Great Prostitute

One of the mysteries in the book of Revelation is the woman riding on the beast.

I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls (Rev 17:3-5).

John was surprised by the vision

Then the angel said to me: "Why are you astonished" (Rev 17:7).

John knew all about beasts. His world had been dominated by many great empires, and was currently controlled by the most powerful beast of all: the Roman Empire. What was strange about the vision was the woman sitting on the beast. Sitting symbolizes control, so this terrible beast with seven heads and ten horns was being controlled by a woman.

This beast is described earlier in the book of Revelation. It is a terrible empire that crushes and controls the world. The key to understanding this vision is identifying the woman.

Wilderness

An angel told John that he would see a Great Prostitute who leads the kings of the nations astray.

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, "Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters. With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries"
(Rev 17:1-2). This angel carried John into the wilderness,
Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness (Rev 17:3).
Once he was in the wilderness, John saw the woman controlling the kings of the nations.
There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns (Rev 17:3).
The wilderness is a key to understanding identity of the woman. John first saw the woman in Rev 12. She gave birth to a child that was eventually caught up into heaven. This child was Jesus, so this woman was Israel.

After Jesus had ascended into heaven and defeated the spiritual powers of evil, they lost their place in heaven, so they attacked the woman. She was scattered in the wilderness to be kept safe during the Times of the Gentiles. The wilderness is the place that was prepared to keep the children of Israel safe during the time when they would continue to reject Jesus as their Messiah.

So John was not surprised to see the woman in the wilderness. He already knew she was there. What surprised him was that she was riding on a powerful beast. He did not expect to see here controlling the Beast the that controls the rulers of the nations.

Identify Confirmed

The woman had the title Babylon the Great written on her forehead, but that does not help much, as this was not the real city with that name. The name Babylon is used to symbolize immorality, witchcraft, adultery, power and control.

The identity of the woman was confirmed to John at at the end of the vision.

The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth (Rev 17:18).

The woman is the "great city" that controls the kings of the earth. This city had been described in the vision of the two prophets earlier in Rev 11:8.

Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city-which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt-where also their Lord was crucified.

This city is called Egypt and Sodom and Babylon to indicate that it is opposed to the purposes of God, but it is actually the city where Jesus was crucified. Everyone knows where Jesus was crucified. The great city is Jerusalem. This means that the woman controlling the beast is the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Israel.

This identity of the woman is confirmed in Rev 12:1,5.

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head... She gave birth to a son, a male child,

The woman with a crown of stars is Israel. She gave birth to Jesus, who is the child who will rule the nations. This woman controlling the beast was covered with glittering jewels, so she is Israel.

This is why John was astonished by the woman on the Beast. He had seen this vision of the woman being attacked by the dragon and being scattered amongst the nations (Rev 12:14-16). So he is amazed when he sees this same woman sitting on a terrible beast and controlling it. It was hard to believe that Israel could control an empire built in the image of the Roman Empire.

The vision of the woman on the Beast describes a season when the nation of Israel will control the most powerful empire the world has known. Many other nations will be controlled by her too.

This vision might be being fulfilled in our own time. The United States is the most powerful empire the world has ever known, with the strongest economy and military bases all over the world. Many nations are under its power, and no other nation can challenge its role as a superpower.

The surprising thing is that the dominant political force in the United States is the Israel lobby. A presidential candidate who rejected the demands of AIPAC will have difficulty being elected. Getting elected to congress is difficult without the support of lobby groups like AIPAC. Many members of congress are willing to place the security of the United States at risk in order to protect Israel.

When Bibi Netanyahu visits the United States, the congress gives him a standing ovation, something it rarely does for a sitting US President. This strange power situation is perfectly described by a woman (Israel) sitting on a beast (United States).

Persecution

John saw the the woman drunk on the blood of the saints.

I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God's holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished (Rev 17:6).
John as astonished by this behaviour. Later he explains how the woman made this happen. The woman controls ten kings.
They will wage war against the Lamb (Rev 17:14).
The woman organised for the kings of the earth to persecute the saints. The State of Israel has stirred up western nations to fight wars in the middle east. Israel has encouraged western leaders to support the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria that have driven Christians out of the Middle East. Some of the false intellegence used to justify these wars was manufactured in Israel. As a result of these wars, most traditional Chrisitans have had to migrate away from the Middle East. Most Christians have left Iraq. Many have had to leave Syria.

Prostitute

Babylon the Great is a prostitute, but she was meant to be a bride. John gives a picture of a bride that has lost her way. She has broken her relationship with her true Lord by committing adultery. She started as the chosen people, but sold out after she was seduced by political power.

Babylon the Great "sits on many waters" (Rev 17:1). The meaning of this phrase is described later in the chapter.

Then the angel said to me, "The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages (Rev 17:15).
The waters represent the people of many nations and languages. This also points to the democratic power. The prostitute sits on the people of the world, which means that she gains her power from them. Her political power is not imposed from above, but given freely be democracy.

Babylon the Great was dressed in bright colours.

The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls (Rev 17:4).
Red and purple are the colours of royalty. They speak political power. This woman has compromised herself by using political power to accomplish her purposes. By doing a deal with the political powers, she gained real power, but spoilt her character.

The first name of the woman is "Mystery" (Rev 17:5). This is a warning that her appearance is deceiving. She appears to be beautiful, dressed in her lovely garments and glittering jewels, but underneath the facade, she is ugly and loathsome. She claims to be God's chosen nation, but has become an ugly distortion.

Israel is is a great city.

The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth (Rev 17:18).
The book of Revelation climaxes with a holy city coming down from earth to heaven. This is the picture of the Kingdom of God. The "city that rules the kings of the earth" is a counterfeit kingdom that purports to be the Kingdom of God, but is really the opposite.