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Following are some of ways the harlot of Revelation 17 is identified with Rome:
1. Her Character identifies her with Rome. She is a whore (v. 1). This is true of Rome both spiritually and literally.
a. From her inception, Rome has committed spiritual whoredom with the pagan rulers and the demonic powers of this world. She gleefully joined hands with Constantine of old, and she has disobediently affiliated with pagan governments ever since.
b. The Roman Catholic Church has also been associated with immorality in a more literal sense.
(1) Her popes were immoral. Even some of her own history books describe the unspeakably vile deeds of her “holy” popes.
(2) Her priests have also been immoral. They have taken vows of celibacy, but they have not been celibate! Even to this very day, Rome has an immoral testimony. Throughout the world, her priests are renown for homosexuality and child abuse. In recent years, Rome has paid millions of dollars to settle court cases brought against homosexual, child-molesting priests.
2. Her location identifies her with Rome (v. 9). John pictures the great harlot sitting upon seven mountains, which most Protestants of old and fundamentalists of the present identify as the city of Rome. “The woman is a city, and the city is Rome, the religious capital of the world. ... Rome was the city set on seven hills and was known as such to both pagan and Christian writers. ... Ovid said, ‘Rome looks around on the whole globe from her seven mountains, the seat of empire and abode of the gods.’ ... She is religious Rome, which at that time will have inherited all the religions of the world. ... It will attain the goal of the present-day apostates of all the great systems of the world: Romanism, Protestantism, pagan religions, cults and isms” (J. Vernon McGee, Revelation).
3. Her worldwide reach identifies her with Rome (Rev. 17:1). “... the great whore that sitteth upon many waters.” Also see verse 5, where we are told that she is “the mother of harlots,” meaning she is associated with others of her same character. No matter where you go in this dark world, Rome’s tentacles are extended there. Further, Rome is busy extending her influence by yoking together with the Christian denominations and pagan religions of the world.
a. A statement made in recent years by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the head of the Anglican and Episcopalian churches, shows how far the ecumenical movement has gone toward reconciliation with Rome. “We should like to see the churches of England, Scotland, the United States and any other countries, bound together in one body. If the pope would like to come in as chairman, we should all welcome him” (Why Were Our Reformers Burned?).
b. My book Evangelicals and Rome documents the back to Rome movement within practically every segment of Protestantism.
c. And not only are apostate Christian denominations returning to Rome, but so are pagan religions. At the last two general assemblies of the World Council of Churches, some of the main speakers were non-Christians. There were Hindus, Buddhists, Jewish rabbis, Muslims, Sikhs, Native American Indians, and Australian aborigines. Pagan altars were erected and fire offerings made to various pagan gods. “Ecumenical” means universal, worldwide, and the present-day movement of Christian unity, represented by groups such as the World Council of Churches is the fore view of this worldwide apostate “church.” The WCC itself is indeed worldwide, being composed of more than 300 denominations representing some 500 million people in 100 nations. This large body of apostate Christendom has already become one in spirit with the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches, and even recognizes the so-called spirituality of non-Christian religions. The emerging “harlot church” was seen on Jan. 24, 2002, when Pope John Paul II led the third Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Italy. (The first was held in 1986 and the second in 1993.)
d. The 2002 ecumenical pagan prayer gathering featured some 200 religious leaders, including representatives of “Christian” denominations (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Reformed, Baptist, Lutheran, Mormon, Mennonite) as well as representatives of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Bahai, Confucianism, Shintoism, Hinduism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, and members of African and North American “traditional religions.” Prominently featured were 29 Muslim leaders from such countries as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, and Libya, all of which persecute Christians to some degree. Thus, there is already a harlot “church” taking shape and sitting upon many waters.
4. Her unholy effect upon men identifies her with Rome (Rev. 17:2). “... and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” Apostate religion allows men to continue in their sinful pleasures while having a form of religion to soothe their guilty consciences.
