James J. Barker

Lesson 30

Text: REVELATION 17:1-5


  1. The word "Babylon" is found 294 times in the Bible. The first time it is found is in II Kings 17:24, "And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof."
  2. Though the nation of Babylon is not mentioned until the book of II Kings, we see references in the early chapters of the book of Genesis.
  3. Genesis 10:8-10 says, "And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth.  He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar."
  4. Then in the next chapter, Genesis 11, we read about the Tower of Babel.
  5. H.A. Ironside refers to Nimrod as "the arch-apostate of the patriarchal age," and to Babylon as "the fountainhead of idolatry, and the mother of every heathen and pagan system in the world" (Revelation).
  6. Understanding the history of Babylon helps us to properly interpret chapters 17 and 18 of Revelation, which describe the destruction of Babylon in both its ecclesiastical and political forms.
  7. Chapter 17 deals with ecclesiastical or religious Babylon, and chapter 18 deals with political Babylon.
  8. In these two chapters, the last stage of counterfeit religion is revealed as it will be in existence in the period leading up to the second coming of Christ.
  9. The first seven verses in chapter 17 feature a series of visions, and then in verses 7 through 18 we have the interpretation of these visions (cf. 17:12, 15, etc.).
  10. John is shown a vision of the judgment of Babylon, which represents God's judgment upon false religion (17:1). He is shown this by one of the seven angels which had the seven vials (17:1).
  11. John is invited to behold the judgment of "the great whore" (17:1).  In the Bible, the true church is called "the bride of Christ" (cf. 19:7-9; Ephesians 5:22-33), but the false church is pictured as a whore or harlot.
  12. She is seen sitting on many waters (17:1, 15), indicating she is world-wide or ecumenical.  The word "Catholic" means, "universal."
  13. John Walvoord says, "The interpretation of 'waters' is that these are the many nations ruled by Babylon" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  14. In both the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation, there are important prophecies regarding the revival of the Roman Empire.  Today this revived Roman Empire would be in the form of the European Union (EU). Today, all of the leaders of the EU are Roman Catholic, and their position is anti-Biblical.
  15. The EU constitution has banned any mention of Christianity as part of Europe’s cultural heritage, but it includes references to the pagan civilizations of Greece and Rome.  EU government representatives have defended this revisionist view of history by claiming any mention of Christian values would upset the Muslim population of the EU.
  16. The pope is always meddling in the affairs of other countries.  For example, just recently the pope denounced the American economic embargo against Cuba.
  17. And the pope is frequently meddling in the Middle East -- Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and of course in Israel.



  1. The woman is described as having committed fornication with the kings of the earth, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication (17:2).
  2. This is a picture of a wicked religious system guilty of spiritual adultery -- "portraying those who outwardly and religiously seem to be joined to the true God but who are untrue to this relationship" (Walvoord).
  3. The symbolism of spiritual adultery is never used for heathens who do not know God.  It is always used to describe people who outwardly carry the name of God while actually worshiping and serving other gods.
  4. In the Old Testament, the concept of spiritual adultery is frequently used to describe the apostasy and idolatry of Israel (cf. Jeremiah 3; Ezekiel 16 and 23; etc.).
  5. In the Old Testament, Jehovah is described as the husband of Israel (cf. Isa. 54:1-8; Jer. 3:14; 31:32).
  6. In the New Testament the church is pictured as a virgin prepared to be joined to her husband in the future (II Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7-9).
  7. In the meantime, Christians are warned about the danger of spiritual adultery (James 4:4).
  8. The alliance of the apostate church with the political powers of the world "compromises her testimony in every way but has the devastating effect of inducing religious drunkenness on the part of the inhabitants of the earth" (Walvoord).
  9. Unfortunately, to many people Roman Catholicism and liberal Protestantism and heretical Pentecostalism represent New Testament Christianity.
  10. Walvoord says, "False religion is always the worst enemy of true religion, and the moral wickedness involved in the union of the church with the world imposes a stupefying drunkenness as far as spiritual things are concerned. The hardest to win to Christ and the most difficult to instruct in spiritual truth are those who have previously embraced false religion with its outward show of a worship of God. The concept here presented, enlarging on the previous revelation in 14:8, makes plain that the apostate church has eagerly sought and solicited the adulterous relation with the world political powers and therefore is primarily to be blamed."



