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The Revelation - Book 7

A study of Revelation 17-19. This is book 7 of an 8 part book series.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 1

The Harlot

The fall of Mystery Babylon, which is depicted as a great harlot, is covered in considerable detail in Revelation 17-19 leading to the second coming of Christ. Revelation 16 records (and prophesies) the legal complaints lodged against Babylon in the divine court, along with the verdicts decreed against the city. The next three chapters give us details of the fall of the harlot-bride and the rise of the true bride, the New Jerusalem.

Revelation 17:1, 2 begins by saying,

1 And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I shall show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.”

The sequence of decrees against Babylon reached a climax at the end of Revelation 16. Now an angel calls John aside to give him more specific details about the identity of the great harlot and to show him the manner of her fall from power. John was non-specific, but he tells us that this angel was one of the seven who poured a bowl of wine upon Babylon (Rev. 15:7). My own revelation indicates that this was actually the first of the seven, known to me as the Redemption Angel.

The Redemption Angel reveals all of the information in chapter 17, culminating in Rev. 17:18, which says,

18 “And the woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”

In other words, Babylon is pictured as a woman, a harlot, and a city. The woman is not a literal woman, although in the types and shadows of past prophecy, Jezebel stands out as a main representative of this harlot. Even the “city” itself is figurative, because it is more than a city. The ancient city of Babylon was a type of an entire world system. Yet these biblical metaphors are important from a legal standpoint, because they invoke certain laws by which harlots and cities may be judged.

One such law, as we have already explained, is the law of redemption as applied to urban property in Lev. 25:29, 30, 31. Buying urban property gives the previous owner a one-year right of redemption. Babylon is a city. So this law prophesies the manner in which the Redemption Angel overthrows Babylon. In a sense, the arnion (Christ and His body) have purchased urban property. In fact, they have purchased (or redeemed) the entire city, which means that certain laws must be followed.

When we held our Jubilee Prayer Campaign on November 21-29, 1993, we understood that we were “purchasing urban property” and this is how we knew that we would see the actual results one year later (Nov. 29, 1994). This waiting period coincided with and was supported by the prophecy in Dan. 4:29. The same principle applied in October 2014 when the transfer of authority gave jurisdiction over the earth to the overcomers at the end of the “seven times” of divine judgment. We knew that we would have to wait another year to allow the “city” its redemption rights in case they might redeem their property.

While some may think all of this to be absurd, we must remind everyone that the law prophesies, because it is the guideline by which God judges men, nations, and the world itself. Any time we speak of divine judgment, it should be understood that God judges by His law, not by the laws of men. Therefore, His law is more than just a moral standard for men to follow; it is also prophetic, because it sets forth the parameters of divine justice when the divine court issues its rulings.

As we will see later, other angels besides the Redemption Angel have their role in this divine judgment. There were seven who poured out the bowls of wine and judgment. In Revelation 17-20 we see four angels participating in the judgment: the Redemption Angel in 17:1, an “angel having great authority” in 18:1, and “a strong angel” in 18:21, and finally, an angel “having the key of the abyss” in 20:1. We will say more of these as we proceed.

The Great Harlot

The Redemption Angel is the first to identify Babylon as a harlot in Rev. 17:1. She “sits on many waters,” and this is later interpreted in Rev. 17:15,

15 And he said to me, “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.”

Hence, just as the harlot herself is not literal, neither are these waters on which she sits. The metaphor is seen in Isaiah 57:20, 21,

20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet; and its waters toss up refuse and mud. 21 “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

As long as the nations are in rebellion against the Creator and the Messiah, refusing to be ruled by the divine law, there can be no lasting peace. There can be only one law, and it is only when the Prince of Peace rules that we will enter an era of peace. This is prophesied in Gen. 49:10 in the prophecy of the coming of “Shiloh,” a word that is based on shalom, “peace,” and speaks of a peacemaker. The Prince of Peace is pictured later by Solomon and his peaceful reign.

