Who is the mysterious "Harlot" of Revelation 17? This is a puzzle to millions of people—and even to many theologians. Yet the Word of God devotes most of an entire chapter—plus many references elsewhere—to this vital topic.
Whoever this great "Harlot" is, she is very powerful. She has, and will in the future, martyr untold millions of human beings. She is destined to dramatically change the lives of every one of you who read this article! This Harlot sits astride a system encompassing many nations and peoples, "Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the Harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues’" (Revelation 17:15). And she continues to exist right up to the Second Coming of Christ! For God’s Word describes the "ten horns" or ten kings (v. 12) which will arise at that time: "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…. 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" (vv. 14, 16).
Modern theologians and Bible commentaries try to be "politically correct" in their references to this great Harlot. For instance, notice this comment from the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12, pp. 553–554: "In an important sense, the interpretation of this chapter controls the interpretation of the whole Book of Revelation. For a majority of exegetes, Babylon represents the city of Rome. The beast stands for the Roman Empire as a whole, with its subject provinces and peoples. The seven hills (v. 9) are the seven selected dynasties of Roman emperors from Augustus to Domitian. The ten kings are heads of lesser and restless states, eager to escape their enslavement to the colonizing power. John’s prediction of the fall of Babylon is his announcement of the impending dissolution of the Roman Empire in all its aspects."
Though these scholars may be sincere, it is amazing that they seem either unwilling or unable to see that the "woman"—the great Harlot—"rides" the Beast (modern Babylon). She is clearly set forth as being distinctly separate from the Beast—the empire with ten final kings giving their power and authority to one super-dictator also called the "Beast." Obviously, the woman cannot "ride" the Beast and at the same time be the Beast!
Many scholars do realize, however, that the Beast of Revelation 17 is the Roman Empire and its "revivals" in various forms. For a fascinating and thorough explanation of the identity of this "Beast" of Revelation 17, please write for a copy of our booklet entitled The Beast of Revelation. It will be sent to you absolutely free upon your request.
Who is This "Woman"?
Please understand. Throughout the New Testament, the term "woman" is used as a symbol for a church. For instance, the Apostle Paul writes the Church of God at Corinth, "Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly; and indeed you do bear with me. For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:1–2)." Clearly, the true church is here described as "betrothed" to Jesus Christ—in the position of an engaged woman to her fiancé who is Jesus Christ.
In Ephesians 5:23–24, Paul writes, "For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything." Again, the analogy clearly identifies the true Church as being in the position of a woman—a wife who is submissive to her husband, Christ. And in Revelation 12:1–5, we read the inspired account of the "woman"—this time ancient Israel, the "church in the wilderness" (Acts 7:38, KJV)—being used by God to bring forth the Messiah, "a male child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron."
Verse 5 picks up the story about "the woman"—now the true New Testament Church—fleeing into the wilderness to "a place prepared by God." The following verses make it even more evident that this "woman" is, in fact, the true Church of God that is protected by God Himself from the wrath of Satan.
So when we come to the "woman" of Revelation 17, it should be very obvious that—letting the Bible interpret its own symbols—this woman is indeed a church. However, this church, "sitting on a scarlet beast" (v. 3) is truly a spiritual "harlot."
For she has entered into adulterous alliances with the leaders and kings of this world (v. 2). And the inhabitants of the earth are made spiritually "drunk" because of her false teachings. She is a "mother" church—giving birth to spiritual "harlots" (v. 5). And, as indicated, she deals in "mysteries," as did the ancient pagan religions before her.
A Persecuting Church
Also, this "woman" is a great persecuting church. For John was inspired to write, "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" (v. 6).
Please think about that.
Who is this great fallen woman—a powerful church—which has and which will again be "drunk with the blood of the saints"? Obviously, she persecutes the true Christians—the true "saints" of God. They are described in Revelation 14:12: "Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."
In contrast to the commandment-keeping Church of God, this great apostate church and her "daughter" churches reject the need to keep the Ten Commandments as a way of life! Somehow, in their spiritual drunkenness, they manage to reason around the plain and clear teachings of Jesus: "if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17).
Historically, do we read about a great church that did persecute millions of people during the Middle Ages? Did such a church actually exist?
In his well-documented book, A Woman Rides the Beast (pp. 243–244), author Dave Hunt describes what the "woman" did for hundreds of years during the Middle Ages:
Thus Roman Catholic-ism became "the most persecuting faith the world has ever seen… [commanding] the throne to impose the Christian [Catholic] religion on all its subjects. Innocent III murdered far more Christians in one afternoon… than any Roman emperor did in his entire reign." Will Durant writes candidly: "Compared with the persecution of heresy in Europe from 1227 to 1492, the persecution of Christians by Romans in the first three centuries after Christ was a mild and humane procedure.
Making every allowance required by an historian and permitted to a Christian, we must rank the Inquisition, along with the wars and persecutions of our time, as among the darkest blots on the record of mankind, revealing a ferocity unknown in any beast.
