One of the strangest and most vivid images in the Bible is this entity commonly known as the Whore of Babylon, officially called “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth” (Revelation 17:3). This chapter (Revelation 17) describes the entity itself, and Revelation 18 describes its fall and utter destruction.
We know that there is a lot of symbolism here, but what is this thing? Is it a person? Is it a political system? Is it a church? Maybe it’s a nation, or possibly a combination of some of these things?
Whatever it is, it is obvious that God is not pleased with it. It is not something that true Christians want to be a part of, so we want to take it very seriously. Let’s look at it more closely.
Some aspects of all this will remain a mystery, but we are given many clues to this revelation.
For the sake of space, I will not quote the whole chapter here, but here are eight key points about the Great Whore in Revelation 17:
· · She sits upon many waters (v. 1)
· Kings of the earth commit fornication with her (v. 2)
· Her fornication makes the inhabitants of the earth “drunk” (v. 2)
· She sits upon a scarlet beast with blasphemous names (v. 3)
· She is dressed in scarlet and purple, with gold and precious stones (v. 4)
· She is drunk with the blood of the saints/martyrs (v. 6)
· She sits on seven mountains (or hills) (v. 9)
· She is a great city (v. 18)
Ok, let’s go a little deeper. The “many waters” in the first verse of this chapter are explained farther down, and they represent “peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues” (17:15). This multitude, no doubt, is the restless throng of people who have rejected God. The fact that she “sits upon” them would point to her ruling over this vast multitude. Therefore, she has great power and authority.
The fornication she commits with kings may not be literal, but is rather, a spiritual fornication – ungodly alliances or treaties with nations, ungodly laws, and ungodly relationships.
The people of earth being “drunk” with her fornication could possibly mean that they have gone mad and are oblivious to their destination, having a false sense of security. Or perhaps it is because they believe in her false teachings, leading to God’s wrath.
She sits upon a scarlet beast, one that is extremely blasphemous. We can see that she is controlling this beast – for now – but later, she will be controlled (and destroyed) by him. This is the kingdom of the antichrist/beast of the last days.
This harlot is also very rich, since she is dressed in scarlet and purple, possessing gold and many riches and she seems to have a universal influence.
Her own drunkenness is the result of her killing the saints and the martyrs of the faith, because they were in her way. She indulges in, and is obsessed with, their destruction.
Lastly, she is a great city that sits on seven mountains (or seven hills). So, let’s start here, since it is clear that she is a city.
Who is This City?
Ok, how many cities are there that sit upon seven hills? Actually, there are quite a few that make this particular claim. According to one source, there are literally dozens of them. See here:
But the great majority of these cities were either unknown at the time of John’s writing of the book of Revelation and/or they are not relevant to the context. But there are a couple of cities that stand out.
Some Catholics say that the “woman” in Revelation 17 is Jerusalem. After all, Jerusalem was also known as “the Great City” (Revelation 11:8). It is said that she was also built on seven hills. And Jerusalem was, at times, corrupted, and was a great persecutor of Christians, as well.
On the other hand, it is important to note that Jerusalem has never had dominion over the kings of the earth (Revelation 17:18). She didn’t have an empire.
The city of Jerusalem cannot be the woman in Revelation 17-18. Why? The following fact should remove all doubt as to whether Jerusalem fits this description:
“And a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “Thus will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.” (Revelation 18:21 - NASV)
Note the phrase “and will not be found any longer.” Is Jerusalem ever totally destroyed, never to be rebuilt, as the whore in Revelation 18 is? There is absolutely no biblical evidence that Jerusalem will be ultimately destroyed in such a way as to never return.
Ok, then. If this city is not Jerusalem, then what city is it?
Consider this: In the year 71 A.D., one year after Rome’s destruction of Jerusalem, Roman Emperor Vespasian mints a coin showing a woman sitting on seven hills and this woman is identified as Rome. See here:
The apostle John wrote the book of Revelation about 95 A.D. Being familiar with the Emperor’s coin, the people of John’s day would have immediately recognized John’s description of the woman in Revelation. It was the same woman as the one on the coin sitting on seven hills – the description of John’s city was, without doubt, Rome.
Many scholars believe that this “woman” is unmistakable. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (online), Rome is the city to which Revelation 17 and 18 refer:
“A few interpreters have believed that Jerusalem was the city that was designated as Babylon, but most scholars hold that Rome was the city that was meant… There are some striking facts which point to Rome as the city that is designated as Babylon.”
