The Harlot in Purple and Scarlet
Who Rides the Scarlet Beast
"One of the seven angels that had the seven bowls came to speak to me, and said, 'Come here and I will show you the punishment given to the famous prostitute who rules enthroned beside abundant waters, the one with whom all the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and who has made all the population of the world drunk with the wine of her adultery'.
He took me in spirit to a desert, and there I saw a woman riding a scarlet beast which had seven heads and ten horns and had blasphemous titles written all over it. ·
The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and glittered with gold and jewels and pearls, and she was holding a gold winecup filled with the disgusting filth of her fornication; on her forehead was written a name, a cryptic name: 'Babylon the Great, the mother of all the prostitutes and all the filthy practices on the earth'. ·
I saw that she was drunk, drunk with the blood of the saints, and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus; and when I saw her, I was completely mystified. ·The angel said to me, 'Don't you understand? Now I will tell you the meaning of this woman, and of the beast she is riding, with the sevenheads and the ten horns" (Rev. 17:1-7).
The harlot is the spiritual city that rules the earth. Born of God, but rejecting that divine origin and scampering off after numberless other gods, she has sold herself to all comers. That is why scripture calls her a prostitute. Surrounded by all the populations of the earth, she is bedecked in scarlet as a sign of her sins and cloaked in purple to show her rule of the world.
She is godlessness (the rule of godlessness on earth).
This spiritual Harlot, which is called "Babylon," (actually "Babylon the Great") rides the beast with seven heads. The sixth of those heads was the pagan Roman empire, with Nero it's figurehead. Confronted by Christ and His saints, the world rule of the pagan Roman empire came to a sudden end. This mortal wound had the effect of changing the rule of the world. The prostitute no longer ruled the earth, Jesus did. That is the meaning of the millenium. For a thousand years, and almost a thousand thereafter, as prophesied, the pagan people of the world converted into the rule of God.
At the end of that period, the mortal wound is prophesied to heal, returning the harlot to her world throne as all the populations of the earth reject the God they had formerly embraced. Then will come the Judgment .
"The woman you saw is the great city which has authority over all the rulers on earth." (Rev. 17:18).
"Here there is need for cleverness, for a shrewd mind: the seven heads are seven hills and the woman is sitting on them. The seven heads are also seven emperors. five of them have already gone, one is here now, and one is yet to come; once here, he must stay for a short while." (Rev. 17:9-10).
"The waters you saw, beside which the prostitute was sitting, are all the peoples, the populations, the nations and the languages." (Rev. 17:15).
"The beast you have seen once was and now is not; he is yet to come up from the Abyss, but only to go to his destruction. And the people of the world, whose names have not been written since the beginning of the world in the book of life, will think it miraculous when they see how the beast once was and now is not and is still to come." (Rev.17:8).
"The beast, who once was and now is not, is at the same time the eighth (head), and one of the seven, and he is going to his destruction. The ten horns are ten kings who have not yet been given their royal power but will have royal authority only for a single hour and in association with the beast. They are all of one mind in putting their strength and their powers at the beast's disposal, and they will go to war against he Lamb; but the Lamb is the Lord of lords and the King of kings, and he will defeat them and they will be defeated by his followers, the called, the chosen, the faithful." (Rev. 17:11-14).
"Now heaven, celebrate her downfall, and all you saints, apostles and prophets: God has given judgment for you against her.' Then a powerful angel picked up a boulder like a great millstone, and as he hurled it into the sea, he said, 'That is how the great city of Babylon is going to be hurled down, never to be seen again." (Rev.18:20-21).
"One of the seven angels...came to speak to me, and said, 'Come here and I will show you the bride that the Lamb has married'. In the spirit, he took me to the top of an enormous high mountain, and showed me Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down from God out of heaven. It had all the radiant glory of God and glittered like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond." (Rv.21:9-10).
All of these verses exist to define, in allegorical terms, two spiritual cities.
We can clearly see that they stand for something far larger than our earthly concept of the word 'city'. They define two entirely different creations and their governments. One is the ruling spirit of this passing world and the other is spirit of the new world that God is making in the heavens.
The new Jerusalem is a spiritual city of righteousness. She is the new creation, the Bride of Christ. Her name can be seen reflected in her allegorical counterpart on earth.
The spiritual city that rules this world, however, is called Babylon. She is the whore; the unfaithful wife. Her cryptic title: Babylon the Great can be found in every city on earth. She is in control of them all. She is a prostitute because she has abandoned the God who created her, giving no thought to Him as she pursues her life of sin.
Because Babylon rules the earth, Jerusalem's people have fallen captive to her, an incarceration that has allowed their holy city to fall into disrepair on earth. By following Christ, the saints have been able to rebuild the city of Jerusalem in righteousness, and God has transplanted her into a new creation in heaven.
Babylon, earth's spiritual ruling city is wicked because she rides the beast. The beast is Satan's right hand, and is represented on earth by seven empires and seven emperors. We can see those seven in the rulers of the earth over the ages - corrupt, wicked, violent, arrogant, in love with money, and at war with Israel.