The harlot not only sits on “many waters,” but also is seen “sitting on a scarlet beast” in Rev. 17:3,

3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.

The scarlet beast, then, is the equivalent of the waters. The difference is that the waters speak generally of the nations in turmoil, while the scarlet beast seems to speak more specifically of a group of nations. That this is the same woman as in verse 1 is evident in verse 5, where we see her labeled on her forehead. She is not only a “great harlot,” but is also “the mother of harlots.” She runs a kind of spiritual brothel for the kings of the earth.

Redeeming the Harlot

The harlot metaphor invokes specific laws by which Babylon is judged. The prophets speak of idolatry as adultery and harlotry. Idols are also called “abominations” in 2 Kings 23:13, where the Septuagint uses the same Greek word (bdelugma) that John uses in Rev. 17:4. To worship idols or false gods was to commit adultery against the God who had married Israel at Sinai.

Hosea was a prophet to the House of Israel, whom God (Christ) had married. Hosea married a harlot (Hosea 1:2) in order to illustrate God’s failed marriage with Israel. His life experience set a prophetic precedent for future things—the great divorce (Hos. 2:2). He sent her out of the house (Hos. 2:14), but later redeemed her from bondage (Hos. 3:1, 2).

We see in Hosea the story of the redemption of the harlot, and this forms the backdrop for the book of Revelation as well, though few have eyes to see past the time of judgment. Yet it is the Redemption Angel who reveals these things to John and who also initiates the judgment in the first bowl of wine. His ultimate purpose is to redeem not only the House of Israel, but all that was lost in Adam—that is, the whole earth. Meanwhile, however, as with Hosea’s wife, there is a time of divine judgment which is the main theme on the surface of Revelation 17-20.

Marriage and the High Priest

Jesus Christ is our High Priest after the Order of Melchizedek (Heb. 7:17). Rev. 21:9 also speaks of “the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” The fact that our High Priest (along with His body) has a wife brings up certain legal requirements that appear to be an impediment to such a marriage. Lev. 21:13-15 specifies what type of woman a high priest is allowed to marry:

13 And he shall take a wife in her virginity. 14 A widow, or a divorced woman, or one who is profaned by harlotry, these he may not take; but rather he is to marry a virgin of his own people; 15 that he may not profane his offspring among his people; for I am the Lord who sanctifies him.”

Scripture makes it clear, especially in the book of Hosea, that the House of Israel was a harlot and therefore ineligible as a wife of our great High Priest. Furthermore, Hosea 2:2 and Jer. 3:8 speak of Israel’s divorce, again making her ineligible. The law itself in Deut. 24:4 forbids a man to take back his former wife whom he has divorced lawfully. There are many laws that raise barriers against Israel’s eligibility to remarry her original Husband.

Yet Christ has a bride, and Hosea 2:19 says that Christ will again “betroth” her to Himself “in righteousness.” How can He do this without violating His law? The answer was not clearly revealed until Christ died on the cross and was raised again as a New Creation. This biblical enigma was covertly revealed by Isaiah, though hardly understood until centuries later. Isaiah 53 speaks of the death of the Messiah, and in the next chapter God calls Israel a “widow,” saying in Isaiah 54:4-7,

4 “Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; neither feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. 5 For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the Lord [Yahweh] of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth. 6 For the Lord has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,” says your God. 7 “For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you.”

Here Israel is pictured as a widow, whose husband is Yahweh of hosts, “the God of all the earth.” God had forsaken Israel “for a brief moment,” on account of her adultery, but in the end “with great compassion I will gather you.” This was accomplished by a law hardly contemplated by the scribes and Pharisees in their messianic debates. Divorce papers end marriage contracts (Deut. 24:1-4), but so also does death. Rom. 7:2 says,

2 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning her husband.

Therefore, when Jesus Christ died, many things happened. First, Israel became a widow. Second, Israel was released from her Old Covenant marriage at Sinai. Third, Christ Himself, who had been Israel’s Husband, became a New Creation and was thereafter legally recognized as another Person. As such He was eligible by law to marry His former spouse, for the law saw no violation of Deut. 24:4 in this.

