The Prostitute Church Revelation 17

Rebekyah Brewer
This entry is part 30 of 39 in the series Revelation

In Revelation 17 we come to the topic of Babylon again.  We saw the fall of Babylon last week in the pouring out of God’s wrath with the seventh bowl in Revelation 16:17-21

17 The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” 18 And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings,[c] peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. 19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. 20 And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. 21 And great hailstones, about one hundred poundseach, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.

And we also saw it back in Revelation chapter 14 verse 8  with the warning of the second angel that flew over the world which said:

Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

We have spoken quite a bit about Babylon already, the ancient city of Babylon that Daniel was taken captive to along with the nation of Israel which King Nebuchadnezzar ruled. This great city lasted approximately 70 years and was a very great city in deed. We talked about how beautiful it was with its hanging gardens. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. There was not another city like it. We also talked about how impenetrable it was against invaders much like the city of Jericho that the priests marched around 7 times before the great walls fell when they blew the trumpets. Babylon’s own great walls that were made of brick which stretched 56 miles long, 300 feet high, were 25 feet thick with another wall 75 feet behind that one and the wall extended 35 feet below the ground.  It had 250 towers that were 450 feet high to watch against invaders. On top of all this a large, wide and deep moat surrounded the outside walls of the city.  The great Euphrates River ran right through the middle of the city.

Babylon was an extremely beautiful city, an extremely well guarded, protected and strong city; it was also an extremely rich city. The people lived lavishly and in much luxury. It was a great trade center. Because of its greatness and power its destruction was never seen coming by the world but it was predestined by God. Daniel predicted the fall of and utter destruction of the great city of Babylon by the Medes and Persians and it fell because of God’s decree.

We also talked about the beginning of Babylon. How its roots stretched all the way back to Genesis to its founding father Nimrod. Nimrod was Noah’s great grandson. He was the son of Cush, the son of Ham.  The very name Nimrod means “Rebel” He was known to be a “Mighty hunter before the Lord” or “A Mighty hunter against the Lord.” Nimrod was against God.  (Gen. 10:8-9)

Nimrod built the city of Babylon and in this city and in this time period you will remember from Genesis 11:4 the great Tower of Babel being built. This is when men were all of one language and attempted to build a name for themselves. God came down and confused their languages and spread them out all across the earth.  The meaning of the word Babel is confusion and it is from this that the city name gets it meaning which also means “Confusion”

Babylon has a long sordid past:

 As a religious system, Babylon came into being long before Christianity, but in Satanic imitation it anticipated the coming true Messiah.  According to religious history and legend, the Babylonian religion was founded by the wife of Nimrod (a great-grandson of Noah), named Semiramis.  She was a high priestess of idol worship, and she gave birth to a son who she claimed was conceived miraculously.  The son, named Tammuz, was considered a savior.  Many ancient artifacts remain with the familiar motif of the mother Semiramis holding the savior-infant Tammuz, which predate Christianity.  It was also said that Tammuz was killed by a wild beast and then miraculously brought back to life.  Baal was the local, Canaanite name for the Babylonian Tammuz.

The Bible makes specific mention of some of the features of the classic religion of Babylon:

  • Ezekiel protests against the ceremony of weeping for Tammuz (Eze. 8:14)
  • Jeremiah mentions the heathen practice of making cakes for the queen of heaven (Jer. 7:18) and offering incense to the queen of heaven (Jer. 44:17-19, 44:25) (Guzik)

Babylon is mentioned 287 times in scripture, more times than any other city except Jerusalem. When we think of the Jews and Israelites we often think of the Egyptian captivity and release, but we don’t often immediately think of their Babylon captivity time period.  Yet Babylon is mentioned more than Egypt which played such a large part in the story of the Israelites.

In Revelation 17 we see a woman who is called MYSTERY BABYLON. What is a mystery? It is an enigma. It is something that baffles the understanding and cannot be explained. It is a difficult problem. There is something mysterious to be said about this Babylon. It is not the same as the ancient city. There is something more behind it that cannot be fully made known, understood or explained. This is the Babylon behind Babylon. The confusion behind the confusion.

As we discussed, Babylon was a real, literal city. It was where much of the book of Daniel takes place, with the captivity of the Israelites and their persecution. It was much like the city of Rome we studied with the churches in it’s great world empire, great power, great luxuries, great idolatries and great persecution of God’s people as we saw in several of the churches.  Today it is said that it would be much like the city of Los Angeles and many other great cities in their greed, lavish and loose lifestyles that live in open rebellion against God.