“The characteristics ascribed to this Babylon apply to Rome rather than to any other city of that age: (a) as ruling over the kings of the earth (Re 17:18); (b) as sitting on seven mountains (Re 17:9); (c) as the center of the world’s merchandise (Re 18:3,11-13); (d) as the corrupter of the nations (Re 17:2; 18:3; 19:2); (e) as the persecutor of the saints (Re 17:6).” (Under ‘Babylon in the New Testament’)
Even the Catholic New American Bible (World Publishing, Red Letter Edition, copyright 1987), says in its footnotes on chapter 17 of Revelation that the apostle John was speaking of Rome:
“Babylon, the symbolic name of Rome, is graphically described as ‘the great harlot.’”
“17, 4: Reference to the great wealth and idolatrous cults of Rome.”
“17, 9: Here is a clue: literally, ‘Here a mind that has wisdom.’ Seven hills: of Rome.”
“17, 16-18: The ten horns: the ten pagan kings who unwittingly fulfill God’s will against harlot Rome, the great city.”
And the footnotes in chapter 18 of Revelation continue:
“18, 1 – 19, 4: A stirring dirge over the fall of Babylon-Rome. The perspective is prophetic, as if the fall of Rome had already taken place…”
“18, 3-24: Rome is condemned for her immorality, symbol of idolatry… and for persecuting the church; 19, 2.”
“18, 11: Ironically, the merchants weep not so much for Babylon-Rome, but for their lost markets.”
Again, these quotes were all taken from pages 1388 and 1389 of the New American Bible.
Now, granted, the publisher believes that this is referring to the old pagan Rome, that is, Rome before Christ and the early church. But, nevertheless, the publishers of the Catholic NAB agree with most scholars and admit that it is indeed Rome and not some other city.
Old Rome or New Rome?
Ok, so is this city pagan Rome or modern Rome? Of course, Catholics will generally say that it is the old pagan city. They would never admit that this cursed city is their own Vatican-controlled modern Rome, or the church within it.
It is true that much of what the apostle John says of this city in Revelation matches with the worldliness, debauchery, and corruption of pagan Rome. Yes, they were blasphemous. Yes, many of their leaders were filthy rich, powerful and influential. And yes, they killed the saints, they killed the apostles, and they even killed Jesus, Himself! Sounds like a match, right?
But there are at least three problems with this idea of pagan Rome being the harlot: 1) The timing, 2) John’s amazement, and 3) the title “harlot.”
First, the timing: Revelation 18 is talking about the ultimate end of this great city, its finality. This is a future event. Remember, Jesus gave the apostle John an outline and told him:
Revelation 1:19 - “Write the things which thou hast seen [the past, i.e., the vision he was given of Jesus among the candlesticks – v. 12-18], and the things which are [the present, i.e., the things concerning the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3], and the things which shall be hereafter [the future, i.e., chapters 4 through 22].” Notice, in Revelation 4:1, the angel says, “Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be HEREAFTER.” Therefore, starting with chapter 4, these events are future from John’s perspective.
So, the destruction of this woman happens in the end times – in the days of the beast (the antichrist) and the false prophet, just before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Her final demise hasn’t happened yet, so it can’t be pagan Rome.
Secondly, concerning the apostle John’s amazement (Revelation 17:6), why was this vision such a shock to him? Upon viewing such corruption, blasphemy, ill-gotten riches, fornication and the murdering of innocent Christians, this should have been no surprise. This was just another day in pagan Rome. He would have fully expected pagan Rome to be involved in such.
What was shocking was the fact that the church in this city started out as a faithful church, but she soon declined/weakened spiritually until she fully adopted the culture, teachings, practices and the mentality of pagan Rome, with its most disgusting and evil pleasures. What used to be a pillar of virtue in its earliest years had now become the Harlot. What John saw was not pagan Rome, but “Christian” Rome who was now acting like pagan Rome. I believe that this is what shocked him.
Thirdly, biblically speaking, the spiritual terms “harlot” and “adulteress/adulterer” are generally used in the sense of one who has had a loyalty, covenant, or relationship with someone (especially God), but broke it. A biblical harlot is not necessarily just an unwed woman/city/nation who is immoral. She is one who is unfaithful to her spouse, or one who goes back on a vow. Those individuals, cities and nations who had a relationship with God, but fell away without repentance, will be judged by God more harshly than those who have never known Him. Think of it this way: You can’t call someone “unfaithful” if there was never a commitment made in the first place. A man cannot approach a strange woman and demand a divorce – she doesn’t even know him and has never entered a marriage covenant with him. The same goes spiritually.
