Thursday, December 29, 2016

"The Great Harlot" In Revelation

Proverbs 7:1-27 NIV

Warning Against the Adulterous Woman

1My son, keep my words
and store up my commands within you.
2Keep my commands and you will live;
guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.

3Bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4Say to Wisdom, “YOU Are my sister,”
and to Insight, “YOU Are my relative.”

5They will keep you from the adulterous woman,
from the wayward woman with her seductive words.
6At the window of my house
I looked down through the lattice.
7I saw among the simple,
I noticed among the young men,
a youth who had no sense.
8He was going down the street near her corner,
walking along in the direction of her house
9at twilight, as the day was fading,
as the dark of night set in.
10Then out came a woman to meet him,
dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.
11(She is unruly and defiant,
her feet never stay at home;
12now in the street, now in the squares,
at every corner she lurks.)
13She took hold of him and kissed him
and with a brazen face she said:
14“Today I fulfilled my vows,
and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.
15So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you!
16I have covered my bed
with colored linens from Egypt.
17I have perfumed my bed
with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
18Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning;
let’s enjoy ourselves with love!
19My husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey.
20He took his purse filled with money
and will not be home till full moon.”
21With persuasive words she led him astray;
she seduced him with her smooth talk.
22All at once he followed her
like an ox going to the slaughter,
like a deera stepping into a noose

23till an arrow pierces his liver,

like a bird darting into a snare,
little knowing it will cost him his life.
24Now then, my sons, listen to me;
pay attention to what I say.
25Do not let your heart turn to her ways
or stray into her paths.
26Many are the victims she has brought down;
her slain are a mighty throng.
27Her house is a highway to the grave,
leading down to the chambers of death.

Proverbs 7

The sum of this chapter is to exhort men to attend to the doctrines and precepts of Wisdom, in order to avoid the adulterous woman; the exhortation to keep them with care, affection, and delight, in order to answer the end, is in Proverbs 7:1

A story is told, of Solomon's own knowledge, of a young man ensnared and ruined by a lewd woman; it begins Proverbs 7:6. The young man is described as foolish, and as throwing himself in the way of temptation, Proverbs 7:7; the harlot that met him is described by her attire, her subtlety, her voice, her inconstancy, her impudence, and pretensions to piety, Proverbs 7:10. The arguments she made use of to prevail upon him to go with her are taken partly from the elegance of her bed, the softness of it, and its sweet perfume, and satiety of love to be enjoyed in it, Proverbs 7:15; and partly from the absence of her husband, who was gone a long journey, and had made provision for it for a certain time, Proverbs 7:19. By which arguments she prevailed upon him to his utter ruin: which is illustrated by the similes of an ox going to the slaughter, a fool to the stocks, and a bird to the snare, Proverbs 7:21.

And the chapter is concluded with an exhortation to hearken to the words of Wisdom, and to avoid the ways and paths of the harlot, by which many and mighty persons have been ruined; they being the direct road to hell and death, Proverbs 7:24.

The great harlot in Revelation

It is the last book of the New Testament that gathers together all the major themes of the Bible into grand summaries. And so it is that we find in the Apocalypse of John that 

"the great harlot" has become both a woman and a city (Babylon), just as GOD'S great counterpart, the Bride of CHRIST is both a woman and a city (New Jerusalem):

"Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me (John), 'Come, and I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who is seated upon many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the dwellers on earth have become drunk.' And he carried me away in The SPIRIT into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on scarlet beast which was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication; and on her forehead was written a name of mystery: 'Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earth's abominations.' And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of JESUS. When I saw her I marveled greatly. But the angel said to me, 'Why marvel? I will tell you of the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is to ascend from the bottomless pit and go to perdition; and the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will marvel to behold the beast, because it was as is not and is to come. This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven hills on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom are fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he comes he must remain only a little while.

William Blake, 1809

"As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to perdition. And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are of one mind and give over their power and authority to the beast; they will make war on The LAMB, and The LAMB Will Conquer them, for HE Is LORD of Lords and KING of kings, and those with HIM are called and chosen and faithful.' And he said to me, 'The waters that you saw, where the harlot is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues. And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the harlot; they will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, for GOD Has Put it into their hearts to carry out HIS Purpose by being of one mind and giving over their royal power to the beast, until the WORDS of GOD Shall Be Fulfilled. And the woman that you saw is the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth.”