“The term ‘fornication,’ as here used, means, we have no doubt, the seducing power of the Romish system in drawing away the affections from Christ, who is the only true object of faith for the heart. The priest comes in between the heart and the blessed Lord; the Bible is concealed; the mind of God is unknown; the people are intoxicated with her exciting falsehoods; and worship they know not what” (Miller’s Church History). The attraction of apostate Christianity to the people of the world, in spite of the fact that apostate Christendom has constantly discredited itself, is amazing to behold.
a. This is illustrated by the world’s love of the pope of Rome. The pope has a definite supernatural attraction to unregenerate men.
b. Even the secular, humanistic press gives the Roman pope great acclaim, something not accorded any other Christian leader.
c. Of the pope’s journey to South America in 1980, Time magazine said: “The Polish-born pontiff proved a spell-binding presence, drawing crowds of a million or more on at least six occasions.” Following the first visit ever made by a pope to America, Time magazine gushed: “A gentle shepherd with a will of steel, John Paul II thrilled the U.S. with a glorious pilgrimage that won hearts—and challenged the nation. ... After only a year in office, the Pontiff is emerging as the kind of incandescent leader that the world so hungers for—one who can make people feel that they have been lifted above the drabness of their lives and show them that they are capable of better emotions, and better deeds than they may have thought.”
d. Several people have been trampled to death in the great crowds that flock to see the pope during his world travels. In 1980, nine people were trampled to death and dozens were hospitalized in Africa, while three were trampled to death and 30 injured in El Salvador. These duped millions are indeed drunk with the wine of the fornications of the harlot “church.”
This attraction of the world toward apostate Christendom will continue to increase as the Great Tribulation draws nearer. Finally, the Antichrist’s prophet will “cause the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed ... and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do...” (Rev. 13:11-15) “... God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Th. 3:11-12)
5. Her illicit relationship with civil government identifies her with Rome (v. 2). “with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication...” Apostasy does not hesitate to unite with godless men in government to accomplish its purposes.
a. The Roman Catholic Church during the Dark Ages yoked with secular government and oftentimes even ruled over it.
b. The Roman Catholic Church still yokes with secular government. It has hundreds of ambassadors to the nations.
c. The Protestant state churches in Europe have yoked with the government.
d. The World Council of Churches works closely with secular governments and international bodies such as the United Nations.
The Apostles and early Christians did not unite in any way with the Roman government, but remained entirely separate and faithfully carried out the commission Christ had given them. Apostate Christians care nothing for Christ’s Great Commission, but have humanistic, socialistic, worldly goals; therefore, they have no reason not to unite with secular government in these goals.
6. Her blasphemy identifies her with Rome (v. 3). “…full of names of blasphemy…” Rome is indeed full of blasphemy, having exalted herself to the place of God in people’s lives.
a. The titles of Rome’s popes are blasphemous. He calls himself the “holy father” and “his holiness,” names that belong solely to Almighty God. He calls himself the “vicar of Christ,” which is the office of the Holy Spirit.
b. Rome’s priests also take to themselves blasphemous titles and claims. They want to be called “father,” which Christ forbade. They are ordained after the order of Melchisedec, but this is an office that belongs to Christ alone.
7. Her clothing identifies her with Rome (v. 4). “…arrayed in purple and scarlet colour…” The Apostles and Christians of the early churches were humble Bible-believers who lived simple lives and did not follow the pattern of the world’s leaders and religions. The harlot church, on the other hand, loves impressive cathedrals, flowing robes, gorgeous ritualism, expensive ecclesiastical clothing and trappings. Rev. 17:4 describes exactly how Rome’s bishops and archbishops and cardinals and popes are clothed even to this day.
a. A few years ago, I watched a televised broadcast of the papal Christmas mass at the Vatican, and it looked like a sea of purple and scarlet!
b. The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the garments of the Catholic clergy. One is called the Cappa Magna, a cloak with a long train with a hooded shoulder cape. The color of it was purple wool for bishops, scarlet silk for cardinals, and red velvet for the pope. The Cassock was a close-fitting, ankle-length robe. The color was purple for bishops and scarlet for cardinals.
