Aiming At The Wrong Target
When I was a young convert, one of my mentors, an evangelist who once had 20/20 vision, shared his story of how he became blind. He was the subject of mistaken identity. A gunman believed he fit the description of someone else they were targeting, and shot him in the face, causing him to go blind. However, his mind was unaffected. He was literally, a walking Bible and excellent communicator.
Mistaken Identity of the Catholic Church
Due to long held traditions and a result of persecution, many Protestant churches and interpreters searching to solve the enigmatic riddle of the Mother of Harlots in Revelation 17, erroneously interpret the woman riding the beast as as symbol of Popery or a reference to the Catholic Church. Many continue this faulty reasoning until this day. I am not an adherent of Catholicism nor am I seeking to defend it, but only to properly interpret the context and meaning of a Bible text.
Examining the Evidence
MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
The evidence for assigning the symbolism of this woman to the Catholic church is inexcusable. The facts by which to determine who she really is are quite evident.
The Marriage/Harlot Theme Relationship of God and His Covenant People
Marriage is the term God used to describe his relationship with his people:
'I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal, when you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holiness to the Lord, the firstfruits of His increase.' (Jer. 2:2-3)
God calls attention to his people who entered a covenant with him at Sinai, having left Egypt and journeyed through the wilderness to serve him. After giving them the land, he says they "defiled it" and made his heritage an "abomination". (Jer. 2:7)
By saying the land had not been sown, he refers to Canaan as not yet having provided the "fruit of a righteous seed". Thus, by God planting Israel in the land, the first generation who entered the land under Joshua became the "firstfruits" in covenant with him in the land.
The time of the wilderness journey when they were "baptized into Moses" is the time of their betrothal (loosely what we may call an engagement). The marriage consummated when Israel entered the land, thus producing holiness in the land. However Israel committed idolatry (spiritual adultery) with the nations of the land.
For these and other reasons, God brought formal legal charges against Israel for breaking the covenant. They were guilty of harlotry.
"Has a nation changed its gods, which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory for what does not profit." (Jer. 2:11). In the remainder of the chapter, God builds his case against Israel for going after the god's of Egypt.
Next, she is charged with being a harlot.
They say, 'If a man divorces his wife, and she goes from him and becomes another man's may he return to her again?' Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; yet return to Me' says the Lord. (Jer. 3:1)
Jeremiah cites the example of the Northern Kingdom under king Josiah who also committed harlotry and refused to repent. He gave the northern kingdom a "certificate of divorce" then chided Judah (the Southern Kingdom) saying, "yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also, defiling the land through harlotry with stones and trees. (Jer. 2:8-11). The reference to stones and trees means idols made of men's hands.
Therefore, the motif of marriage and harlotry described the relationship God had with his covenant people Israel. There certainly was no Roman Catholic church or Pope in the 6th century B.C. when Jeremiah wrote these words. This same imagery of God and Israel continues through the new testament in the epistles and particularly in Revelation.
Several Clues Help To Identify The Harlot in Revelation
1. The clothing of the harlot made of scarlet, purple, gold and precious stones, denotes the imagery of Israel's tabernacle/temple, (Ex. 36:8, 11, 37:23-24, 39:6-17) The tabernacle was the "covenant clothing" or covering of Israel (Ezk. 16:10-15).
2. The woman in Revelation 17 is a queen (royalty), indicative of being married to a king, (Ezk. 16:13, Rev. 18:7)
3. She has a golden cup full of abominations, harlotry and the blood of the martyred saints of Jesus, (Rev. 17:4, 6) Jesus charged Jerusalem as the murderers and persecutors of the saints. He said all the righteous blood shed on the earth was shed by their fathers and would soon be shed by them. As a result, he would bring judgment on that generation. (Matt. 23:33-37). Scholars are unanimously agreed this refers to Jerusalem's destruction in A.D. 70.
4. She is called the great city, (17:18; 18:10, 16, 18-19, 21) identifying her with the "great city where the Lord was crucified" pointing to Jerusalem. (Rev. 11:8) Jesus was not crucified in the Catholic church nor ever set foot in Rome, but in Jerusalem, Lk. 13:33, 24:18-21). He said, it could not be that a prophet perish outside of Jerusalem indicating where he would die. After his death, the disciples confirmed he was crucified in Jerusalem, Lk. 24:18-21).
5. She is burned by the ten horned image (the 4th beast of Daniel's vision, 7:7; Rev. 13:1) who hates her and burns her with fire, (Rev. 17:18) This accords the statement of Rev. 11:2, that Jerusalem would be trodden down of the Gentiles. According to Christ, this is the Roman army used as God's agents to destroy the nation which rejected and crucified Christ, persecuted the saints and refused as a nation to repent. (Lk. 21:20-24).
6. In her was found the blood of the prophets and of all who were slain upon the earth (land). Earth in Revelation is better rendered "land" and is usually a reference to Palestine. For those who assign the Mother of Harlots to Rome or the Catholic church, they must explain how either murdered the O.T. prophets when Rome wasn't founded until 63 B.C. That was before Christ's death so there certainly could not have been a Pope or Roman Catholic church.
When Jesus charged Jerusalem as being a brood of vipers and the sons of those who killed the prophets, he could be speaking of none other than the city which was married to the Lord and in a covenant relationship with him.
7. The time was at hand for Jerusalem to be destroyed, Rev. 1:1, 3. This marks the time of judgment for the once queen and wife of God who had turned harlot to be in harmony with Jerusalem's fall in the first century by the Romans. It is God's judgment on the Southern Kingdom of Judah, his former wife. (Rev. 19:2)
God is the judge of nations as well as individuals. Nations who lift up their hearts in pride and rebellion should take warning from ancient Babylon and this "Mystery Babylon of Revelation. For a more thorough study on the identity of Mystery Babylon see "Who Is This Babylon by Don K Preston, available at the authors website, DonKPreston.com or Amazon.com