By Dr. Lee Warren, B.A., D.D.

(c) September/October 1996 "PLIM REPORT"

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Rev 17:1-5

"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. 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 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: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH."


Ever since the Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation in A.D. 96, many have wondered ‘who is the Harlot called Mystery Babylon?’ Why did Elohim choose a harlot to represent a ‘mystery’? What is the symbolism behind the woman being called the great mother of harlots?

The interpretation of the harlot is an enigma because there are two women; one of which is the true bride of the Messiah (Eph. 5:32). Each woman has her own mysteries that are revealed to true initiates. As an untrained person may believe that fool’s gold is the real thing, likewise, the mystery harlot has led many to believe that she is the Messiah’s bride. The key to the true interpretation of the mystery is using the Law and the Prophets (Isa. 8:20), which is called the Old Testament (OT), and a revelation from the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:19-21).

What is the intent of this article?

This article will focus only on the symbolism and the mystery of this female harlot over the last two thousand years. We will show that the symbols of Babylon and Mystery Babylon, such as the Great Mother, the harlot, with her daughters, have great metaphysical or spiritual meaning.

Due to space restrictions, this article will not cover the following aspects of the 17th Chapter of Revelation.

The scarlet colored beast with seven heads and ten horns. A future article will deal with this topic in detail (See the “Mark of Beast Part 1 & 2” in the January/February 1996 and March/April 1996 issues of the “PLIM REPORT.” These articles historically traced the beast and provided the spiritual reality of man’s dual nature).

An examination of the economics of old Babylon and mystery Babylon.

Specific doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. There are many books and authors who have dealt with this subject. These scholars elaborated and proved according to the scriptures and historical facts that most of the church’s customs are pagan and erroneous.

For example, the book The Two Babylons or Papal Worship ( 1916 Loizeaux Brothers) by the late Rev. Alexander Hislop states: “… There never has been any difficulty in the mind of any enlightened Protestant in identifying the woman sitting on seven hills, and having on her fore head the name written ‘Mystery, Babylon the great,’ with the Roman apostasy. No other city in the world has ever been celebrated, as the city of Rome has … for its situation on seven hills (p. 2).” We will begin this article with the definition of the word ‘Babylon.’

What is the definition and purpose of Babylon?

To begin this study one has to define the word ‘Babylon.’ It is defined by Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible as "# 897 Babylon (bab-oo-lone’); of Hebrew origin [894]; Babylon, the capitol of Chaldaea (literally or figuratively [as a type of tyranny]).” Babylon was the capital city of the Chaldean country and it symbolically represented the principle of tyranny. The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary (1931 Unity School of Christianity) defines Babylon as “confusion.” The physical nation of Babylon represents a confused, carnal minded state of a human mind (Rom. 8:6).

Clearly, Yahweh’s purpose for creating nations, peoples, places and things is to demonstrate the operation of both positive and negative spiritual principles. Without visible manifestations, there is no way of conceiving these principles. So Yahweh created Babylon to play out the role of tyranny. “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I Yahweh (the LORD) do all these things (Isa. 45:7).” [See “Does the Devil Exist, Part 1” in the November/December 1993 issue of the “PLIM REPORT”]

Why was man made subject to negativity?

Simply put, humankind was made subject to negativity so that the power of the Messiah could be made manifest (Rom. 9:17). The Apostle Paul confirms this. He wrote: “For the creature was made subject to vanity [Mystery Babylon], not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of Elohim (God, Rom 8:20-21).”

We see that Yahweh called Abraham out of negativity. He was born in the region of Babylon that was full of idolatry to symbolically represent all mankind being born into Mystery Babylon or confusion. Yahweh appeared to him in a vision and told him to leave Canaan land with his family (Gn. 12:1-5). Yahweh promised to give his seed Canaan land as an inheritance which symbolically represents heaven or Jerusalem above.