8. Her wealth identifies her with Rome (v. 4). “... decked with gold and precious stones and pearls...” This is an accurate description of the wealth of the Catholic Church. It also describes literally the gold and jewels with which Rome has decked herself.
a. Consider this description of the coronation of Pope Gregory IX (1227-1241): “On the day of his coronation he proceeded to St. Peter’s, accompanied by several prelates, and assumed the pallium according to custom; and after having said mass he marched to the palace of the Lateran, COVERED WITH GOLD AND JEWELS. On Monday, having said mass at St. Peter’s, he returned wearing two crowns, mounted on a horse richly caparisoned, and surrounded by Cardinals CLOTHED IN PURPLE, and a numerous clergy. The streets were spread with tapestry, INLAID WITH GOLD AND SILVER, the noblest productions of Egypt, and the most brilliant colors of India, and perfumed with various aromatic odors” (George Waddington, A History of the Church from the Earliest Ages to the Reformation, 1834, p. 335).
b. The crown of Pope Paul II (1464-1471) was “set with diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, chrysolites, and jaspers” (Ouseley, A Short Defence, 1821, p. 230).
c. The crown of Pope Julius II was valued at 200,000 ducats or gold coins. That is as much as Pope Paul III gave to Emperor Charles V to use in the war against the Protestants in the 16th century (Miller’s Church History, chapter 46). It is also the same amount as the dowry the king of Spain gave for the marriage of his daughter, Catherine, to Arthur, Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne in the 16th century. (When Arthur died five months after the wedding, Catherine became the wife of his brother, Henry, who became the infamous King Henry VIII.)
d. The wealth of the Catholic Church is vast. In the 1970s, the Catholic Church was the third wealthiest “nation” behind America and Japan. When this is added to the wealth of the apostate Protestant denominations, the sum is staggering. The harlot church is spiritually bankrupt, but amazingly full of material wealth. For more about the wealth of the Roman Catholic Church, see the Way of Life Advanced Bible Studies Course “A History of the Church.”
9. Her cup identifies her with Rome (v. 4). “...having a golden cup in her hand...”
a. Until recent times, Catholic liturgical law required the chalice (cup of the mass) to be gold plated inside if it was not entirely of gold (Catholic Encyclopedia).
b. The papal chalice is pure gold even to this day.
c. The Roman Catholic Church possesses thousands of solid gold chalices in its churches around the world.
10. Her abominations identify her with Rome (v. 4). “full of abominations…” Indeed, Rome is filled with abominations. Her mass, which she claims is a bloodless re-sacrifice of Christ, is an abomination. Her sacramental salvation, her worship of Mary, her prayers to the saints, her doctrine of purgatory, her love affair with the bones of dead men, her unscriptural claims and pope, all are abominations before God.
11. Her violence identifies her with Rome (v. 6). “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus...” Both the RCC and certain of the Protestant denominations have been guilty of murdering and persecuting true New Testament Christians. The RCC has murdered millions. No one has ever been able to count the total number. In the Netherlands alone following the Reformation, multitudes were tormented and destroyed. Consider these excerpts from a record of those persecutions dating from the 1520s:
The history of the Low Countries from this time is so full of martyrdoms, that it is like a gradual extermination of the population. ... The fires were now kindled all over the country, and edict following edict, with increasing severity, kept them burning. It was death to read a page of the scriptures; death to discuss any article of the faith; death to have in one’s possession any of the writings of Luther, Zwingle, or OEcolampadius; death to express a doubt respecting the efficacy of the sacraments, or the authority of the pope. In the year 1536, that good and faithful servant of the Lord, William Tyndale, was strangled and burnt at Vilvordi, near Brussels, for translating the New Testament into English, and printing it in 1535. ... About four hundred churches were thus plundered and defaced in a few days. ... The troops were ordered to be distributed over the distracted country, that the persecuting edicts might be enforced. The Protestants were reduced to great straits; many were put to death, and many fled the country ... In the year 1567 the cruel duke of Alva was sent into the Netherlands with an army of fifteen thousand Spaniards and Italians; and the Inquisition was to put forth all its energies. . The wooden churches were pulled down, and, in some places the beams were formed into a great gallows on which to hang the minister and his flock. [These atrocities against Bible believers were] to be witnessed almost daily in the country for nearly forty years. ... In the year 1567 ‘the council of blood,’ as it was called, held its first sitting. ... Blood now flowed in torrents. ... A new edict was issued, affixing a heavy penalty upon all waggoners, carriers, and shipmasters, who should aid in the emigration of ‘heretics.’ They had resolved that none should escape. ... Upon the 19th of February 1568 a sentence of the Holy Office condemned all the inhabitants of the Netherlands to death as heretics. ... A proclamation of the king, dated ten days later, confirmed this decree of the inquisition, and ordered it to be carried into instant execution, without regard to age, sex, condition. This is probably the most concise death-warrant that was ever framed. Three millions of people—men, woman, and children, were sentenced to the scaffold in three lines. Under this universal condemnation the reader will see the real spirit of popery, and what all had to expect who did not yield an absolute, though blind submission, to all her idolatries, and superstitions (Miller’s Church History, pp. 1002-1008).
