Who is This Woman Riding a Beast?
Revelation 17:1-3
r17a

17:1a
Judgment for the prostitute

     "And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: 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." (Rev. 17:1, 2)

When?
   In this new scene, an angel who had been charged with pouring out one of the plagues, explains them in terms of a whore (prostitute) and those she has deceived or hurt. Could these terrible curses have been poured out in the time John was writing? We read about the influence and judgment of the corrupt religio-political union in chapters 17 and 18. At 18:8 we read, "Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her." Her end is lamented by her lovers, the kings, then by merchants, and finally ". . . every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning. . . . for in one hour is she made desolate." (verses 17-19).
   Moving into chapter 19, we hear the multitude praising God for having judged the prostitute (verses 1, 2). Then in 19:6-9, "And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. . . . And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb." Image in public domain.
   Reading through the chapters, one can see that the judgment of the corrupt religious power comes at the very end of human probation, just before the Lord God omnipotent reigns. This assumption of power is also seen at 11:15-19, and with Christ on the white horse at 19:11-20. At this end of human history, the righteous are ready for "marriage" to Christ. Also 2th0208f.
    Some might see the judgment of the prostitute as the fall of pagan Rome, but Rome fell piece by piece and gently compared with the violence of her rise and reign. And the fall was not at the declaration of of Christ's kingdom, which is still future for us. Future but that the clock of time is moving swiftly toward this grand climax. Judgment of the harlot or prostitute is very good news for those she has oppressed. This judgment, as we will see, means both punishment and recognition of her evil nature.

17:1b
Sitteth on many waters
   "And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:" (Rev. 17:1)

   Sitting means reigning as on a throne. The "many" will include people of the world under all three branches of the end-time alliance. We will have a closer look later.
   Think about the imagery here. Did the city of Babylon sit on water? Yes, the Euphrates River ran under one wall, through the city, and out the opposite side. In verse 15 we read that "the waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." The text says "many waters." The river ran through a lot of territory and Babylon was sovereign over all of the known western world at that time.
   Just as ancient Babylon once controlled the whole earth, we see that end-time Babylon will do the same. But wait. Did Babylon have total control? Do you remember the story of the three Hebrew captives? re1315a. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to have absolutely no objections to his rule. He put himself in the place of God by asking all to bow to his image. Three Hebrews were ready to die rather than to disobey God. In the same way, end-time Babylon will have a very small minority who refuse to bow to the image to the beast. 

Identifying the Woman on the Beast

   From several points of view, the prostitute of Revelation 17 is seen as the three-part religious coalition promoting her deceptive doctrines until torn down at the time of the seventh plague.

 1.  In contrast to the pure woman:  In Chapter 12, the woman's child, the woman herself, and her seed are, in turn, pursued by the dragon who is Satan.  The woman of Chapter 17 is expressly evil.  She is the pure woman's counterpart the aggressor, drinking the blood of the saints re1706 who, at the end of chapter 12, would be the faithful "rest" with whom the dragon made war re1217.
.2. In the story surrounding Jezebel.  Jezebel appears in the letter to the corrupt church of Thyatira (2:20-23) which we identified with the church of the middle ages.  In the history of Israel, Jezebel influenced her husband King Ahab to use civil force to carry out her plans. This foreshadowed the reign of the sea beast described in the first part of Revelation 13. He was given power, a throne, and authority re1302. He made war with the saints for 42 months re1307.
   Jezebel's daughter Athaliah 2ki0818 pictures the false religious power in the second part of chapter 13. Athaliah, indirectly the daughter of Jezebel, destroyed all the heirs to the throne, except one who was hidden (compare the "rest" or "remnant" of re1217). The hidden one, Joash, after several years, was anointed king, just as the remnant at the end of time will become the bride and wife of Christ. We also note that, before her own destruction, Athaliah cried "treason" and would have destroyed the remaining heir, just as the beast and image re1315 threaten those who keep the commandments and have the faith of Jesus, re1412. Both evil women brought pagan worship to God's professed people 1ki1819ff; 2ch2311ff.  Here in Revelation 17, as Athaliah, the woman on the beast was not a foreign government, but the corrupting forces which developed among God's covenant people at the end of the Christian era. She does not symbolize pagan Rome.
 3.  Compared to the  three-part alliance: Characteristics revealed in her name re1705 connect her with the three-part alliance (coalition) that gathers the kings for the battle of Armageddon re1613ff. There do seem to be differences, however.
4.  Described more in her judgment in Chapter 18.  Our study there will continue to fill out the picture.

