FOUR WOMEN IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION
(Sunday, July 19, 2020)
Most of us don’t like and take interest in reading the Book of Revelation for various reasons. This is the concluding book of the Bible and is one of the most valuable books for Christian life. This is the greatest revelation for humankind where Father God, Glorified Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Angels and MAN [John] were engaged to write and convey the messages to Christians. It is written for the believers [Churches], not for the non-believers. In Deuteronomy 12: 32 we read, “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it”. The Book of Revelation is the only book that says, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand (Revelation 1:3; Revelation 22:7) as well as says, “…..if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Revelation 22:18-19). This is written for ordinary people with its practical purpose so that they can prepare themselves for welcoming of glorified Jesus to earth, reign on earth with him, and qualify themselves in His judgement. It has about 56 predictions, which is the highest number of predictions revealed in the New Testament and encourages us to live in Faith, Hope & Love. Moreover, Revelation 22:12-13 says, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end”.
When I began reading the book of Revelation for its spiritual benefits. I started to take this book of Scripture seriously and saw a pattern emerging which gave tremendous importance to WOMEN in Chapter 2, Chapter 12, Chapter 17 and Chapter 21 & 22. I asked many questions in relation to their importance, such as: Who do they represent? How are they understood by Christians? Why would Christians identify with them? What makes them so unique? When did their importance begin in Christian history? Where is the factual basis for their importance in Christian history found? What do these “women” tell us about God, Jesus, the Spirit and our relationship to the Trinity? And, finally, what do they tell us about ourselves? These tantalizing questions about these fascinating women led me on a personal journey of research and study of the Book of Revelation which continues as we enter the new millennium.
In the Book of Revelation, we find four female figures throughout the Book of Revelation: ‘Jezebel’ (Chapter 2), the unnamed woman “clothed with the sun” (Chapter 12), ‘Babylon’ (Chapter 17), and ‘Jerusalem’ (Chapter 21 & 22). Let us try to figure out who are they and what do they represent?
2.0 THE FIRST WOMAN “CLOTHED WITH THE SUN” – REPRESENTS TO “ISRAEL” AND “FAITHFUL CHURCH”
In Revelation 12:1-17 we find the woman clothed with the sun. We read, “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the 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.”
If we look at the tradition of the Church, Pope Pius X in 1904, Pope Pius XII in 1950, and Pope John Paul II, in his 1995 encyclical The Gospel of Life, stated that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the “woman clothed with the sun” in Revelation 12:1, which may not be true, because the predictions in Book of Revelation are about the future events. Moreover, the Scriptures say that she is not an actual woman, but a symbolic representation of ‘Israel’ and ‘Faithful Church’.
Israel is pictured in the Old Testament as the ‘WOMAN’, the wife of God (Isaiah 54:5-8; Jeremiah 3:6-8, 31:32; Ezekiel 16:32; Hosea 2:16). In Isaiah 54:5-8 we read, “For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer”.
In likening the woman to the Queen Bride of Israel, his description of her echoes Isaiah, who said that Israel would be arrayed like a radiant Queen Bride (Isaiah 60:19–20; Isaiah 62:3–5). Solomon’s bride in the Song of Solomon is similarly described (Songs 6:10). John drives this point home by telling us that the woman wears a crown of twelve stars, an obvious symbol of the twelve tribes of Israel. In the Old Testament, God referred to His people as a woman whom He had dressed in honour and splendor (Ezekiel 16). The garland with 12 stars may be symbolic of the 12 tribes of Israel (Genesis 37:9-11). In Genesis 37:9 we read, “And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me”. Being clothed with the sun speaks of the glory, dignity, and exalted status of Israel, the people of promise who will be saved, and given a kingdom. The picture of the moon under her feet possibly describes God’s covenant relationship with Israel, since new moons were associated with worship (1 Chronicles 23:21; 2 Chronicles 2:4, 8:13; Ezra 3:5; Psalm 81:3). The 12 stars represent the twelve tribes of Israel.