Again, spiritual adultery/harlotry implies a previous loyalty toward God, but old Rome never had that. Those pagan nations in the Old Testament were just that… pagan, ungodly, idolatrous – but not necessarily spiritual harlots. So, again, Revelation 17 and 18 can’t be speaking of pagan Rome.
So, if it’s not pagan Rome we are talking about, then which Rome is it?
The Catholic Church’s Boastful Claims
In the first 300 years of the church of Jesus Christ, the church at Rome prospered spiritually (even in intense persecution). But after Constantine, the Roman church, as we said before, became watered down, and eventually apostate. The old pagan Rome indeed did all those evil things mentioned in Revelation, but apostate Rome continued them!
Once again, pagan Rome has never had a relationship or covenant with God, but modern apostate Rome certainly makes the CLAIM of loyalty, faithfulness, and marriage to Jesus Christ. She boasts great things about her relationship with God:
She claims to be the church founded by Jesus Christ (Baltimore Catechism #152); she claims to be the only true Church, i.e., “the sole church of Christ” (CCC #811); she claims that her leader (the pope) is the “Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church” (Annuario Pontificio) who is also sometimes infallible (CCC #869, 891); she claims that the pope “enjoys, by divine institution supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls” (CCC #937) and the Catholic Church claims that apart from her there is no salvation! (Unam Sanctum; Cantate Domino). I could go on and on, but I think that we can certainly see her great claims of spiritual superiority. Can anyone doubt that there is a covenant marriage with God implied here?
Yet, this city/church/institution has been a powerful and corrupt influence on the world, both spiritually and politically. It is a fact that popes of this apostate city/church have both placed kings and emperors on their thrones, and have had them removed at will by threatening them with excommunication.
Concerning apostate Rome, the late Dave Hunt had some sobering and compelling arguments in his well-documented book, A Woman Rides the Beast:
“Pagan Rome made sport of throwing to the lions, burning and otherwise killing thousands of Christians and not a few Jews. Yet ‘Christian’ Rome slaughtered many times that number of both Christians and Jews. Beside those victims of the Inquisition, there were Huguenots, Albigenses, Waldenses, and other Christians who were massacred, tortured, and burned at the stake by the hundreds of thousands simply because they refused to align themselves with the Roman Catholic Church and its corruption and heretical dogmas and practices.”
Furthermore, Hunt says:
“Protestants have now forgotten the hundreds of thousands of people burned at the stake for embracing the simple gospel of Christ and refusing to bow to papal authority. Amazingly, Protestants are now embracing Rome as Christian while she insists that the ‘separated brethren’ be reconciled to her on her unchangeable terms!” (Harvest House Publishers, copyright 1994, page 81)
Yes, there is today a tendency with many churches to join ranks with Catholicism, saying that Catholics also have the gospel, and that we shouldn’t be divisive. But this is not true and is influenced by the diabolical Ecumenical Movement spearheaded by the Roman Catholic Church.
So, once again we ask the question, what exactly is this “woman,” this Great Harlot? I am convinced that she is Rome, but she is not just limited to the city of Rome. She is a worldwide system, spearheaded by the Church of Rome (the Catholic Church) and this system will include the multitude of false religions in the world (including watered-down versions of “Christianity”). This ungodly ecumenical movement will include people from ALL religions and would even include atheists!
This entity is the Revived Roman Empire. It carries the spirit of ancient Babylon and pagan Rome. Remember, Babylon has always represented the epitome of paganism and hedonism. It is the religious branch of the New World Order.
This same system began centuries ago when men (probably led by Nimrod) attempted to create a one-world government/religion with the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-8). But God stopped it from happening. But this same entity will finally be realized soon enough when earth’s inhabitants welcome the global New World Order. Somehow, they will convince the world that this type of unbiblical “unity” is a good thing. It will be an all-encompassing religion where anyone will be welcome – anyone but true Christians!
Speaking for myself, I used to be Catholic and I have many Catholic friends and family members. My heart goes out to them and to all Catholics. I would beg them to heed this sobering and fearful message from God, Himself:
Revelation 18:4 – “… Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
To say that she will be punished harshly is an understatement. Don’t be a part of this! Remember, this system is not just a harlot – it is the MOTHER OF ALL HARLOTS, and of all the disgusting abominations on planet earth! Don’t fall into her “unity” trap. Embrace and stay within the biblical gospel message.