The Harlot Riding on the Scarlet Beast

Revelation 17:3-6

  • In Revelation 17:3, one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues offers to show John the judgment of the harlot who sat on many waters. When John sees her, she is riding the scarlet beast.
  • As John is carried in vision into the wilderness, he sees a woman on a scarlet beast. While the harlot represents a religious entity, the beast symbolizes a political power. The picture of religion riding the secular and political powers points to two separate entities, something that was not the case in the past, when religion and politics were integrated. The prophecy shows, however, that these two entities will join together at the end time. The concept of riding a beast denotes dominance; as the rider of the scarlet beast, this end-time religious system will dominate the secular and political powers.
  • The harlot is pictured as extravagantly arrayed in purple and scarlet and adorned with ornaments of gold, precious stones, and pearls; such adornment was a practice of harlots in antiquity to enhance their power of seduction ( Jer. 4:30). The color of blood, scarlet, corresponds to the oppressive character of this religious system.
  • The harlot’s dress counterfeits the attire of the high priest in the Old Testament, attire that included the colors purple, scarlet, and gold ( Exod. 28:5, 6). The blasphemous inscription on the harlot’s forehead also replaces the priestly inscription, “Holiness to the Lord” on the miter of the high priest ( Exod. 28:36–38). 
  • The cup in her hand reminds us of the vessels of the sanctuary from which Belshazzar, king of Babylon, and his guests drank wine ( Dan. 5:2–4). The cup in the harlot’s hand uses the appearance of truth to conceal the wine—the falsehoods of Satan’s end-time religious system—in order to seduce the world away from God.
  • The harlot Babylon is further described as drunk with the blood of the saints and the martyrs of Jesus who died as a result of their witness to Christ.
  • This blood-guiltiness links end-time Babylon to medieval apostate Christianity, which was led by the papacy and responsible for the deaths of millions of Christians who remained faithful to the gospel.

Source reference: SDA 1Q19 Quarterly

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