In Genesis 3: 14-16 we read, “And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. Further we read in Matthew 24:15-16 about the flee into the wilderness. It says, when ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
Throughout Revelation 12 we note that the “woman” is repeatedly protected by God (verses 6, 14-16), especially as the time approaches for the “kingdom of our God” to be established on earth (verse 10). In the New Testament, God’s Church is symbolized as a woman; and its members are likened to virgins (Matthew 25:1-13; Revelation 14:4; Revelation 19:7). The New Testament Church is called “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16) and likened to “Jerusalem above,” which is called “the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26, also see Hebrews 12:22-23). Members of the Church are described as “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His [God’s] own special people” (1 Peter 2:9). Moreover, throughout Revelation, the twelve tribes are also reckoned as signs of the twelve Apostles, the representatives of the new Israel, the Church (Revelation 7:4–8; 21:12–14). So, just as Daughter Zion was a symbol of the chosen people of God—Israel—the woman in Revelation is also a symbol of the new people of God, the Church. Paul, in language similar to that of Revelation, called the Church “the Jerusalem above . . . our mother.” He also spoke of the Church as the Bride of Christ (Galatian 4:26; Ephesians 5:31–32). Likewise, John referred to the Church as a “Lady” (2 John, verse 5). The woman of Revelation, however, is more than a symbol for the Church. She is also its mother with “offspring” in addition to the one male child to whom she gives birth. And those children are described in Revelation as those who believe in Jesus. John’s language recalls Jesus’ words to his Apostles in John 14:1–3. The language of preparing a place is also often used in the New Testament to describe the destiny God has planned for his children (Matthew 20:23, 25:34; 1 Peter 1:5; 1 Corinthians 2:9). John’s words also evoke God’s care for Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 1:31–33, 32:10–12, 8:2–3).
The woman also serves as a collective symbol for both Israel and the Church. The description of the woman reflects her heavenly glory, and the twelve stars of her glorious crown symbolize the people of God, the twelve Patriarchs of Israel (Genesis 37) and the twelve Apostles of the New Covenant of the Church of Christ. She is Israel, Daughter Zion (Isaiah 62:11), the woman in travail (Micah 4:10), the nation from whom the Messiah comes, the community of faith and obedience that awaits the birth of the Messiah. In Hebrew a country is expressed in the feminine tense, as mother of her inhabitants (Isaiah 66:7-9). When Christ returns to earth, He is going to marry the Church, which is called “His wife” in Revelation 19:7. Based on these passages, it is clear that the woman in Revelation 12 represents God’s people.
3.0 THE SECOND WOMAN JEZEBEL – REPRESENTS THE “PEGAN CHURCH” OR “COMPROMISED CHURCH” AS IN THYATIRA
This woman represents the pagan church. This isn’t the actual queen Jezebel who once actually lived. (1 Kings, 2 Kings). This Jezebel mentioned in Revelation 2:20 was more likely a Jezebel type. She was a woman who actually was living and harming the church at Thyatira, but was called by Jesus “Jezebel.” This was not a compliment. In Revelation 2: 20-24 we read, “Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.”
One cannot understand the message of the letter to Thyatira and trait of this women, if we do not understand something of the situation at Thyatira and the background of Jezebel.
Thyatira was a commercial city, a town of merchants and craftsman, which is addressed to the least important of the seven cities mentioned in the Book of Revelation [seven churches], but surely not the least interesting. Thyatira was a church that was suffering a sorcerer, conniving with a crone, and winking at a witch in her midst.
We’re not surprised then that the Laura Ashley of the day was Lydia. She was an individual of whom we read in Acts 16:14, that she was from Thyatira and that her business was the business of dye. Now, the dye was common in Thyatira was taken from some plants and also some little shellfish. One drop of which was responsible for the purple dye that was so valued by the ancients. In fact, to have one pound of this dye cost about two hundred dollars in today’s value. So one can see that it’s expensive, and Lydia was a merchant lady of some success. She was, according to the Book of Acts 16:14 she was in Philippi and carrying on her business. We read there, “And a certain woman, named Lydia, a seller of purple of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God heard us,” so Thyatira as a home, a commercial city particularly dealing with the purple dye.