Similar atrocities were being committed against Bible believers across much of Europe. The persecution of New Testament Christians has been the legacy not only of Rome, but of certain Protestant denominations as well. The Protestant Church of England has imprisoned and martyred hundreds of faithful saints of God during its illustrious history. John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress during the 12 years he languished in Bedford prison because of his refusal to accept a license from the state church. Bunyan committed the “awful” crime of preaching the Gospel without the permission of ecclesiastical authorities. Did he not have authority from that One who has all power in heaven and in earth (Mt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15)? Indeed, he did, but the old Harlot has usurped Christ’s authority unto itself. It is recorded that there were never less than 60 other “dissenters” with Bunyan in that one jail, and there were many other jails in England in those sad days. These are only tiny examples of the persecution that has raged against New Testament Christians by those who have imbibed the spirit of the Harlot. See the Way of Life course on Church History for the details of the persecutions.
Unprecedented persecution will be unleashed against those who hold to the Word of God after the final form of the harlot church appears, supported by the satanic power of Antichrist’s government.
12. The association with Babylon of old identifies her with Rome (Rev. 17:5). “…mystery Babylon the great.” This connects the final apostate harlot church with the false religion established at Babel in the early history of man (Ge. 10:8-10; 11:1-9). In other words, it is the final product of Satan’s corruption of true religion through the ages. Babel of old typifies the end-time Babylon (Rev. 17) in the following ways:
a. Man-made unity (Ge. 11:1). The keynote of end-time Babylon is “ecumenism.”
b. Worldly ambition and ingenuity (Ge. 11:4). The end-time Babylon glories in man’s ability and contrivances. Babylon erects impressive structures and creates great systems of religion.
c. Rebellion against God’s revealed will (Ge. 11:4). God had told Noah’s family to “multiply and replenish the earth” (Ge. 9:1,7). Babel was a scheme to avoid being “scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Ge. 11:4). End-time Babylon is in open rebellion against the New Testament Scriptures, and has replaced the Word of God with human tradition.
d. Pride -- “let us make us a name” (Ge. 11:4). End-time Babylon is also proud and haughty, with its impressive cathedrals, its pomp and circumstance, its boasts of apostolic succession, its worldly ways.
e. Idolatry. Babylon was idolatrous, and Rome adopted many idolatrous practices, such as the worship of the Queen of Heaven and a mystery mass wherein god is sacrificed on man’s altars.
We have seen, then, where the “church” is headed. The prophecies of the New Testament are divided into revelations pertaining to the future of the true churches, and revelations pertaining to the apostate churches. A glorious future awaits the true saints of God, and we who are born again through repentance and faith in the blood of Jesus Christ should be busy serving Christ, while constantly expecting the coming of Christ to take us unto Himself. We will forever be with Him in His eternal kingdom.
The future of the false churches is a different matter altogether. The apostasy that began even during the days of the Apostles will increase until the formation of the great world harlot religion of Rev. 17. This false church will rule with the Antichrist and his government for a short season and then will be judged, and all false, unregenerate “Christians” will suffer the eternal torment of the lost.
If any of our readers are not truly born again, we urge you to repent of your sin and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal salvation. Do not trust some baptism or church ritual. Do not trust any service you might be doing in the church or in some Christian organization. Do not trust the fact that you might have been born into a “Christian” home. Jesus plainly said, “Except ye be born again, ye shall not see the kingdom of God.” That statement was first addressed to a very religious man, Nicodemas. The Apostle Paul said, “For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Turn from apostate religion to the resurrected Christ and be saved before it is eternally too late.
And may we who are already saved be found serving Christ in an acceptable way, that is, according to the teachings and example of the New Testament Scriptures. May we be like the wise people at Thessalonica, who “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come” (1 Th. 1:9-10).
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