CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

THE "BEAUTY" AND THE BEAST

1 "And 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,

2 with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication."

As with most of the symbolic figures we see in Revelation, such as the "ten horns", the various "beasts", the "false prophet", etc., there is also much controversy and speculation as to the identity of the "great harlot" here in this chapter. Actually, I don't see the reason for so much confusion since, beginning in verse seven, the angel who showed John these things explains the mystery to a great extent. I believe the fact is, there are many who do understand this passage but are fearful of saying what they really believe. It's high time we stop hiding our convictions on this matter and speak out.

At the outset, let's simply use a little common sense as we look at some of the terms used in this passage. First, what is a harlot? The dictionary defines her as "a promiscuous woman"; "an immoral woman"; "one whose body is for hire". I would add this: "one who enters into fornication (sinful intimacy) with virtually anyone interested and willing to pay for her services". A man who lies with such a woman reduces himself to the same level of her own immorality, thus exposing himself to all the harlot's 'business' acquaintances.

Now with the above definitions of a literal harlot, we can unmask the harlot of this chapter with a little better insight. We see in verse 1 that the harlot "sits on many waters". So, whoever 'she' is, we must look for a personality of broad-scale proportions, not some obscure entity or vaguely-familiar organization.

(I work in a district well-known for prostitution. An outstanding feature of the community is the seductively-dressed, overly-made-up, street-call-girl. It is with an attractive, up-front display that the harlot makes herself known and desirable to the passers-by. Just as the prostitute lures her "prey" through her outward-beauty, so also does the "mystery harlot" of Revelation chapter 17. Therefore, we must look for something unhidden, well-known and outwardly beautiful; i.e., things which would lure the lustful, not-so-well-informed, unsuspecting world. Men who are seduced by the "call-girl" get caught up in her world and become "drunk" with sensual pleasures. In like manner, the harlot of this chapter makes her 'partners' --- the "kings of the earth" --- drunk with the "wine of her fornication". That is, many leaders of certain nations will become infatuated and seduced by the teachings and ideas promulgated by the "mystery harlot".)

THE "BEAUTIFUL" SIDE OF EVIL

3 "So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.

5 And on her forehead a name was written:

MYSTERY

BABYLON THE GREAT,

THE MOTHER OF

HARLOTS AND OF THE

ABOMINATIONS OF THE

EARTH."

The Bible teaches that God has in mind a perfect dwelling place for all those He has purposed to save to be with Him. This is a wonderful thing to think about; indeed, the hope and belief of every Christian. It will be a time when power and worship will be perfectly unified, totally planned and executed by God Almighty. God has shown certain bits-and-pieces of that coming age and we can be assured, as with all other Biblical prophecies, it will come to pass.

Conversely, fallen mankind, under the perversive inspiration of Satan, has always had in mind to bring about a state of 'perfection' here on this unregenerate earth, representing a spiritual parallel of God's Divine plan as briefly described above. Many kingdoms and empires have come and gone which attempted to do this very thing, obviously none having achieved their goal. Those who have believed they could pull this off have had many ideas in common, the main one being to strike a balance between religious power and temporal power. With these thoughts in mind, the above Scripture passage will be a little more sensible. Let's look at the key points:

THE "WOMAN" AND THE "BEAST"

John pictures fallen-man's perfect-blend as that of a "woman" (the religious part) who sat upon a "beast" (the temporal part). We have already touched on this in previous discussions but John broadens it here. The seven heads of this beast are the same ones spoken of in Revelation 13. Recall, they represented seven sequential kingdoms: Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian (or Alexandrian), Roman, and the various Christian-age attempts some have grouped and called the Germanic-Slavonic. I believe history shows that few, if any, of the rulers over these kingdoms had any real, sincere respect for their religious counterpart within each of their regimes. They were known for their stubborn arrogance, egotism, high-mindedness, in fact most desiring to be worshipped themselves. However, these "kings" were forced to admit that they couldn't achieve success without the religious-leaders' help, who the masses looked to for 'spiritual' guidance. This tendency represents the spirit of antichrist at work in them.

But the problem was, the religious leaders liked authority and praise too, thus often resulting in great struggles between these two power-hungry, self-worship-prone offices. (Later we will see the final result of this kind of sick harmony.)

So, while no kingdom ever seemed to achieve the perfect match-up, past ages demonstrate that unregenerate-man would continue searching all his days, obsessed with the conviction he would find it some day.

There is a key thought in verse 4 having to do with the beautiful adornment of the "woman". This refers to outward beauty, typical of all harlotrywhether speaking of real-life prostitutes or the spiritual harlot of erroneous religion. So, what should we look for in the world as we attempt to identify this "woman" of Revelation, chapter 17? The Scripture says one dressed with "gold, precious stones, and pearls". As one regards the wealth and museums of the Roman Catholic Church along with her great cathedrals and all the pomp that goes with it --- the dress of the popes, bishops, cardinals, etc. --- , I'm convinced we are seeing what John is describing.

