Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Great Harlot

Rev.17:3-4 NASB - "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. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality.”

            The Book of Revelation has often been viewed as a book of mystery and intrigue. Because it falls in the literary genre of apocalyptic literature, it is rich in signs and symbols. Because of this, it can be difficult to interpret. To add to the difficulty, many in our generation have approached the book from a futuristic hermeneutic of strict literalism leading to interpretations of unrestrained imagination.
            How are we to understand the meaning of this woman in Chapter 17, who is also referred to as “Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots” (V.5)? William Hendriksen has provided great service to the church in his book, “More than Conquerors,” in which he approaches the Book of Revelation using a hermeneutic referred to as Progressive Parallelism (also articulated by Anthony Hoekema). This approach views the Book of Revelation as depicting the church from the time of Christ’s first coming to the time of His second. Like the City of Babylon of old, this woman represents all that allures, tempts, seduces and draws people away from God. Hendriksen writes, “Babylon, therefore, must indicate the world as a centre of industry, commerce, art, culture, etc., which by means of all these things seeks to entice and seduce the believer, that is, to turn him away from God. It symbolizes the concentration of luxury, vice and glamour of this world. It is the world viewed as the embodiment of the ‘lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life’” (page 168).
            It is interesting, she is depicted as a Great Harlot, one who entices foolish men with her allurements. This describes the world around us. Rev. 18:3 describes her enticements: “For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.”
            The allurement of this world is the great danger faced by every Christian of every age. We must guard against the riches of this world that can so easily drown men in perdition. The most dangerous aspect of it is how subtle it can be. We can become swallowed up by the lust for pleasure and materialism and not even recognize that we have been seduced. May God protect His people. He warns us: “Come out of her my people, so that you will not participate in her sins” (18:4).

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