There are so many different facets of law and prophecy that are playing out at the same time that it is difficult to separate them all. Israel was divorced, but because Judah and Israel had split into two nations, the Judah portion was not divorced from God.

The prophecies of the House of Israel usually follow the divorce theme, and her problem was that the law forbids a man to reclaim his divorced wife. Judah, however, was still technically “married” when Jesus Christ died on the cross. Even though Judah had been in rebellion against Christ while hypocritically giving lip service to the law, God could not divorce Judah without endangering the legal status of Christ who yet had to be born through her. If God had divorced Judah and then later begat Christ through his ex-wife, Jesus would have been legally illegitimate.

Judah became a widow after she killed her Husband. She needed no divorce, because her Husband was already dead, so this, I believe, is why the New Testament says nothing about giving (fleshly) Judah a divorce. Nonetheless, she was cast out of the house in 70 A.D.

When Christ rose from the dead as a New Creation, He began to prepare for another great marriage. Those who love Him and have faith in Him as the Mediator of the New Covenant are eligible to marry Him at the wedding in Rev. 21:2, 3. This is the manner in which He will fulfill His promise to Israel, but this time the nation of Israel will be enlarged to include anyone who immigrates to the Kingdom of God (Isaiah 56:6, 7, 8). Isaiah says that all immigrants are given equal rights in the Kingdom, because even natural-born Israelites have to come into the New Covenant in the same manner—by faith in Christ. There is no difference, no exemptions, and no privileged people.

All true believers, by definition, have died legally, for Paul says in Rom. 6:7, “he who died has been justified from sin” (The Emphatic Diaglott). In other words, one cannot retain the old man and expect to be a citizen of the Kingdom. The old man must die and the new man must be begotten by the Spirit in order to be eligible to receive this Kingdom inheritance. Those who think the old flesh man (Adam or Israel) will inherit the Kingdom are trying to claim the inheritance for the “harlot.”

The harlot is a counterfeit bride, whose children believe that she is the mother of the inheritors. The harlot takes many forms, all ruled by the flesh through the Old Covenant. Babylon and Jerusalem are two major forms of the harlot. But they are being cast down even now and exposed by the Redemption Angel.

The Harlotry of Flesh

As we have already shown, harlotry takes more than one form. Idolatry is harlotry when viewed in the light of being unfaithful in one’s marriage to God (Christ). On a national scale, ancient Israel often condoned spiritual adultery or harlotry whenever the kings condoned idolatry as part of the national religion. Harlotry, then, is an accurate description, whether we apply it to one’s personal life or to national life. The difference is that when the nation becomes a harlot, some individuals remain true to God, even if the majority are unfaithful by following the lead of the government.

On the deepest individual level, “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23), and therefore all are guilty of harlotry. In other words, all have violated their Old Covenant oath to be obedient to God’s laws. Since the Old Covenant was a marriage covenant, in which Israel took “marriage vows,” any violation of the law is harlotry and spiritual adultery.

Since no one could be justified by their own will—their own vow of obedience—God instituted a second covenant that was guaranteed to succeed. The New Covenant was God’s vow to work in our hearts to change our very nature. We would become law compliant, not because we made vows with good intentions, but because God vowed to make it happen. Hence, the New Covenant is based on “the promises of God” (2 Cor. 1:20).

It is only when we see the promises of God in contrast to the promises of men that we can begin to understand the difference between the Old and New Covenants. Only the New Covenant can release us from personal harlotry.

The Old Covenant is a vow that the “old man” (Adamic nature) makes with God. The New Covenant is entirely different, though many think it is God’s promise to help the old man fulfill his vows and thereby become perfected. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Under the New Covenant a “new man” is begotten by the Spirit within our hearts, creating an entirely new identity that has a heavenly Father and an earthly mother. Although the “mother” is still Adamic, the Father’s seed that begets him is spiritual. Inheritance is passed down through one’s father, and so Adam’s liability for the first sin is passed down through the natural sperm of our Adamic identity—that is, the fleshly “old man.” The death penalty is the only thing that Adam’s seed can inherit by its identification with the first sinner.

