What does the Bible say about the harlot of Revelation 17?
Who is the harlot described in Revelation 17 and what significance does she have both for our time and in the end times?
The harlot of Revelation 17 (also known as Babylon) is one of the central figures when it regards end times’ prophecy. She has been active right since the days of the early church, especially so in our modern days. It is important to know who the harlot is and what significance she has for us.
The harlot spirit
The harlot is sometimes thought of as being a specific church or organization and many people have accused this group or that group of being “the harlot.” But in reality the harlot is a spirit that pervades many different churches, denominations, and even individuals.
In James 4:4 we can get a clear picture of what spiritual harlotry looks like to God. “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Friendship with the world is enmity with God. There is no in-between. Either you align yourself with God or with the world. Anything else is considered adultery in God’s eyes. But this is exactly what the harlot spirit tries to do. She tries to mix God with the world and offer the best of both worlds.
The entirety of the harlot’s “gospel” is the preaching that you can have both the world and God. She uses God’s Word and quotes many verses and expressions that sound very good and godly. But underneath all of that glittering gold there is a murky current of selfishness and pride.
The most dangerous part about the harlot is that she can be very hard to recognize. She presents her wine in a golden cup (Revelation 17:4) which is the Word of God. All of the words and phrases and doctrines she preaches look godly because she uses Bible verses to support her lies. This is a common trick of Satan and his servants. (2 Corinthians 11:14)
Her gospel sounds great at first and makes people feel good and warm. She presents all the rewards of a godly life and takes away the conditions. This is how the harlot manages to deceive people and a great many people have fallen under the influence of the harlot. If you are not exceedingly vigilant then you cannot always separate her lies from the truth!
The harlot’s twisted preaching is the “wine of her fornication.” (Revelation 17:2) And like wine it is easy to get drunk off the good feelings that the harlot’s preaching gives. In the end though, her preaching never leads to a true life with Christ, in victory over sin. (1 Peter 4:1) This is in strong contrast to the pure water of life that Jesus preached! (John 7:38-39)
The harlot’s work in our modern time
The harlot spirit is active in many ways on the earth, both on an individual level and on a broader scale. On an individual level she tries to influence people to live as close to the world as they can, to declare themselves as “Christians” but at the same time live according to worldly or purely human values. Whether that is living according to their own lusts, sinning a little on the sidelines and enjoying this world’s pleasures, or following some set of strict rules or code of ethics that is not of God.
On a broader scale the harlot spirit is also active in churches around the world, working to warp the pure teachings of God and move entire churches and denominations away from the truth and into the darkness of her lies.
The harlot’s goal is not to tear down Christianity and religion altogether. On the contrary, she loves churches! The harlot is Satan’s way of burying a needle in a haystack. It becomes harder for people to recognize true living Christianity when it is surrounded by so many half-truths and pretty words.
This is why the harlot is not manifest in just one church but she reaches out to many. The more splits and denominations she can create, the harder it is to find the true church. To create division and strife is her greatest goal.
Satan’s goal with the harlot
Satan knows that he cannot convince everyone to just abandon God altogether and become atheists. At least not right away. So he directed his servant, the harlot, to slowly corrupt them away from the pure truth of God’s Word and to turn them to the world.
She started work almost immediately after Jesus died. Paul says to the church in Ephesus, “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Acts 20:29-30. These savage wolves were none other than the servants of the harlot.
She started off small, and preached a Christianity that was mostly true, with a little bit of the world mixed in. But as the number of eager followers grew she developed and mutated her gospel even more. Fast forward to today and much of the “Christianity” that is preached is so far from God’s Word that it is almost unrecognizable!
The harlot is Satan’s answer to the bride of Christ. While the bride is working on earth to spread the truth of the gospel, the harlot is working hard to spread division and lies. These two are bitter enemies that are locked in a great spiritual conflict that will last right up until the rapture, when the bride will be taken home to be with Christ.
And around the time of the rapture the conditions in the world will be so bad that Satan will no longer have need of the harlot either. When the bride is gone then God will put it in the hearts of the people to denounce all forms of religion completely and devote themselves 100% to the world and human achievement.
The harlot will be cast off by the beast, the authorities that ultimately reject God and build their power on this human achievement. The harlot will lose all her power, and will then be completely destroyed. This is God’s judgment over her. (Revelation 18:21-24) God’s anger at the harlot is so great that He will make the smoke of her torment rise up forever and ever as a reminder of her treachery. (Revelation 19:3)
Satan believes that by this he is achieving his end goal with the earth, but it is actually all part of God’s greater plan and purpose. (Revelation 17:15-17)
(Read more about the beast here.)
Fighting against the harlot
It is the job of the bride of Christ to fight against the harlot and to do what we can to stop her plans and machinations on the earth. This great spiritual battle is fought on an individual level, and the spirit of the harlot must be completely conquered in the lives of each and every disciple so that only truth and purity reigns in the church.
(Read more about the bride here.)
It is dangerous to think that the harlot is only in “this church” or “that denomination” and therefore you don’t have to think about it. The harlot can be everywhere and anywhere! It’s true that she does have a strong grip on a lot of different churches in the world but she also loves coming up to individuals and working on them personally. Whispering her lies into your ear. Trying to get you to believe that the world is not really so dangerous. Trying to convince you that you can do your own will but still be one of God’s children. Watering down the conditions for being a follower of Jesus.
Listening to these lies will destroy you! Friendship with the world is enmity with God! You cannot serve two masters. The harlot’s perverted teachings have no place in the church or in the lives of any true Christian!
This is why it is so important for each and every Christian to get a personal connection to God and His Word. When you are intimately acquainted with God then you know His will and His Word and you can learn to recognize the harlot’s lies for what they are. Then you can hold up everything you see and hear to the light of God’s Word and cast out everything that does not conform to the truth!
Unfortunately, the harlot’s influence has grown great in our days and there are many churches that are under her direct sway. No church, no denomination, no pastor, or sermon should be taken at face value without being tested in the light of God’s Word and His Spirit!
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1. Be vigilant and test everything you hear! Not least, our own thoughts and intents must be tested in the light of God’s Word. Make sure that everything really is of God!
The harlot’s lies are strong and many but the truth shines like a candle in a dark night. If you are sincere and humble and open to God’s leading then He will make it clear to you what is lies and what is truth. God is true and in Him there is no lie at all! His Spirit is the Spirit of truth, who will guide us to the whole truth. (John 14:15-17, John 16:13)
Be zealous and ask questions! Test the spirits! “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7. By faith and vigilance the spirit of the harlot need never gain influence over you.
“And I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.’” Revelation 18:4-5.
You can live your life in God’s service, always doing His will and being prepared as a pure, spotless bride worthy of her heavenly Bridegroom. (Revelation 19:7-8)
This post is also available in: Norwegian Bokmål
You might also be interested in our theme page about Overcoming sin.