Thyatira was one of the least important of these cities, no doubt about that, but in its guilds was its power, so that the commercial guilds governed the life of Thyatira. That means that anyone who lived in Thyatira was a person who was associated with the business of the city, had to be associated with the business of the city, and was faced with some particular problems because in the ancient guilds they were very much like fraternities or sororities. An individual who was in a guild, and most of the citizens no doubt were associated with them, had particular meetings in which they got together, discussed their own affairs, and generally had a pretty good time. One of the things that they did was, they began every meeting, usually, with a sacrifice. And that sacrifice was a sacrifice that was made to one of the heathen deities that they were attached to. And then, of course, even in the invitations references were made to the deities that were to be celebrated in their festivities around the tables. Generally speaking, they began with a cup of wine, but this cup of wine was poured out as a libation and an offering to the gods. So they not only had the sacrificed and the food that they ate was the food that had been sacrificed in honour of some of the gods, but even as they began their meals, there was a reference in their opening grace so to speak, to the Heathen Gods. And then, at the end of the meal, the same thing would take place. So, they were business gatherings in one sense, but in everything in their business gatherings the heathen gods were honoured. So, the problem at Thyatira was that here is a church that evidently is compromising, to some extent, the holy truth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
This is not the first church whose trouble might be traced to someone who was like a witch. So, we’re not surprised at this. Unless you think that we’re paying special attention upon the women, let’s remember how many false churches have started through men. So, we’re not saying anything special. We’re just saying that it pertains to both sexes, and in this case the one who was responsible for the troubles in Thyatira was a female called in the text, “That woman, Jezebel.” Now, who was she? Well, obviously the name is a symbolic name. That was not her real name most likely, but she is looked at as one who represents in Thyatira something that Jezebel did in ancient times in the 9th Century. Jezebel was remembered from Sidon. Her father was a king and so she was a princess, and she was married to king Ahab. And she worshiped the Baals or a Baal god, and consequently, as you read the Old Testament, particularly 1 Kings and then even their references to her in 2 Kings, she was an individual who was an immoral person. As later on she was involved in witchcraft and whoredums. The worship of Baal included sacrificing their own children and cultic prostitution- it was a very evil religion. But, nevertheless, the primary thing that Jezebel sought to do was to erect the worship of Baal into the worship of Yahweh-GOD, so that both could be worshiped together in the same worship. In other words, to dilute the once and for all character of the God of Israel, Yahweh, and now worship the Baal along with the Lord God. So, she did not wish to eliminate, or at least she did not publicly to eliminate the worship of Yahweh-GOD, she just wanted the individuals to worship Yahweh and Baal. We live in a pluralistic society. You can worship anyone if you want to, and that’s supposed to be good, but that’s not good for a Christian. So, Baal and God. She was Ahab’s evil genius because she had evidently such control over him that this was allowed to continue. You know, when you look around you, and you look at the religion’s that are about us, the common religions that we know and that we recognize. In effect, just allow us to be placed on the same level with Christianity as a pluralistic kind of worship. We would like to have that status. But you see, in Christianity the fundamental fact that Christianity sets forth is that there is one God, that’s Yahweh, there is one way of salvation through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In other words, Christianity is unique. It cannot be mixed with anything because if you mix it you destroy its character.
Well, Jezebel evidently believed that one should have the worship of Baal along with the worship of Yahweh, and she did everything that she possibly could to arrange for that. You know, of course, the climactic struggle between Elijah and Jezebel [1Kings 18], and the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the great struggle that took place on Mount Carmel when Elijah, by God’s unique authority, overcame the prophets and slew them and established, for a time at least, the fact that the Lord God was the Lord God. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah saying “So may the gods do to me and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life…” (1 Kings 19:2-3a) This is one bad woman.
Now this is Jezebel. But what did she teach? Well, she taught two satanic doctrines. One, she taught that they should commit fornication. Notice the Revelation 2:24, “But unto you I say, unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.” But in the Revelation 2:20, “That woman Jezebel, she calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and seduces my servants to commit fornication.” These doctrines are the depths of Satan.