The name Babylon is like the name Jezebel, because of its history it has a code meaning. No on one in this study group I would hope, would want to name their daughter Jezebel because of the implications and the stink that the actual person of Jezebel left behind on the name. The name Babylon carries with it, its own stench that reaches straight up to heaven and has left a permanent foul odor in the air. Perhaps that is why the pouring out of the seventh bowl into the air has the effect of actually destroying that great city of Babylon and its ruler which is the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.

in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— (Eph. 2:2)

The code meaning of the name of Babylon is three fold. Not only is it an old corrupt ancient city, but it now symbolizes spiritual idolatry and it symbolizes worldliness and political corruption. In Revelation chapter 17 we will see more of the spiritual corruption, the spiritual idolatry of Babylon and its final destruction. Then in Revelation 18 which actually goes hand in hand with Revelation 17, the focus turns a bit and is more of a focus on the worldly political nature and corruption of Babylon and its final destruction also. In a sense we are zooming into the wrath of God in the pouring out of the 7th bowl and the final outpouring of God’s wrath and final destruction of the world’s religions and economic and political systems.

1 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters,

One of the angels that John had seen pouring out the seven bowls now approaches John and has him follow him in order to help him to understand and have a clearing meaning of the pouring out of this 7th bowl and the destruction of Babylon the great.

The angel shows John the definite judgment of the great prostitute. This is one of the things that must take place. It is as sure as done.

What is a prostitute? It is someone who sells herself, her body, and has sexual intercourse for money. A prostitute is also known as a harlot or as we would call today a hooker, which is an apt description for a hooker is someone who attempts to hook someone, to seduce them, to lure them away to have sex. Satan and all sin very much act as hookers, seductive in nature. They always attempt to entice people away from duty, principles, or proper conduct.  We often call this prostitution or adultery when it is done but God calls it idolatry.

Any time we hold anything or anyone up in higher regard then God, it becomes idolatry. The best way for us to understand the idolatry and the significance of it, is to understand “adultery” We all understand what adultery is. Adultery is willful sexual intercourse outside the bounds of marriage, outside the bounds of your covenant relationship. It is unfaithfulness. It is betrayal to a promise. If you have ever experienced the pain of adultery in your marriage you will understand deeper the pain of idolatry that God experiences every time we are unfaithful to him.  God calls idolatry spiritual adultery because we have entered into a covenant relationship with him and are to love him with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength. Every time you see adultery or prostitution in the bible it is a standing symbol for idolatry. Read the book of Hosea or Jeremiah:

 The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. 10 Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares the Lord.” (Jer. 3:6-10)

30 “How sick is your heart,  declares the Lord God, because you did all these things, the deeds of a brazen prostitute, 31 building your vaulted chamber at the head of every street, and making your lofty place in every square. Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment. 32 Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! 33 Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings. 34 So you were different from other women in your whorings. No one solicited you to play the whore, and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; therefore you were different. (Ezekiel 16:30-34)

Proverbs is full of symbolism of two women, one named Wisdom, one named Folly. Both stand in the market place and both cry out for people to listen. Wisdom is portrayed as the virtuous woman and Folly as the seductive prostitute that leads people to their death when they follow her home. (Prov. 9)

            The woman Folly is loud;

                        she is seductive, and knows nothing.

            She sits at the door of her house;

                        she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,

            calling to those who pass by,

                        who are going straight on their way,

            “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”

                        And to him who lacks sense she says,

            “Stolen water is sweet,

                        and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”

            But he does not know that the dead are there,

                        that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

                                    (Prov. 13-18)

If you look up a few verses you can compare Wisdom’s call:

            Wisdom has built her house;

                        she has hewn her seven pillars,

            She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine;

                        she has also set her table.

            She has sent out her young women to call

                        from the highest places in town,

            “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”

                        and him who lacks sense she says,

            “Come, eat of my bread

                        and drink of the wine I have mixed.

            Leave your simple ways, and live.

                        and walk in the way of insight.”

                                                (Prov. 9:1-6)

I point these out because these two still call today. Wisdom would call you to dine with her at the House of the Lord and bring you life. Folly would call you to live in Babylon, spiritual, worldly political and economical Babylon. When the Lord is saying “Come out of her my people!” He means to come out of this house of Folly, to come out of the way of Folly that leads to this death and destruction.

Notice how seductive this woman Folly is to entice people who are straight on their paths. This prostitute that sits in judgment is also seductive. She represents spiritual idolatry church with its seductive teachings that appeal to the flesh. She calls out to people on the straight path to come in and follow her, whoever is simple and lacks sense is her prey. Whoever is without wisdom, she diverts with her smooth talk, flattery and fleshly appeal.  This is the Apostate Church. As we talked at the beginning of Revelation 13 when we studied the Two Beasts and the Apostate Church it is very seductive in nature, her appearance and her teaching are very alluring. She sounds very much like wisdom, she takes the same high points and calls out to the same people passing by but only offers them stolen water and bread, she has nothing of her own to offer. So these false teachers often steal nuggets of truth to allure people to follow them, but the truth does not belong to them, it is stolen.

