The Vision of the Harlot ~ Part 1

Revelation 17:1-6
The End Times

In my last post, we considered Summary of Revelation Chapters 14-16. In this post, we begin to unpack Revelation 17:1-6 to explore The Vision of the Harlot ~ Part 1.

“Then came one of the angels with the seven bowls; and he said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great whore who is sitting by many waters. 2 The kings of the earth went whoring with her, and the people living on earth have become drunk from the wine of her whoring.’ 3 He carried me off in the Spirit to a desert, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast filled with blasphemous names and having seven heads and ten horns. 4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet and glittered with gold, precious stones and pearls. In her hand was a gold cup filled with the obscene and filthy things produced by her whoring. 5 On her forehead was written a name with a hidden meaning,


6 I saw the woman drunk from the blood of God’s people, that is, from the blood of the people who testify about Yeshua. On seeing her, I was altogether astounded.” ~ Revelation 17:1-6 (CJB)

By now we should be accustomed to the breaks in the accounting of the subsequent action, as once again, the on-going drama comes to a standstill as the writer inserts the subject of Bavel in Revelation 17:1 – 19:10. It is necessary in understanding the overall scope to accurately place chapters seventeen and eighteen in the correct setting in the drama. First of all, there are two different and separate Bavels. Revelation Chapter Seventeen deals with the religious or mystical Bavel, while Chapter Eighteen reveals the political or material Bavel.

The great whore who sits on many waters is the worldwide ecumenical religious system that develops during the Tribulation period and is led by the false prophet (who receives his power from HaSatan). Her name with a hidden meaning is Bavel the Great. The many waters are the multitude of people on the earth who are deceived and led into spiritual adultery through this-worldly religion, which requires worshiping the Anti-Messiah instead of the one true Messiah. The angel makes this clear in verse 15: “The waters that you saw, where the whore is sitting, are peoples, crowds, nations, and languages.”

The great whore is seated on a scarlet beast (the Anti-Messiah), with seven heads and ten horns, covered with blasphemous names (v. 3). Remember that HaSatan is the power of these two beasts and that they are working in partnership. Recall that Yochanan explained his vision of the second beast: “It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence; and it makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, the one whose fatal wound had been healed.” ~ Revelation 13:12 (CJB)

The false prophet and her idolatrous religious system are dressed in purple and scarlet and beautiful jewels, the pay received for her prostitution. Purple and scarlet are often the colors worn by rulers and religious leaders, and the exquisite jewels likely represent the wealth the false religion collects and lavishes selfishly on the false prophet. She is holding a golden cup filled with abominations and filthiness. She is the mother of all evils and is drunk with the blood of the saints. Here again, we see HaSatan, the great imitator, at work trying to make this beast look and act like Yeshua (Luke 22:17-22).

The History of Religious Bavel

Both chapters Seventeen and Eighteen are filled with a great deal of imagery, yet, through close examination of the details, the correct interpretation can be correctly discerned. To learn the identity of the woman and the beast it is necessary to separate the one from the other. In verse one the woman is referred to as a whore. The use of this word implies immoral and promiscuous behavior. Indeed this kind of conduct involves unfaithfulness. This evil woman represents a false religion which is the religious system of Bavel. This cult claims to worship the one true and living God, but, in truth, is unfaithful to Him. Also, note in verse one the scope of her influence: sitting by many waters. The angel is making it quite clear that the teachings of this prostitute have a far-reaching impact on this world. To establish that there are two separate Bavels it might be well at this point to read from Dr. M. R. DeHaan who writes: [1]

To understand these passages relating to the final doom of Bavel, we must turn again to the first mention of Bavel in the Scriptures. In Genesis 10 and 11 we have a detailed record of the rise of that political-religious system known to Bible students as Bavel. We are told that after the Flood the descendants of Noah, forgetting the lesson they should have learned, turned from God and moved to a region to the east of Palestine in the vicinity of the original Garden of Eden. It was called the land of the Shinar and was in the region of the Euphrates River, one of the three principle rivers of the Garden of Eden. A certain man, Nimrod by name, seems to have been the leader of this great movement, and supported by a great company of followers, he began the building of a city which was to become one of the seven great wonders of the world. In this land of Shinar he built a city and called it Bavel. In the midst of the city was a gigantic temple dedicated to Belus, later called Baal. At the same time he also built a tower, usually referred to as the Tower of Bavel… As the city represented the political national strength and ideals of Bavel, so also there was a tower which was the symbol and center of Bavels religious program and worship.

Now, return to the Scriptures and look at verse two: The kings of the earth went whoring with her. She, seemingly, has been successful in mixing religion and politics to serve her interest. When religion controls the head of state, she carries a great deal of influence over the inhabitants of that land, such as in the case of Islamic States.

Special Comparative Note on Chapter 17:1-6 [2]

Even though I have elected to take incremental bits out of this passage, I want to present the various views in their entirety for the whole passage now.

Historicist Approach:

Historicists view the woman as a religious entity that is an apostate institution. She has strayed from her husband’s bed and betrayed his trust.  The desert of verse three is a reference to the Campagna – a low plain surrounding Rome – which is in a desolate state to this day.  The description of her garment is associated with the Roman Catholic Church. The obscene and filthy things are also identified with the Roman Catholic Church with indulgences, the worship of relics and other sacrilegious practices.

Preterist Approach:

Some Preterists interpret the woman as the Roman Empire. Others argue she is the imperial city of Rome, but contend that the Beast represents the empire.  Still, others believe that the whore is Jerusalem.

Futurist Approach:

Many Futurists agree that the Whore is a religious entity, a coalition of apostate churches, headquartered in Rome and, most probably, dominated by the Vatican.

Idealist Approach:

Idealists seem to concur that the Whore is a picture of Rome.

In my next post, we’ll continue to explore Part 2 of Revelation 17:1-6.

Click here for PDF version.

[1] A Layman’s Commentary on Revelation by Don Jones.

[2] Material in this post is taken from “Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated” by Steve Gregg. Notations in brackets, if any, are my comments.

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