To be successful, each kingdom of the past has embraced the religion of the hourwhatever was then popular. Beginning with the Egyptian, all seven kingdoms had its own religious adornment. In the Christian era, it was the 'Holy' Roman Empire. For nearly 2,000 years now, Rome has presented the world perverted-christianity. Oh, this 'church' has a "form of godliness", even using the Bible as its basis, but has really missed the mark of true Christianity.

As already said, I'm sure there are real Christians trapped within this ecclesiastical prostitute. But knowingly or not, they are giving their allegiance to one of Satan's cleverest attempts at cementing earthly-religion and temporal-power. (More later on this.)

THE "MYSTERY"

Why does John call the woman "mysterious"? I think it is mainly because the winding course she has traveled has been so incredibly long. The religous aspect of man's kingdoms (under Satan's guidance) have always been chameleon-like. They have taken on the 'color' of whichever leader and his heirarchy that has captured the people's imagination at any given time or age. To understand our 'hour' with the harlot we need only address the kingdom (the "horn" of the Holy Roman Empire) that affects our age because the book of Daniel and Revelation clearly indicate it will be the last of human empires.

I have lately been reading some interesting historical accounts of the Roman Empire beginning at the time of Jesus' day, going right up through today. Even a sketchy view of this particular Empire's ever-changing nature, noting the power struggles between the Roman emperors and the popes, seeing the abuses, the perversions, the Spanish Inquisitions, the immorality of the emperors and some of the popes, the wars, etc., provides sufficient and irrefutable evidence to conclude the Holy Roman Empire must be the harlot of Revelation 17.

(Paradoxically, one German king, Frederick II, desiring to rule all Italy, including Rome, was called the "Antichrist" by Pope Gregory. Isn't that amazing? Frederick, not to be outdone, reacted by calling Gregory the Antichrist!)

Although the leaders on both sides (religious and secular) basically wanted the same things (total control in the earth), the back-and-forth bickering and accusations, plus the never-ending battle for supremacy among the European kings and the popes, prevented the Empire from reaching a unified state. But then, we must remember that's exactly what the prophet Daniel said would be the primary characteristic of this "ten-toed" kingdom. He said it would be mixed with "iron and clay" (Dan. 2:43), an obvious indication that they wouldn't get along well.

But, although they have never been able to put 'Humpty-Dumpty' (the old Roman Empire) back together, every generation or so a new leader would rise somewhere within the confines of the territorial boundaries of the old empire, who would be convinced he could do it. Many of them were Germans, some French, some Austrian, some Spanish, etc.

(The seventh kingdom is labelled "German-Slavonic" because there was a preponderance of German and Slavic kings, particularly in the middle ages, who saw themselves as head of all Europe. Actually, it is BECAUSE of a lack of unity amongst the European nations of the past 15 or so centuries which makes it near impossible to give a specific title to the Christian-age, seventh-head empire. But as loose as the bonding was, the baton went on. The "iron and clay" kingdoms can definitely be identified and understood even if we don't have an agreed name for it.)

Amazingly though, there was always an obvious driving force behind these European leaders, each convinced he was THE one, some even believing God was behind them! I have no doubts that many of these men had dramatic encounters with spirit beings. Clearly, they were (and are) in touch with the "prince of the power of the air", the "angel of light", the devil.

Satan is the power source behind these kingdoms. He started with the pharaohs of Egypt, then came the Assyrians, continuing on to Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, the Medes and the Persians, followed by Alexander the Great, the Caesars of Rome, and finally the string of European kings of the Christian era, including Napolean, Hitler, etc. He'll also meet with the 'grandaddy' of them allthe final onethe one who will seem to get all the splintered kingdoms (Europe's EEC) to quit their bickering and follow him. Simultaneously, the final leader's forerunner and cohort, the False Prophet (the pope), will be re-gathering the divided 'churches' throughout the world, telling them to follow Europe's new leader.

Most of the kings and emperors of Europe's past were egotistical and believed themselves to be destined-rulers of the entire world. Some even presumed they were anointed by the God of heaven to hold that position.

At the same time though, the popes saw themselves as the spiritual leader of the planet and, therefore, the only one with absolute authority to convey power upon anyone else. The popes saw the emperors as mere heads of temporal power, not nearly so important as the more authoritative spiritual office (the papal) they themselves held. And make no mistake, today's pope, John Paul II, believes (as he has been quoted as saying) his spiritual headship is divinely declared. But keep in mind, the final "emperor" will not only assume headship of temporal power and authority, he will ultimately declare himself to be god! (See 2 Thes. 2:1-12).