Thus, Abraham’s migration out of his idolatrous native land of Chaldea is symbolical and represents the spiritual and psychological journey we all have to take from our carnal state. In short, we are all born into some culture, nation, race, etc., which we have to transcend through the Messiah and come into the Spirit (Jn. 4:24). John said he heard a voice from heaven saying: “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues (Rev. 18:4).”

Did Yahweh hate whores?

Yahweh had compassion for all mankind and looked into a person’s heart more than their outward appearance. Remember, that Yahweh spared Rahab the harlot who hid the Israelite spies when they came to the city of Jericho to spy on it. She and her family were saved when Joshua and Israel destroyed this city (Jos. 6:22-25). This shows that all true believers who were seduced by this harlot at one time, will receive messengers of truth from Yahshua (Jesus) and be delivered (Jam. 2:25).

The great Master told the teachers of Israel that harlots and Gentiles would enter the kingdom of heaven before they would because those outcasts would humble themselves and receive His words of truth (Mt. 21:31-32).

What is the historical interpretation of this scarlet colored woman?

After the Apostle John’s vision, many interpreted the harlot to be Rome under Caesar’s rule. This interpretation appeared especially true to the Apostle John’s disciples and other followers who were persecuted by the Romans and the religious teachers of Israel. [NOTE: Bible students must remember an important chronological fact—John’s vision of Revelation took place after all the other Apostles were dead.]

According to the Dictionary of the Bible ( 1963 Scribner’s Son) by James Hastings, the woman in John’s vision had been symbolically equated to Rome ever since the fifth century. This is verified by St. Jerome (347-420 A.D.), one of the most noted scholars of the period who translated the Bible into Latin. Hastings states: “This identification of Babylon with Rome dates at least from the time of Jerome (p. 84).”

Another writing that connected Rome to Babylon was the book of 2 Esdras, which is a part of the Roman Catholic Bible called the Apocryphal. Also Rome is mentioned as Babylon in the Sibylline Oracle (v. 143, 158), which were a number of oracular manuscripts that ancient Romans consulted regularly until the middle ages (476-1500 A.D.). The Roman Empire finally fell in the fifth century, 476 A.D. and Papal Rome ruled by the Popes replaced it.

When was the Roman Catholic Church called the Scarlet Woman?

The Roman Catholic Church was not initially thought of as the Harlot that John spoke of in Revelation. R. H. Charles in his book The British Academy Lectures on the Apocalypse ( 1922 Oxford Press) states that the church was not connected to the whore in Revelation from the time it became the official religion of the Roman Empire to the 12th century. “Down to the close of the twelfth century the Church had satisfied the religions and intellectual needs of men:… but hence forth the Papacy became the foe of progress, and those that sought for further light on questions religious, metaphysical, or scientific had to look elsewhere than to the medieval Catholicism (p. 5).”

It was corruption in the Church, especially of the popes near the end of the medieval period (i.e. 476-1500 A.D.), that caused many to see that the Roman Catholic Church was the Scarlet Harlot or Woman.

Who pointed out the church’s errors?

One of the earliest documents to expose the vices in the Papacy was written by Joachim Flores (1130?-1202 A.D.), a monk of the Church. [Note for more details on Joachim see “How Did the Trinity Concept Develop?” P. 13, in the May/June 1994 issue and “Will the Messiah Appear in the Year 2000?” in the May/June 1995 issue of the “PLIM REPORT”] According to the Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages by R.W. Southern (p. 269-270 1970 Penguin books), Joachim had many followers that believed his numerous prophecies concerning the corruption in the church. A number of scholars considered him to be one of the greatest prophets of this period. Although loyal to the Church, He criticized the corruption of the church.

The Italian poet Alighieri Dante (1265-1321), referred to the Church allegorically as the beast with horns in his work Purgatorio (canto 32). The penalty for blaspheming the Church during Dante’s time was death. The only way Dante was able to say what he did was in metaphor.

