Chapter 16 Judgment of the Whore
We all know the whore sitting on that beast will be judged. We all think we know why and how. But when will that whore be judged. And who or what does that whore include?
Revelation 17:1-6 RSVA Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who is seated upon many waters, (2) with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” (3) And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. (4) The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication; (5) and on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations.” (6) And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her I marveled greatly.
When we look at the judgment of the whore, or harlot in this translation, we can see that woman was a symbol. Water is a symbol, drunk, blood, and the beast are all symbols. There is a general rule in Bible Study that tells us when our study begins at the beginning of a chapter, we can’t help but admit, we don’t stand a chance of understanding this chapter until we review the end of the previous chapter.
That simple rule takes us back to the end of the last seven plagues. An angel announces the end with the simple words, “it is done.” The world ends with an earthquake and hailstones of fire falling from Heaven. But are those also symbols?
When we look back, we also have to question if those sores on people and water turning to blood are also symbols. They are so easy to accept as physical attributes because they were physical plagues in Egypt. But was the exodus as a whole one giant symbol pointing to something far greater?
When we consider those sores as a symbol, we have to also allow scripture to define the symbol. What clues and definitions does the Bible provide? The sores are only on the people who received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. That gives us only one clue. A clue that will aline itself with the end of the chapter.
And I heard the angel of water say, “Just art thou in these thy judgments, thou who art and wast, O Holy One. For men have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink. It is their due!” And I heard the altar cry, “Yea, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are thy judgments!” (Revelation 16:5-7 RSVA).
Something happened between the first and second plagues that caught the angel’s attention. The people with the mark of the beast showed the angel, God’s judgment was accurate beyond question. When we look at those sores, we look at them as an identifying mark that sort of takes the place of the mark of the beast, or joins it. In a way amplifies the mark of the beast. We know the mark of the beast exists today. And we know it is not a physical, but a spiritual mark. It represents what people actually worship, how they worship, and why they worship what they worship.
As we progress to the plague that turns water into blood, the same must be true. The blood must be a symbol. But representing what? Everything in the water died. In other parts of the Bible, water repents people. And he said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the harlot is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. (Revelation 17:15 RSVA). The Bible identified the waters as people later in the story when one of the angels explained the vision to John.
We have to realize one thing. When an angel explains a symbol they typically back up in earth’s history to a point John can relate to. When we go back to John’s time, we can see how not only he, but thousands of other Christians were persecuted. Satan lost his battle with Christ when He rose from the grave. Satan had no other thought than to annihilate every Christian in the world and eliminate every influence Christ left behind. But Satan failed at that. So he altered his plan. If he couldn’t eliminate the Christians, he could at least mislead them. So he introduced every false form of worship from his bag of tricks. Hence the mark of the beast was born. It is a combination of what Christ taught mixed in with a measure of the false gods and forms of worship Satan was able to introduce over the years.
The blood represented all those Christians who Satan killed from Steven up to the Christians who Satan had slaughtered during those last plagues. They killed the Christians, partied in their blood, and now they were given a taste of their own medicine.
Now let’s go back a bit further to the judgment period when Christ will judge the living. Have you given that any thought? What will it be like when your name is called? We can’t write an accurate account of every detail during that trial, but we know enough facts that we can piece together an idea of how that trial will proceed.
A name is called. If the person follows Christ, what will happen? Will Christ offer His blood to cleanse that person, cover the law, and make that person acceptable in God’s eyes? Will that person be found innocent with no evidence presented? Is Jesus’ word all that is required, or does Jesus have to present witnesses and evidence? Will angels come forward to tell stories about how they were able to help that person, and how that person gave all the glory to God? Will angels tell how that person remained humble throughout the entire process? Will angels tell God how that person was thankful and wanted to return the favor in any way they could? Will angels tell God about the messages they gave to that person and how they faithfully delivered those messages without adding to them, or subtracting from them? Will angels tell God about the people that person was able to reach, and how that person was able to turn souls to God?
What about a person who is judged guilty? What would their trial look like? Would angels present evidence of how they tried to reach that person, but all their attempts were rejected? Would angels tell God how they tried to direct their way through scripture, but those people decided to look to human sources for information? Would angels tell God how those people always took the easy way out accepting one or two sentences out of a story in scripture and never reading the entire story? Will angles tell how preachers and teachers were able to substitute old wives tales for the truth, and they accepted those tales without question? Will angels tell God how they tried to give that person simple messages to deliver, but they delivered messages hatched in boardroom meetings? What will God’s decision be when He sees someone who tried a little bit, but never really applied themselves? They never seemed to have the time or will power to take one additional step towards His Son. All that person knew was, Jesus died for their sins. But they never knew what that meant. They never searched out the meaning, or a personal relationship with Jesus. How will Jesus answer when God asks, “did you know this person?” What will be the decision in that trial?
Revelation 17 deals with the judgment of their leader, the devil. To understand chapter 17, we have to see how chapter 16 ended.
The seventh angel poured his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” And there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as had never been since men were on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered great Babylon, to make her drain the cup of the fury of his wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found; and great hailstones, heavy as a hundred-weight, dropped on men from heaven, till men cursed God for the plague of the hail, so fearful was that plague. (Revelation 16:17-21 RSVA).
When we look at the two chapters together, we can’t help but notice the connection between the harlot and Babylon. Most scholars agree the harlot and Babylon represent the same thing. Then the differences arise. Some insist they represent Satan. Others insist Babylon and the harlot represent some earthly entity or great religious power. Either way, that entity is controlled by Satan. Or at least Satan has a great influence over them. The question should be, is it only one entity, a collection of entities, or the total sum of how that one entity was able to spread its influence over the Christian world?
I would vote for the later case. When Rome got involved in the Christian religion, of course the emperor had to merge in his own brand of religion with Christianity. That was not much different that what Paul and Peter recorded when Jews wanted to merge their Jewish beliefs with the Christian faith. Paul said it was wrong. Peter agreed with Paul. Both had messages from God telling us what would happen. A few hundred years later Rome wedges their way on the scene. Rome was a republic that survived by accepting every general religion. So it seemed normal to blend a little from each of those religions into what the emperor wanted to turn into a new, nationalized religion. A fool could have seen what was happening. Satan had his foot in the door and was not going to give up. Once that door was opened, a flood of idols and false ideas came in and set up housekeeping. A new religion was born and in the eyes of the world, it was exactly what they needed.
Most of us know how that went. A new sort of world religious order was created. A religion who claimed they were serving God, but distanced themselves far away from what Christ came here to establish. In fact, most of that was preserved in scripture was lost. The words in scripture didn’t change, but how they were viewed was changed for what seems like forever. Or almost forever.
The new church developed structure, placed people in charge, gave them credentials, developed centers and levels of learning, and of course decided to develop their own methods of Bible Study. One of the first and their favorite is commonly referred to as proof text.
The proof text method of Bible Study took one or two sentences out of scripture and placed in in the hands of one of their appointed Cardinals or Bishops for interpretation. The context didn’t matter. Their leaders were given authority over God’s Word, and their decision was final. A new interpretation was reviewed, voted on, and then made into a law in their established church. This kept common people away from scripture, and voided any claims the Holy Spirit was our appointed Guide and Teacher.
That type of thinking has been around for generations. Some people may think, only a gifted few hear God’s voice or have any connection with the Spirit. Others think God has somehow left this planet. But that was not what Jesus promised. Jesus said, when He went away, He would send the Spirit to take His place. As far as I know that promise is still valid and in force. God does not give into popular belief. Especially when that belief harms His people or stands in the way of His relationship with them.