So when John saw this "woman" or apostate church "drunk with the blood of the saints," he was certainly not exaggerating. Even scores of Catholic writers have been mightily embarrassed about what their church practiced for hundreds of years. For with the vast record of priests sodomizing young men, of many popes openly maintaining mistresses and fathering illegitimate children all over Italy, high offices in the church being offered and bought for money—it has seemed to many objective historians that this powerful church was the veritable embodiment of evil in nearly every aspect.
Daniel’s "Little Horn"
The prophet Daniel was inspired to describe this foul religious system as a "little horn." After describing the four great ruling kingdoms of the Gentile world—Babylon, Medo-Persia, Alexander’s Greco-Macedonian Empire and finally Rome—Daniel then describes a "little horn" coming up among the early resurrections of the Roman Empire: "I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words." (Daniel 7:8).
In verses 25–27 of this same chapter, Daniel is inspired to describe the actions of this pompous "little horn" and how it would last right up to Christ’s return and His rule over the nations: "He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time. But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever. Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him."
Notice that this "little horn" is different from the pagan empire (v. 24), for it is, in fact, a religious empire! Note also that the human leader of this foul system speaks "pompous words" against God, persecutes the true Christians and intends to change times and law. This is a direct reference to the fact that the Catholic Church fostered the idea that the Ten Commandments were subsumed to church authority and that they changed God’s commanded seventh-day Sabbath (Exodus 20:8–11; Hebrews 4:9–11). They substituted the pagan "day of the sun" in place of God’s Sabbath.
Renowned modern historian Will Durant writes, "The serious temper of the Jewish Sabbath was transferred to the Christian Sunday that replaced it in the second century" (The Story of Civilization, vol. 3, 1972, p. 599). How did this happen? A Roman Catholic study course tells us that "the [Roman] Church transferred the obligation from Saturday to Sunday" (Father Smith Instructs Jackson). The Catholic Mirror agrees: "The Catholic Church… by virtue of her Divine mission, changed the day from Saturday to Sunday" (Sept. 23, 1893). If you wish further information about the true biblical Sabbath, please write for our powerful and enlightening booklet, Which Day is the Christian Sabbath?
The Papacy Predicted in Advance
As we have seen, the "little horn" of Daniel is describing the false church and especially its spokesman, the pope, speaking "pompous words." In the New Testament, God inspired the Apostle John to describe the "resurrection" of the final Beast, the Roman Empire (Revelation 13:1–10). Then, in verses 11–14, "another beast" is described as rising up who looks like a "Lamb," or Christ, but speaks like a "dragon," Satan the devil (Revelation 12:9). This exceedingly clever and sinister False Prophet "exercises all the power of the first beast (the revived Roman Empire) in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed." In other words, this great False Prophet is able to sway most of mankind to stand in awe of and obey the revived Roman Empire!
Then we read, "He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived" (vv. 13–14).
As this system developed, a "man of sin" would be revealed—audaciously taking to himself titles and authority that belong only to God. He was to sit as a veritable "god" in the temple of God—using some of the very titles of God. In fact, though Jesus called God "Holy Father," Catholics call the pope Most Holy Father" and "Vicar of Christ"—which literally means "in place of Christ"!
Dave Hunt describes the blasphemous pretensions of the papacy:
The total submission that Rome requires has been expressed by many popes, but none said it more clearly than Nicholas I (858–67):
It is evident that the popes can neither be bound nor unbound by any earthly power, nor even by that of the apostle [Peter], if he should return upon the earth; since Constantine the Great has recognized that the pontiffs held the place of God upon earth, the divinity not being able to be judged by any living man. We are, then, infallible, and whatever may be our acts, we are not accountable for them but to ourselves. (A Woman Rides the Beast, pp. 153–154).
So the popes have claimed that they hold "the place of God on earth"! And what is most frightening is that they continue to make such claims—and even get away with it in our so-called "modern" world. For because the Roman Catholic Church is such an omnipresent and powerful entity, the media usually treads very lightly in attacking even the most outrageous and blasphemous claims of the modern popes and clergy.
But how is all this destined to affect your life?
The Beast and the Woman—Together Again
Few realize that the so-called "Holy" Roman Empire is being revived right under our noses! Throughout most of continental Europe, there is a great push for full European unity. And one of the major players in this geopolitical chess game is—you guessed it!—the pope himself.
In his detailed and revealing book, The Principality and Power of Europe (pp. 36–37), British author Adrian Hilton explains what is now happening:
While visiting Austria in 1983, the Pope spoke out against the national and artificial borders all over Europe. He added:
‘Europeans should overcome the menacing international confrontations of states and alliances, and create a new united Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals.’
