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The Great Harlot and Her Judgment

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Text:  Revelation 17:1-18


            Beginning in chapter 17, John describes the Lamb’s step-by-step victory over Satan and his kingdom.  In chapter 17 the religious system of the harlot is judged.  In chapter 18 the political system of Babylon falls.  Finally, the Lord Himself returns and judges Satan and the false prophet in chapter 19.

            The Bible calls the Church the pure bride of Christ.  But here in Revelation the harlot is a corrupt religious system that has abandoned the truth and prostituted herself for personal gain.  In every age there has been a harlot who has persecuted God’s people; and this will come to a head in the last days when all those who have persecuted God’s people will be destroyed.  Each generation of believers must keep themselves pure from the pollution of the harlot that surrounds us.  Read Text.

  1. This chapter opens with an invitation from an angel for John to come see what God will do with the great harlot.  Why do you think she is called a great harlot and the mother of harlots?  (Because of her sin; because she represents Satan’s ploy throughout all time to lead man into great harlotries and abominations from the beginning of time.)      How far has her influence reached by this point?  (The whole world, reaching even to the high places of kings.)  17:2, 15
    Insight: Harlotry in the Bible is a symbol for debauched worship, idolatry, and false devotion.  When people worship anything other than Jehovah, or give their hearts to something that takes the place of God, the Scriptures call it whoredom, adultery, and fornication.  Jer. 3:6-9  As the mother of harlots, she dates back to all the abominations of false worship from the beginning of time.

  2. What do you think the many waters she sits on are symbolic of?  (Peoples, multitudes, nations.  17:15)  Jer. 51:13
    Insight: Many dwelling on the earth at that time, along with the kings of the earth, become intoxicated with the great harlot’s wine…the wine of immorality.  The wine of fornication and idol worship always leads to self-exaltation…but this stumbling, drunken race will find themselves confronted by the Lord.  Her wine was bottled and labeled not long after the expulsion from the Garden.  It has been dispersed into every nation under heaven.  Her wine has controlled the thinking of foolish man with a false faith and false worship far too long, and God has had enough of it and so her judgment finally comes.

  3. Following the invitation John was carried away in the spirit into a wilderness where he writes down the description of the great harlot.  What was the world like at the beginning of time and what was the state of the first woman there?  (A garden; a pure virgin.)      From verse 2, what has Satan and sin done to that original state?  (He has turned the garden into a wilderness and corrupted things to the point of a harlot!)
    Insight: Where spiritual harlotry occupies the heart where true worship of God belongs, there is always desolation.  When a false gospel of sensual and devilish wisdom finds it’s way into our soul, it results in a universal wilderness where the beast from the abyss is its government with only a gaudy harlot for its paradise.  A paradise of a wilderness is no paradise…its barren beyond repair!

  4. What do you think the luxurious clothing and jewelry of the harlot symbolize?  (The corrupt religious system at the end will be wealthy and seductive.) 

  5. Not only are the nations of the earth drunk from the harlot’s wine, but also the harlot herself is drunk.  What from?  (The blood of the saints.  17:6)
    Insight: Clearly this indicates the relationship she has with the true church in the final days.  She is at war with them to kill them.

  6. It’s significant to note that the great harlot is carried into the wilderness on the back of the scarlet beast.  If we identify this beast, we will know who she is aligned with.  Who is this best?  (Satan; he carries her into existence to accomplish his purpose of gaining worshipers.)  Rev. 12:3-4, 9; 17:7
  7. What do you think the terminology describing the beast is all about in verse 8? 
    Insight: The beast is Satan.  He “was” on earth, but “is not” because he is about to be bound during the millennial reign of Christ, and he “is about to come up out of the abyss” refers to his release from the pit when he is destroyed by Christ.  Rev. 20:1-3, 7-10

  8. Verse 8 says that all those who dwell on the earth who are not in the Lamb’s book of life will wonder when they see the beast.  Why is that? 
    Insight: Since the middle of the tribulation when the Antichrist set up the image of the beast in the temple, those who bear the mark of the beast have been worshiping an image.  But when he appears on the scene with the great harlot, they are shocked (in wonder) when they see him face-to-face!

  9. The imagery of the heads and horns of the beast is meant to tell us something.  What is it?  (They are  mountains that represent kings that have aligned themselves with Satan at that time.)
    Insight: Mountains are a common scriptural symbol representing a kingdom or empire.  Of these seven royal mountains, five kings have died, one is living, and one has yet to come, and this final one will only have a short life.  This great harlot…a devilish system of adulterous influence upon the nations of the earth…will create the most corrupt union of church and state the world has ever seen.  God will tolerate it only for a very brief time, and then He will destroy it in one hour.

  10. What does verse 11 tell us about the 8th king to come?
    Insight: This 8th king was actually one of the seven; perhaps the last one who comes only for a short time.  Verse 11 tells us the beast is the final king of the earth.  That final king is Satan himself.  But his reign is very short, for he soon goes to destruction.  All earth and heaven will shout a loud “Hallelujah!” when that happens!  Eph. 2:1-2

  11. Verse 12 of our text says the ten horns represent 10 kings who have not received a kingdom.  How can that be? what does that tell us?  (They are puppet kings with puppet power, given by Satan to accomplish his plans…but the plan is cut short {one hour} by Satan’s destruction.)  Dan. 7:7-8, 15-28

  12. What do all these kings unify together to do?  (Two things: to give Satan their power and authority and to wage war against the Lamb.)       Notice it is not under Satan’s administration that these kings give their power to him, but someone else is in control.  Who?
    Insight: It’s a beautiful thing that Jesus is described here with three titles.  His is the Lamb because He came to dies for the remission of sins of man.  He is the Lord of Lords because He has ultimate authority over the entire universe.  And He is the King of Kings because He has destroyed all these kings who came up against Him.

  13. Equally, there are three beautify terms that describe those who stand with Jesus in verse 14.  What do they tell us?
    Insight: They are the “called” because they responded to the call He placed in their heart to come to Him.  They are the “chosen” because He first loved them and He chooses all those who choose Him.  They are the “faithful” because they did not take the mark of the beast but remained faithful to Christ.

  14. According to verse 16, what do these 10 puppet kings do in their short, one-hour reign?  (They strip the harlot of her power and kill her and devour her religious system.) 
    Insight: It’s no little incident that these kings kill the harlot by burning her.  For a long time man has detested the ruin that prostitutes do to families, and thus history is strewn with ashes of those they have burned at the stake.  This great prostitute will also find her fate in the fires of purification.  This is an amazing thing: the harlot is made desolate by the very system that carried her into existence!


            All through history politicians have “used” religion to further their political causes without being truly spiritual in their own heart.  At the same time, history reveals that religious groups have used politics to achieve their own purposes.  The marriage of religion and politics for the purpose of corrupt gain will always spawn children that prostitute the people of God!  When dictators are friendly with religion, it is usually a sign they want to make use of religion’s influence and then destroy it. 

            The only time the marriage of church and state will produce godly offspring is when God Himself is the King of Kings and the spotless bride of Christ are the citizens!

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