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Bible verses about Woman of Revelation 17-18
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Jeremiah 50:4-6

Jeremiah 50:1 begins a two-chapter prophecy of judgment against Babylon. Babylon was the dominant world power in Jeremiah's day, 600 years before Christ.

Clearly, these verses are placed in the time just ahead of us. Is it possible, then, that at least some of the judgments pronounced against Babylon in these two chapters also actually apply to our time? Could what occurred to Babylon when God carried out His threats in the sixth century BC have been only a type of far greater end-time fulfillments against a modern Babylon?

Verse 6 plainly pictures an end-time scenario. The Israelites are even called the "lost sheep" of the house of Israel. It is as if God is saying they have forgotten who they are, and the world does not know their location either. God says they are "turned . . . away on the mountains." Mountains are a biblical symbol of large nations, and hills, of smaller ones. This prophecy foretells Israel's long-term scattering among Gentile peoples worldwide, and so thoroughly accomplished is the scattering that Israel has forgotten she began in Canaan.

Revelation 13, 17, and 18 establish that there are a Beast and a Babylon at the end time. Even as the Beast is literally an amalgamation of many nations with a strong, persecuting, religious component, so also is Babylon a literal nation with a somewhat different religious component and with an attitude that is not as animalistic as the Beast.

Just as the term "beast" shows the spirit of a group of violent, warlike, anti-God nations, the term "Babylon" reveals the source of the spirit of prideful rebellion motivating the Woman, who represents the end-time nation God calls Babylon. This is similar to God using Sodom and Egypt to illustrate Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8.

However, some people want to turn Babylon into a mere religious organization with only mystical and spiritual influence. The original city and nation of Babylon have disappeared into the sands of Iraq because God's judgments against them in Isaiah and Jeremiah were fully carried out.

However, Revelation 17-18 describes the end-time Babylon, the Great Harlot, not as simply a religious organization, not even a system, but as a literal city and nation involved in massive, worldwide craftsmanship, manufacturing, entertainment, and commerce. It is a blockbuster political and economic powerhouse, exercising global influence, over which businessmen weep when it is destroyed. They feel its loss personally, even though they are not literally a part of it, only having done business with it.

If indeed we are in the prophesied end time—and all indications suggest that we are—the only nation on earth today that fits this description as both an economic powerhouse and a great harlot, because of its broken relationship with God, is Israel led by the Joseph tribes of Ephraim (Britain) and Manasseh (America). Israel is still Israel, but it epitomizes the spirit of Babylon at the end time.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Ten): Babylon the Great Is a Nation


 

Lamentations 1:1-7

Here, even before the woman symbol appears, the city is identified as female by feminine pronouns. It is more specifically designated as a widow, another female figure. Before the verse ends, it reflects back on an earlier time when she was a princess, another female figure, but now she is a slave.

In verse 3, the city morphs into Judah, the nation. Then in verse 4, an alternate name for Jerusalem, Zion, is used, and the female identity continues. In verse 6, the city becomes "the daughter of Zion." It is not until verse 7 that Jerusalem, the woman described throughout this context, is directly named. If one would read further, we would see that people have seen her nakedness, and her sin was in her skirts, referring to sins of idolatry, which God describes in sexual terms.

The New King James version uses feminine pronouns 28 times in those seven verses in reference to the entity variously called "a city," "Judah," "a widow," "the princess," "Zion, "the daughter of Zion," and "Jerusalem." Undoubtedly, a woman symbolizes a city, and city, a nation. Each of the female symbols depicts the same thing, Jerusalem and Judah, but from slightly different perspectives. Within this context, it is not depicting a church. Is there a parallel to the church in Lamentations? Yes, but it is indirect, imprecise, and at best secondary.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Four): Where Is the Woman of Revelation 17?


 

Revelation 12:13

This is the same woman who was pictured in verse 1, the same woman who was pictured in verse 2, and the same woman who was pictured in verse 5 as fleeing. Nothing has changed. The woman is the subject. The woman is not the church. The woman is the nation of Israel who gave birth to the Man child.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 3)


 

Revelation 13:11-15

This male (not female) religious personage actively promotes worship of the Beast and does miracles in the context of religion to deceive people. Nothing in Revelation 17 and 18 shows the Woman doing miracles of any kind. In fact, these chapters contain no religious context at all, with the exception that she is revealed to be responsible for killing the saints.

In Revelation 17, the Woman is controlling the Beast, not bringing about its worship. She and the Beast are, in fact, antagonists competing against each other. Furthermore, she is heavily involved in politics (influencing kings), manufacturing, shipping, craftsmanship, and merchandising. There is no mention of anything similar in reference to the two-horned lamb.

The Woman indeed has a relationship with the Beast, but she is not part of the politics, economics, religion, or military of the Beast. She and the Beast are separate entities, even though both are part of the overall Babylonish system. The Catholic Church has always been part of the Beast, influencing it from within. Conversely, the Woman is portrayed as an external influence, competing with, riding, and at some point exercising control of the Beast.

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


 

Revelation 17:1-7

For her to be riding the Beast, there must be some relationship between the two. In fact, each, the Woman and the Beast, are part of the same general system, the Babylonish system. However, right up front - because one is depicted as a woman and the other as a beast - God is indicating two distinctly different sets of characteristics, personalities, or approaches within the system.