This passage, in addition to describing the final state of the great harlot, also has to do with the final, revived state of the Old Roman Empire which includes Western Europe and the United States primarily. The harlot as the final apostate church rides like a queen in full cooperation with, indeed supported by, the state. Her downfall is described by reference to the sudden and complete destruction that came upon ancient Babylon.

"After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with his splendor. And he called out with a mighty voice, 'Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! It has become a dwelling place of demons, a haunt of every foul spirit, a haunt of every foul and hateful bird; for all nations have drunk the wine of her impure passion, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich with the wealth of her wantonness.' Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, 'Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and GOD Has Remembered her iniquities. Render to her as she herself has rendered, and repay her double for all her deeds; mix a double draft for her in the cup she mixed. As she glorified herself and played the wanton, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning. Since in her heart she says, 'A Queen I sit, I am no widow, mourning I shall never see,' so shall her plagues come in a single day, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she shall be burned with fire; for Mighty Is The LORD GOD WHO Judges her.'

"And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and were wanton with her, will weep and mourn for her since no one buys their cargo any more, cargo of gold, silver, jewels, and pearls, fine line, purple, silk and scarlet, all kinds of scented wood, all articles of ivory, all articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls. 'the fruit for which thy soul longed has gone from thee, and all thy dainties and thy splendor are lost to thee, never to be found again!' The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her will stand far off, in fear of torment, weeping and mourning aloud, 'Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, bedecked with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! In one hour all this wealth has been laid waste.' And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, 'What city was like the great city?' And they threw dust on their heads, as they wept and mourned crying out, 'Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! In one hour she has been laid waste. Rejoice over her, O heaven, O saints and apostles and prophets, for GOD Has Given judgment for you against her!'"

The great harlot is evidently closely associated with the world business and economic community in all its aspects. Society, science, culture and what is commonly called "modern civilization" are her handmaidens.

"Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea saying, 'So shall Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and shall be found no more; and the sound of harpers and minstrels, of flute players and trumpeters, shall be heard in thee no more; and a craftsman of any craft shall be found in thee no more; and the sound of the millstone shall be heard in thee no more; and the light of a lamp shall shine in thee no more; and the voice of bridegroom shall be heard in thee no more; for thy merchants were the great men of the earth, and all nations were deceived by thy sorcery. And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.'" (Revelation 17:1-18:24)

Murder and violence have filled the great city symbolized by by Babylon and by Rome as the center of world civilization. The outward show and pomp of mere religious profession has made the visible church an apostate body resembling not a bride but a prostitute---in league and cooperation with the state, with the political powers of the earth. The city with its beauty and opulence and permissiveness fosters the hedonistic pursuit of pleasures, especially sex. Great market places reach out to satiate all credit-card shoppers so that they continue to consume and acquire more treasures on earth at the expense of the permanent, and the eternal. Robes of royalty and queenly power decorate the harlot to show the self-exaltation of man, and the misuse of religion by a prostituted church. It is she is who is responsible for the murder "of the saints and the martyrs of JESUS". It is the harlot in league with world leaders who support an entire world economic order that is thoroughly corrupt: banking, finance, trade and merchandising; the legal professions and educational systems are included.

The end of the harlot will come in one day. Blind and unaware of her impending doom, it comes, in fact from the hands of her "customers" who "burn her flesh with fire."

Drawing from the many parallel themes concerning world commerce and trade figured by the Phoenicians, the king and prince of Tyre, the Apostle John saw ahead to a coming day when world civilization will crumble suddenly and fall in full view of the redeemed of GOD. Then he adds,

"After this I heard what seemed to be the mighty voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying, 'Hallelujah! Salvation and Glory and Power belong to our GOD, for HIS Judgments are true and just; HE Has Judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication, and HE Has Avenged on her the blood of HIS servants.' Once more they cried, 'Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.'" (Revelation 19:1-3)

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