According to Anthony Kemp’s book the Estrangement of the Past ( 1991 Oxford Press), John Wycliff (1320?- 1384), who translated the first English Bible, was the first writer to equate the pope with the antichrist (p. 67).

There were others in the 13th and 14th century who pointed out that the Roman Catholic Church was this Scarlet Harlot that John wrote of in Revelation. R. H. Charles in his book goes on to say the corruption of the Church reached it zenith in the 14th an 15th centuries that led to the Reformation by Martin Luther in the 16th century. Thus, it took approximately 1500 years, from the time of John’s vision in A.D. 96, for the Scarlet Harlot Woman to be revealed to the masses.

Did the church implicate itself?

As the old adage says, the criminal always leaves something of himself at the crime scene. If there was any doubt that Rome under the rule of the popes was the great harlot, then one would have to look no further than a coin that Pope Leo XII in 1825 minted. It has a woman with a cup in her hand on one side of it and Pope’s own image on the other side of it (The Two Babylons or Papal Worship, p. 6). The Latin words “Sedt super universum” which means ‘The whole world is her seat’ are engraved on the side of the coin with the image of the woman holding the cup.

Are cities referred to as  'Harlots' in the Old Testament?

In the Old Testament writings, Yahweh referred to various cities as a woman in analogy. Adela Yarbro Collins in her book The Apocalypse ( 1979 Michael Glazier, Inc.) confirms this. She states: “The personification of a city as a woman is very common in the Hebrew prophets. Even earlier, it was common for the peoples of the ancient Near East to personify their cities, some times as a local goddess of Fortune. … The image of a harlot for a city which counted as Israel’s enemy is also found in the Hebrew prophets (p. 188).” We must understand that Yahweh was not a respector of persons. He referred to Israel as a harlot when she was disobedient to His commandments and as his wife when she was obedient (Isa. 54:5; Jer. 3:1-10; Ezk. 16th chp.).

Israel’s prophets referred to quite a few Gentile cities as harlots. Israel’s prophet Nahum referred to the city Nineveh as a harlot. He states: “Because of the multitude of the whoredoms of the well favoured harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts (Nahum 3:4).“

Isaiah called the great merchant city of Tyre a harlot: “And it shall come to pass after the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre, and she shall turn to her hire, and shall commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world upon the face of the earth (Isa 23:17).” Clearly, the spiritual principle of a harlot is one that seduces nations into believing all forms of idolatry rather than trusting in Yahweh.

Does the word harlot  have more than one meaning?

The word ‘harlot’ is used throughout the Old Testament and it has more meanings than a woman selling herself for money. Yahweh frequently used the words ‘harlot,’ along with ‘prostitute, ‘fornication,’ and ‘adultery’ figuratively to describe the idolatrous behavior of Israel (Isa. 1:21; Jer. 2:20; 3:2; Ezk. 16:13-63; Rev. 17:1,5,15; 19:2). Yahweh used those words to describe nations that had sold themselves to negative fleshly principles.

In fact, one of the first nations that Yahweh called a harlot was Israel. He referred to Jerusalem as a harlot for she would not obey His laws and worshipped idols. Isaiah wrote the following: “How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers (Isa 1:21; see Isa. 1:1-4; Ezk. 16th chp.).” Later in the Old Testament, Yahweh referred to many Gentile nations as whores, especially Babylon, which will be discussed later in this article.

Why was Babylon called a Harlot?

To fully understand why Yahweh called the nation of Babylon a whore, first we must have some knowledge of the scriptures and the religious customs of this period. We must seriously examine a very common practice of the temple prostitute.

Now physical prostitution is one of the world’s oldest profession. Yahweh used it to explain spiritual prostitution. The word ‘harlot’ is ‘zona’ in Hebrew and ‘porne’ in Greek. A prostitute was any woman, married or single, who practiced unlawful sexual indulgence, whether for gain or lust <Gen. 34:31; Judg. 19:2; Prov. 23:27; Matt. 21:31-32; Luke 15:30; 1 Cor. 6:15-16>. Under the law of Moses Israel was forbidden from indulging in prostitution.

