There has never been a generation on the face of the earth that has needed to understand the message of Revelation more than this one. I realize that is quite a statement, but I believe it is the truth. We have been privileged to be alive at the point in history, a time I believe we could refer to as the last, of the Last Days. What do I mean by that? I mean simply that we have been living in the prophetic period of time known as the Last Days for some two thousand years now. It began really with the birth of the Church on the Day of Pentecost, 33 A.D. The term, Last Days is really synonymous with the dispensation of Grace, or the Church Age. The writer of Hebrews, (whom I believe to be the Apostle Paul), opened that book with, God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds. [Hebrews 1:1 – 2 KJV Emphasis added]
The next event on the prophetic calendar is the catching away or rapture of the Church. Following that will be the rise or advent of the Antichrist, the Man of sin. When he is revealed, at some point he will negotiate a peace deal between the Jews and the Palestinians, which among other things will restore Temple worship including the sacrificial system for the Jews. This will be, we learn from Daniel’s prophecy, seven years in duration. [See Dan. 9:27] In the midst of the “week” or after about 3 ½ years, this covenant will be broken, and the Man of Sin, the Antichrist, will attempt to offer himself to the people as a god. [See 2 Thess. 2:4] During the first half of this seven-year period this individual referred to as the Antichrist (among other names), will be working with a global “super church”, a harlot amalgamation of all of the religions of the world, with the exception of course of the true Church which will be raptured prior to this time.
The Antichrist will use this world church to promote himself to the forefront of the religious community. This unholy partnership is what is pictured in John’s vision at the beginning of chapter 17, where we see the “woman” (the religious system) riding on the “Beast” (the political system). The religious harlot system will hold great sway over the Beast political system greatly influencing and controlling it. When the Antichrist is ready to to pursue his ambition to become God, he must destroy the religious system in order to rule unopposed as the spiritual leader. John describes the destruction of the harlot religious system:
And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. [Rev. 17:15, 16 KJV] The Antichrist and false prophet will hate the influence of the harlot upon their people, and they will use the military power of the ten nations to quickly destroy her. The national leaders will happily accommodate because the harlot has been a great irritation to them. Notice please verse 17,
For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled. [Rev. 17:17 KJV] The Word says that God put in the hearts of the ten kings to destroy her. This action gives us insight into God’s sovereignty. We see another example of this in God’s use of the Egyptian Pharaoh,
And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.[Ex. 7:3, 4] “Sovereign” means “Above all others; chief; supreme in power; independent of all others.” Pharaoh was already against the Jewish people. God simply strengthened or hardened his attitude all the more. The same will be true of the ten kings. God put within them (or gave them over to) their desires.
Both the Pharaoh and the kings had a choice. Since they decided to pursue evil, God allowed them to become totally driven by those desires. God’s sovereignty extends even to withholding His restraint. He allows those who have evil intentions to carry them out. In one case, God used His sovereignty directly for the good of Israel and the Jewish people; in the other , He used it to destroy part of Satan’s operation. Again, the outcome was for the ultimate good of the people.
At the Antichrist’s right hand is the false prophet who, of course, gives his approval for the harlot’s destruction. The followers of the Beast System accept their leader’s decision. The harlot’s destruction clears the way for the false prophet to announce the implementation of the mark of the Beast and worship of his image.
From the Temple in Jerusalem, the Antichrist starts exerting his influence. These mid-tribulation events prepare the way of the Antichrist for the next 3 ½ years. The chapter concludes,
And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth. [Rev. 17:18] There have been several theories as to the identity of the city which is destroyed. All of them really are pure speculation. Some people reason that the city of Babylon will be rebuilt and repopulated. I have set forth this theory myself. Others suggest Rome, Italy. Many years ago some theologians taught that the “Seven mountains on which the woman sits” are the seven hills of Rome. From this, they concluded that the Roman Catholic Church is the harlot. While I see a definite end-time role for the Catholic Church, the RCC alone is not the harlot.
The harlot is not any single denominational or religious structure. She is, again, an amalgamation of all the world’s ecclesiastical, man-made religions, including the present-day denominations choosing to have only a form of godliness. Those aspects of Christendom that demote God, deify man, and denigrate the Cross would all fall into this harlot system. This harlot system is being given a vehicle today through which she can function. It has many labels, but the purpose is all the same and that is to unify all religions not on Truth, but unity for unity’s sake. While man-made religions are working to bring all Christians under their control, the Holy Spirit is working to bring them together as the glorious Church!
We know the city destroyed at mid-tribulation will be the headquarters of the harlot religious system or, as some have identified it, the world church. But its exact identity is unknown.
Instead of being sidetracked with the Beast’s different facets, we need to view the the system as a whole. Just remember: its major parts are presently being prefabricated and it will be an amazing man who brings together into one operation these pieces of government, commerce, armies, and the harlot religious system.
Next time we will pick up with chapter 18. Please plan to join us if you can.