords and King of kings. He has supreme power over all the earth, and all kings and powers will be conquered and subdued under Him.
Question 5: What assurance does a believer have considering Satan’s inspired onslaughts against the Church?
“And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth” (verse 18). The woman represents mystery Babylon, religious Babylon, that is, the apostate church with all systems of false religion. The false worship of mystery Babylon, the mother of abominations, will influence and control the minds of multitudes of people on earth. The Antichrist will use the false prophet who will perform deceptive miracles and lying wonders to sway, win and hold the minds of men. After achieving his purpose, gaining control over the whole world, the Antichrist and his political alliance will turn against the religious movement of Babylon. Religious Babylon will be destroyed. “And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire” (verse 16). The Antichrist will eventually strip religious Babylon of its formidable power. Such destruction and overthrow of false religion is ordained by God; “For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled” (verse 17). And when God’s purposes are fulfilled, the beast and his alliance shall go into perdition. Believers should be determined to make the rapture so that they will not be here when all these things begin to happen. Let those who profess Christ commit the keeping of their souls unto Him who is able to save us to the uttermost.