Jesus Wins! – Part 30: High-Class Call Girl

//Jesus Wins! – Part 30: High-Class Call Girl

Jesus Wins! – Part 30: High-Class Call Girl

Rev. 17:1-6

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.

When I saw her, I marveled greatly.[1]

John tells us his reaction to seeing the Harlot of Babylon, the idealized city of man, was that he marveled greatly. The word “marveled” is used of unbelievers’ worshipful adoration of the beast (13:3; 17:8).[2] John comes close to worshipping wealth, power, and beauty of worldly culture. Like Asaph in Psalm 73, John could also say, “I envied the arrogant /when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.[3]

When I think of what Rome would have been like in John’s day, I think it would have been like Western culture at the turn of the 20th century – a time of great optimism. The years 1900 to 1914, like ancient Rome, were days of scientific and cultural advancement. Both were eras of great wealth-building and hopeless poverty. The Industrial Revolution was changing society. The ideas of 17th and 18th-century Enlightenment, with its emphasis on observable knowledge and its de-emphasis of matters of faith and emotion, had become the religion of the secular masses. The possibilities for human achievement seemed endless in this age of airplanes, automobiles, discoveries in physics, chemistry, medicine, engineering, and manufacturing.

The city of man was arrayed in wealth and splendor and there was no end to the optimism. But before the month of July 1914 was even two weeks old, all the major countries of Europe were plunged into war. By August, Asia was involved. By 1917, America entered the conflict. In all, over 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died because of the great human achievements of airplanes, automobiles, chemical research and weapons manufacturing. Mankind was using its achievements to destroy itself.

The great whore of Babylon was tarnished at the turn of the 20th century, and the writers and poets and painters of the lost generation struggled to make sense of the carnage. Many drank themselves to death. Others committed suicide. All searched the rest of their lives for some meaning to the questions of life, the universe, and everything. How could such a promising era, such a great culture, turn to horror before their eyes? That is the trajectory of Revelation 17 and 18. Human culture – personified as a wealthy, beautiful, seductive woman that even the apostle John finds entrancing – becomes pitiful and ugly before John’s eyes until God’s wrath finally destroys her.

Revelation 17 begins another section in the letter that stretches to 19:10. The angel who reveals this vision of the Babylonian Harlot was one of the seven who poured out the bowls of God’s wrath in the previous vision. So, this section is an expansion of the sixth and seventh bowls that foretell Babylon’s judgment. The section begins with the prophetic expression “in the Spirit” and includes the angelic invitation, “Come, I will show you….” We have seen this formula before as a literary device to mark the beginning of a new section. We will see it twice more before the letter ends.

THE GREAT PROSTITUTE

The angel bids John, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”[4]

Before God destroys the economic-religious-cultural system, the city of man, he wants John to see it for what it is. It is an alluring, seductive, and powerful system. To human eyes, it is worthy of worship. To heavenly eyes, it is the murderer of God’s people which promotes the worship of anything and everything other than God in Christ Jesus. We are speaking of worship in its general sense, not so much a church service. By “worship” we mean the things for which we vote with our time, our hopes, our dreams, our money – all our resources.

For her services, the whore of Babylon, the city of man, requires money, time, and devotion. She dictates cultural-religious values, decreeing what is moral and what is not. We live in a very moral culture. Rome was a moral culture. Political correctness is morality. What culture says is good or bad IS morality. But what the city of man considers moral and virtuous is often opposite to the law of God written upon the hearts of all human beings. The city of man decrees, “If it makes you happy, do it; if you want it, pursue it; if it keeps you secure, accrue it. Get all you can, can all you get, and sit on the can.

Satan never invited Adam and Eve to worship him. He tempted them to worship themselves, to pursue self-generated happiness by following their felt needs. That is the religion of the city of man because it is the religion of their father, the devil. That is why John preached to his church in Ephesus, “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.[5] Babylon is a whore because she tempts the world away from Christ and toward the evil one. John notices five things about her: (1) where she is: (2) what she’s doing; (3) how she’s dressed; (4) what her drink of choice is; and, (5) her mysterious name.

First, John encounters the harlot in a wilderness. His transport “into the desert” is “an allusion to Isa. 21:1–2, where a vision from God (so Isa. 21:10) is revealed to the prophet Isaiah and is described as ‘coming from a desert’ (…Rev. 17:3).” [6] Isaiah 21:1-10 is a vision of the historic, literal Babylon where the words, “fallen, fallen is Babylon” are first proclaimed (as they are repeated Rev. 14:8 and 18:2). In this context, the wilderness is a place of judgment for the city of man, that itself will become a wilderness (18:2). The wilderness is a place of physical suffering and spiritual safety for God’s people; for Babylon it is her destiny of desolation.”[7]

John sees her in a desert, yet she is seated on many waters. That color is painted from Jeremiah 51:13 where the literal Babylon was said to be “on many waters” as a reference to their abundance of natural resources. It’s a sign of Babylon’s seeming self-sufficiency. That she is seated is a sign of authority. Kings remain seated. Rabbis remain seated to teach. Sitting is a sign of sovereignty. Being seated means she is in control of all people, even the kings. In 18:7 she proclaims, “I sit as a queen.