In the early days of his 'mission', I believe the anti-Christ will honor papal authority, perhaps even demonstrating a form of humility at first. He will do this to get the people behind him. Remember, the papacy and its heirarchy will have molded the world into a useful framework consisting of a balance between religion and the work-place, via the parish system, Opus Dei, etc., likely then including many re-united Protestant churches.

Satan is powerful but he is not omni-present. He must work through structure. He has a limited number of demons at his disposal. Also, he has only a specific number of humans to do his bidding, so he must operate within the functional systems of the day. The only difference between Satan's control and influence in past kingdoms and the final one is that in the end, Satan will be allowed to be more up-front, when the restraining force of the Holy Spirit is removed. Satan will then make his move, no longer content for temporal headship from "god", via the pope's administering power, but then stating himself to be god! This has been Satan's motivation from the time of his fall. It continues today and the obsession will drive him onward throughout this age, until God puts him in hell.

So, although Satan is a very real, spiritual being, we mainly see him operating within the lives and systems which bear his trademarks. The "harlot" and the "beast" she rides are two of the most prominent places we find these indicators. Let's move on now and let the apostle John's words help remove some of the mystery of "Mystery Babylon".

6 "And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.

7 And the angel said to me, 'Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.'"

We must remember John saw (in his vision) an image of a literal woman who was spectacularly dressed and adorned. He did not see an empire. In verse 6, he sees her becoming intoxicated, not on alcohol but on the blood of Christians! What does this mean?

John differentiated between "saints" (ordinary Christians) and "martyrs" (Christians sacrificed for the cause of Christ). Some of the intoxicating beverage (blood) would be provided by the martyrs. Some would be provided by Christians who are members of the Roman Catholic church, not realizing they are in the middle of Satan's earthly heirarchy.

Therefore, the harlot's method of acquiring this 'drink' would range from physical death to the 'heretics' (true Christians) through the Spanish Inquisitions, etc., to blood donated unwittingly by the saints within the Roman church itself. This caused John "great amazement". At that point the angel intervenes, consoles the alarmed apostle, and tells him to 'relax' and listen to an explanation about the woman who rides the beast with "seven heads" and "ten horns". Let's listen in on the angel's explanation --- --- ---



THE SEVEN KINGDOMS - EXPLAINED

8 "The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

9 Here is the mind which has wisdom: The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.

10 And there are seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.

11 And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.

12 And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.

13 These have one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast."

Verse 8 presents us with a puzzle. How can something (the beast) be an entity that WAS, and IS NOT and yet IS? Thank God we have the explanation in the ensuing verses.

1. Verse 9 tells us the seven "heads" refer to mountains (meaning nations) upon which the "woman" (religion) sits. Verse 10 says five had already come and gone. They would be the Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian and Grecian --- five bygone empires. These represent that portion of the beast that "was".

2. The sixth mountain would have been the "is" empire, the Roman, which was in existence as John was being told these things --- the very one responsible for his imprisonment at that time.

3. The mountain which had not yet come would be the splintered remainders after Rome's fall, (the one identified as the Germanic-Slavonic). This seventh kingdom actually represents all the various attempts (from roughly 500 A.D. until the present day) of various European kings and popes to restore the broken Roman Empire. However, none of these kingdoms would last but a short time. And none can be thought of, by itself, as one of the heads of the "beast". All of them put together represent the one, seventh head, each in succession carrying the proverbial "baton" for a little while, the final destiny being to get it in the hands of the last kingdom --- the eighth.

Verse 11 tells us about this most-important eighth kingdom. It says this beast "was", "is not" and yet will be "of the seven", which means it has already existed. This is the verse where most prophetic analysts get the idea of a restored Roman Empire. It makes too much sense to ignore the concept, for in the next verse (12) the angel tells us there will be "ten horns" (and here he specifically says the horns are "kings") who will have "one hour" with the "beast". (I believe by saying "one hour", the angel is merely emphasizing the shortness of the last kingdom, not specifying a 60-minute time period.)

We have already learned that the Common Market presently has 12 national members, thus passing up the "ten" (where many prophetic experts thought it would stop). You recall I believe Spain and Portugal, although separate nations today, actually represent only one 'fused' horn, making a total of 11 members at this time, which is the requirement as revealed in Daniel 7:24. But there are other views on this.

Some expositors see it this way: They remind us that the final kingdom, as Daniel interpreted it, hung from two "legs". These would be the Eastern and Western sides of the old Roman Empire, the capitols being Constantinople (east) and Rome (west). For the past 40+ years there has been a strong division between eastern and western Europe as a result of the 'iron curtain' influence of Russian power. Now, some prophetic writers feel the east must fit in the final anti-Christ system in some way. One wonders if the dramatic changes going on recently (1990-1992) in the Slavic countries (eastern Europe) may possibly be the beginning of the restoration of the "eastern leg" of the former Roman Empire.

