The Woman and the Beast

“So the angel took me in the Spirit into the wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that had seven heads and ten horns, and blasphemies against God were written all over it. The woman wore purple and scarlet clothing and beautiful jewellery made of gold and precious gems and pearls. In her hand she held a gold goblet full of obscenities and the impurities of her immorality. A mysterious name was written on her forehead: “Babylon the Great, Mother of All Prostitutes and Obscenities in the World.” I could see that she was drunk—drunk with the blood of God’s holy people who were witnesses for Jesus. I stared at her in complete amazement.”
Revelation‬ ‭17:3-6‬ ‭NLT

The angel leading the Apostle John in his vision is filling in more details to explain what is meant by the “great prostitute”. We see a picture of a desert containing a multi-headed, multi-horned, beast clothed in scarlet and covered in blasphemous words. The prostitute was beautifully and expensively dressed and was carrying a goblet with horrible contents. A label naming what she represented was attached to her forehead. And she was drunk. Drunk, we are told, on the blood of the martyrs. John couldn’t believe what his eyes were seeing.

The angel took John to a place, in his vision, where he could get some hints about what was really behind what he was seeing. And many people since have tried to work out what was symbolically meant by what John recorded. But what do we pilgrims make of it? There is, in my opinion, only limited value in trying to interpret what the “seven heads and ten horns” represent. Suffice to say, that there is being portrayed here an alternative society, the antithesis of that followed by God’s people. It was a global cult that became fashionable to be a part of, but its roots were blasphemous and pure anti-God. A religion that would be expected to emerge from the devil himself.

We pilgrims must be discerning. Some denominations today have tried to absorb worldly philosophies into their Christian liturgies and cultures, and in the process abandoning the purity of God’s Word. Proverbs 30:5-6, “Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection. Do not add to his words, or he may rebuke you and expose you as a liar“. So we have liberal theologians reinterpreting Scripture to suit their own world view. And if passages in the Bible, which are clear and non-negotiable, don’t fit in with their views, such people ignore them, or suggest they must have been there for a different culture or age. Someone with such a liberal mindset has taken a step on the slippery slope leading to apostasy and membership of the world religious cult epitomised by the “great prostitute”. 2 Timothy 3:5 reads, “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” The same chapter in 2 Timothy ends, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy‬ ‭3:16-17‬). We pilgrims must be aware that there is a global religion working behind the scenes, one that is using all sorts of ploys to divert Christians away from the purity of their faith.

As an example of this, think about mindfulness, which is increasing in popularity these days. Here is a definition I found from Mr. Google, “Mindfulness is a practice involved in various religious and secular traditions—from Hinduism and Buddhism to yoga and, more recently, non-religious meditation“. I recently came across a very sincere Christian man who promotes “Christian Mindfulness”. But I haven’t discovered how he reconciles Hinduism and Buddhism with Christianity. An example of how the “great prostitute”  is infiltrating the church perhaps? Hmmm …

Father God, once again we pray for discernment in these dark and difficult days. Lead us by Your Spirit we pray, and grant us the wisdom we need to navigate the paths before us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Great Prostitute

One of the seven angels who had poured out the seven bowls came over and spoke to me. “Come with me,” he said, “and I will show you the judgment that is going to come on the great prostitute, who rules over many waters. The kings of the world have committed adultery with her, and the people who belong to this world have been made drunk by the wine of her immorality.”
Revelation‬ ‭17:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The seal and plague judgements are behind us and a separate scene is playing out in John’s vision. It is almost as though the main plot or narrative has been put on hold while a cameo appearance of the “great prostitute” takes place. Although we can read, and accept, what John saw literally, the only way we can make any sense of it is by interpreting it symbolically. The problem is that there can be several interpretations. 

So perhaps one interpretation is that the “great prostitute” is a form of religion. Not Godly in origin of course, but perhaps of a form based on a philosophy or with roots in a mystical or even Eastern religion. In recent times we have seen the emergence of spiritual disciplines such as Yoga or Mindfulness. In the 1960’s Transcendental Meditation was popularised by the Beatles. These are techniques or processes that many have claimed are beneficial for mental health, but they are all human based and exclude any involvement or recognition of God. They encourage us to look inward into ourselves, which may not be the most healthy practice for humans. There is, however, the possibility that John saw graphically, pictorially, a world religious philosophy or cult that had, at its roots, an anti-God, pro-self, pro-beast bias and perspective.

But why did John refer to it as the “great prostitute”? He described something that had become a global, God-substitute phenomenon, global because of the reference to “many waters”. And we see widespread acceptance of this beast-inspired religious cult by the world rulers, who apparently embraced it whole-heartedly. But there’s a problem for those who follow the “great prostitute” instead of God. We read the first commandment given by God to Moses, in Exodus 20:3-5, “You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me.” The beast-inspired global cult collides with God’s laws, as we are seeing in this chapter in Revelation. The “great prostitute” epitomises the wickedness and evil involved in the worship of anything except God Himself, and provides a focus point with a parallel to sexual sins.

We pilgrims have to be careful in this life. There is emerging from our academic institutions and politicians, amongst others, a philosophy that will not tolerate dissenters. Those who disagree with their points of view or ideologies are labelled as bigots or worse, and their alternative views, even if established on tradition, are closed down. That will be a sign of the global religion promoted by the followers of the “great prostitute”. And in these days the dissenters, perhaps us pilgrims included, will keep quiet rather than get involved in a public, social-media-fuelled, spat. So we pray. 

Dear God. Please grant us the wisdom to speak when there is value and keep quiet when there is not. Please help us to find the words that breathe life, Your life, into those we speak to, and we pray for Your Spirit to lead and guide us as You desire. Amen.