14 – Jerusalem ‘The Harlot’ is Betrayed (Revelation 17)

Home Learning Hub Reflections in Revelations 14 – Jerusalem ‘The Harlot’ is Betrayed (Revelation 17)

Here we see the relationship between the two beasts, Rome and Jerusalem. The great prostitute, Jerusalem, was seated on many waters, meaning she was seated on pagan Rome, with whom the rulers of Israel committed fornication. This may be symbolic fornication, that is treachery against the love of God, for the sake of gain, as well as referring to actual sexual immorality.

The next part of the vision resembles, again, the vision of Ezekiel, who was carried to Jerusalem to see the sins of idolatry in the temple of his own day. John was carried into the wilderness to witness the sins of Israel. The wilderness may represent the place where Israel first prostituted against God, after the Exodus. It may also represent the place where Jesus was tempted in the same way, to embrace beastly power to rule Jerusalem. But it was here that John saw the woman sitting on the beast.

The beast was scarlet, which was the colour of the Caesar, and had seven heads and ten horns, and was filled with blasphemy. The woman was also purple and scarlet, which were the colours of the priesthood and her cup of abominations was full, as Jesus said of Jerusalem. She was called “Babylon,” and she was drunk in the blood of the martyrs of Jesus, which signifies again that this was Jerusalem. The woman “sitting on the beast and on the waters” meant that Jerusalem used Roman/ gentile power to rule and prosper, and to persecute the church. We see this all through the book of Acts.

John was told that the seven heads of the beast represent seven kings, “five of which had fallen, one was, and one was to come.” It is likely that the first of these kings was Julius Caesar, the first of the Caesars. Up until Julius, Rome was ruled by the senate. Julius was the first to exercise a emperor rule, as a dictator. Rome then changed from a republic into a dictatorship. When John wrote Revelation, Nero was ruling as the sixth in this line of dictators.

After Nero, came Galba and he only ruled for short time. At Nero’s death, Rome was plunged into civil war, “the year of the four kings.” These kings went to destruction in the breakdown of Rome.

This is probably what was meant as “the beast which received a mortal wound and yet lived.” Or, “the beast which was, and is not, and is to come.” The world marvelled that this beast, the Roman Empire, which looked dead, had been brought back to life. Emperor Vespasian, ruling from AD 69, brought Rome back to the former glory. He continued his campaign to bring Jerusalem and Judea into subjugation.

Then John was told that the ten horns of the beast represent ten kings, who gave their authority to the beast. This might not be literally ten kings in number, but representative of kings in the wider Roman sphere of influence, that were subjugated to Rome.

Their forces joined the Roman forces in their military campaigns, including the Roman campaign against Judea and Jerusalem. They also make war on the Lamb, that is, his church, and the Lamb conquers them, as the church finally did prevail and renew the Roman pagan world.

All this was a repeat of the vision of Daniel 7, in which the Roman beast was cast into the fire, and Christ and his saints reigned over the earth, in a new heavenly rule. Those cast into the fire were Nero and the rulers that followed him, not Rome itself, which survived, until it was transformed, in part, by the church.

“And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.” Rev 11:8 had already designated Jerusalem as this “great city.” It was great as the centre of God in the world, under the Old Covenant. It was great in wealth. It was great in its buildings, walls and fortresses. The temple is one of the wonders of the ancient world.

In Revelation, “the kings of the earth” refers to the land of Israel.

Josephus could be quoted at length, describing the extent of Jerusalem’s greatness and rule, which was garnished from its relationship with the Roman beast, over the kingdoms of the land of Israel, including Judea, Galilee, Samaria and Pera. “Nor indeed is Judea destitute of such delights as come from the sea, since its maritime places extend as far as Ptolemais: it was parted into eleven portions, of which the royal city Jerusalem was the supreme, and presided over all the neighbouring country, as the head does over the body.” (Wars 3.3.5)

Then John was told that the beast will hate the harlot and turn against her and burn her with fire. This was the Roman destruction of Judea and Jerusalem, Armageddon. This shows that “Babylon” wasn’t referring to Rome. Babylon was not the Roman beast, for it was destroyed by the beast. And Rome was not fully destroyed and burnt with fire, as Jerusalem was in AD 70. Rome’s fall was not as described in Rev 17 and 18, as the fall of Jerusalem.

“Therefore, O prostitute, hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, Because your lust was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your whoring with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children that you gave to them, therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated. I will gather them against you from every side and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. And I will judge you as women who commit adultery and shed blood are judged and bring upon you the blood of wrath and jealousy. And I will give you into their hands, and they shall throw down your vaulted chamber and break down your lofty places. They shall strip you of your clothes and take your beautiful jewels and leave you naked and bare. They shall bring up a crowd against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords. And they shall burn your houses and execute judgments upon you in the sight of many women. I will make you stop playing the whore, and you shall also give payment no more.

So, will I satisfy my wrath on you, and my jealousy shall depart from you. I will be calm and will no more be angry. Because you have not remembered the days of your youth, but have enraged me with all these things, therefore, behold, I have returned your deeds upon your head, declares the Lord God. Have you not committed lewdness in addition to all your abominations?” (Ezekiel 16:35-43)