17:2a
The kings are involved

    ". . . Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore . . .  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." (Rev. 17:1, 2)

   The kings commit fornication with her. To see this evil relationship, we look back to its description under the symbols of chapter 16. Do you recall that the kings were gathered for battle? Who was then in charge?
   "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." (Rev. 16:13, 14)
   So the spirits of deception in chapter 16 are coming from three powers we have earlier recognized as religious forces, 1308, 1313 . And the prostitute was seen as the three-part alliance (16:13, 14). We will see it again in a minute. In the times of ancient Israel, God used the symbol of adultery to describe the unfaithfulness of His professed people. See Judges 2:17.
   "My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them: for the spirit of whoredoms [prostitution] hath caused them to err, and they have gone a whoring from under their God." (Hosea 4:12). God here related apostasy to occult practices and to adultery.

17:2b
The inhabitants, drunk with her adulterous wine
   "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;" (1 Tim. 4:1)
   Wine is used in the Old Testament to symbolize the activities of ancient Babylon. "Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD'S hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad [unable to reason responsibly]. Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed: howl for her; take balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed." (Jer. 51:7, 8)
   "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." pr2001. Thus the symbol of wine for deception.

   Look back at the message of the second angel of chapter 14, 1408. Here, with the woman on the beast, we see the same thing happening but on a larger scale. Obviously they are deceived, but in the way one gets deceived by alcohol. They don't like the position of obedience 1412 which the minority holds to and want to believe that there's an easier way. So they drink the false doctrine and, intoxicated, join the majority! What a tragedy this will be. Imagery from je5107.

17:2c
Wine for a purpose
   Did you notice, it's the wine of fornication? When the kings (political leaders) accept the direction of the religious coalition to gather them for enforcing her decrees, they defy God as Nebuchadnezzar did in building his image (Dan. 3). People are responsible to God alone for their spiritual life for how they worship. He is their creator. God and the people who have pledged to accept His blessings and direction are like husband and wife in the marriage relationship. When the wife unites herself to the kings, the new relationship is adulterous.
   We have seen this whole picture before under different symbols, 1315:
   "And [the beast from the earth] deceiveth them that dwell on the earth . . . saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed." (Rev. 13:14, 15)
    Also see hab0215 with link to a story of Noah, and mt2445.
    Here in chapter 17 we see the kings of the earth (verse 12) defending the beast as involved in what we saw as the image to the chapter 13 beast.  The Image demands total worship. In contrast stands the pure church of chapter 12. Christ, not kings, is her husband (Eph. 5:22-30; Rev. 19:7, 8). He is her protector and the one who provides all good things for her (Ezek. 16).

Who gets drunk?
   First, it's the people. According to our verse, the kings of the earth have committed adultery with the prostitute, "and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication." The people are drunk from the cup that the woman offers. In verse 6, we find that the woman is drunk "with  the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs." Perhaps the kings are drunk, too, since it's part of the prostitution process. Compare 1803. Image from Corel.
   You and I will be faced with accepting the deceptive wine or keeping our minds and hearts only for the one who sustains our life. Today we may decide to remain true no matter what the cost in this earth. He has promised a crown of life 0210.

Church and state
   God has never authorized His church to unite with civil powers to force compliance in the advancement of His kingdom. The relationship with Him is of pure love. He has always respected our freedom of action. This is why the tree of knowledge was in the garden. It provided a way to tell Him no. Without it, our yes would not be a choice. He is a God we can trust for eternity!
   Praise His holy name!