Did temple prostitution occur  among the Gentile’s nations?

The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary by Merrill F. Unger defines temple prostitution as follows.“Temple Prostitute (Heb. qedesha, ‘to consecrate’). In the three passages <Gen. 38:21-22; Deu. 23:17; Hos. 4:14>, one ‘set apart to a sacred purpose,’ according to the infamous rites in use among the worshipers of certain deities in Canaan and neighboring countries. Herodotus refers to the custom of the Babylonians, who compelled every native female to attend the temple of Venus once in her life and to prostitute herself in honor of the goddess. Such prostitution was forbidden by the law of Moses <Lev. 19:29; 21:9>, yet it seems to have been assumed that the harlot class would exist, and the prohibition of <Deu. 23:18> forbidding offerings from the wages of such sin is perhaps due to the influence of the heathen example. It is interesting to note that men were not excluded from the practice of temple prostitution (<23:18>, marg.).”

James Frazer in his book the Golden Bough ( 1922 Macmillian Co.) confirms that many females had to prostitute themselves in the temple of the most popular female gods such as Aprodite before they could marry. He states the motive for the women prostituting themselves was “not as an orgy of lust, but as a solemn religious duty performed in the service of the great Mother Goddess.” Sir Frazer lists a number of cities and nations that had this custom as follows (p. 384):

• In Cyprus, all women had to prostitute themselves, before they married, to strangers in the sanctuary of Aphrodite, and Astarte.

• In Babylon, every women rich and poor, had to prostitute themselves in the temples of Mylitta, Ishtar, and Astarte for money that was donated as wages to the goddess.

• In Phoenician temples, women prostituted themselves believing that their services would appease the goddess and win her favor.

• In the ancient city of Heliopolis in Syria, there was a law that requires every maiden to prostitute herself to strangers at the temple of Astarte. The matrons as well testified to their devotion to the god.

According to Mr. Frazer, the emperor Constantine, who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman empire, outlawed this practice. Under the old law of Moses, prostitution was an abomination to Yahweh. Israel was forbidden to engage in these practices and the penalty for transgressing this law was death.

What is the spiritual reality of the harlot under the New Covenant?

Requiring females to serve as temple prostitutes continued to be outlawed under the New Covenant, but the emphasis shifted to the spiritual and psychological perspectives. It was these practices that the Apostles told the Gentiles to avoid. Initially, the Apostles had to fight against this old form of idolatry, especially among the Gentiles when they became part of the assembly. In fact, in the last Apostles’ council in AD 52 at Jerusalem, the Apostle Paul sent letters to the various gentile assembles saying: “That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well (Acts 15:29).” Now fornication here means with the idols and the temple prostitute. However, as man’s knowledge increased, this old form of worshipping stone idols became antiquated.

From these examples, one can see why Yahshua (Jesus) the Messiah used the symbol of a whore for Mystery Babylon and called her the “THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” The symbol of the “harlot” is referring to those religions that seduce humankind with their false ideas as harlots seduce a man with her feminine passions and false promises. True whoring or prostituting is when one is sold or seduced into believing false ideas other than the truth.

What is the “Mystery” of this woman?

The word “mystery” is not only being used to describe the secret of this woman, but it also describes the secret orders of various religions. Many Bible students are not conscious of the fact that numerous religions had secret schools that a small minority were initiated into during this era of the Apostles.

The Dictionary of the Bible states the following: “The mysteries were a group of ancient cults with a fairly wide following during the Hellenistic age.” Some of these mysteries were Dementer at Eleusis (Greek), Mithras from Persia, Isis and Osiris from Egypt, Adonis for Syria to name a few. All swore to keep the rite and knowledge of their order secret from those not initiated. Simply put, this mystery woman represents a mystery-religion that only those who the Holy Spirit initiates in the truth can see. As was stated in the introduction of this article, the mystery of this harlot can only be understood if one has been initiated into the Truth by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 8:32). The Apostle Paul stated that the gospel was a “mystery” (Eph. 6:2).

