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I. The Great Whore Dominates the Beast (Revelation 17:1-6)
As a woman and a city are both used as symbols of the church (1 Corinthians 11:12; Revelation 21:9, 10), so both figures are before us in this descriptive portion of apostate Christendom. In Revelation 17:18 the woman is identified as the city: “And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.”
The scarlet woman, one of the profound marvels of Scripture, is Satan’s masterpiece of counterfeiting. What a travesty the mother of harlots is of the true church! The dream of some religious leaders, presently laboring for church unity, will be realized in the coming universal church controlled by the Papacy.
Believing as we do, that the chapter before us sets forth Romanism in its most powerful and pernicious form, the dominant force in apostate Christendom, let us seek to classify our material under convenient sections.
Pictured as “sitting,” we note the woman’s seat. She “sitteth upon many waters” (17:1); “I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast” (verse 3); “Seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth” (verse 9). “Sitting upon many waters” receives the following exposition by John in verse 15: “And he saith unto me, ‘The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.’” The “many waters” therefore typify the vast multitudes of the human race over whom the woman had cast her spell. Ancient Babylon got its wealth by means of the Euphrates and its numerous canals for irrigation. And the Roman Church fattens on the nations she governs. “Sitting upon the waters” (Jeremiah 51:13), indicates that the great whore rules and dominates the nations religiously, just as the Beast does politically. Representing a vast religious system, the woman’s following is a universal one. And that the Roman Catholic Church is on the road to world-wide supremacy is a fact that none can at present gainsay.
“Sitting upon the beast” means that the harlot sits astride the Beast. She not only exercises religious dominion over the multitudes, but is also able to manage and guide the Beast. All vassal kings and human rulers, especially within the revived Roman Empire, are under her sway. Civil and political power are subservient to her rule and supremacy. And such thorough and complete subjugation over the vast imperial and apostate power headed up in the Beast is already in the making. Two distinct ideas are represented by the woman and the Beast. We can express the opposites thus—
The woman personifies corruption of truth,
The Beast personifies open defiance of God;
The woman embodies all that is licentious,
The Beast embodies all that is cruel and ruthless.