For in the Old Testament that term ‘fornication’ is used of those who worship the demons, or worship the idols, or worship the heathen Gods, a kind of religious fornication. Now, remember in the guilds, this was frequently what happened. Those feasts degenerated into this, and then of course all over the ancient world individuals were attached to the heathen temples, and fornication was one of the ways by which you worshiped a fertility god or goddess. And so, in order to worship truly it was said that one must have fornication with some of the temple prostitutes. So evidently all of this is involved in what is happening in Thyatira.
Now the God at Thyatira was Tyrimas or Tyrimnos. He was called by both, but he was simply an incarnation of the god Apollo. So, you would receive an invitation to the guild’s festival, and it would read something like this, “Dine with us at the Temple of our Lord Tyrimnos.” Now you can see a Christian involved in the guilds would be unable to answer an invitation like that. We couldn’t come and dine with them at the table of the God Tyrimnos. No Christian could do that. But it was said, “Why not do that? After all, it’s just a form.” But no Christian, no true Christian, according to our Lord’s teaching, could do that. You cannot under any circumstances sit down at a table in which the person to be honoured is a false god. A Christian cannot do that. His testimony is blighted immediately. And so, come dine with us at the table of our Lord Tyrimnos was an invitation that no Christian could accept.
4.0 THE THIRD WOMAN SITTING ON A SCARLET BEAST – REPRESENTS THE CITY OF MAN, BABYLON 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. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. (Revelation 17:3-6).
Purple and scarlet…the colours of royalty, nobility and wealth. The woman is portrayed as a prostitute who has successfully plied her trade and become extremely wealthy. Adorned…Prostitutes often dress in fine clothes and precious stones to allure their victims. (Proverbs 7:10). The religious harlot Babylon is no different, adorning herself to lure the nations into her grasp. Now if you’ll take a look down at Revelation 17:18, at the conclusion of this chapter the apostle writes, ” And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.”
The woman of chapter seventeen, is in complete contrast to her rival of chapter twelve. The display of wealth and manner of dress are designed to enhance her personal beauty and glory. She has all the finery and precious things of earth, but nothing of heaven. She is Satan’s agent in his war against Christ. This woman has on her forehead no crown, but her name of mystery: Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of earth’s abominations. Her shame is her crown. No one need really be deceived by her, for she proclaims her preference for the things of the flesh rather than the things of God.
Now let’s turn to Zechariah 5:5-11 and we’ll read one of Zechariah’s visions, “Then the angel who was speaking with me went out and said to me, ‘Lift up now your eyes and see what this is going forth.’ And I said, ‘What is it?’ And he said, ‘This is the ephah going forth.’ Again he said, ‘This is their appearance in all the land and behold, a lead cover was lifted up; and this is a woman sitting inside the ephah.’ Then he said, ‘This is Wickedness!’ And he threw her down into the middle of the ephah and cast the lead weight on its opening. Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and there two women were coming out with the wind in their wings; and they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heavens.”
Reference to the stork is very interesting in light of the fact that Pliny [ph4:51], many centuries ago, made the comment that one of the characteristic things of storks was to go back to their former nests, and so that would be very fitting for this particular prophecy. We read, “And they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heavens and I said to the angel who was speaking with me, ‘Where are they taking the ephah?’ Then he said to me, ‘To build a temple for her in the land of Shinar; and when it is prepared, she will be set there on her own pedestal.” (Note that Shinar, is one of the terms for Babylon. Babylon was in the land of Shinar so that is a prophecy that has to do with Babylon and Babylonianism.)
