THE GREAT HARLOT, PART 2
he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting
on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and
ten horns. Revelation 17:3
learned that the great harlot represents the apostasy that came against the
church during its early centuries. To see this great harlot, the angel that had
one of the bowls of wrath, the everlasting gospel, carries John away into the
have seen a similar incident in Chapter 12 where the woman clothed with the sun
fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God. In verse 6 it
is said the woman was fed in the wilderness for 1260 days. Verse 14 tells us the
woman was given two wings of a great eagle to fly into the wilderness to escape
the presence of the serpent. In verse 16 we find the earth helping the woman and
protecting the woman from the dragon—the serpent.
teachers of the Revelation take a holistic view of the church and interpret the
woman going into the wilderness as a total apostasy of the church, essentially
doing away with the church as built by Jesus. Their thought is that the woman
going into the wilderness in chapter 12 becomes the great harlot seen in the
opening of chapter 17. Jesus taught that the gates of hell cannot prevail
against His church, so it is not possible that there could be a total apostasy
that overwhelms the entire church causing it to become the great harlot. The
fact is, the apostasy brings the great harlot into existence so that there are
two churches: First, the church as built by Jesus, which is based in the
atonement; and second, an apostate church which has fallen away from the gospel
in favor of heresy and ritual.
two churches are first spiritual entities, and it is possible that both entities
can and could exist in the same physical place. For example, a congregation in a
city could have a mixture of people; some that are truly saved and some that
have adopted heresy and have actually fallen from the faith.
this wilderness time the apostasy became prevalent to the point it finally
obscured the church as Jesus built it from view. It did not cease to exist but
it was difficult to see. Barnes describes this wilderness condition:
means a desert place, a place where there are few or no inhabitants; a place,
therefore, where one might be concealed and unknown—remote from the
habitations and the observation of men. This would well represent the fact that
the true church became for a time obscure and unknown—as if it had fled away
from the habitations of men, and had retired to the solitude and loneliness of a
desert. Yet even there (Revelation 12:14, 16) it would be mysteriously
nourished, though seemingly driven out into wastes and solitudes, and having its
abode among the rocks and sands of a desert.
also stresses that God prepared a place for His church in this wilderness
place where she might be safe, and might be kept alive. The meaning is, that
during that time, the true church, though obscure and almost unknown, would be
the object of the Divine protection and care—a beautiful representation of the
church during the corruptions of the Papacy and the darkness of the middle ages.
wilderness did not destroy God’s church; instead, it produced a spirit that
gave birth to a false church.
great harlot rides a beast.
is a distinct difference between the true church and the spirit of apostasy
during this time. The true church was given two wings of a great eagle that
helped to sustain her in the wilderness. These strong and powerful wings make it
possible for her to flee from the errors being taught and to stay true to her
head, the Lord Jesus Christ. The harlot, on the other hand, rides a scarlet
beast is not a nice animal. The word beast
here means a dangerous animal. The spirit of apostasy is dangerous as it tears
down truth, destroys morality, and diverts people’s allegiance from God to the
men it uses to propagate heresy and control the minds and hearts of people in a
false church. Notice that it is the great harlot that rides the beast. While the
beast is a dangerous animal, it is driven and controlled by the great harlot,
the spirit of apostasy. This beast is the first church form that emerged from
the apostasy in the early church.
beast is scarlet in color.
word scarlet comes from a word meaning
a berry, which is actually a cluster of eggs of a female insect, the kermes.
These were used to make a red die. The kermes is a scale insect, meaning it
secretes a waxy shell after it settles on a plant where it will feed. The eggs
secreted by the female are sheltered beneath her body until they are hatched and
become crawlers. Once hatched, the crawlers scatter over the plant until they
find a place to feed. We see something about the nature of this dangerous beast
in this color; it attaches itself to something living, which it will devour
while reproducing itself with more devouring creatures of the same kind.
where did the beast get its scarlet color? Notice in verse 4 that the woman was
arrayed in purple and scarlet. This beast, while dangerous in itself, is even
more dangerous in the spiritual world because it is under the control of the
great harlot. This is something of which we must be aware even in our time; the
churches that have been spawned by the great harlot that exist in our time are
under the control of this great harlot.
great harlot was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and
precious stones and pearls. While her true nature is harlotry, she makes herself
appear to be royalty. The scarlet color is a crimson, the color of blood; and
the purple is the color of royalty. These garments are her imitation of Christ.