Who is the head of Mystery Babylon?

Clarence Larkin’s classic commentary, The Book of Revelation ( 1918 Rev. Clarence Larkin Estate; p. 151-152), explains how the Caesars and Popes obtained the title and headship of the “Babylonian Priesthood” mysteries which Hislop’s book also explains. A brief history is required as to how Rome obtained this title. In Daniel 2nd and 7th chapters, he explains that Babylon was the head of the man and was gold. Babylon was the first beast to rise up out of the sea and rule the earth. So, the seat of Satan was Babylon, but it was defeated by Media-Persia whose capitol was Pergamos. The Persians brought the Babylonian priesthood and rites to their capitol.

Quoting Mr. Larkin: “When Attalus, the Pontiff and King of Pergamos, died B.C. 133, he bequeathed the Headship of the Babylonian Priesthood to Rome. When the Etruscans came to Italy from Lydia (The region of Pergamos), they brought with them the Babylonian religion and rites. They set up a Pontiff who was head of the Priesthood. Later the Romans accepted this Pontiff as their civil ruler. Julius Caesar was made Pontiff of the Etruscan Order in B.C. 74. In B. C. 63, he was made Supreme Pontiff of the “Babylonian Order,” thus becoming heir to the rights an title of Attalus, Pontiff of Pergamos…Thus the first Roman Emperor become head of the “Babylonian Priesthood” and Rome the successor of Babylon (p. 151-152).”

Mr. Larkin goes on to say that many emperors used this title until A.D. 376 when the Emperor Gratain, for Christian reasons, refused this title. Bishop Damasus of the Church at Rome in 378 A. D. became the Head of the “Babylonian Order” and Ruler of the “Roman Catholic Church.” Thus, we have the uniting of the Roman and Babylonian system which shows that Rome is the seat of apostasy in this age of Grace after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Now that we have shown the mystery of this woman, let us proceed to show the rest of the symbolism dealing with this whore.

What does the whore’s clothing and the waters she sits on symbolize?

John said this whore sits on many waters and her clothes are purple and scarlet. John gave the interpretation in his vision which the law and the prophets or the Old Testament verifies (Isa. 8:20).

The interpretation of waters are people and nations, for John wrote the following in Rev. 17:15. “And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues." This is verified by Jeremiah when Yahweh told him that Media and Persia would destroy old Babylon. He wrote: “O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness (Jer. 51:13).” What this implies is that many nations followed the ways of Babylon’s idolatry in worshipping the creator, much as many nations follow the technological ways of the United States of America today.

Why is the whore wearing purple and red?

Halley’s Bible Handbook ( 1965 24th edition) points out the significance of the colors that this whore is wearing. “Scarlet color of the beast and the Harlot…is the color of the Papacy. The Papal Throne is scarlet. It is borne by twelve men clad in Scarlet. The cardinals’ hats and robes are Scarlet (p. 732).” Now the color purple and the woman decked in gold and pearl represent the pomp and luxury that immerses the Church at the Vatican. In fact, one of the richest organization in the world is the Roman Catholic Church. Books by Nino Lo Bello The Vatican Empire ( 1968 Trident Press) and Vatican, USA ( 1972 Trident Press) prove how wealthy the Vatican is. Another book In God’s Name ( 1984 Bantam Books) by David A. Yallop explains the wealth of the church and the assassination of Pope Paul I who was going to expose the Church’s financial scandal.

There is no need for a conclusion to this article. For those that do the research and ask the Holy Spirit for understanding, they can come to know the great mystery of the harlot. The Master said: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: (Mt. 7:7)” Now for those that refuse to come out of Mystery Babylon, King Solomon had these words of wisdom: “Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance (Pro. 29:3).”

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