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Bible verses about Mother of Harlots
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Daniel 7:7-8   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This prophecy expands and fills in details of the image in Daniel 2. The "huge iron teeth" and the beast's actions link it inextricably to the legs and feet of Nebuchadnezzar's image. Whereas the legs, feet, and toes suggest a continuous progression and dominance on the world scene, Daniel 7 shows that Rome would rise and fall in successive kingdoms and empires, represented by the horns, until the last days.

Of course, the little horn introduces a new entity to this empire. Suffice it to say that it represents the false church guiding and controlling this brutal beast (cf. Revelation 13:11-18). The Bible shows this false church, among other things, speaking against God, persecuting the saints, being given power "for a time and times and half a time" and being destroyed forever by the power of God.

"The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom," writes Daniel (7:24), or as Herbert W. Armstrong said, they are ten successive resurrections of the Roman Empire. The little horn, the false church, supplants the first three of these, the Vandals, the Heruli and the Ostrogoths, Germanic invaders who successfully overthrew Rome and established their own short-lived empires between AD 429 and 554.

The final seven horns (called "seven mountains," in reference to kingdoms, and "seven heads," in reference to kings, in Revelation 17:9-10) are controlled by the false Roman church. In AD 554 Emperor Justinian, ruling the eastern half of the empire from Constantinople, restored the Empire in the west and recognized the supremacy of the Pope. Justinian fulfills the fourth horn and the first of the seven heads of the beast upon which "the Mother of Harlots" rides (verses 3-5). Later, Charlemagne, king of the Franks (800); Otto the Great (962); Charles V of the Hapsburg dynasty (1520) and Napoleon (1805) were all crowned emperors of Rome by the Pope, and fulfill the fifth through eighth horns and second through fifth heads. Garibaldi and Mussolini, dictators of Italy between 1870 and 1945, received papal approval to re-establish the Roman Empire, and were later joined by Adolf Hitler in this pursuit. They combine to represent the ninth horn and sixth head.

The last horn, the last head and the ten toes are yet future, the final resurrection of the Roman Empire, the terrifying and brutal Beast power soon to arise upon the earth. Some of the details of this final revival are found in Revelation 17.

1) It will be brief (Revelation 17:10, 12), not much longer than the three-and-a-half years of the Great Tribulation (Revelation 11:2; 12:14).

2) This last revival is made up of another ten horns, or ten kings, who give their power to a dictator known as the Beast (Revelation 17:12-13).

3) The ten kings and the Beast use the Woman as long as she is necessary to their plans, then they destroy her in their brutal hate (Revelation 17:16).

4) One of their main purposes is to "make war with the Lamb [Christ]," but they will be destroyed in His wrath at His Second Coming (Revelation 17:14; 19:11-21).

As the colossal image of Daniel 2 had two legs and two feet, the Roman Empire had two divisions, whether they were Rome and her provinces in its earlier period or a Western Empire with its capital in Rome and an Eastern Empire governed from Constantinople. The final resurrection, we assume, will have its ten toes split between the latter division, west and east. We do not know, however, if these are ten presently recognizable nations, or if they are ten major ethnic groups that cross national boundaries yet will have some autonomy.

Nevertheless, it is most likely that the ten nations will inhabit the areas formerly ruled by the Roman Empire and its subsequent revivals. It is a vast region. At its height Rome ruled from England and Spain in the west to northern Mesopotamia in the east to North Africa in the south. However, because of Daniel's prophecies regarding the King of the North, the "last gasp" of Rome will probably be centered in Europe, the bastion of Roman culture, law, and heritage.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Nebuchadnezzar's Image (Part Four): Iron and Clay


 

Revelation 17:5-7   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is interesting that God labeled this woman as a mystery. He goes on to say, through the angel, "I will show you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast." Revelation 17 and 18 contain many clues as to her identification.

Now the word mystery is Strong's #3466 in the combined Strong's Concordance and Vine's Expository Dictionary. The word is defined there as: "Mystery is that which denotes, not the mysterious (as with the English word), but that which, being outside the range of unassisted natural apprehension, can be made known only by Divine revelation, and is made known in a manner and at a time appointed by God, and to those only who are illuminated by His Spirit."

In other words, a "mystery"—in the biblical sense, in the Greek sense—is something that is unattainable by common human research but is revealed by God so that His children, His people, can understand.

This word then parallels Daniel 12:10, which says that at the end "the wise shall understand." Here we are, in the end-time, and God has revealed where Israel is. Israel is a mystery to those in the world. They do not believe, even though they are told. They do not believe that the people of Northwest Europe, the United States, Australia, South Africa, Canada, and New Zealand are the descendants of Israel. It just does not sink in. They can be presented with proof, not from the Bible, but from the world—from historical researches and such—and they still do not believe it. It is something that has to be revealed.

This revelation is not something that is just contained in words, but it is something that God gives to the heart and mind of His children so that they are desirous to believe it. And they do. It does not take a lot of brain power, but it takes instead a gift from God to believe, which His children will do.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 17:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Now what about this statement that this woman is the mother of harlots? In the past we have referred to her harlot children as being the Protestant churches that revolted from the Catholic church; however, there is a weakness in this concept found in the Bible's use of the terms "daughter," "son," "harlot," and other similar terms.

God had Hosea physically act out what had happened to God in God's relationship with Israel. He says, "Plead with your mother" (Hosea 2:2). Who would be the mother of Hosea and all the people of Jerusalem? It would be Jerusalem, or in a larger context, Israel.

"Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not my wife." This makes it clear that He is talking about all of Israel. God did not marry just Jerusalem; He married all of Israel. Does Israel only consist of men or women? No, both. We are beginning to see that the term "wife" can include both male and female people, depending on the context in which it appears. And, obviously, so does the word "children" indicate both male and female.

The word "daughter" also includes men, the word "son" also includes women, and the word "harlot" means both men and women. It does not mean just women, because Israel was made up of men and women. Children are made up of men and women. The Bible uses these terms interchangeably, and one gender almost always includes the other.

Consider Hosea 2:2-4 and Hosea 4:11-13. Were women the only ones who committed whoredom? No. The men committed whoredom too. And spouses? Was it only women who were committing whoredom? No. "Spouses" includes men and women who were sinning. Hosea 7:4 says they were all adulterers—male and female.

Daughters, in Ezekiel 16:44-48, includes everybody within the city.

Ezekiel 16:53-55 describes the Jews coming back to their former estate in Jerusalem. Was it only women who came back? Can we see the way "daughters" is used? It is being used in a collective sense.

In Lamentations 3:51, God also refers to all of Jerusalem's inhabitants, male and female, as "daughters." Why is this true? The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, page 194, speaks about "daughters" or "daughters of":

The Hebrew idiom reflects a double metaphor common in the culture of the ancient Near East. A capitol city was personified as a woman, and the inhabitants of that city collectively as her daughter. Jerusalem remains distinct as she whose Husband is the One God, Yahweh. Thus her daughters, the collective inhabitants, depended on her for identity, but also shaped her future by their action.

Thus the terms "sons," "daughters," "children," "harlot," as well as other descriptive terms like "seed," "adulterers," and "liars" are used collectively without regard to specific gender when the sense of the term is "those showing the characteristics of." That is what a child does. A child shows the characteristics of its parents regardless if it is a male or female. And so the inhabitants of Jerusalem showed the characteristics of Jerusalem. That is why Hosea is told to write "they are all adulterers." Male and female.

Thus in Revelation 17, the city is Babylon (symbolically a woman) and is said to be the mother of harlots, which is used in the same way as "daughters"—that is, collectively, including the male gender; thus all of her offspring—male and female—are to be considered as harlots. It is not something limited to church denomination.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 4)


 

Revelation 17:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the past, we have been taught that this refers to the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, does this truly refer only to a church, or is it something more politically, economically, and militarily powerful and influential? Notice her identification contains the name "Mystery." (I Corinthians 2:7-9 also uses this term.)

A biblical mystery is something that God must reveal for one to understand. It is not something right on the surface that anybody looking into Revelation can stumble across and quickly understand. This Woman's identification is not something easily seen. Of "mystery," William Barclay's The Letters to the Corinthians says: "The Greek word musterion means something whose meaning is hidden from those who have not been initiated, but crystal clear to those who have" (p. 26). Thus, commentaries are of virtually no help in identifying the Woman of these chapters.

Protestant biblical commentators pay little or no attention to the end-time twelve tribes of Israel. To them, that Israel does not exist! Conversely, evangelical writers and a few mainstream groups focus exclusively on the tiny nation of Israel in the Middle East. However, the Mystery Woman of Revelation 17 and 18 is much more than what that nation displays.

Commentators wholly disregard God's promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to make Israel into a populous, powerhouse nation both physically and spiritually—promises that affect both race and grace. Ignoring the race aspect altogether, they teach that the promises of grace were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

However, God, as a blessing to His church, revealed the knowledge of the end-time location of Israel to Herbert Armstrong through other men who were seeking to find the "lost ten tribes." God did this so the church can make better sense of what is happening regarding the fulfillment of prophecy as the return of Christ approaches. In Daniel 12:10, God promises that the wise would understand, and the wise are those who keep the ways of the Lord (Hosea 14:9).

Almost all Protestants claim, as Herbert Armstrong did, that the Woman is the Roman Catholic Church, against which they have a prejudice. But Revelation 17 and 18 are a continued revelation of the same Woman, Israel, who appears in chapter 12!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot


 

Revelation 17:5   (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The phrase "mother of harlots" in Revelation 17:5 might be misleading and therefore misinterpreted because of the Bible's peculiar practice of frequently using terms such as daughters, sons, harlots, thieves, adulterers, and idolaters collectively, fully intending both genders. In other words, sin is not limited to one gender.

In collective usage, the term "daughters" includes males; the word "sons" includes females; and words like "harlots," "adulterers," "idolaters," and "thieves" include both males and females. This practice is what the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery calls a "double metaphor": one word, which may have a specific gender because the context demands it take that gender, but which actually includes both genders. Thus in Revelation 17:5, "harlots" is to be understood as including men involved in what the Bible specifies as harlotry.

Therefore, "mother of harlots," in Revelation 17:5 specifically refers to unfaithfulness within a covenant relationship with God, not a specific, human, sexual sin. The Protestant churches that revolted from the Catholic Church were certainly not unfaithful to God as His churches. They never made the Old Covenant with God, entering into a figurative marriage; they, as an entire nation, had never vowed to keep His laws. Nor were the Protestant and Catholic churches unfaithful to God as a church because neither ever had a New Covenant relationship with God as churches. However, the citizens of the nations of Israel were certainly unfaithful to God within a covenant relationship. Revelation 17 and 18 are describing a city/nation, not a church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot


 

 




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