We touch upon one of the most important, most astonishing, yet most neglected subjects in the Bible. Babylon, its origin, we have referred to that; its persistence, its demise in Old Testament times; its revival in Old Testament times; and its ultimately catastrophic destruction set forth both in the Old and the New Testaments. In fact, about ten chapters in the Bible are devoted to the subject of Babylon. Many of them, as you know from the reading of the Bible, are entire chapters; others significant parts of chapters. We are dealing with a subject from the standpoint of the content of the Scriptures is an important subject. The Bible, as we know, is one long admonition against idolatry. In fact, when Moses gave the law, the opening words as he recounts them are these: “Then God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” And then in the New Testament times near the end of the completion of the Revelation found in the New Testament, the Apostle John, so far as we can tell, the last living author of Revelation, concludes the 5th chapter of his first epistle by saying, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” So, it is true that the Bible is one long admonition against idolatry and Babylon is significant in that Babylonianism, Babylon is the source of organized rebellion against God. Going back to Genesis chapter 11 and the building of the tower of Babel, when the Babylonians gathered together with their desire to build the tower, their purpose was unity. Their program was united effort and the principle that moved them was human glory, not divine glory, but human glory. Let’s make for ourselves a name. It was, in fact, a program that they hoped would be something like a counterfeit of the Kingdom of God.
Perhaps Satan’s earthly headquarters were at Babylon since there from easy access to the east or to the west and it would be an ideal place from with to counteract the influence of Jerusalem. We do know from Revelation 2: 13 in the message to Pergamum it is stated, “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwelleth.” In the Bible, these two great cities are set over against each other; the city of Babylon and the city of Jerusalem.
Now he says that “He saw the woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.” This beast is identical with the great dragon of chapter twelve, and he is that old serpent called the devil and Satan (Revelation 12 :9); so this woman is “the synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9), the city and bride of the prince of this world (John 14:30). She sits on the seven heads of the dragon, the seven kings or kingdoms, and she sits upon “many waters,” the peoples and nations and tongues of the world. (Revelation 17:15.) She is carried by the beast, rules over the kings of the earth, and is supported by the peoples of the world. The governments support her, the peoples sustain her, and the prince of darkness upholds this lady of his choice. This is her foundation and “light.”
I suggest to you, that at this point, he’s talking not primarily about the city, but not excluding the city, he’s talking primarily about the city and the system, and the system, at this point, is prominent. The system found in the city of Babylon at that time seen as a woman and the fact that the system is seen as a woman is suggested by the temptation of Adam in the Garden of Eden by a woman. That appears to be the reason for the use of the figure. He’s not trying to suggest that women are inferior, but in the biblical revelation and in the story of Genesis, that is helpful as a figure. So, the system is seen as a woman and that suggests the original fall in the Garden of Eden taking place through Eve and affecting also Adam. What this suggests also that the harlot sits upon the scarlet beast representative of the anti-Christ, is that the woman will dominate the politics of the ten-kingdom empire for a time, using the secular arm as a tool. Ultimately, the Book of Revelation tells us that the political beast, an anti-Christ, will overthrow the woman. We’ll read about this in this very chapter. And that had used politics. We’ll discover that politics destroys the religious arm as well. Babylon assures herself that she is happily married and that her husband and children will remain with her. She feels herself a queen, and no widow, and safe from sorrow. (Revelation 18 :7.) But all is not harmony in her house. The ten horns that you saw, said the angel to John, they and the beast will hate the harlot; they will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her with fire. (Revelation 17 :16) As a house divided against itself cannot stand, she is going to sure destruction.
In verse 4 through verse 6, John describes the woman, her appearance and her acts. He says, “And the woman was clothed in purple and scarlet”, that tells you right in the beginning since purple dye and scarlet dye were very expensive and very hard to obtain, that we are talking about a commercial kind of relationship that is associated with luxury in its apostasy. So “the woman was clothed with purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls”. It’s not the 20th Century, it’s not any century, it’s designed to express to us the fact that characteristic of this union of the religious and the political arm is a kind of life that is characterized by luxury in apostasy. We do know from this Book of Revelation that in chapter 2 and verse 13 in the message to Pergamum it is stated, “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwelleth.” So the very fact that we have reference here to Satan’s dwelling in Pergamum in the sense of the original text is that he has something of a permanent home there; that there is some evidence that the Chaldean priesthood moved to Pergamum to carry on worship there and when Attalus the Third, who was a ruler over that part of Asia Minor, willed his kingdom to Rome then, of course, you have justification for saying that some of the characteristic religious practices also made their entry in Rome, but they were already in Rome even before that. When Julius Caesar assumed authority, he was made not simply the head of the state, but the head of the Roman religion and he was given the title of Pontifex Maximus.
Notice the combination of the two. She is great Babylon, Babylon the Great, and mother. Great and mother combine to show that the woman is the embodiment and the source, being the mother, the source of rebellious false religion without God. Now the system, in my opinion, goes beyond what we know as Romanism. As a matter of fact, it was not in existence as Romanism in John’s day, so we’re talking about something that’s bigger than Romanism and bigger than Protestantism and is more original. It’s the Babylonianism religion of separation from the Lord God and rebellion against Him. This is what John is speaking about. Notice the second thing that is said about her acts. “And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus and when I saw her, I wondered greatly.” So, we picture a woman, she is reeling with the blood of the saints as a kind of alcohol and drug that have caused her to reel. She is drunk with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus and the blood of the saints. Now, of course, the Apostle John, when he wrote this, he had already had some contact with Babylonianism in his day because Nero had been on the throne and Nero had persecuted the Christians, and that was well known, and many others also had as well. So, undoubtedly that was in the apostle’s mind. But let us not forget that it is not the apostle who gives us the Book of Revelation. It is ultimately our Lord through the Apostle John. So “drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses” to our Lord, is even broader than anything that Nero might have done. Rome was known as a wicked, vile, corrupt city. There is no doubt that the important thing that comes to you as we look at these verses that we’ve looked at is the implicit admonition against Babylonian defiance of God. “He will tell those who are in Babylon to flee outside of the city” and surely that expresses the attitude that one has as he reads these things. He would want to do just exactly that. It’s false safety to find any sense of assurance in anyone but the Lord God. The Bible proclaims the unequivocal separation from the deeds and the ideas of Babylonianism to seek the city of God and its holy order is our goal, When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he reminded them that they had turned from the idols to serve the living and the true God and to wait for His Son from heaven. What better picture could one have of true conversion in Christ? That we have turned from the idols to serve the living and true God. The idols that represent our failure to worship the Lord God: materialism, ambition, a sense of things that cloud of vision of the Lord and cause us to have priorities that are not the priorities of the truth of God in the word of God.
It’s very instructive that the woman is called the great harlot because you know from the reading of the Bible, and here’s an instance incidentally of how important it is to read the Bible over and over again that you might understand the Bible, and this book especially, the great harlot, harlotry in the Old Testament, if you read through the Old Testament, you could not help but see because it is so often, harlotry is devotion paid to illicit lovers. Well you might say, “Well, yes, of course. Harlotry is devotion paid to an illicit lover.” But as the man who commits adultery with a prostitute, engages in harlotry and he has given devotion to an illicit lover (the licit lover is his wife), but he has engaged in adultery with a prostitute. Harlotry, yes, but, of course, in the Old Testament, that forms an illustration of spiritual adultery, spiritual harlotry. So, harlotry is devotion paid to illicit lovers, true, but it’s the standing symbol of religious apostasy and debauched worship. If we read Jeremiah chapter 3; Hosea chapters 1 and 2; and other passages in the Old Testament we find that God frequently warns and then condemns Israel for their harlotry of turning to false gods, to rendering to the false gods the devotion that they should render to Yahweh, the true God. You find many illustrations of this in the history of Israel. When Israel ran to Egypt for help, they were engaging in spiritual harlotry. When they went for help to Assyria, they were engaging in spiritual harlotry. When they went for help to Babylon, they were engaging in spiritual harlotry. When the Maccabees appealed to Rome against Syria, they were engaging in spiritual harlotry. Someone has even suggested that in our times today, Zionism has engaged in spiritual harlotry too because when Zionism came into existence for help in the founding of the nation Israel in Palestine, they first turned to the Sultan of Turkey. And then second, they turned to the Kaiser of Germany. Then they turned to England. In other words, in the very foundations of the country in the land, there was spiritual harlotry in the sense that they did not simply turn to the Lord God and expect Him to do the miracle for them.
Now what makes this so bad is the fact that God regards this as a horrible sin. Listen to what he says about the worship of the false gods. He says, “It’s this abominable thing that I hate.” The idols are called abominations and He calls it an abomination that He hates. And, of course, in addition to the actual worship of a false god, there were also the vile practices associated with them for the literal, physical adultery was often associated with the spiritual adultery as part of the worship of the fertility gods. So, when we read here of the great harlot, we are talking about illicit love. That is, she represents illicit love, illicit worship. Now he says, “With whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.” Seduced by her splendid, but foul attractiveness, they indulge in her vile worship of idols. General idolatry existed on the earth, but it existed in Israel and will exist in the end times. In chapter 9 and verse 20 of this book we read, “And the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk.” In other words, Babylonianism persists right down to the end. Now secondly, John points us to the vision of the woman in verse 3. He says, “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.” He’s now to see the coming judgment of the harlot. He’s in a state of ecstasy for he says in the 3rd verse, “He carried me away in the Spirit”. So, in the mind of Scripture, we have on the one hand, Babylon, the apostate city, from whence have come all of the evils that have infiltrated true worship down through the centuries. And on the other hand, we have the holy city, the city of the new Jerusalem. So, these things are obviously opposed one to another. “He carried me away then in the Spirit into the wilderness.” Now that’s an appropriate setting for a vision of judgment, the wilderness. Not heaven, but the wilderness. It’s suitable for Babylon likened in the Old Testament to that very thing. Incidentally, this is probably a clue that we are not talking about the ancient city of Rome at this point, but primarily of the system because Rome was anything but a wilderness.
5.0 THE FOURTH WOMAN THE WIFE OF THE LAMB – REPRESENTS THE CITY OF GOD, ZION / JERUSALEM
[The New Jerusalem] “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 thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. 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, (Revelation 21:9-10).
Israel was certainly espoused to God (note, God) and became His wife. Because of her rejection of His Word and will, Israel was abandoned as an adulterous wife. Later on, she will become Jehovah’s restored wife (Isaiah 54:6, 7; 62:4, 5). Those who advocate that Israel is the Bride erroneously teach that “wife” is her earthly title and “bride” her heavenly designation. Scriptures proves that God cast Israel off as a wife, and that it is impossible for Him to marry her as a “virgin” (Jeremiah 3:1-18; Ezekiel 16; Hosea 2; 3:1-5). In Matthew 22:2; 25:6, 10; 2 Corinthians 11:2 we read on the emblem of the heavenly Bridegroom and Bride. Perfect union with Him personally and participation in His holiness, joy, glory and kingdom are included in this symbol of ‘marriage’ [Song of Solomon everywhere]. Now, Israel was a widow and childless, and she was desolate and forsaken. She was as a wife of youth who had been refused, and she wandered to and fro. (Isaiah 54 :1-6; 49:21) But her Redeemer came and bought her back, and her Maker became her husband. “The God of the whole earth shall He be called” (Isaiah 54:5), and she received a new name, Hephzibah, “My delight is in her.” Her children keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus, and they are therefore persecuted. (Revelation 12:17) These children are virgins (Revelation 14:4), and they are undefiled with women; that is, with the woman of chapter seventeen and her daughters. They overcame their persecutors by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony, and they are called the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord. (Isaiah 62:12)
These two women are two cities—the city of this world and the city of the world to come. The one is called Zion (Isaiah 66:7-8); and the other is named Babylon, the great city that rules over the kings of the earth (Revelation 17:18). Zion is pure and undefiled, but Babylon is a harlot. Of right Zion belongs to God, for He created her, but she has given herself to Satan. Zion will be established forever, but Babylon will be destroyed. (Revelation 21: 2-3; 18:21)
Looking at the word of God, there are a number of places that make this comment, I think, justifiable, that Jerusalem [Zion] was God’s elect city from ancient times. From Jerusalem, there would ultimately come the truth of God. You read the prophets such as Isaiah the 2nd chapter, “And in the days of the Kingdom of God men shall go to Jerusalem because the word of the Lord shall go from Jerusalem out to the whole of the world.” In Ezekiel 5:5 we read these words, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘This is Jerusalem; I have set her at the center of the nations, with lands around her.” So, when we think of Jerusalem, we think of the city of God and, in fact, the new Jerusalem still plays upon that particular sense of the term Jerusalem. Jerusalem was called something like the navel of the world and in medieval maps, it was recognized. Their maps were often made with Jerusalem at the center of the whole world because Ezekiel had said, “I have set Jerusalem in the midst of the nations.” There is a tablet in the British Museum on which this city is represented as the center of the world. The navel of the world may still be seen today in the Greek Choir of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. In medieval times, maps were often constructed with the countries of the world placed around Jerusalem as their center, an obvious derivation from the text from Ezekiel that we have just read. But in any way, we can understand how maps were made in the light of this, but in this instance, there is some justification from the word of God for it. It’s interesting to know that the Garden of Eden was located in the general area of what is today Iraq and Babylon’s ancient location.