Why the symbol of drunkenness?
   "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise." (Prov. 20:1). Alcohol breaks down the inhibitions. Under its influence, the reasoning power is dulled and people are convinced that it is okay to follow their feelings 1408g. Thus people are deceived by wine and strong drink. In a spiritual sense, they are led to believe a lie. I believe the following passage describes the same end-time deception.
   "And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie:" (2 Thess. 2:8-11)
   Who escapes? According to what we just quoted, those who accept God's free gift of love for truth. Each time the Spirit convicts us as we read or hear the word of truth, we have a choice to love it, accepting it into our lives, or to reject it, making some excuse that soon we believe to be fact.

17:3a
Why is the prostitute in the wilderness (desert)?

    "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." (Rev. 17:3)

   Do you remember an earlier story about being in the wilderness?
   "And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the [pure] woman which brought forth the man child. And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent. And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
   "And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth. And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Rev. 12:14-17)

Pure to impure
   The corrupt woman of our present chapter, compared to the pure woman of chapter 12, represents a false religious system. We have seen how such a system developed from the once pure church r02b. Let's connect the two stories. The pure woman who fled into the wilderness for nourishment for 1260 days has now mounted the dragon here the "beast" she had earlier been hiding from! And her new nourishment? Keep the question in mind.
   Our idea is strengthened by seeing the same picture under the symbols of chapter 12. "And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." (Rev. 12:17)
   Do you see a break in this verse. The dragon was angry with the woman whom, in the previous verse, he had tried to drown. But, instead of going to war with her, he fought against the remainder of her offspring. What happened? In chapter 12 he "went" away from her 1217. Although unable to drown her, he could induce her to fall into sin. The whole church doesn't fall, however. A remnant remains faithful. Those now become the object of his hatred.
   So the church of the Reformation, becomes corrupt 0301.

Insights from the wilderness experience of the Exodus
   The Holy Spirit is directing us to see that Christianity followed the path of the children of Israel. At the time of rejecting the witness of the two faithful spies (intelligence agents), God sent His people away from the borders of Canaan to die in the wilderness as they had requested. They were given 40 years to remain in the wilderness (a day for each year the spies were surveying the land, nu1434). At the end of this time they were getting ready again to enter, when they fell into sin. A large number of them visited the pagan worship celebrations, feasted, and committed adultery with the Midianite women. When the offenders had been destroyed the rest prepared and crossed the Jordan.
   In Revelation 2:14 we learned that Balaam had suggested to King Balak the wicked plot to lead the people to fall into this terrible sin 0214. He knew that when they fell spiritually they would be weak as a nation, thus finally delivering on the request of Balak. God, however purified the nation by destroying the sinners, and the remnant crossed the Jordan.
   Do you see the picture? At the end of the long journey, after 1260 years in the wilderness, came national apostasy. This means that the once pure church, will ride the beast and entice people and kings to participate. I believe this time to be coming very soon.

17:3b
Who is this new beast?

     "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." (Rev. 17:3)

Have we already seen an animal simply called "the beast"?
   "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast. . . ." (Rev. 13:1-4).

   We concluded that the sea beast described in this passage from chapter 13 represents the apostate religious system of the Middle Ages. But here in chapter 17, the woman, not the beast, is in charge. So this must be a different beast. In the passage just quoted we saw a second beast, the dragon. I suggest that the dragon in the earlier picture who gave his power, seat, and authority to the beast from the sea is here the beast carrying the woman. We have more evidence. Just keep my idea in mind.

Where are the crowns?
   The beast is described as "having seven heads and ten horns." We saw the dragon in chapter 12 with seven heads, ten horns, and diadems (crowns) on his heads 1203b. He became less visible when he gave his power, seat, and authority to the beast from the sea. Thus heads, horns and diadems were given to the sea beast, but the diadems were on the horns since he (as the church) controlled the governments only indirectly 1301c. Now there are no diadems in sight. We can see that the woman is ruling the world, but apparently not in the usual sense. In the last verse of the chapter we see that she is "that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth." (Rev. 17:18).

John is shown both women
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Woman on the beast
17:1 - 4
The bride as a city
21:9-12
    And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me,     And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, 
Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: 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. Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.
    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.     And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
    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:     Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;

   May God help us to understand as the time approaches.

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