Wednesday, 19 May 2021
with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.” Revelation 17:2
The words of this verse should be combined with verse 17:1 to get a full view of what is conveyed –
“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.’”
Having the context, John begins verse 17:2 saying, “with whom the kings of the earth.” The kings of the earth speak of the world system of government. The nations have their own governmental structures, and they are not united with the Lord in any particular manner, even if some of their citizens are. They are simply the governments that exist and by which the people of the earth engage in their affairs.
Of these kings of the earth, John says that this great harlot has “committed fornication.” Of this thought, Vincent’s Word Studies notes –
“The figure of a harlot committing fornication with kings and peoples occurs frequently in the prophets, representing the defection of God’s Church and its attachment to others. See Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:1, Jeremiah 3:6, Jeremiah 3:8; Ezekiel 16:15, Ezekiel 16:16, Ezekiel 16:28, Ezekiel 16:31, Ezekiel 16:35, Ezekiel 16:41; Ezekiel 23:5, Ezekiel 23:19, Ezekiel 23:44; Hosea 2:5; Hosea 3:3; Hosea 4:14. The word is applied to heathen cities in three places only: to Tyre, Isaiah 23:15, Isaiah 23:16, Isaiah 23:17; to Nineveh, Nahum 3:4; and here.”
Due to the nature of this concept, that of fornication referring to “God’s Church” an overwhelming number of times, this is an immediate indication that it is referring to a body claiming to be aligned with the Lord, but which has defected from what is right, sound, and proper.
But more directly, these instances cited by Vincent’s speak of people groups (such as Israel) and cities (such as Jerusalem, Tyre, and Nineveh). There is the merging of what is profane into what occurs in them – idolatry, turning from the Lord, and so on.
As will be seen, the final verse of the chapter identifies this harlot, Mystery Babylon, as “that great city which rules over the kings of the earth.” This is explicit, and there is no reason to assume that the word “city” means anything other than an actual city. Of this city, John next says, “and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk.”
The inhabitants of the earth include, but are not limited to, the kings of the earth. This city, which is a great harlot, has influence around the world and among people within many governments. These people have participated in her adulteries, being led not to the Lord, but astray from the Lord. This, even though the city claims to be aligned with the Lord. This is evidenced in the words, “were made drunk.”
The idea of drunkenness is that of spiritual waywardness, pursuing idolatry, and the like, all of which is leading to punishment. The theme is seen especially in the prophets. A notable example is seen when speaking of Judah in Ezekiel –
“For thus says the Lord God: ‘Surely I will deliver you into the hand of those you hate, into the hand of those from whom you alienated yourself. 29 They will deal hatefully with you, take away all you have worked for, and leave you naked and bare. The nakedness of your harlotry shall be uncovered, both your lewdness and your harlotry. 30 I will do these things to you because you have gone as a harlot after the Gentiles, because you have become defiled by their idols. 31 You have walked in the way of your sister; therefore I will put her cup in your hand.’
32 “Thus says the Lord God:
‘You shall drink of your sister’s cup,
The deep and wide one;
You shall be laughed to scorn
And held in derision;
It contains much.
33 You will be filled with drunkenness and sorrow,
The cup of horror and desolation,
The cup of your sister Samaria.
34 You shall drink and drain it,
You shall break its shards,
And tear at your own breasts;
For I have spoken,’
Says the Lord God.” Ezekiel 23:28-34
This is what is now being portrayed by John. And so, he finishes with, “with the wine of her fornication. This city is responsible for leading the inhabitants of the earth astray from the Lord through her actions of idolatry and spiritual prostitution. Wine represents a cultural expression where the mingling of things occurs. In this case, there is the mingling of what is supposed to be true religion with that which is idolatrous. In giving this wine to the inhabitants of the world, they become drunk with the idolatry of the harlot.
So, the question to be put forth before continuing on in this chapter is, “Can you think of a spiritual body, supposedly aligned with the Lord, based in a single city, which is filled with idolatry, and which conducts its affairs on a global scale, including making alliances with the leaders of nations? If so, you can then see if the pattern in the verses ahead continues to describe that religious city that you have in mind.
Life application: There is one God and one way to approach Him. It is the Bible that reveals this one way. Therefore, any other religious system on earth, no matter whether it contains snippets of truth or not, is false. And, it is certain, even some religions which stem from the Bible are false because they manipulate it in ways that twist the truth it contains. Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are two of the many cults which have sprung from the Bible, but which bear no resemblance to the truth contained in it.
Because the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to the world, it is the source of how to have a loving and close relationship with Him. In it, we find that God desires this type of intimate relationship. However, this beautiful relationship is violated when we participate in religious or philosophical systems which pull us away from what He has ordained. And so, the metaphor of harlotry is used.
Just as a harlot seduces us and draws us away from our marriage partner, false religion pulls us away from our God. This type of spiritual fornication is unacceptable to God. Today we see that the world heading towards a worldwide system of false religion. Indeed, the whole world is moving towards this system.
Add in a charismatic world leader, the antichrist, and there will be almost universal idolatry of him and the following of whatever religious system he espouses or aligns with. Add in the false prophet who will lend credence to this thought, and you can see how easily the world will be duped into its plunge into perdition. What is coming will be so far from the truth of the Bible that there will be no remedy. Instead, God will judge this great harlot and destruction will come upon her.
The way to avoid this is to have one’s mind aligned properly with God as He has revealed Himself. And the way to do that is to read and know the Bible – His inspired and breathed out word to us. What it says is coming is already in the works, and countless masses will be led astray – all because they failed to check the word. It is all there, and it is a message that tells us to fix our eyes on JESUS.
O God, You have held out Your hands to the people of the world and beckoned us to come and fellowship with You. You’ve given us everything we need to do so, and You alone have paved a spacious highway for us to follow. But we, like straying sheep, look for any other avenue other than the right one. Lead us, O great Shepherd, and keep us from straying. Amen.