Puritan Gems

Friday, December 15, 2006

Ar-mageddon: The Destruction of the Great Prostitute

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk." And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: "Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations." And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. When I saw her, I marveled greatly.” (Revelation 17:1-6)

As we discussed in an earlier blog, the symbols that John uses in revelation have concrete meanings. Their interpretation is not open for guesswork. When John wrote about the beast, he had a specific entity in mind, meaning that all other interpretations are false. The best way to interpret the symbols in Revelation is with the Bible itself. Scripture interprets Scripture. When we step outside what the Bible itself says about a certain passage, we become guilty of adding to the Word of God, interpreting passages in light of whatever happens to be the latest CNN headline. We don’t have to guess at the meaning of the symbols John uses, because their meaning can be found right in the Bible itself.

As with the beast, there are some very creative interpretations regarding the great prostitute. The Rapture Ready Website tells is that “According to Revelation Chapter 17, the Catholic Church is considered the Whore who rides the scarlet Beast (vs. 3), and the whole false Catholic system will be destroyed at that time, along with the False Prophet (the Pope).” (See False Prophets, Teachers and Leaders In the Laodicean Age). Now, as you can tell by my screen name, I am no fan of the Roman Catholic Church, but this interpretation, ever popular today, is incorrect. Once again, it ignores Revelation’s original audience and time frame references. (If Premillennial Dispensationalists are really concerned about false prophets, they need to look no further than their own closet.)

The Beast, as we saw in a previous post, is past history. So, too, is the Great Prostitute, which I will identify right up front as Jerusalem of the First Century. She is the “great city” (Revelation 17:18), not a church. She is the same “great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.” (Revelation 11:8). She was a city that was contemporary to John’s audience, for she “has [present tense] dominion over the kings of the earth [covenantally speaking]." (Revelation 17:18). She was the unfaithful wife of God, behaving as a prostitute (Jeremiah 3:1-2).

“The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem…How the faithful city has become a whore, she who was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers.” (Isaiah 1:1, 21)

Ezekiel Chapters 16 and 21 go into more detail about Israel’s harlotry. However, I would not read these chapters to you r children unless you are prepared to explain some things. Ezekiel’s description was quite vivid and crude, but he certainly got his point across.

The description of the woman’s clothing is quite apropos as well. Dressed in purple, scarlet, gold, precious stones and pearls (Revelation 17:3-5) - an almost exact description of the high priest’s ephod (Exodus 28:5-6, 36) This combination of fabrics and gems also describes the temple tapestry, which, according to Josephus, was "Babylonian tapestry in which blue, purple, scarlet and linen were mingled." (Wars 5.5.4) The gold cup she holds (Revelation 17:4) is symbolic of the temple’s implements: "The greatest part of the vessels ... were of silver and gold" (Wars 5.4.4). Josephus’ description of the temple reflects the same opulence: "The outward face of the temple in its front ... was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and at the first rising of the sun, reflected back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn their eyes away, just as they would have done at the sun's own rays. But this temple appeared to strangers, when they were at a distance, like a mountain covered with snow; for, as to those parts of it that were not gilt, they were exceeding white." (Wars 5.5.6) The inscription on the prostitute’s forehead is a perverse image of that on the high priest’s: "Holy to the Lord.”

The woman was “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” (Revelation 17:6). We already saw the many examples of the Jewish persecution in last Monday’s post. It was Jerusalem alone that was responsible for “…all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah…” (Matthew 23:35). Thus Jesus’ warning of their impending doom.

“Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate.” (Matthew 23:36-38)

Luke adds in Acts 7:52 , “Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered.” Most truly, these things happened shortly after John’s writing (Revelation 1:1). “And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth." (Revelation 18:24).

The Destruction of the great city by the hands of the Roman beast (Revelation 17:16-17) is further evidence of this identification. Josephus, as recorded earlier, describes the Roman Jewish war in gory detail, highlighted by the destruction of the temple in 70 AD (at Ar-mageddon, i.e. mountain of Megiddo) and ending with the fall of Masada, the final Jewish stronghold, in 73 AD.

“"Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.' And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons." Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him." When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them.” (Matthew 21:33-45).

The Old Covenant is history. Christ has become the mediator of a new and better covenant, where all nations may flow to and drink. We need not fear any tribulation period, because our Christ has already overcome the world. (John 16:33)


Anonymous said...

This is stupid. Are you reading the bible in a normal order? The Revelation comes after the New Testament. And since it is a prophecy, it would mean that it will happen in the future, not the PAST you psycho. So why are you getting stories about the New Testament? The Revelation pertains to the 2nd coming of Christ, since it is clearly not happening, though it will happen, that would mean that the 2 beast and prostitute should exist either today or on the near future. Please think about this. Thanks!

Puritan Lad said...

Anonymous: This is stupid. Are you reading the bible in a normal order?

Response: Who says that the books of the Bible appear in Chronological order?

Anonymous: The Revelation comes after the New Testament.

Response: No, the book of Revelation is part of the New Testament.

Anonymous: And since it is a prophecy, it would mean that it will happen in the future, not the PAST you psycho.

Response: What is the definition of prophecy? Why does it have to refer to the future? In any case, the events prophecied in Revelation were future when they were written, but are past now.

Anonymous: So why are you getting stories about the New Testament?

Response: Not sure what you are asking here.

Anonymous: The Revelation pertains to the 2nd coming of Christ,

Response: No, it does not, but I'm sure that will lead to some interesting discussions of you are game.

Anonymous: since it is clearly not happening, though it will happen, that would mean that the 2 beast and prostitute should exist either today or on the near future.

Response: Why? It is always interesting that futurists interpret the prophecies of Revelation as event that will happen within their lifetimes. That has been the case for at least 1700 years.