Revelation 17:1 also tells us that this great prostitute will be seated on many waters.  Revelations 17:15 interprets this for us and explains to us what it means so we don’t have to guess. The angel tells John

“And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.” (Revelation 17:15)

This tells us that the church will be universal. It will be over multitudes, nations and multiple languages which show the wide-spreaders of this one world religion that is in session as she is seated upon them. She is international.

The woman pictures false religion that will dominate the world in the tribulation period.” (Hocking)  Many people like to identify this great harlot with the Roman Catholic Church, but false religion is not limited to any one church. (Guzik)

“That Rome and the Romish system are involved, may readily be admitted; but that this is all, and that the sudden fall of Great Babylon is simply the fall of Romanism, or the utter destruction of the city of Rome, must be emphatically denied.” (Seiss)


 2 with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”

            The kings of the earth, the rules of the earth have gone after her and she has led them into unfaithfulness towards God, worshipping idols instead.  Not only the kings of the earth have gone after her but all the earth dwellers are intoxicated by her wine. They are said to be drunk, what an apt description. They are in a stupor, stupefied under the influence, unable to think clear, made senseless and dizzy with her confusion, immobilized and in a state of numbness. This is the effect of false religion, empty teaching. Instead of sharpening the mind as truth does, these lies confuse and dull the mind until the mind is useless.

That is what Satan wants. He doesn’t want you to think. He doesn’t want you to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. His temptation, his allurement to sin always begins in the mind. He wants you to entertain his thoughts, not God’s.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:13-15)

And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.

John is carried away again in the Spirit into a wilderness, a desolate place also a place of disfavor. It’s interesting that the woman representing Israel from Revelation 12 who was being pursued by the dragon, fled to the wilderness for safety and was there nourished by God.  God’s people often find safety in places of disfavor. This woman, this apostate church does not find any safety in the wilderness, in her place of disfavor.

In verse three the Angel is actually showing John the great prostitute he was speaking about who is to be judged and who makes the kings of the earth and the earth dwellers drunk and John sees a woman sitting on a scarlet beast. This is the beast, the antichrist from Revelation 13 that she is riding. The image of the dragon both having seven heads and ten horns. You can see the power beneath this Prostitute Church.  This beast is scarlet, representing blood and death which he brings.

This beast is full it says, full of blasphemous names.  When we studied the beast in Revelation 13 this is one of the attributes that greatly stood out over and over again.

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. (Rev. 13:13)

And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. (Rev. 13:5)

The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place.37 He will show no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all.   – (Daniel 11:36-37)

The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.

The woman was dressed like royalty. Purple and scarlet were the colors of royalty. Their dye was highly rare and expensive since it was so difficult to come by. The woman was also adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, all symbolic signs of luxurious living. We see that she is rich and in need of nothing just like the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3.  She cannot see that she is wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. She cannot see that is in great need to buy clothes, white garments, to cover the shame of her nakedness.

The Apostate Church Universal, or the First Synagogue of Satan will be not only powerful influence, intoxicating in doctrine, but rich, alluring rich.

In her hand she has a golden cup that is described as being full of abominations and impurities of her sexual immorality which is another reference to Babylon.

Babylon was a golden cup in the Lord‘s hand,
making all the earth drunken;
the nations drank of her wine;
therefore the nations went mad (Jer. 51:7)

Here is the cup she makes the world drunk with. And what is in it that they desire the taste of so much? Full of abominations and impurities of her own sexual immorality. Have you noticed how everything in the media has a sexual twist, action movies are full of violence and sexual icons, the advertisements in commercials, the homosexuality is in more and more sit coms, romance movies are about fornication and adultery. They are full of abominations and impurities of sexual immorality and the whole world is truly becoming drunk, stupefied by them and immobilized.


 What a horrible name for a church to be called!

On her forehead, on a prominent place there is a name written. Here we see that this other woman is the mother of all harlots, all false religions of the world, all idolatries, and all idolatries is what she has born.  She is their mother, their nurturer.

Our world, with its “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe” philosophy, is ripe for the harlot’s seductions.  We see the casual disregard for the truth crippling the church today.(Guzik)

 In his message to the church of Thyatira the Lord Jesus said:

“Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and the hearts; and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. (2:22, 23)

 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly.

