V11Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,. In the previous chapter you were a witness of the final judgments over the earth, executed by seven angels by the means of seven bowls. In this way the wrath of God was fulfilled (Rev 15:11Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, [which are] the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished.). In the description of the judgments in just one verse only of the previous chapter there was mention of the judgment over the great Babylon (Rev 16:1919The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.). In the chapters 17-18 John (and we together with him) gets a detailed explanation on this judgment. That explanation he obtains from one of the seven bowl angels, one who is involved, someone who knows what he’s talking about.
But it is not only an oral explanation. John also gets to see something. The angel invites John to join him to go to a place where he wants to show him how the great Babylon will come to her end.
Before they arrive there the angel informs John about what he gets to see. He will become an eye witness of the judgment over the city that is presented as “the great harlot” (verse 1818The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”; cf. Isa 1:2121How the faithful city has become a harlot,
She [who] was full of justice!
Righteousness once lodged in her,
But now murderers.
). From the description that follows it appears that this is an indication of the roman-catholic church. He sees further that the harlot “sits on many waters”. What those many waters represent is written in verse 1515And he *said to me, “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.. They represent the people of the earth and particularly the nations that belong to the restored Roman empire, which appears from verse 1616And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire..
The harlot is the church which is Christian in name and which pretends to represent Christ, but in practice has fully related itself with the world (the “many waters”). In that way John sees the roman church in the connection that she has made with the kings of the earth. Her unfaithfulness therefore appears from her love expressions to the governments of the world.
The fact that she ‘sits’ on it indicates that she has control over many governments. You see that in particular in the countries where the roman church has many followers. In her corruptness she dominates the governments. She acts as if she is defending a good cause, but in reality she is looking for power.
Like no other church the roman-catholic church has pretended to be the true church and the true bride of Christ. Also like no other church she has shown in her history the most horrible practices that are thoroughly worldly and demonic. It is a real anti-church that in this and in the following chapter is shown and judged in her true character.
Everything that is said of this false church will make clear that the title of ‘great harlot’ is totally justified. She acts as if she is the bride of Christ, but she is a harlot. And not just a harlot, no, she is the ‘great’ harlot. There is no greater contrast imaginable in a marriage relationship than this.
To think through still deeper this enormous contrast between the true church and the false church you should compare the verses 1-51Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,2with whom the kings of the earth committed [acts of] immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.”3And he carried me away in spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.4The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality,5and on her forehead a name [was] written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” of this chapter with chapter 21 (Rev 21:9-119Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”10And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,11having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper.), where the true church is presented.
V22with whom the kings of the earth committed [acts of] immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.”. “The kings of the earth”, the world leaders, have sought rapprochement to her. They have accepted her invitation. Of course they have done that out of purely selfish reasons. The roman church is rich, powerful and influential. Therefore they accepted and drank with greed from “the wine of her immorality”. They even got “drunk” by it. Due to their relationship with her they came under her influence and became misted. They do not see through her true intentions. Once those intentions become clear to them, they will turn into hatred against the harlot and they will kill her (verse 1616And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.).
The kings of the earth represent the inhabitants of the countries they rule. In their relation with the harlot they drag all their subordinates with them, which are all “those who dwell on the earth”. When the pope visits a place today, it attracts masses of people. Everyone tries to catch a glimpse of him. In his position he is the radiation of the power of the church. The mass is blind for his pretense to be the substitute of Christ. To them he is the Christ. He is visible and influential and he is surrounded by mysticism. That’s what the mass likes.
V33And he carried me away in spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.. It seems that the angel is showing John a vision. In that vision he sees himself to be carried away in the spirit into “a wilderness”. A wilderness is a territory where death rules. In a wilderness life and the possibility for life are totally missing. In that wilderness John sees “a woman”, the great harlot of the previous verse. The territory of death seems to be the residence of the harlot. This residence is a good reflection of her spiritual condition. She is full of death. There is no life out of God and with God there.
John also sees that this woman is sitting “on a scarlet beast”. Earlier in Revelation 13 (Rev 13:1-81And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns [were] ten diadems, and on his heads [were] blasphemous names.2And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like [those] of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.3[I saw] one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed [and followed] after the beast;4they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?”5There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.6And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, [that is,] those who dwell in heaven.7It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.8All who dwell on the earth will worship him, [everyone] whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.) you have already come across the description of this beast. There you saw that this beast represents the restored Roman empire. In what John sees here, it seems that the roman church is sitting on the beast, meaning that it rides on it and directs it.
