Sunday, 23 May 2021
I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement. Revelation 17:6
The previous verse found John revealing the name written on the forehead of the great harlot. Now, he will continue to describe her. However, the description goes from physical things like purple and scarlet and gold and precious stones to her conduct. In this, John says, “I saw the woman.”
As stated before, this is a city (17:18) being compared to a woman. This is found in the Old Testament as well, as was previously noted. Of this woman, John next says she is “drunk with the blood of the saints.”
The terminology speaks of great slaughter, as if the blood were wine, and the amount is so great that those who spill it become intoxicated with it. This is seen, for example, in the sword of the Lord being drunk in this manner in Jeremiah 46 –
“For this is the day of the Lord God of hosts,
A day of vengeance,
That He may avenge Himself on His adversaries.
The sword shall devour;
It shall be satiated and made drunk with their blood;
For the Lord God of hosts has a sacrifice
In the north country by the River Euphrates.” Jeremiah 46:10
Remembering that this is a city, the location is what is first being highlighted. Rome, the center of the Roman Empire, killed innumerable saints of the early church. It doesn’t matter that this was conducted prior to its conversion to Christianity. It is the city that is being described.
The city of Rome (aka the Vatican) claiming Christianity is no more significant at this point than it is that Jerusalem followed the Lord at times and completely fell away from the Lord at others. It is the city that is described (meaning the people within it) throughout the Old Testament. Understanding this, John continues. She is not just only drunk with the blood of the saints, but also “with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.”
The word translated as “martyrs” signifies “a witness.” It is someone who testifies to something. The word eventually became synonymous with one who dies for his witness because this has been the lot of Christian witnesses throughout the church age.
The “witness” is what becomes the reason for their death. The cause of it, however, is that the witness is not accepted by the great whore who rejects the simplicity and truth of the witness. It is true that Christians have been martyred throughout the world and by countless other cultures and religions, but that is neither a mystery, nor is it unexpected.
However, what is revealed in the mystery of Rome is that it not only martyred the saints prior to its claim to Christianity, but it continued to do so throughout most of its history. Anyone who determined to follow the word of God, apart from the heretical doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, has been considered anathema by them. And in their declarations, they have killed countless faithful Christians in the process.
Albert Barnes says, “How applicable this is to the papacy, let the blood shed in the valleys of Piedmont; the blood shed in the Low Countries by the Duke of Alva; the blood shed on Bartholomew’s day; and the blood shed in the Inquisition, testify.”
Along with them are the accounts of both martyrdom and persecution of many of those of the Reformation. As a single example of those countless witnesses for Christ at this time who were persecuted and martyred for their faith, take time to read up on John Hus. The city of Rome (eventually the seat of the Roman Catholic Church) has a long history of being drunk with the blood of the saints and of the martyrs of Jesus. But who would think! John couldn’t imagine, and he says, “And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement.”
Here the verb, thaumazó, and its cognate noun, thauma, are both used. In essence, it says, “I was astonished with great astonishment.” It is the same verb that was used in the Greek translation of Daniel 8:27 after he beheld a vision that completely overwhelmed him –
“And I, Daniel, fainted and was sick for days; afterward I arose and went about the king’s business. I was astonished by the vision, but no one understood it.” Daniel 8:27
The appearance of this harlot stunned John. The finery, the extent of her reach (many waters), the names of blasphemy, and the filthiness of her fornication – all of these, along with her drunken state because of the volumes of blood of those who confess Jesus Christ was literally shocking to his eyes.
She is a great contrast to the woman of Revelation 12 who fled from persecution, whereas this harlot actively persecutes. And those saints of the end times will be in the sights of this vile whore.
Life application: This harlot – a spiritual entity who has mixed idolatrous worship with the truth of Jesus Christ – has also been instrumental in killing those who have held to His word and His testimony alone.
One can look back through the church age to see what organization it is that has been the leading proponent of killing those who disagree with their theological position. The Inquisition is just one evidence of the brutality exercised against the saints of God. The reason for these martyrdoms is seen in those who reject hierarchal levels of authority or anti-biblical teachings in order to faithfully follow the true Leader of the church – Jesus, and the one source of church doctrine – the Bible.
Anytime a body stemming from the Christian faith mixes in extra-biblical rites of worship which are contrary to the Bible, they commit spiritual harlotry. An example of this is the practice of praying to Mary or the saints. There is no biblical justification for this, and, in fact, it is anti-biblical in practice.
Increasing the guilt occurs when statues are given reverence and petition – a practice known as idol-dulia – the veneration of an idol. This is supposedly acceptable to those who promote the practice because they say it is in contrast to latria – meaning “worship” which is granted only to God. In fact, however, there is no distinction between the two. Both words are translated in the same manner from the Latin – to serve. The same is true with the translation of the Hebrew word avad (to worship) which is translated as both dulia and latria. In other words, there is no actual distinction between the two.
Why is this important? Because certain groups and individuals proclaim that grace can be obtained from practicing idol-dulia – thus it is a practice of harlotry. Any worship, service, or veneration provided to any being or image other than God is spiritual prostitution. Any worship, service, or veneration offered to the wrong god is also. There is one God, and He has revealed Himself in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. This is the reason why Hebrews 3:1 states we are to “fix our thoughts on Jesus” (NIV) and Hebrews 12:2 asks us to “fix our eyes on Jesus” (NIV). Any other spiritual attention that is granted is spiritual harlotry.
Throughout the church age, those who have held fast to the message of Jesus have suffered for their refusal to bow the knee to any lesser god – many becoming martyrs. Countless others have been led astray by these false modes of worship and their fates have been determined because of their actions.
No wonder John marveled at the great harlot in amazement. He saw the absolute perversion of the beauty and glory of the message of his Lord in the wicked dealings of men who were given charge over helpless sheep. He must have been overwhelmed at the thought of what had come about within the very church he was writing to.
Let us hold fast to our faith in Christ, and let us also be sure to reject any form of worship that is not sanctioned in Scripture. Let us hold fast to the truth of God as revealed in our precious Lord JESUS!
Heavenly Father, forgive us for any past offenses against You where we have wrongly petitioned anyone or anything other than You. We know now that we cannot pray to Mary, to the saints, or to any other person or object, except for Jesus. We understand that Jesus alone is the Mediator between us. Therefore, we will pray to You through Him alone. Amen.