At the crucifixion, the soldiers stripped Jesus of His clothes and put a scarlet
robe on Him according to Matthew 27:28, or a purple robe according to Mark
this wilderness of apostasy, the great harlot takes on a profession of being the
bride of Christ, sharing in His divinity and spiritual royalty. Royalty implies
the right to rule over the lives of the people that follow her. Even while
clothed in the emblems of the blood of Christ and His divinity, she can’t help
adorning herself with the emblems of worldly prosperity and self-glorification.
Matthew Henry wrote of this: “Here were all the allurements of worldly honour
and riches, pomp and pride, suited to sensual and worldly minds.”
holds in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her
fornication. The hand is the instrument of work for the human body, and this cup
is filled with the heresy and ritual she uses to replace the Word of God and the
working of the Holy Spirit in the false church.
bad is apostasy is in producing the scarlet colored beast, the great harlot
produces a work in the name of religion that compounds the errors of apostasy.
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 official name of
the great harlot is Mystery. This name comes from the Greek word meaning to shut
the mouth. Its use here indicates a secret or mystery that exists by silence
imposed by initiation into religious rites. The mystery is that apostasy
substitutes forms of church membership for salvation through the atonement in
has three character traits: She is Babylon the Great; she is the mother of
harlots; and she is the mother of the abominations of the earth.
trait of Babylon is drawn from the tower of Babel issue of Genesis chapter 11
where God confounded the languages of the world. You will recall that the
leaders of the people were attempting to unite them together in a false religion
that claimed to make its own way to heaven without God. God confounded the
languages to keep people from understanding each other, which then made it
impossible for them to unite. This trait of apostasy is to confound spiritual
language through diversity of doctrines that oppose each other and confuse
people as to what the truth is. This apostasy is Great, or so large, that it
will exist throughout the history of the church, as we can see in our own time.
is the mother of harlots. As apostasy is a harlot, she has no real husband and
can only produce illegitimate children. As the great harlot, she sets the
example for her daughters, or the churches she spawns, that they need no husband
to reproduce. All churches that have been born into existence from her are
harlots and cannot claim a relationship with Christ because Christ has only one
wife, His church, the church He builds through the atonement. People that are
taken in by forms of church membership are led to believe they are united to
Christ because of those memberships; consequently, they are illegitimate because
they have not been born again and added to the true body of Christ.
apostasy is the mother of the abominations of the earth. The word abominations here refers to idols. Apostasy gives rise to false
ideas of God, of Christ, and everything that is truly sacred. Apostasy enthrones
those false ideas in the churches it spawns. Ultimately, those false churches
take the place of Jesus in the worship and spiritual lives of people taken in by
the filthiness of the great harlot’s fornication.
we find that the great harlot of apostasy is responsible for the blood of the
saints and martyrs of Jesus. This is true in the literal sense because the false
churches spawned by apostasy actually did persecute and put Christian people to
death. We have already mentioned in earlier lessons persecutions carried out by
the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Churches. Even today, this persecution
continues; sometimes in instances of literal persecution and killing, but more
commonly with infighting, separation, and denouncing people that endeavor to be
true to Jesus, the head of the true church that differ from the teachings and
practices of harlot churches.
17 is a picture of the history of apostasy and the churches it brings into
existence to the end of time. We have seen times of revival and God’s moving
in the church world in our previous studies. The horror pictured here does not
do away with God’s working in the body of Christ in history. Remember, what is
pictured here is the wilderness and the religious activity that takes place
there. It is not nice. Nevertheless, God has a place prepared for the woman
clothed with the sun even in this wilderness.