The characteristic that separates Jerusalem from Babylon is the Gospel of Christ. Jerusalem lives for righteousness and Babylon chases after sin
The Bride of Christ is the living water - the Word of God that springs from the heart of Jesus. She is the mother of righteousness.
The whore, on the other hand, rules the earth. She is the spiritual mother of sin: As scripture says, she is "Babylon the Great, the mother of all the filthy practices on the earth." (Rev.17:5).
There are four allegories reflecting these two spiritual cities in scripture.
Rome & Jerusalem; Vashti & Esther; Hagar & Sarah; and Eve & Mary (Rev. 12:5).
They reflect motherhood.
We can see in these allegories that God has created for our souls, a living and life-giving Spirit to replace our dying flesh. He has made us a new body created in righteousness. It is a body we cannot see now, but which will be visible to us later. It can only be given to a soul that has been cleansed by baptism and repentance. And it can only dwell in a soul that remains clean.
For that reason, God has issued the call for us to leave the spiritual city of Babylon and journey to the new creation (the new Jerusalem). For that journey, God has sent us His Son to lead us out of this world safely by showing us the path to the Tree of Life. It is a journey we make not with our legs, but by conversion alone. These two cities are spiritual and so must our journey be from one to the other.
Our escape from this world is not political and it is not theological. It is spiritual. it involves feeding the poor, being kind to others, loving neighbors and enemies alike, being filled with compassion and love for all mankind. It is a journey that demands the righteous behavior Jesus commanded of us.
The safety of our journey requires that we follow closely in His footsteps, doing exactly as He says, and obeying all of His commandments:
"A new voice spoke from heaven; I heard it say, 'Come out, my people, away from her, so that you do not share in her crimes and have the same plagues to bear. Her sins have reached up to heaven, and God has her crimes in mind: she is to be paid in her own coin. She must be paid double the amount she exacted. She is to have a doubly strong cup of her own mixture. Every one of her shows and orgies is to be matched by a torture or a grief." (Rev. 18:4-7).
"Go away, go away, leave that place, touch nothing unclean. Get out of her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the Lord. But you are not to hurry away, you are not to leave like fugitives. No, the Lord will go in front of you, and the God of Israel will be your rearguard." (Is.52:11-12).
God sent both houses of Israel into the captivity of Babylon so that all on earth would understand that our salvation had to do with escaping the ways of this world. That is why the allegory stresses two different cities Jerusalem leaving Babylon. We have to leave the godless ways of this world behind and the only way we can know what those evils are that we must leave is to listen to Jesus. He alone defined our escape from sin.
And it is not our concept of good or bad that matters here. It is only what God tells us about those two values that counts in terms of eternal life. Only Jesus has the answer to that. The issue here is eternal life, and only He knows how to achieve that. He proved it with His resurrection. That is why our salvation is only in Jesus. His words alone define the path to immortality.
Little of this has anything to do with planetary cities. While Rome and Jerusalem, cities on earth, are often used to illustrate the two concepts, that allegory is casual. On the surface, they illustrate paganism vs the God of Israel, but don't look too deeply into those two cities, because it's only an allegory.
If you probe the allegory below its surface, you will find good and bad exist in both those cities. Not so with the new city of God in the heavens. Probe as deep as you like, you will find no evil there. The allegory leads us to spiritual cities. It leads us to Jesus and His Gospel
Babylon and Jerusalem are spiritual cities. They exist side by side in every city on earth, even in Rome and Jerusalem. The entire population of the planet resides in one or the other of these two spiritual cities, no matter where on earth they happen to live.
This spiritual concept has little to do with human cities (although it will at the end). For now, though, it has only to do with human BEHAVIOR. i.e., righteousness vs sin; good vs bad; terms whose definitions lie only in Jesus.
There are many ways to be "good", but there is only one way to gain eternal life. We have to come to the cross so that we can be forgiven and then we have to carefully follow the path He prescribed.
In the end the final head of this beast that Babylon is riding will sprout ten horns. These reflect the most garish appendages of wickedness in history: a beast (Satan incarnate) and the ten kingdoms that he uses to burn down the creation.
Together, they will destroy Babylon's cities, kill its people, and burn the rest of this creation in the fire:
"But the time will come when the ten horns and the beast will turn against the prostitute, and strip off her clothes and leave her naked; then they will eat her flesh and burn the remains in the fire. ·In fact, God influenced their minds to do what he intended, to agree together to put their royal powers at the beast's disposal until the time when God's words should be fulfilled." (Rev. 17:16-17).
At the terminus of this conflagration, life in the first creation will come to an end.
And when it does, God will begin it all anew in His eternal city.
In all this, Jerusalem reflects the people of God: first astray, then led to righteousness by Christ.
And at the very end, Rome will reflect Babylon (it may even become Babylon), born into evil, briefly converted, and then returning to evil in the end.
And finally, Jerusalem reflects the eternal city of God in heaven. That city, rebuilt by the deeds of the saints, is to be our true mother and it is there that Christ will rule forever.
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