I Saw a Woman Holding a Golden Cup in Her Hand, Filled with the Filth of Her Adulteries

17: 1-6a, 15 and 18

   DIG: Who is the central figure in this scene? In what sense is she influential? Attractive? Evil? Repulsive? What is the ultimate sin here? What is the significance of the prostitute’s clothing and the gold cup in her hand? Where is MYSTERY BABYLON geographically located?

   REFLECT: Do you see anything like a one world religion, or religious Babylon in our society today? Where? How? When? How can you stay out of her clutches?

    Rebellion began in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). But it flourished, giving birth to man-made religion, in Babylon after the Flood (Genesis 6-7). Here, in this section, John gives us a heavenly perspective on the matter. Instead of obeying God’s command to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1 and 7), the descendants of Noah moved east to the plane of Shinar – the location of ancient Babylon. There they defied ADONAI’s mandate to fill the earth, preferring to band together and build a tower that would symbolize their man-made greatness (Genesis 11:1-9). Nimrod led the rebellion where they said to each other: Come, let us build for ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth (Genesis 11:4). So, instead of filling the earth as the LORD had commanded, they decided to make a name for themselves.

    The plane of Shinar, where Babel was built, ultimately became the center for one of the world’s earliest empires – Babylon. The religious arrogance of the Babylonians is well known. They took great pride in their city, calling it the heavenly city, babili, or the gate of God. It should not surprise us, therefore, that Babylon became a symbol of the godless, humanistic rebellion in this world. Looking back, we can see the foundations of man-made, counterfeit religion: faithlessness, or the rejection of ADONAI’s promises; disobedience, or rebellion against God’s commands; and legalism, or the rejection of the LORD’s grace.

    This is the fifth of five events that will occur throughout the first half of the Great Tribulation. Just as there are two political systems during the Great Tribulation, one during the first half (the ten kings), and one during the second half (the antichrist), there will be two religious systems, one for each half of the Great Tribulation. This section describes the religious system of the first half, the rule of religious Babylon.279

    In the first two verses, John is invited to witness the judgment of the great prostitute. One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me: Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters, who are actually the Gentile nations of many peoples, multitudes, nations and languages (17:1 and 15). When John sees her, she will have contaminated all the nations of the world. To prostitute something means to take something that is appropriate and turn it into something inappropriate. A prostitute takes sex, which is appropriate within the context of marriage, and turns it into something inappropriate.

    With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries (17:2). This union results in corruption of both the religious sphere and the political sphere. Here, the great prostitute symbolizes religion, which has an appropriate use (James 1:26-27), and turns it into something inappropriate. Rather than serving, it rules. False religion causes spiritual adultery. The word adultery has two meanings. It is used of physical unfaithfulness and also spiritual unfaithfulness (Hosea 1-2; Jeremiah 2:20, 3:1-9; Ezekiel 16:15-41 and 23:5-44). It is with this great prostitute that the kings of the earth will commit adultery, showing that there will be a unity between religion and government. Man has a God-shaped void in his heart to worship something, and during the Great Tribulation the world will fill it with a false religious system led by the false prophet.

    Then the angel carried John away in his spirit, or in a vision, into a desert. There he saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, which represents the Fourth Gentile Kingdom (see Ar – Finally, There will be a Fourth Beast, That Breaks and Smashes Everything). She was covered with blasphemous names, showing she was in opposition to God and had seven heads and ten horns describing the governmental system of the first half of the Great Tribulation (17:3). The ten horns represent ten nations that will support a one world government.

    This brazen woman must not be confused with the radiant woman of 12:1. The two are enemies. Satan, or the dragon (12:3) empowers the antichrist, or the beast, so the beast supports the prostitute. The woman in turn makes the beast appear outwardly beautiful, thus making it easier for him to gain the control he seeks over mankind. The false religious system will have the support of civil governments during the first half of the Great Tribulation (see An – The Times of the Gentiles).