In 1988, he continued this theme when he addressed the European parliament in Strasbourg; an occasion at which many asked why a perceived spiritual leader was addressing the issues of political unity. The Sunday Telegraph, in 1991, summed up the Pope’s plans for the ‘evangelisation’ of Europe. It stated:
‘He is calmly preparing to assume the mantle which he solemnly believes to be his Divine Right—that of new Holy Roman emperor, reigning from the Urals to the Atlantic.’
Although the Bible certainly does not indicate that the final pope will be the "emperor" of this revived Holy Roman Empire; it does show that he will be the "power behind the throne." As God carefully indicates to us, the coming False Prophet "causes" those who will not worship this system "to be killed" (Revelation 13:15). So, as many popes did during the Middle Ages, he will use the power of the state—the "Beast"—to force His will on the entire western world!
Remember what happened under Hitler? A knock on the door, the father or mother grabbed and hustled into a van by the state police for saying or doing some "politically incorrect" thing! Do you think that could not happen again? If so, you could not be more wrong!
The God who gives us life and breath clearly describes how, once again, the woman "rides" the Beast. And what most people do not realize is that the false teachings and practices of this fallen "woman" have permeated the entire world. That is precisely what John was inspired to write: "So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9).
Even sincere Protestants and Evangelicals have unwittingly been made spiritually drunk by the paganism of this system: "The inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication" (Revelation 17:2). What each reader needs to realize is that Satan is the invisible "god" of this present world (2 Corinthians 4:3–4). And that "all nations" are spiritually drunk.
In describing this entire system and the harlot "daughters" that have come out of "mother" Rome, here is what the respected Critical and Experimental Commentary has to say:
"Not merely Rome, but Christendom, as a whole, as Israel, as a whole has become a harlot…. External extensiveness over the world, and internal conformity to it—worldliness in extent and contents—is symbolized by the world-city’s name, "Babylon." (Vol. 6, p. 710).
What You Should Do?
Recent news reports from many nations have indicated that Catholic persecution of religious minorities continues. Although they have learned to smile and act agreeably in nations where the Protestants or others are in the majority, the old demons of hate and authoritarianism come out very quickly when Catholics are in control.
A recent article in Christianity Today magazine (August 2000, p. 30) reported: "In March, about 70 Protestant families were expelled from the Mexican village of Plan de Ayala, in Chiapas state, by the town’s Roman Catholic majority. ‘Fourteen homes were demolished by the mob as the Protestants fled to the hills for refuge,’ reports Seventh-Day Adventist pastor Isias Espinosa." This is just a tiny sampling of the type of religious oppression practiced by this powerful church! And its leaders continue to emphasize that they are the only true church—that others are, in effect, only "second-class Christians." A recent report by Victor Simpson came through the Associated Press wire on September 5, 2000:
Accusing some Catholic theologians of manipulating fundamental truths of the church, the Vatican rejected Tuesday what it said are growing attempts to depict all religions as equal… the Vatican equality refers to "personal dignity" of individuals and not to doctrine. It is the second recent document by the congregation [the Catholic ‘Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’] warning against abuses by Catholics in dealings with other religions and denominations. Italian media have reported the congregation also has warned against the phrase "sister churches," saying that it contradicts the Catholic Church’s identity as "mother" of all churches. That document has not yet been released. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, at a news conference repeatedly referred to a trend toward religious relativism.
"The lack of unity among Christians is certainly a wound for the church," the document said, saying it hindered "the complete fulfillment of her universality in history."
The declaration, a complex theological document, was titled "On the Unity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church."
So they not only admit but even insist that they are the "mother" of all churches"! And they insist also that they alone have the "keys" to God’s Kingdom!
Truly, it is time to wake up!
It is time for all who believe in God to go back and prove whether their religious beliefs and practices actually came out of the Bible—or out of "Babylon." For the Creator God tells all who will heed, "‘For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.’ And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues’" (Revelation 18:3–4).
In Christ’s name, I urge you: please begin to genuinely study your Bible as never before! Also, do yourself a favor and write in for your absolutely free enrollment in our inspiring and most helpful Tomorrow’s World Bible Study Course. Study through this course and follow Paul’s inspired admonition, "prove all things, hold fast that which is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21, KJV).
And again, I urge you to write in immediately and request your free copy of our truly revealing booklet The Beast of Revelation. This booklet—coupled with this article you are now reading—will give you the full picture and proof of the nature of the powerful and ominous forces now rising in Europe.
As Jesus said, "Watch." Keep your eyes on this revival of the Holy Roman Empire. "Watch" how it slowly but surely begins to gain total power in most of Europe—then Central and South America and finally most of the entire world. "Watch" how other churches are, bit by bit, coaxed, persuaded or finally coerced into going back to the "mother" church. Frankly, you will be disappointed to see how many supposedly dedicated Protestant and evangelical leaders will be maneuvered into giving up much of what they have always believed when real pressure is put upon them.
Will you also turn aside from the God of the Bible?
For your eternal good, pray for real understanding, faith and courage. Obey Jesus’ instruction, "Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Luke 21:36).