  1. In verse 3, John is carried away in the spirit into a place described as the wilderness. From this vantage point John is able to see the woman referred to in verse 1 as the great whore.
  2. The great whore is seen seated on a scarlet-colored beast which is full of the names of blasphemy and which has seven heads and ten horns. This scarlet beast is the same one described in 13:1, i.e., the antichrist.
  3. The fact that the woman is riding the beast signifies that she represents ecclesiastical power as distinct from the beast who represents political power.
  4. It is not clear if the whore is controlling the beast, or the beast is controlling the whore (cf. 17:3). Her position is that of riding the beast, indicating on the one hand that she is supported by the political power of the beast.
  5. On the other hand, she is in a dominant role and appears to control and direct the beast. Interestingly, this harlot riding a beast was used when Great Britain issued a stamp to commemorate the first EU parliament election in 1979.
  6. This picture of the harlot riding the beast is now the official picture of the EU, and is painted on the dome of the parliament building in Brussels.  When I visited Italy a number of years ago I noticed it was also on their coins.
  7. This parenthetical section (Revelation 17 & 18) is not in chronological sequence.   It has been pointed out that the situation described here in chapter 17 is probably prior in time to the prophecies in Revelation 13, where the beast has already assumed all power and has demanded that the world should worship him as God (cf. 17:16-18).
  8. The fact that the whore, "representing the apostate church, is in such close association with the beast, which is guilty of utter blasphemy, indicates the depth to which apostasy will ultimately descend. The only form of a world church recognized in the Bible is this apostate world church destined to come into power after the true church has been raptured" (Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  9. The picture of the harlot as arrayed in purple and scarlet and decked with gold, precious stones, and pearls is very familiar to those of us who are acquainted with the worldly ecclesiastical pomp of the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches.
  10. Walvoord says, "Purple and scarlet, symbolically so rich in their meaning when connected with true spiritual values, are here prostituted to this false religious system and designed to glorify it with religious garb in contrast to the simplicity of pious adornment (cf. I Tim. 2:9, 10)" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  11. Alford states, “I do not hesitate therefore…to maintain that interpretation which regards papal and not pagan Rome as pointed out by the harlot of this vision."
  12. In verse 4, the whore has a golden cup in her hand described as “full of abomination and filthiness of her fornication.”
  13. Again I will quote Dr. Walvoord, "The Word of God does not spare words in describing the utter filthiness of this adulterous relationship in the sight of God. Few crimes in Scripture are spoken of in more unsparing terms than the crime of spiritual adultery of which this woman is the epitome. As alliance with the world and showy pomp increase, so spiritual truth and purity decline" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).



