The Bible is filled with notorious women.
Whether wicked Jezebel’s, evil Delilah’s, there have been women who have been used of Satan to oppose God and God’s people. They have killed prophets, lied, murdered, oppressed, tricked, extorted, lured and exercised incredible sway in the highest echelons of national power. Sometimes through sheer force of personality, sometimes through seduction, sometimes through cunning, the course of macro-history has been routed by the will of evil woman often enough.
But, their mother is coming. The mother of all evil women, all spiritual prostitutes, will be found in the end-times woman that sits atop the beast.
Beginning in chapter 17 John is invited to see the destruction of this notorious woman, “Come and I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute.” But, her destruction is not what we are shown first. Her destruction is not mentioned again until the 16th verse, all the way at the end of the chapter. In between verse 1 and 16 is a panoramic view of the woman’s relationship with the beast. In the beginning of the chapter we see how their relationship starts out as an alliance, but, by the time we get to the end of the chapter we see the Beast “devours” her. Now this may be explained in large part by the way the woman is described as “sitting” on the beast, riding on his back, giving the impression of control, even exploitation of the beast. She’s the alpha in this partnership. By the end of the chapter the beast turns on her and with very graphic language it describes his destruction of the woman.
Who is this woman? Who is this beast? The beast is the end of the age kingdom of the Antichrist for sure. But, who is this woman? Is it really a human woman? No. Verse 18 says, “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” So, the woman is actually a city, an abominable city. But which city? Jerusalem is called the great city in 11:8. But, so is Babylon. It is highly unlikely this woman is Jerusalem, for this city will not control the kings of the world. Rather, this woman is specifically identified with Babylon in verse 5, and all of chapter 18. We can divide chapter 17 into two halves. The first half explores the profile of this notorious woman up to verse 7. The second half explores the profile of the beast from verse 8 to verse 18.
From chapter 17 we will be given in chapter 18 a detailed report of the aftermath of the woman’s destruction. Now, in these 3 chapters are 3 characters in play: the woman, the beast, and the Lamb. One is going to be the last man standing. The beast destroys the woman, and, the only battle left to occur is that between the beast and the Lamb. This battle is described for us in chapter 19: known as the battle of Armageddon. Chapter 17 verse 14 describes it succinctly, “They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because He is Lord of lords and King of kings”.
So this woman, this notorious woman, will be terminated. But, what will she be like before that? She is coming still, for this world has not seen her yet in her full strength. What can we learn about her profile?
Her Location (v1b, 3a, 15)
Several verses indicate her location. Verse 1 says she “sits on many waters”. John then says in verse 3 that he was carried away in the Spirit by the angel to a desert. So she is in a desert. His next words say, “I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast”. You have to go to a desert to see her, when you see her she’s sitting on many waters, and she is riding a beast. What does this mean?
Well, these are not geographic locations: they are representations. These pictures portray how she has situated herself in the power structure of the world. She’s on top. The waters in verse 1 are explained in verse 15, “Then the angel said to me, ‘The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.” She’s on top of the nations, exercising power on a global scale. She’s on top of the beast, exercising a certain control of the antichrist’s government.
She is a force to be reckoned with, controlling the government and the masses alike. Her location? Not a literally a desert, not literally on waters, not on the back of a literal beast. Her location is on top of the power pyramid.
Her Allure (v2)
Next we see her Allure in verse 2, “With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”
The Bible has been very clear about the intoxicating effect Babylon has had in history and will have in the future. Revelation 18:3 says, “For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries.” Back in the OT, Jeremiah 51:7 says something similar: “Babylon was a gold cup in the LORD’s hand; she made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore they have now gone mad.”
The word “adultery” and “adulteries” translate the Greek word “pornea”, which refers to any and all kinds of sexual sin, not limited to but including adultery. This is not a real human woman, so the acts of immorality are in a graphic way describing the spiritual obsession the world has with the woman. The world won’t be able to resist her allure.