    Some people take a very anti-Catholic stance on Revelation, claiming that the Pope is, or will be, the antichrist. But I do not. The one world government will have many Catholics in it, but it will also have a lot of Protestants, Hindus, Buddhists, Baptists, Muslims, Mormons and other religions also. The saved, regardless of their religion or denomination, will be Raptured, and the lost, regardless of their religious beliefs, will be left behind to endure or die in the Great Tribulation.280

    Then the description of the woman is given. She is seen as very wealthy and influential. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She will be fabulously wealthy, and the emphasis will be on the outside rather than on the inside. It reminds us of what Yeshua said to the false religious leaders of His day: Woe to you, teachers of the Torah and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead man’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy ad wickedness (Matthew 23:27). She will also be guilty of spiritual adultery. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of the adulteries (17:4). This is a quote from Jeremiah 51:7, but don’t be deceived by the golden cup in her hand. Materialism and selfism will replace God. Mankind will be left in the mindless pursuit of material prosperity as the basis for meaning and value in life. This cup becomes the cup of ADONAI’s raging fury (14:10, 16:19,18:6).

    This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH, and is capitalized for emphasis (17:5). She is described as the mother of prostitutes because Babylon is where idolatry and spiritual prostitution began. In order to have fellowship with them, she drinks the wisdom of many religions of the world. Whether it is Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Mormonism, the great prostitute will welcome them all. The Hindu’s will merely make Jesus Christ one more of their thousand gods and it will not matter that for Buddhists only good works and nihilism count in Nirvana. Syncretism will rule the day. They will believe Satan’s lie that God is the center of the spiritual wheel and all the spokes lead to Him. They will ask each other, “What difference does it make? We can still have fellowship with one another, can’t we?”281

    Her name is MYSTERY BABYLON. A mystery in the Bible is not something that cannot be solved. No, a mystery in the Bible means something that was once hidden, but now is being revealed. The mystery hidden for generations, for ages, has now been made clear to the people He has set apart for Himself (Colossians 1:26 CJB). The mystery is not Babylon itself, nor is the mystery the fact that Babylon was the originator and center of idolatry; this is already known from the TaNaKh. The mystery is the fact that Babylon will develop into a one world unified religion, and will rule the world during the first half of the Great Tribulation. It will be headquartered in Babylon, the great city that will rule over the kings of the earth (17:18); it will be supported by the governments of that day; and it will be the primary persecutor of believers who will not submit to its religious authority. All this was previously hidden in the TaNaKh, only to be revealed in the end times.282

    I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the holy ones, the blood of those who bore testimony to Yeshua (17:6a). This answers the question as to who murdered the Tribulation martyrs that were seen under the golden altar in heaven (6:9-11). It will be the false super-church. Millions of Gentiles will be saved as a result of the ministry of the 144,000 Jews, but they will suffer martyrdom at the hands of the one world religion. What we see here is the final form of religious apostasy, ending with the formation of a one-world super church. It is the final form of the woman Jezebel who was thrown into the Great Tribulation (2:20-22), and united with the apostate church from Laodicea (3:14-22). This will be the counterfeit bride of Messiah, presented as a prostitute, whereas the true Bride of Christ is presented as a pure virgin (2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-27; Revelation 19:6-8).283

    Mystery Babylon the Prostitute represents the one-world religious system that rules over the religious affairs during the first half of the Great Tribulation. She rules over the Gentile nations, the many waters, in total control of all religious affairs, with the reluctant support of the governments. The woman you saw will be the great city that rules over the kings of the earth (17:18). Therefore, the headquarters of Mystery Babylon will be the rebuilt city of Babylon. There are several scriptures in the TaNaKh that prophesy about the total destruction of Babylon, but it never suffered the kind of destruction the prophets demanded (see my commentary on Isaiah Dk – Babylon, the Jewel of Kingdoms will be Overthrown).

    There will be five events that occur throughout the first half of the Great Tribulation. First, is the governmental system of the ten kings (Bs), second is the ministry of Elijah the prophet (Bw), third is the ministry of the 144,000 (Cr), fourth is the ministry of the two witnesses (Dc), and fifth is the rule of the one world religion (Dd).

 

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