As depicted in Revelation 13:2, the Beast consists of the strongest parts of a leopard, bear, and lion. Unarguably, these three animals are vicious, wild beasts, and each is a very powerful animal that a woman on her own would ordinarily be no match for.

Obviously, a human woman would approach life and its events differently than an animal. Yet, the Woman is riding the seemingly super-powerful Beast. She, at this juncture in the prophecy, is the one in the position of strength and therefore is superior, greater, more powerful, and more influential than the Beast.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Three): Who Is the Woman?


 

Revelation 17:1-15

These verses show the Woman, the harlot, sitting upon many waters, the Beast, and seven mountains (a mountain is a biblical symbol of a nation), and in verse 15 the waters of which the Beast consists are defined as peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. In such a context, sitting is the Bible's symbol of authority, having power over. It is as though she gives orders and is served.

This description conveys two characteristics: First, the scope of her influence is wide-ranging, over many nations. Second, the Beast consists of peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues. The Woman, however, is not described in that manner; she is depicted as one unit. Therefore, a distinct possibility is that God sees the Woman in this end-time prophecy as one powerful and influential people, as contrasted to the Beast, which consists of many diverse peoples who, at first, cannot combine and coordinate their strengths to counterbalance and perhaps overcome the more united Woman.

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


 

Revelation 17:5-7

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

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 17:5-7

It is interesting that God labels this Woman a "mystery." Is her identity the mystery, or is it her character? Is she a nation or a church of old that resurfaces as an influential power in the end time? We are not left to guess because the angel says, "I will show you the mystery of the woman and of the beast." Revelation 17 and 18 contain many clues to the identification of the Woman.

Vine's Expository Dictionary defines "mystery" (Strong's #3466) as that which

denotes, not the mysterious (as with the Eng[lish] 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 illumined by His Spirit.

Speaking of the same period as Revelation 17, Daniel 12:10 parallels the need for divine revelation: "Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand." Elsewhere, the wise are defined as those who keep the commandments, so we trust that we are the wise, and God will make this mystery known to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Four): Where Is the Woman of Revelation 17?


 

Revelation 17:5

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 17:9-11

These verses set the beginning of the time element of this prophecy. The Woman sits on seven mountains. A mountain symbolizes a larger nation, as Isaiah 2:2 shows: "Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills [smaller nations]; and all nations shall flow to it." The number seven, combined with the symbol "mountains"—signifying "kings" or "kingdoms" as verses 9 and 10 show—indicates a perfect or complete sequence of seven kings.

We understand that the seven mountains are the last seven revivals of the Roman Empire. The Woman is shown riding the Beast during the days of the sixth revival in the sequence of seven (verse 10). Did she begin her ride during the sixth revival or has she been riding the entire time? Nothing in the prophecy directly suggests she was riding them any time before the prophecy itself indicates.

The prophecy is only showing the end-time Beast has seven forebears, the seven revivals of the Roman Empire. Verse 11 states, "The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eight, and is of the seven." This indicates the end-time Beast stands on its own but has its roots in the previous seven. The Woman will clearly ride the eighth Beast that is of the seven for a time.

Herbert Armstrong appears to have been correct in teaching that the sixth revival and king began with Garibaldi in Italy and continued through the rise and fall of Mussolini and Hitler. That revival ended with the defeat of the Axis powers in Europe in 1945. We are living in the very weak and brief period of the seventh revival of the Beast.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Three): Who Is the Woman?


 

Revelation 17:18

The chapter itself directly identifies the woman, by the biblical symbol, as a great city, not a church.

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


 

Revelation 18:1-3

Revelation 18 is not describing a church, but a city/nation involved in massive, worldwide merchandising, shipping, and manufacturing. It is a prophetic picture of globalism. What church has sufficient economic power that, when it ceases to exist, worldwide trade quickly comes to a grinding halt, throwing hardheaded businessmen into a panic? Except possibly as an investor, the Catholic Church has never been involved in manufacturing. Revelation 18 provides no information whatsoever tying the Woman riding the Beast to religion.

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


 

Revelation 18:9-11

Revelation 18:9-11 adds to the description of a nation, not a church, as it describes a huge, worldwide merchandising and manufacturing entity that men weep over when destroyed. Religious entities do not manufacture and merchandise. This is vital to understand because Revelation 18 must coordinate with the identity of the Woman in Revelation 17. Thus, Revelation 18, describing what nations involve themselves in, provides another major reason why the Woman cannot be a church.

The Woman of Revelation 17-18 may be religious, but she is far more interested in what produces power and influence in this world. Remember, Israel rejected God, becoming a nation of this world (I Samuel 8). In Revelation 18, the emphasis is on her financial aspects, as the merchants, manufacturers, and shippers of products bewail her destruction, seeing their wealth going up in smoke. No church is manufacturing and merchandising as chapter 18 describes.

The Woman's wealth is a major foundation of her power, enabling her to influence so readily; her economic power adds strength to its other worldly powers. Follow the money, verses 9-11 urge. They clearly portray globalization and all the outsourcing it implies. The Woman is depicted as a huge, worldwide merchandising powerhouse that has promoted the spread of industry all over the world so she might consume what others have manufactured through their craft.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible


 

 




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