Second, John sees her “sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.”[8] It is the persecuting anti-Christ political rule, epitomized in John’s day by Rome. “The scarlet-colored beast is the beast that rose out of the sea in chapter 13 (vv. 1ff.). It is the great persecuting power that rules by brute force and is the supreme enemy of Christ and the church.”[9] The beast-riding harlot depicts the interdependency of worldly economic-religious culture and human government that work together in open rebellion against Messiah Jesus.

Third, John notes how the prostitute is dressed. “The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls….”[10] She is dressed in the garments of aristocracy. But these were also the garments of Israel’s high priest, suggesting the false religion of the world system. “Purple was often used for royal garments (Judges 8:26; Dan 5:7), and scarlet was a color of magnificence (cf. Nah 2:3).”[11] The Israelite whore of Jeremiah has “scarlet dress” (Jer. 4:30) and on her “skirts is found the lifeblood of the innocent” (2:34). Isaiah portrays faithless Israel as a “harlot” whose sin is “as purple … and as scarlet,” which represents “murder,” her “hands” being “full of blood” and her “wine merchants mixing wine with water” (Isa. 1:15–22).[12] She wears costly jewelry. These are allusions to human culture as the source of economic wealth and power, another Old Testament color in our painting. When the Old Testament prophets spoke of Israel’s adultery and prostitution, they were referring to military and economic alliances with pagan nations.

While we could say much about the sexual immorality of our modern culture and make ourselves feel good about our relative morality, the references to kings fornicating with Babylon are primarily about economic alliances drawn from OT prophecies against the wealthy pagan traders of ancient Tyre. Isaiah 23:17 claimed Tyre, “played the harlot with all the kingdoms of the earth” (Rev. 17:2). For Israel, Tyre’s economic domination promoted pagan idolatry in God’s land (see also: Ezek. 27-28).[13] For 1st-century Christians in Roman Asia, having a successful business in the culture frequently required worshipping Caesar and the Roman demon-gods. For modern believers, it can mean appearing as secular as possible to facilitate business or gain acceptability into a group. More basically, it always involves worshipping self over Jesus – pursuing the idols of my felt needs and personal happiness as the culture dictates them to be.

Fourth, John notes that like every high-class call girl the harlot of Babylon has a preferred drink. He sees her, “holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.  …And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.[14] Her drink of choice symbolizes the promise of prosperity, personal and national wish fulfillment. She offers a big, refreshing cup of “your best life now.” The world is intoxicated with the promise of creating its own Eden. Individuals and nations are blind to Babylon’s evil nature and her ultimate insecurity.

They are deceived about God as her future judge and as the only true foundation for true prosperity. The colors here come from Jer. 51:7–8, where historical Babylon is compared to “a golden cup in the hand of the Lord intoxicating all the earth” and where “the nations have drunk of her wine” and “are going mad.” Jeremiah 51:8 abruptly states, “Suddenly Babylon has fallen and been broken.” The wine comes directly from the hand of Babylon but ultimately from the hand of God, as does Babylon’s own destruction.”[15]

The world is intoxicated because they are deceived by the devil and his demonic army we saw unleashed in chapter 10. They are deceived into worshiping idols. Remember that “both OT and NT, including John, think of demons behind idols. Consequently, it is significant that in 16:13–14 ‘unclean’ (ἀκάθαρτος) was used of deceptive, demonic spirits from the devil, the beast, and the false prophet.”[16] The “cup full of abominations and [or “even”] the unclean things of her fornication” means the harlot is promoting demon worship that is behind all the idols of your best life now (18:2, Babylon is a “dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit”). Everything you worship other than Jesus can and will destroy you because there are demons behind every idol. “Abominations” is the common biblical term for idol worship.

John has seen this alluring high-class, wealthy call girl (1) in the wilderness but sitting on many waters (abundant resources). (2) He has seen her riding the sea beast of civil government, indicating her complete control of the world system. (3) He has witnessed her dressed as murderous royalty and adorned with wealth. (4) He has seen her with a cup of intoxicating demonic influence that becomes a cup of the blood of God’s people. Fifth, he her mysterious name: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.”[17] It’s a “name of mystery” because her name is a symbol; it’s not literal but figurative. In the Apocalypse names written on foreheads reveal the true character of people and their ultimate relationship, either to God (7:3; 14:1; 22:4) or to Satan (13:16; 14:9; 20:4).[18] What is the mark of the beast on the forehead? In numeric form it’s 666, the unholy trinity of imperfection. In verbal form it is, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.