            What intoxicates this woman, what absolutely causes her to get dizzy and stupefied is the blood of the saints. Remember what Penny read last week,

            “Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was,

            For you have brought these judgments,

            For they have shed the blood of the saints and prophets,

            And you have given them blood to drink.

            It is what they deserve.

            (Rev. 16:5-7)

  But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her.

The angel asks why John marvels. Why are you surprised?  Why do you think John is astonished at what he sees?

False religion is always the worst enemy of true religion.” (Walvoord)

 We should never forget that some of the most vicious persecution conducted against true Christians has been done in the name of the church.  In the days when the Roman Catholic Queen Mary ruled England (known as “Bloody Mary” for good reason), some 288 Christians were burnt at the stake for their stand for Christian truth between 1555 and 1558.  The first of these martyrs was a man named John Rogers, who, as he stood chained to a stake, and the fire rose around him, up to his legs and shoulders, he rubbed his hands in the flames as if he were washing his hands in cold water.  Then he lifted his hands to the heavens and held them high until he was completely consumed by fire.  This barbarity was committed in the name of religion, in the name of the church.  But Rogers went to the stake with such calm and dignity that the French Ambassador wrote that he went to his death “as if he was walking to his wedding.”  His courage was so evident that the huge crowd burst into applause when they saw him walking to the stake. (Guzik)

 The woman was riding the beast, from all appearances it looked like she was in the position of power dominating over the beast; however, as we will see the beast is the more powerful force, refusing to be dominated over, ruled over and eventually tramples her. He carries her only to fulfill his own purposes. This beast will not be tamed.

The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.

Once again we see the beasts allusion to Christ, Christ is was and is and is yet to come. The angel confirms where this Beast had its beginning, the bottomless pit and where he will end up.  He is part of the evilness now restrained that will be unrestrained during the tribulation period. Demons so bad that we cannot imagine.

All the “earth dwellers” will be amazed and astonished at this beast. This also refers to the imitated resurrection of the beast from Revelation 13.

This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; 10 they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while.

Like the mark of the beast, the understanding of the seven heads calls for a mind of wisdom. This is an alert that this text is difficult to understand and we should pause before jumping to immediate conclusions. Like the mark of the beast and the number of its name, these seven heads and seven mountains are often misinterpreted. May automatically think of the seven hills of Rome and therefore associate this with the Roman Catholic Church being the Apostate Church. The Roman Catholic Church is a false church but this is much bigger, much more sinister than just the Roman Catholic Church. That is only one false religion. This woman contains all false religions.

The best interpretation of the seven heads is that they have a double interpretation as seven mountains and seven kings or also kingdoms.  At the time that John was writing the book of Revelation the Roman Empire ruled the world.  Before his time, there had been five world empires that had risen up and fallen, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece.  These are the five that had fallen, the Roman Empire is (was) the one that is and there yet remained one world empire yet to come. This is to be the empire of the Antichrist in the last days. It tells us that his must remain only for a little while.

11 As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction.

The kingdom of the beast has attributes of all the seven previous world empires from Daniel that we discussed.  It comes out of the seventh world empire of the Antichrist and through its death resurrection it becomes an eighth world power.

He goes to “perdition.” He goes to “destruction.” His destination is predetermined and final.

12 And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast.  13 These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast.

Horns always represent power. The beast’s power comes from these ten kings that rule under him doing his will and biding. They become a ten kingdom federation of sorts. Their reign is short. It says they will rule for one hour, together with the beast.

They share the same mind; they are of one mind and hand over their power to the beast.

14 They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”

Their agenda is to make war on the Lamb. Jesus can’t be anything less then what he is. Lord of lords and King of kings. He will rule them with an iron scepter and all nations will bow down before him when he comes for it is already written.

 15 And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.  16 And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, 17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.

The beast has no friends. He doesn’t support those who support him. He really doesn’t have much of an allegiance because there is no love in him. He looks out only for his own.  The Apostate Church will be destroyed by the beast. God executes his own justice through beast. He makes sin his slave to accomplish his purposes.

18 And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”

That great city: In John’s day, there was no doubt which city reigns over the kings of the earth.  Rome was the political, economic, and religious center of the world in John’s day. But Babylon – in the sense of the world system – has always been that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.  The question for Christians is, “Does it reign over me?  Or am I the citizen of a better city, the Jerusalem above?” (Gal. 4:26)  Rather, Rome was the ready personification of Babylon – the world in rebellion against God – in John’s day.  Today, idolatry is just as strong, but more dispersed.  Today, which city in the world is most readily identified with the world system? Hollywood?  Wall Street?  Washington? (Guzik)

11 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. 12 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.(Romans 13:11-14)

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