Let's assume that eastern and western Europe could represent the two "legs" of the figure Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream. So, to carry this line of reasoning on to its logical conclusion, since each leg has one foot and each foot has five toes, (completing the "ten toes" of the vision as recorded in Daniel chapter 2), the final "ten-horned" kingdom would have five nations out of the eastern bloc and five nations out of the western bloc.

So, even though the Common Market has passed the "ten horns", some current member-nations may drop out of the market to be replaced by certain eastern nations. But, in the end, there will be the required "ten horns" as both Daniel and John saw them.

Well, I hope all that didn't confuse and scare you away from attempting to understand what the final European kingdom will actually be like. I threw this in so that you could at least get an idea of the various conclusions which can be reached. Don't let the diversity of opinions upset you. The important thing for us to do is WATCH and BE READY. I think that's what the Lord meant when he said "...look at the fig tree and all the trees". He wanted us to be sensitive to what would be going on among the nations in our day. He knew Satan would be trying his very best to keep his kingdom concealed during the build-up.

In any event, verse 13 says this final ten-horned beast will have "one mind" and "will give their power and authority to the beast". That certainly ought to help us identify the regime once it gets here. The Common Market of today is well known for its dis-unity, not its unity. But this verse is very plain. They will one day have a leader who they believe in and to whom they will give their undivided attention and allegiance. That's what all Europe is waiting for --- the leader who can bring them all together. He'll come. We can be sure of that for his forerunner is already here today. The current pope is very busy trying to get his 'church' together, as well as paving the way in the politico-economic arena through Opus Dei. (The papacy has its own dual, temporal-religious aspects, too. You recall these were pictured and described to John in Revelation 13 as the False Prophet's two horns.)

THE LAMB - THE BEAST - THE HARLOT - THE WAR

14 "These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.

15 And he said to me, 'The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues.

16 And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.

17 For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to have one purpose, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.

18 And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth."

The most important part of Revelation is found here in this passage: Jesus wins! And we --- the "called, chosen and faithful" --- will share in His victory! Daniel also spoke of this time in reference to the destruction of the ten toes in Dan. 2:44:

"And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever."

And referring to the ten horns he saw, Daniel said in Dan. 7:26:

"But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end."

So, people of God, we do not have to worry. For no matter how tough the going gets, we will be victorious. Never forget that. We are with the OVERCOMER, the KING of kings. In their heyday, the anti-Christ and the kings of the coming European kingdom will seem indestructible but they will have only an "hour" (a brief time) with the beast to enjoy their seeming invincibility.

Verse 15 interprets for us that "waters" mean multitudes of people from all backgrounds and races. That's where the harlot sits. The Roman Catholic Church sits all over the world. In some nations she is the only 'state-approved' religion, particularly so in Spanish-speaking nations.

Part of the meaning of the Roman Catholic Church's "harlotry" lies in the methods she uses to "christianize" the nations where she goes. She sends her 'apostles' out to the 'pagans', baptizing whole households, including babies. In this manner, the harlot is supposedly conveying sanctification upon all the peoples (i.e., the "waters") she touches. I presume this is what the papacy supposes is their mandate. This is nothing more than a gross perversion of the Biblical meaning of the Great Commission.

It's my conviction that Roman Catholicism is building an earthly kingdom. How does this stack up with the fact Jesus said His Kingdom was not of this world? It wasn't then. It isn't now. The real Church is not the Roman Church nor any combination of certain denominations --- even the good ones. The Church is simply the sum total of born-again believers.

We know that the anti-Christ will ultimately claim personal godhood, as so many of his forerunners tried in ages past. The difference is, the final anti-Christ will have the full authority of Satan, none previously having achieved this 'honor'. When that happens, he will order the destruction of the harlot, believing he no longer needs her. Consequently, she will be made "desolate", "naked", her "flesh" will be "eaten", and she will be "burned" with fire, the Scripture says.

SUMMARY

In 1929, the 110 acres of Vatican City became a sovereign nation. It was the smallest nation on earth but the pope was given full sovereignty over it. We cannot ignore this dramatic and significant occurrence. Italy first established diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Today, many other nations have followed suit, now even our beloved United States.

The last verse of our current chapter under study, says "the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth." I'm convinced this is a direct reference to Vatican City. Though technically a small nation, actually in the minds of those in power in the Roman Catholic heirarchy, I believe they see themselves as eventual heads over all nations. The "harlot" and the "beast" are the most awesome, "gruesome-twosome" of all times. But according to the Bible, even they shall come to their end. Praise God!