The first part of her name comes from Daniel 4:30, where King Nebuchadnezzar surveys his palace and all he controls with great arrogance. “30 The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?[19] As far back as Genesis, the plains of Shinar, the general region of Mesopotamia, have been pictured as a place of rebellion to God, from Nineveh in the north, to Babylon in the central region, to Ur (the birthplace of Abraham) in the south. Before the great flood, Babel was ruled by the warrior Nimrod (Gen. 10:10). In fact, Nimrod establishes the very first kingdom of man there. Babel, on the plains of Shinar, was the place where all post-flood mankind chose to settle in disobedience to God (who told them to scatter and multiply). There they built a tower in an arrogant attempt to make their name and legacy great (just like Nebuchadnezzar would later do).

Not only does her name represent the entire history of unregenerate civilization’s open rebellion to their Creator God, it also explains the nature of that rebellion. She is, “mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.[20] Again, the combination of prostitution and abominations is an Old Testament color referring not merely to sexual sin, but to all idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of ANYTHG other than God in Christ Jesus. It is the attempt to manipulate or control my circumstances for my own wish fulfillment. Idolatry takes a legitimate desire for love, or peace, or security and makes it into something I demand to make me feel happy: “I will only be happy when ____________.”

WHAT THE MOTHER GIVES

What does this mother give to her children? The model for the rebellious world system, the city of man, in John’s day was Rome. Early Christians identified Rome with ancient Babylon (1 Pt. 5:13). Rev. 17:9 speaks of the seven hills, a reference to the seven hills of the great city. Rome was seated on many waters, meaning her empire was vast and her resources plentiful. She brought both political subjugation and economic prosperity wherever she expanded. She brought her demon gods to be added to the local idols of it new citizens. And, on pain of death, she demanded that her culture, her ideals, her leaders be worshipped. John says she “became drunk with the blood of the saints.”

She rules and subjugates in exchange for economic prosperity. But she also infiltrates. Revelation 2:14, 15, and 20 displayed false teachers who had entered the churches of Pergamum and Thyatira enticing God’s people to worship idols. Persecution can make the church strong. But infiltration with false doctrines can rot from within. Only Christ can preserve his people, as we say in 12:13-17 when the ground opened to swallow the flood of false doctrines the dragon spewed into the church. This mother is not very motherly! She appears beautiful, but as we will to see in the rest of this chapter and chapter 18 she and all her children are destined for ultimate destruction.

Revelation has pictured for us two mothers. The immoral woman of chapter 17, proud and powerful and wealthy, is set in contrast to the bride of chapter 21 who also stands as a persecuted “mother” (17:5, 16). In chapter 12, mother church is also attired in glory and delivered into the wilderness for safety until the day Christ returns. Mother church, in chapter 12 is delivered. The mother of all idolatry in chapter 17 is destroyed. One has her security “in heaven” (12:1) and the other in the multitudes and “kings of the earth” (17:15, 18).[21]

The city of man, Babylon the high-class call girl, bids you come and enjoy your best life now. Come be the captain of your fate and the master of your sole. Come and “do you.” Come dance to the music of the demons and seek your self-generated happiness. Over and over and over Messiah Jesus warns us of her ultimate end in judgment so horrifyingly swift and complete that all of heaven stands silent in awe.

Messiah Jesus, through his spotless bride the church, bids you come to him. Trust into him. Worship him and receive all his benefits. He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.[22] The mother of harlots allures with pleasures that lead to demons, despair, and death. Messiah offers life to the full. The mother of harlots gulps the blood of the saints. The only blood Messiah bears is his own, shed in place of his people so that by his death we might have life abundant and eternal. All you worship and pursue that is not Jesus can and will kill you. Come trust into him whom to know is life eternal and sing with the Psalmist:

You have made known to me the path of life; /you will fill me with joy in your presence, /with eternal pleasures at your right hand. [23]

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. [24]

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 17:1–6.

[2] Beale, 852.

[3] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Ps 73:3.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 17:1–2.

[5] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), 1 Jn 5:19.

[6] Beale, 851.

[7] Phillips, 479.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 17:3.

[9] Mounce, 310.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 17:4.

[11] Mounce, op. cit.

[12] Beale, 855.

[13] Beale, 850.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 17:4–6.

[15] Beale, 855.

[16] Id., 856.

[17] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 17:5.

[18] Beale, 857.

[19] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Da 4:30.

[20] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 17:5.

[21] Id.

[22] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Jn 10:10.

[23] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Ps 16:11.

[24] The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), Re 22:17.

By |2018-07-08T20:22:54+00:00July 8th, 2018|blog|0 Comments

About the Author: