The last days: Apostasy Pt3—Harlot religion Revelation 17:1-18
The apostasy of the last days is described here under a striking illustration. The imagery describes the apostasy up to the point we looked at last time, when the man of sin emerges out of the midst of it to declare himself God. Here that event is seen under the imagery of the beast no longer being submissive to the harlot but emerging from under her skirts to destroy her.
I THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE WOMAN.
- An idolatrous system of worship. The language used of her is typical of Biblical condemnation of idolatry. The analogy of immoral conduct, Jer 3:9, Ezek 16:17, Hos 4:12; the use of the term abominations, Deut 32:16, 2Chron 28:3; the imagery of the harlot—opposed to the bride of Christ.
- Babylon. The leading principle of Babylon was commercial/political activity focused upon an idolatrous religion. Cp Gen 11:4. This system spreads far beyond the geographical boundaries of the city.
- The source of, and final composite of, all departure from God. Here is a system that in the last days embodies every form of apostasy in a single entity. Every falsehood converges into an unholy amalgam to produce the man of sin.
- A system of decadent, sumptuous pleasure in wickedness. The picture is of rich debauchery, drunken license and excess. This is what wicked men find alluring and pleasurable. She represents the indulgence of every base desire of the human heart.
II THE SUPPORTS OF THIS EVIL SYSTEM.
- Popular support, v1-2, 15. This harlot system is a reflection of the state of the masses. She influences, dominates and is supported by peoples, multitudes, nations, tongues. The world is under her sway!
- The support of Antichrist and his puppet kingdoms. Cp v3, 7-8,10-14. At this point Antichrist is in a position of subservience. This will change half way through his 7 year career. Given what is said of the origins of Antichrist’s work, something of the nature of this harlot religion can be seen. It is a work of the devil! He is prepared to go to war against the people of God to advance the causes of the harlot.
- The seven mountains, v9. These too are symbols and reference the scope of the governmental power and influence of Antichrist’s kingdoms. Cp Jer 51:25, Ps 30:7, Hab 3:6, Dan 2:35, 44-45. The seven heads of the beast are like mountains of support to this woman. There is a massive completeness, a solid power to the function of this great mind that provides the forward impetus/thrust of this apostasy in its final phase.
III THE END TO WHICH SHE COMES.
- Marvelous splendour for a time. It is so impressive that John wonders at her, v6.
- Overthrown. The harlot is overthrown by the ten kings who are the puppets of the beast. They are however, only carrying through the purpose of God. The harlot is replaced with something even more bestial—the religion of the Antichrist. Ultimately, that is what all apostasy terminates in.