  1. Upon the forehead of the woman was written her name described as “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (17:5).
  2. The word "mystery" distinguishes the whore from literal Babylon or historical Babylon.
  3. Walvoord says, "It has been commonly held that the title 'Babylon the Great' assigned to this woman is not a reference to Babylon as a city or to Babylonia as a nation but a religious designation, namely, that the woman corresponds religiously to what Babylon was religiously. The meaning is made clear by her description as 'the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.' It has been noted by many writers that the iniquitous and pagan rites of Babylon crept into the early church and were largely responsible for the corruptions incorporated in Roman Catholicism from which Protestantism separated itself in the Middle Ages" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  4. However, Protestantism has not completely separated itself from Rome.  That is why Protestant ministers often wear colorful robes, baptize babies, and conduct ritualistic and formal services.
  5. Someone said, "If you would take all of the Roman Catholicism out of a Protestant church, you'll wind up with a Baptist church."
  6. As I mentioned earlier, the subject of Babylon is one of the prominent themes of the Bible beginning in Genesis 10, and continuing throughout the Scriptures climaxing here in the book of Revelation.
  7. By studying these various passages, we come to realize that in Scripture Babylon is the name for a great system of religious error.
  8. Babylon is the idolatrous counterfeit religion which plagued Israel in the Old Testament as well as the church in the New Testament.
  9. In the early days of the apostolic era, the spirit of Babylon moved the church from Biblical simplicity to apostate confusion.
  10. Walvoord says, "In keeping with the satanic principle of offering a poor substitute for God’s perfect plan, Babylon is the source of counterfeit religion sometimes in the form of pseudo Christianity, sometimes in the form of pagan religion. Its most confusing form, however, is found in Romanism" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  11. In addition to what we learn from Scripture, ancient historical accounts tell us that the wife of Nimrod, who founded the city of Babylon, became the head of the so-called Babylonian mysteries which consisted of secret religious rites which were developed as a part of the worship of idols in Babylon.
  12. "She was known by the name of Semiramis and was a high priestess of the idol worship. According to extrabiblical records which have been preserved, Semiramis gave birth to a son who she claimed was conceived miraculously. This son, given the name of Tammuz, was considered a savior of his people and was, in effect, a false messiah, purported to be the fulfillment of the promise given to Eve. The legend of the mother and child was incorporated into the religious rites and is repeated in various pagan religions" (Walvoord).
  13. "Idols picturing the mother as the queen of heaven with the babe in her arms are found throughout the ancient world, and countless religious rites were introduced supposedly promising cleansing from sin. Though the rites which were observed in the Babylonian false religion differed greatly in various localities, there usually was a priestly order which furthered the worship of the mother and child, practiced the sprinkling of holy water, and established an order of virgins dedicated to religious prostitution. Tammuz, the son, was said to have been killed by a wild beast and afterward brought back to life, obviously a satanic anticipation of the resurrection of Christ" (Walvoord).
  14. In his excellent commentary on the book of Revelation, John Walvoord notes that "there are a number of allusions to the conflict of the true faith with this pseudo religion.  Ezekiel protests against the ceremony of weeping for Tammuz in Ezekiel 8:14.  Jeremiah mentions the heathen practices of making cakes for the queen of heaven (Jer. 7:18) and offering incense to the queen of heaven (Jer. 44:17-19, 25)...Babylon as an evil woman is portrayed in the prophecy of Zechariah 5:1-11 where the woman of verse 7 is described as personifying wickedness in verse 8" (The Revelation of Jesus Christ).
  15. "The worship of Baal, characteristic of pagan religion in Canaan, was another form of this same mystery religion originating in Babylon. Baal is considered identical to Tammuz" (Walvoord).
  16. "The doctrines of the mystery religions of Babylon seem to have permeated the ancient world, giving rise to countless mystery religions, each with its cult and individual beliefs offering a counterfeit religion and a counterfeit god in opposition to the true God revealed in the Scriptures" (Walvoord).
  17. "The Babylonian cult eventually made its way to other cities including Pergamos, the site of one of the seven churches of Asia. The chief priests of the Babylonian cult wore crowns in the form of the head of a fish, in recognition of Dagon the fish god, with the title 'Keeper of the Bridge,' that is, the 'bridge' between man and Satan, imprinted on the crowns" (Walvoord).
  18. The Roman equivalent of the title, Pontifex Maximus, was used by the Caesars and later Roman emperors, and was also adopted as the title for the bishop of Rome.   To this day, Biblically illiterate worldlings refer to the pope of Rome as "the pontiff."
  19. In the early centuries of the church in Rome, incredible confusion arose; and attempts were made to combine some of the features of the mystery religion of Babylon with the Christian faith, a confusion which has continued down to the present day.
  20. Walvoord says, "It is a sad commentary on contemporary Christendom that it shows an overweening desire to return to Rome in spite of Rome’s evident apostasy from true biblical Christianity. In fact, modern liberalism has far outdone Rome in its departure from the theology of the early church, thus has little to lose by a return to Romanism. Apostasy, which is seen in its latent form today, will flower in its ultimate form in this future superchurch which will apparently engulf all Christendom in the period after the rapture of the church."



  1. According to their catechism and according to statements made over the years by their popes, the Roman Catholic Church professes to be the "only true Church of Christ."
  2. They quote the Nicene Creed, which refers to "the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church."
  3. The Nicene Creed was adopted in 325 AD at the First Council of Nicaea.   One of the purposes for this Council was to formulate a creed, a declaration and summary of the Christian faith, in order to refute the Arians (followers of Arius) and other heretics who denied the deity of Christ.
  4. These various creeds are helpful, but they are not authoritative.  Only the Bible is authoritative, and the Bible does not say there is "one holy, catholic, and apostolic church."
  5. The emphasis in the New Testament is the local church.
  6. Furthermore, if any church claims to be the one true or apostolic church, then their teachings should line up with Scripture.
  7. But the teachings of the RCC contradict Scripture.
  8. Here in this great NYC area we know many, many Roman Catholics.  Many of them think of themselves as Christians.
  9. We must show them what the Bible says.   Jesus said in John 3:7, "Ye must be born again."
  10. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Rev. 18:4).

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