(17.2) With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
1. It should be mentioned, at this point, that the false religion that seeks to supplant the worship of the one true and living God is characterized as feminine. I have remarked in the past of the tendency of western Christendom toward effeminacy, and that trend reaches its climax in the completely feminine nature of the false religion.
2. True religion is masculine. The right worship of God is led by men and not by women, and by masculine men and not like the effeminate men who pastor so many churches and who cater to so many of the women who fund parachurch ministries. This is why Paul exhorts all Christians, women included with men, to “quit you like men” in First Corinthians 16.13. This is also why those called to pastoral leadership must be men, according to First Timothy 3.1-5:
is a true saying, If a man
desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.
bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober,
of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a
brawler, not covetous;
that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all
5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
3. When a church loses its distinctive masculinity and becomes effeminate, or tolerates the pretense of promiscuity by the men in the church tending to look like and behave like the promiscuous men in the dominant culture who do not know what godly manliness really is, then that church is moving in the direction of this end time false religious system. Rome is already there. Evangelical Protestant Christianity and the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement, with their offend no one brand of soft leadership, is rapidly moving in that direction. Sadly, fundamentalism, with so many churches having women worship leaders, having so many women teaching young men and even men, and with all of the lightning and thunder gone from the pulpits across America, is not all that far behind.
4. Again, there is a reason why this false religious is characterized as feminine. You want your women to be feminine, make no mistake about that. For example: The longer the hair is on a woman the more feminine it makes her look, something the apostle Paul addressed to the Corinthians. But religion should not be feminine. And spiritual leaders should not be either women or effeminate men.
5. This whore is guilty of spiritual prostitution with the kings of the earth. Friends, any historian would agree that this description parallels Rome’s tendency to bend truth around for the sake of political expediency and profit.
6. And the part about being “drunk with the wine of her fornication”? The power, and the prestige, and the enlarged egos, which are built up has an intoxicating effect on those who participate in this spiritually illicit game.
(17.3) So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
1. I want you to notice that verses 1 and 2 are John’s record of the words spoken to him by one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, describing to John what he is going to show him. In order to show John the scene, the angel must take him to a wilderness. This is a spiritual wilderness. Nothing but moral barrenness surrounds this political-religious system we are about to learn of.
2. The woman in the scene sits on a scarlet colored beast. Now remember, we are looking at something which will take place in the future. This suggests that during the tribulation period the great whore church will ride upon the fortunes of the great political machine of the antichrist, who is here described as the beast.
3. That this beast is political Rome she rides upon, or the revived Roman Empire, is suggested by the fact that the beast is scarlet colored. And not only is scarlet significant as the Biblical color of sin, Isaiah 1.18, but scarlet is also the color of Imperial Rome.
4. That the beast represents the antichrist and his political machine is also shown by “names of blasphemy” and the “seven heads and ten horns” which are already known to be related to the antichrist, Revelation 13.1.
(17.4) And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
1. That the woman is arrayed in purple and scarlet is significant since those are colors frequently and generally used by the Roman Church. These colors are especially used by the bishops and cardinals of Rome.
2. Decked with valuable ornaments refers to this symbolic woman being gilded. As a matter of fact, your marginal reference may use the word gilded. Folks, when something is gilded it is quite different on the outside than it is on the inside. Beauty and wealth are to be seen on the outside of the Roman Church, but what about the heart of this idolatrous system which perverts the gospel of Jesus Christ into a works righteousness scheme? That is another story.
3. Notice also that she has a golden cup in her hand. Of all the religions of the world, which one is personified by the golden cup or the golden chalice? Rome! And that precious and beautiful cup full of what? Abominations and the filthiness of her fornication. We are talking about spiritual adultery here.
4. How on earth can a child of God remain in a religious system that is such a stench in the nostrils of a righteous and holy God like ours? I do not know.
(17.5) And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
1. My, my, my, what we learn in this verse. On her forehead is her name. By the way, in ancient Rome prostitutes oftentimes wore headbands with their names written on them so those who committed fornication with them would know their names. And from her name we shall learn her identity.
2. “Mystery Babylon the Great.” This means that Roman Catholicism is Babylonian religion. “Mother of harlots” identifies this religious system as the fountainhead, the source of spiritual harlotry. Again, this must mean Babylon, the starting place of idolatry.
3. “Abominations of the earth.” This suggests that at least the majority of the abominations of the earth are tied to this religious system. And if you will remember from my introduction to this chapter, I stated that every idolatrous religion in the world can be traced to Babylon as its source and origin.
(17.6) And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
1. This woman, this religious system, is drunk with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus and the saints of God. Are you aware of the conservative estimates of Church historians who place the number of people slain by the Roman Catholic Church in the last 1600 years in the multiplied millions?
2. These are numbers arrived at by historians who investigated the annihilation of villages, cities, regions, sects, movements, etc., to remove Rome’s opponents.
3. Foxe’s Book Of Martyrs tells of Rome surrounding the French city of Lyon and murdering every inhabitant in the city so they would be sure to stamp out the growing Christian movement in the city. How did Rome accomplish that feat? Remember, at that time the Pope had the largest standing army in the world. Something to keep in mind the next time you read John 18.36, where the Lord Jesus said to Pilate, “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”
4. When John saw he wondered with great admiration. He was thunderstruck. He was stunned that such a perversion of Biblical Christianity could have come about. How cleverly the enemies of Christ have taken the name of Christ in order that they might oppose the cause of Christ and slay the servants of Christ.
 See footnote for Revelation 17.5 from John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 2016.