This woman will lure to herself people from across all demographics: from the most powerful rulers on the planet down to the common everyday people. The kings and the inhabitants of the earth. That phrase, “inhabitants of the earth”, we’ve seen used many times so far. It is a phrase referring to the people on earth who reject God, embrace Satan, the Anthchrist and the false prophet, and who’ve taken the mark of the beast and worship his image. They are those who curse the name of God for the punishments coming down from heaven, who hate the 2 witnesses preaching in Jerusalem, and who worship demons. The inhabitants of the earth is a spiritual designation, not simply a geographic one. Those who refuse the mark and who hold to the testimony of Jesus are never referred to as “the inhabitants of the earth.” And they will not be lured to this notorious woman no matter what she tries to seduce them with.
Now remember, she is not a real human woman, but, as mentioned earlier, she is the city of Babylon. She is Babylon, which is to say far more than just a location on a map as well. Babylon is the representation of false worship. To understand the Babylon of the end times, you have to understand the Babylon at the beginning of time. After the flood Noah’s descendents moved eastward until they reached the land of Shinar, a.k.a, “Babylon”. Rather than worshipping the Lord they congregated there and began to build a tower, which the Bible says was in order to make a name for themselves and disobey the command to spread over the earth (Gen. 11:4). In other words, to rebel against God and honor themselves instead of Him. God’s judgment was to confuse their language (“Babel” in the Hebrew sounds like “confused”), and, to scatter them around the earth.
When they were scattered they took their religious adultery with them. Read MacArthur pg 158-159
Her allure historically has been to seduce people away from the true and living God to worship idols and demons. She will be at her peak of power during the Tribulation.
Her Luxury (v4)
From her location and her allure we now see her Luxury. Verse 4 says, “The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.”
She is immensely rich, decorated with such wealth that she might even have made King Solomon’s wealth look like poverty. She lives in obscene luxury. Everything in this verse is projecting the finest the world has to offer: scarlet and purple clothing, beautiful jewelry, glittering gold.
Chapter 18 reveals how she was not only wealthy, but, made many who did business with her wealthy too. Verse 3 says “and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.” What on earth was the woman buying that would make these merchants rich? What were they selling that was so important to the woman – to the city of Babylon. Pickup in verse 11 and follow along with me to verse 19.
The woman was rich, and, you can see her lust for buying everything from hand-carved idols to expensive jewelry all the way to the bodies and souls of men. That is human trafficking, for physical use, and in the occult practices that is enslaving souls of people to demonic powers.
Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money.” This notorious woman, symbolizing the false religion of the end times that will have global power, will not serve God but money. She will live in and for luxury, and, anyone who does business with her will become rich. Great will her appetite be for wanton consumption. The
Her Label (v5)
We’ve seen her location, her allure, and her luxury. Now we see her Label in verse 5, “This title was written on her forehead: Mystery/ Babylon the Great/ The Mother of All Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the Earth.”
Her name was written on her forehead because in ancient Rome it was customary for prostitutes to identify themselves. Peter, in his first letter, ended his letter by saying, “She who is in Babylon sends greetings”, which was a coded way of saying the church in Rome sends you greetings.
Her title identifies her as the city of Babylon, that notorious city of false religion. Chapter 18 verse 2 says that Babylon “has become a home for every demons and a huant for every evil spirit.” From her is spawned all false religious systems, which is why she is the “Mother of All Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the Earth”. She is the source of all false worship and all that is unholy before God. It will all culminate in her revived system of false religion during the end of the age where every abominable practice will be indulged in the name of worship of demons, the Antichrist and even Satan himself.
Her Lust (v6)
Lastly today we see her lust, verse 6 says, “I saw the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore the testimony of Jesus.”
Her passion for persecuting the saints will be unrivaled. It will give her a “high” to shed the blood of those who stand with Jesus Christ. No drug will compare to that of murdering those who worship Jesus.
Those who hate Jesus will hate those who love Him.
Conclusion: John’s Astonishment (v7)