The consummation of the relationships between the Bridegroom and the Bride is still to her an anticipation yet to be realized. He has espoused her to Himself: the wedding day awaits His imminent return. It would be normal for her to be looking and longing for His return. Such an attitude is rightly to be expected where any real love for Him exists. His return, however, and the celestial union with His Bride will not await the results of the meagre power of her poor love for Him. All the divine purpose in calling her out, the present tender grace expended in her behalf, like His certain return, are dependent only on His love for her. This is a “love that passeth knowledge.” Here is sufficient motive to insure the accomplishment of all that the divine wisdom and power can perfect. By no less a perfection will His Bride appear in glory. She, because He is able, will be presented faultless before the presence of His glory to His own exceeding joy (Jude 24).
Among the many marvellous scenes John witnessed was that of “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). In Revelation 21:9 this glorious city is identified as the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. The glorified church, then, is both a city and a bride. She is “the city of God” in that she represents the sum of perfected individuals. In her love and unity, she is the “Bride.” The Bride and the city are identical, thus the New Jerusalem is to be the home and residence of the Bride. She is to be the prominent center of the city and saved nations are to partake of her blessedness (Revelation 21:24). Her brightness is to supply the light they will walk in. Indwelt by her Lord, she will be the medium of blessings to the new earth (Luke 19:17, 19). The church is to stand out as the most magnificent of all created works. In the description John gives us of perfect unity, the church’s governmental relationship to the Lamb is noted. God’s eternal home is to be in the capital city of the new creation. Here is the center of divine presence and the government of all in the universe of God and the Lamb. With each view of the city the Lamb is named and the sevenfold reference (Revelation 21:9, 14, 22, 23, 27; 22:1-3) indicates that although Christ delivers up the kingdom of God, He yet shares it with the redeemed.
In the Book of Revelation, we find four female figures throughout the Book of Revelation: ‘Jezebel’ (Chapter 2), the unnamed woman “clothed with the sun” (Chapter 12), ‘Babylon’ (Chapter 17), and ‘Jerusalem’ (Chapter 21 & 22). This revelation of the four women is of personal interest to everyone. Two of these women are depicted positively (the unnamed woman and ‘Jerusalem’) and two negatively (‘Jezebel’ and ‘Babylon’). There are strong links between the positive figures and between the negative figures and these linked pairs over against one another. By closely linking the negative women, ‘Jezebel’ and ‘Babylon’, and by setting them over against the positive women, we see Christian rival on the side of evil and, second, ‘Jezebel’ indirectly by maligning ‘Babylon’. All of us are children of the one [positive figure], or of the other [negative figure]. We are citizens of Zion or of Babylon. To which city do you own allegiance? Which of the two women do you claim as your mother? Whose clothing and adornment do you wear? Who is your prince—that ruler of the darkness of this world, or the Sun of Righteousness? This is a question not to be -valued in dollars. Life itself is at stake. Everyone desires life and liberty, and they are his right. The revelation of these four women shows plainly where life and liberty are to be found. They are certainly not in Babylon, the murderess of the saints. They are found in Zion [Jerusalem], the city of God and the fountain of truth. Let us put on her robes, be established on her foundation, and walk in her light, that we may live with her and enjoy her liberty and share her glory forever.