Revelation 17:1-6 The Immoral Woman

Revelation 17:1-6 The Immoral Woman November 21, 2016

Revelation 17:1-6 The Immoral Woman

Beginning in Revelation 17, John describes the Lamb’s step-by-step victory over “the beast” and his kingdom. In Revelation 17, the religious system is judged; in Revelation 18, the political and economic system fall victim. Finally, the Lord Himself returns to earth; judges Satan, “the beast,” and the false prophet (Revelation 19:19–20); and then establishes His kingdom.1

John is first invited to witness the judgment on Babylon (Revelation 17:1–2), before being given the vision itself (Revelation 17:3–6), complete with a description of her immoral character and wicked agenda. In the rest of the chapter, the angel interprets the meaning of the vision (Revelation 17:7–18).2

The Judgement on Babylon (17:1-2)

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me: “Come, I will show you the judgment of the notorious prostitute who sits on many waters.” (Revelation 17:1, HCSB)


Warren Wiersbe describes the contrast between the two women in Revelation: Israel and the Harlot:

There are two women in the book of Revelation: Israel, the woman in chapter twelve, and Babylon, the woman who rides the beast in chapter seventeen. These women are deliberately contrasted. The first woman is the mother of the Man-Child; the other, the mother of harlots. One is clothed with the sun; the other with purple, scarlet, and gold. One’s identity is the sun, moon, and stars; the other reigns over the kings of the earth. The enemy of the woman Israel is the dragon; the enemies of the woman riding the beast are the ten kings she is riding who ultimately consume her.

The first woman is hated by the world; the woman on the beast is caressed by the world. Israel is sustained by the wings of heaven; the woman riding the beast is sustained by the dragon. Israel is considered a widow and the divorced wife of Jehovah; the woman riding the beast brags, “I am no widow.” The final destination of the woman in chapter twelve is the New Jerusalem; the final destination of the woman on the beast is the habitation of demons.3

The Immoral Character of the Woman (Revelation 17:3-6)


1. She is a harlot

So he carried me away in the Spirit to a desert. I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and 10 horns.” (Revelation 17:3, HCSB)

At this point in the Book of Revelation, although the church is in heaven, the structures, systems, and stuff of religion—referred to here as the great harlot—remain intact on earth.4 The root word for the word “harlot” is “porneia,’ which is where we get our word pornography.

The literary image of the harlot is familiar to those who know the Old Testament as the representation of rebellious Israel and also as a symbol of foreign, idolatrous peoples.5

Michael Wilcock shares another important fact about the difference between Israel and the Harlot:

We are not, of course, to imagine that Revelation is here condemning sexual immorality as the ultimate sin. In the next scene, we shall find that the counterpart to Babylon the whore is Jerusalem the bride; and ‘the wife of the Lamb’ (Revelation 21:9) is the church, the city of God. There, a faithful marriage relationship is a picture of something far greater, the spiritual union between Christ and his people. By the same token, the fornication into which Babylon seduces the inhabitants of the earth is, as we saw in a previous scene, no mere sexual sin, but the worship of the dragon instead of God (Revelation 13:11, 12). 6

2. She sits on a beast

So he carried me away in the Spirit to a desert. I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and 10 horns.” (Revelation 17:3, HCSB)

The woman sits on and controls a beast, the Antichrist. The nature of the beast is not described except that it has blasphemous names, seven heads, and ten horns. Yet, the woman sits on the beast. The spiritual controls the political and the economic powers in this case.

The prostitute in chapters 17 and 18 is a symbol of the economic power of Rome and its capacity to lure people away from Christ. In their luxury (Revelation 17:3–4), 7

3. She is dressed in royal colors

The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet…” (Revelation 17:4, HCSB)

4. She is dressed in enormous jewelry

“…adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls…” (Revelation 17:4, HCSB)

5. She carries a gold cup with impurities

“…She had a gold cup in her hand filled with everything vile and with the impurities of her prostitution.” (Revelation 17:4, HCSB)

The royal colors and her enormous amount of jewelry show that she is very worldly. This is a symbol of the corrupt religious system. This system becomes rich from their association with the Beast. This kind of theft sounds very similar to television evangelists who promote a healthy, wealthy, and wise movement. This system is very much like the Scientology religion that takes enormous amounts of money from seminars to fund its operations. These funds make the system look very rich. They occupy large buildings that are ornate and filled riches. However, the root of their wealth is through hypocrisy. That is what the golden cup shows.

The golden cup full of abominations is hypocrisy, because hypocrites “outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within are full of all uncleanness.”8

The evil comes from the hypocrisy. As Jesus mentioned against the Pharisees:

In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:28, HCSB)

6. She carries an evil name

On her forehead a cryptic name was written: BABYLON THE GREAT
” (Revelation 17:5, HCSB)

The name is evil because she tries to replace God. She is not just a prostitute, but the mother of (or source) of all false religions.

If you go back to Genesis, you will see that Babylon was the source of the first false religion. Nimrod, who was the leader who built Babylon, built the altar in opposition to God.

Cush fathered Nimrod, who was the first powerful man on earth. He was a powerful hunter in the sight of the Lord. That is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a powerful hunter in the sight of the Lord.”” (Genesis 10:8–9, HCSB)

It says he was a “hunter in sight of the Lord.” But in reality, Nimrod opposed God. He was the first Anti-God figure. He built a city and tried to get everyone to build a tower to show how powerful they were without God’s help. When God sees this, He confuses their language. That is why the place is called Babylon.

Therefore its name is called Babylon, for there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth, and from there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:9, HCSB)

So this Babylon was the first false religion. It is also the source of all false religions.

Babylon as the source of all false beliefs will culminate in this one future false religion. She will take all of the religions of the past and form them into her own pantheon. She will take Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Secular Humanism, Moral Therapeutic Deism, and many other religions, merge them into one world belief system. The reason why everything will be vile is because it will, in essence, be anti-Christ, as in against Jesus Christ. The world religion will claim God, but they won’t claim Jesus. They will say that your god is compatible with other gods. All beliefs are all the same. Just bring it under one tent and let’s worship the Anti-Christ.

7. She is drunk on the deaths of Christians

Then I saw that the woman was drunk on the blood of the saints and on the blood of the witnesses to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished.” (Revelation 17:6, HCSB)

She will use the Antichrist to kill people who follow Jesus.

In the iconic film, Wall Street, about greed, and corruption in the 1980s, Oliver Stone provides an insightful commentary on the fleeting nature of wealth. Financial systems can be exploited and manipulated. Great treasures can be amassed. But in just a moment, they can be lost. The corrupt system that is Babylon provides no true security. As the main character, Bud Fox, learns, a good name is better than gold.9

This is the reason why we need to stay true to Jesus. Methods may change, but that should never change the message. People and systems may try to destroy Jesus and His church. But they will never succeed. Jesus is the Savior of the World, and He is the only Way to salvation. We need him for eternal life and for this life. He has built His church and it will never fail.

1 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 611.

2 J. Scott Duvall, Revelation, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 220.

3 Chuck Missler, Learn the Bible in 24 Hours® (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011).

4 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1761.

5 Earl F. Palmer and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, 1, 2 & 3 John / Revelation, vol. 35, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1982), 212.

6 Michael Wilcock, The Message of Revelation: I Saw Heaven Opened, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 159.

7 Sigurd Grindheim, Introducing Biblical Theology (London; New Delhi; New York; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2013), 46.

8 Venerable Bede, The Explanation of the Apocalypse, trans. Edward Marshall (Oxford: James Parker and Co., 1878), 118.

9 J. Scott Duvall, Revelation, ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton, Teach the Text Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2014), 225.

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