However, the “new man” (KJV) or “new self” (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10) is begotten by spiritual seed from the Spirit of God. Having God as his Father, “he cannot sin” (1 John 3:9), for it is not in his nature to do so. Therefore, each “new man” as well as the corporate New Creation Man are fully compliant with the laws of God, not out of compulsion, but because they “joyfully concur with the law of God” (Rom. 7:22). In other words, the new man is incapable of acting as a harlot, while the old man cannot help himself.

The High Priest Must Marry a Virgin

In Lev. 21:14, 15 the high priest is commanded to “marry a virgin of his own people, that he may not profane his offspring among the people.” When we apply this law to our own great High Priest of the Melchizedek Order, we see that it would be unlawful for Him to marry anyone other than a virgin—no harlots, no widows, no divorced women. But Israel in the flesh became disqualified on every count to marry Christ. Hosea says Israel was a harlot, Isaiah says she was a widow, and Jeremiah says she was divorced. Yet Israel was given the promises of God, and Isaiah 62:4, 5 says to them,

4 It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,” nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”; but you will be called “My delight is in her,” and your land, “Married”; for the Lord delights in you, and to Him your land will be married. 5 For as a young man marries a virgin, so your sons will marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you.

Many other prophets, including Hosea, affirm this. But how can God remarry Israel and yet be true to Himself—that is, to His own law, which comes out of His righteous nature? Once Israel in the flesh became a harlot, a widow, and a divorced woman, she was forever disqualified as the bride of Christ. In her Adamic flesh she could never reverse course and become a virgin again. The New Covenant, however, offers a change of identity, an opportunity to become a New Creation, having a different Father, and thus avoiding the death inheritance from Adam.

How to be a Virgin

Those who place their faith in Christ—that is, in the promises of God, rather than in the promises of men—are begotten of God. This new man is not the outer man of flesh that walks this earth. Paul calls him “the inner man” (Rom. 7:22). He says also in 1 Cor. 15:50 that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Those who hold up their flesh as the basis of their claim to an inheritance in the Kingdom have a misplaced faith. Faith in flesh is not the kind of faith that can justify anyone. Faith in flesh only bestows the death penalty as part of Adam’s body.

The great harlot of Revelation 17 is primarily an oppressive world system based on fallen man that ultimately traces back to the sin of Adam. It is the corporate manifestation of Adam in all of its worst attributes, the harvest-ready fruit of corruptible seed. Yet we should never lose sight of the fact that this political-economic-social-judicial-religious harlot was made possible only by many individual flesh-creatures playing their role as little harlots.

In other words, no one can escape the fact that the great harlot of Revelation 17 is closer than we care to admit, for we all have two natures: fleshly and spiritual. In our lack of understanding, we all tend to identify with the flesh, saying, “I am of Adam,” or “I am of Israel” or “I am of Abraham” or “I am of this or that denomination.” We think that if we can just identify with great men or organizations of the past, we can somehow escape the sentence of death (mortality) that comes with such fleshly genealogy. That is the great illusion, the blindness, the veil that is spread out over the whole earth (Isaiah 25:7, 8).

Because the flesh man, tainted by Adam’s sin, has lost its virginity, our only hope is to become a new creation. The path of the Old Covenant cannot undo the loss of virginity. Only the New Covenant provides us a way to do this, and that holy seed which is begotten of God cannot lose its virginity to anyone other than its Husband, the great High Priest of the Order of Melchizedek. In this way the law is fulfilled, and the offspring of Christ and His bride are not profaned (i.e., they are not illegitimate).

And so, as we have already noted, the overcomers in Rev. 14:4 are “virgins” (KJV) and thus are eligible to marry the High Priest as the bride of Christ.