This scene symbolizes what is known from the church history. There have actually been periods that the pope had absolute power over the kings of Europe. In the end time the political and the religious power of the roman church will be great again. You will see this increase of power in the increasingly explicit involvements of the pope with the events in the world. He receives world leaders and they receive him.
You also hear the pope appealing to the world leaders more and more clearly concerning all kinds of subjects that deal with the life on earth. With such appeals the roman church gives the impression of wanting to fight for a righteous and tolerant, peaceful society. She also gives the impression to be willing to realize that together with the world leaders. But she does not worry about the fact that the beast is “full of blasphemous names”, which means that all different forms of blasphemy are present in this beast. The only thing that she wants is to have control over the “seven heads and ten horns”. At Revelation 13 you have seen what is meant by the seven heads and ten horns.
V44The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality,. Now follows a more detailed description of the woman. From this description this horrible creature appears to be representing the roman-catholic church:
1. You see that in her dressing (verse 44The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality,), which indicates her attachment to worldly luxury.
2. Furthermore she is drunk with the blood of the saints (verse 66And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. When I saw her, I wondered greatly.), which indicates that she has persecuted the true believers with fire and with the sword.
3. In this context also the seven heads speak clearly as a representation of the seven mountains (verse 99Here is the mind which has wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits,) on which Rome lies and of which it is said that the woman is sitting on it.
4. Finally it is said in plain language that the woman is the great city (verse 1818The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”).
The luxury wherein she swims makes her relation with the world unmistakable. She is adorned with all earthly splendor and in that way she competes with the worldly leaders to become dominant. Just like the scarlet color of the beast (verse 33And he carried me away in spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.), she clothes herself in those same colors. Her luxury is so great that the worldly leaders even derive their luxury from that of hers (Rev 18:3b3For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed [acts of] immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.”). Her influence is therefore not only political and religious. Also economically she has a lot to offer and she participates therein by offering her merchandise. If only it is profitable, whether in hard currencies or in appearance and influence.
The cup that she has in her hand is “full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality”. ‘Abominations’ stands for idolatry. The roman-catholic church has introduced idolatry in the Christian church with great craftiness, determination and persistence. The most striking proof is the adoration of Mary and many other persons who have been canonized a saint by the roman church.
Recently (5th December 2007) I read a story which is quite interesting to tell in this context. It confirms that the cult of saints is still flourishing:
Italian catholics who hope in the help of a saint, do not need to carry a portrait of him or her anymore. They can also download the picture of the saint on their cell phones. Not every roman catholic leader is delighted with the new service, because it would be crude and excessively commercial.
‘We discovered a gap in the market and we have filled that gap’, says Barbara Labate from the company that offers the saints on the cell phones. In many taxicabs, passenger cars and trucks in Italy you find a santino (a portrait of a saint) hanging on the dashboard. Millions of Italians carry a santino in their purse or bag.
Of the cup it is also said that it is full of ”the unclean things of her immorality”. In this way it is also indicated how much she has related herself with the elements of the world. You can observe that everywhere in pagan countries where the roman-catholic church has gained a firm foothold. There she has made the pagan customs to become Christian customs instead of abolishing them. She has provided very cunningly the idolatry ceremonial service, which formerly characterized these nations, with a Christian coating.
Whatever you find in the Bible about Babylon, it is related with idolatry. The first reference of Babel in Genesis 11 (Gen 11:1-91Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words.2It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.3They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn [them] thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar.4They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top [will reach] into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”5The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.6The LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them.7Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”8So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.) in the history of the tower building of Babel, already shows that relation. The sinful striving for unity and power came forth from the will of man to be like God. The will to be like God is idolatry in its essence. God is not written off, but He is robbed from the place He is worthy of. Man puts himself in the place of God and decides himself how he wants to serve God. Idolatry has been born.
That goes together with ascribing spiritual value to something that is visible and tangible and which serves to fulfill the spiritual feelings of man. Also here is mention of an abominable mixture of worldly elements with religion, which causes this religion to become fornication. The roman church is full of these elements. Just think of the crucifix, the altar and the communion wafer, to name some.
Now read Revelation 17:1-4 again.
Reflection: Which elements of idolatry do you know in the roman-catholic church?