And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. Revelation 17:1-6 (KJV)
Bill Dudley, a Missouri Baptist Pastor, and Evangelist has written some notes on the Revelation. I am going to quote him here.
“In his book THE TWO BABYLONS, Alexander Hislop traces the development of Mystery Babylon through the centuries to the present time.
NIMROD was the founder of Babel (Gen. 10-11), and the kingdom of Babylon. His wife’s name was SEMIRAMIS. In Gen. 3:15 God had promised to deliver the race through the “seed of the woman”. Because of this promise, when NIMROD’S wife, SEMIRAMIS, gave birth to a son, she said he was miraculouly conceived by a sunbeam and she preseented him as the promised deliverer of the earth.
Continuing Dudley’s words… “The son’s name was TAMMUZ. When TAMMUZ was grown, so the story goes, a wild boar slew him; but after forty days of his mother’s weeping, he was raised from the dead. This ancient story of SEMIRAMIS and her son, TAMMUZ is the origin of the cult of mother/child worship that has spread throughout the whole world.
In ASSYRIA and NINEVEH she is called ISHTAR and her son was still known as TAMMUZ.
In PHOENICIA she was called ASTARTE or ASHTEROTH, and her son, still TAMMUZ.
In EGYPT she was called IRIS and her son is OSIRIS or HORUS.
In GREECE she was called APHRODITE, and her son was called EROS.
Among the ROMANS she was called VENUS, and her son was called CUPID.
As this mother/child worship spread through the earth, she was worshiped by the offering of a wafer (a little cake) to her as the queen of heaven. The worship always included forty days of Lent, of weeping over the destruction of TAMMUZ, before the feast of ISHTAR, at which time his resurrection was celebrated. The sign of TAMMUZ was an ISHTAR egg, a symbol of his restoration to life.
The Old Testament prophets rebuked the mother and child cult. In JEREMIAH 44:19-30 he rebukes the people for worshiping the queen of heaven and in EZEKIEL 8:5-18 the prophet sees the people, v. 14, observing the forty days of Lent during which they afflict themselves and weep for TAMMUZ, the child that was slain by the wild boar.
This ancient worship of the mother and child passed down from BABYLON to ASSYRIA, to PHOENICIA, to PERGAMOS, and finally, to ROME.
In ROME the Emperor was PONTIFEX MAXIMUS, the high priest of all the idolatrous systems of the Roman Empire. When there were no more Roman Emperors the title of high priest of the rites and mysteries of the cult of mother and child, the Babylonian mystery religion, was assumed by the BISHOP OF ROME.” pp. 55 & 56 of Bill Dudley’s notes.
In these verses, we have a description of religious Babylon.
In the book of the Revelation there are four women of four different visions who have a relationship with religion:
- In the letter to the church in Thyatira “Jezebel” was a false prophetess corrupting the church in the city of Thyatira (2:20);
- In 12:1-6 the mother of the man-child was the nation of Israel, the people of the Old Covenant;
- In our present chapter, Babylon is seen as a religious system centered in man rather than God – a woman riding the beast, and the beast being the government of man;
- And, in 21:9, the Bride of Christ represents the saints of the Church joined to Christ who redeemed them.
This false religious system is seen sitting “upon many waters”. NOTE: In most other cases water, in the Revelation, is to be taken literally, but here, the text itself gives it a symbolic meaning by its interpretation of verse 15.
This shows how false religion has covered the earth and influenced and condemned many to destruction.
Verse 2 has this “harlot” in an act of spiritual adultery. God has accused, and rightly so, Israel of being a harlot (Hosea). Spiritual adultery is the pretense of worshipping the one true God in ceremony, while at the same time honoring other gods in heart. Other gods can be our own wishes and desires and over The one true God’s word, will, and way.
In this case, the “whore” has power in government. She has sold out every spiritual principle for political power (1 Kings 21:20). Our verses here describe her as riding a “scarlet colored beast”. This beast represents government, and by its color, an evil government – scarlet represents the devil.
This “great whore” is seen as full of wealth (v. 5). She is also seen as a “mystery”. A mystery only those to whom God gives the interpretation can understand. It is godly wisdom that causes understanding. She is proud to even call herself, “THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATION IN THE EARTH” – Religious Babylon (Babel). There has always been an attempt to join all religions. The apostate religions of earth want the Church to join with them, to lay aside the truth of sin, Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, the ascension, the second coming and be in unity with them. The apostate church accepts all beliefs.
In the minds of many who profess the label of Christianity, it is completely acceptable to join with those who defame, defraud, and blaspheme the name of Jesus Christ, and in the name of unity, peace, and humanity. It is not. There is solely one way of salvation, and that is through God’s grace displayed on Calvary’s cross, His burial, and resurrection.
The “Inhabitants of the earth” of verse 2, remember, are those whose hearts and minds are tied to the earth, material things, and not to God and godly things. These want to live for themselves, and God has no part of life.
This “MOTHER OF HARLOTS” is guilty of shedding the blood of God’s saints. John is astonished. He knows about persecution, but it has come from the government. However, what he saw was the apostate church – professing to know Christ – in the end time, drunk on the blood of the saints of God. Religion without faith in Christ is dead and will lead to eternal death.