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The Lady of the Night: She Seeks to Seduce Your Soul!
Revelation 17:1-6

From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion’s Fire Magazine in May/June, 2000

This article is about a harlot. You know what I mean – a lady of the night. A lady who plays fast and loose. A lady who dresses to allure and speaks to entrap. She has one goal - to get you in her clutches.

Harlots practice their trade for profit. It is for them a business. It's "pay as you go." That ladies of the night destroy families, scar bodies, morally rot society, and sin against a holy God is of no consequence to them.

But the lady of the night of whom I speak is infinitely more dangerous than other ladies of the night. She has been around a very long time. She is experienced, but almost paradoxically still young, stunning, and alluring. And time has not diminished her energy. When she walks across a room, the glances are long and almost embarrassingly conspicuous. And she is pleased. No shyness here - it is what she wants.

This is a high-priced lady of the night. She appears to have so much to offer. Her long hair glistens in the light, and her facial features appear perfect. Her dress is provocative by intention; a little low cut, clinging, and suggestive, but not common - at least not unless it is necessary.

This prostitute is an equal opportunity employee. Young and old, rich and poor, men and women, educated and uneducated, civilized and barbarian - all are solicited to party with her and pay for her favors. She is tireless in her solicitation, always looking for one weak moment to work her charm, one unguarded occasion to allure. Those who think she poses no danger to them are the most vulnerable of all.

Strangely, this lady of the night is not motivated by money. She is not working to acquire more jewelry, a larger apartment, a more expensive car, or more extravagant vacations. Her goal is far more sinister than that. She is not after your mortal body. This lady of the night is after your immortal soul.

She has revolted against the eternal God who created all things, and - make no mistake about it - you are the prize she cherishes, the trophy she desires to possess. If she can keep you from a pure, holy, and intimate relationship with the eternal God who paid the price to redeem you, this lady of the night is happy and fulfilled. To embrace her is both deadly and a denial of the true Lover of your soul.

Who is she - this lady of the night?

I. The Lady of the Night: Her Biography

"And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration" (Rev. 17:1-6).

The sixteenth chapter of the Book of Revelation describes the outpouring of God's wrath at the end of the age in the form of seven bowl (vial) judgments. As each bowl is poured out, another judgment impacts the earth. The purpose of these judgments is to purge and cleanse the earth of all things which have defiled it as a result of man's sin.

This purging of the planet is in preparation for Christ's literal, thousand-year reign over the earth. The King of all kings and Lord of all lords will not rule over a kingdom which still maintains within it the seed of man's rebellion and the effects of the fall. The earth must first be purged. That is what the bowl judgments are all about.

God's timing is not man's timing. God is gracious and long-suffering. But in the end, God's justice will prevail. And now the cup of great Babylon's iniquity is full. It is time the lady of the night be judged. "God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7). And the time of reaping is at hand.

In connection with the seventh bowl judgment at the end of the age, it is recorded, "Great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath" (Rev. 16:19).

Great Babylon or "Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots" (the "lady of the night" of this article) will not escape judgment as God purges the earth of all which has defiled it. That judgment will be swift and severe and is the principal subject of Revelation 17.

But who is she - this lady of the night, this mother of harlots?

A. Her Lovers

"And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication" (Rev. 17:1-2).

In verse one, John, the beloved apostle and human author of the Book of Revelation, is summoned to witness the "judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters."

In the Scriptures the term "harlot" is used to describe spiritual unfaithfulness, debauched worship, idolatry, and false devotion. Isaiah grieves that Israel, once faithful to her God, has become a harlot (Isa. 1:21). And Jeremiah speaks of Israel's adulteries and "lewd" harlotries in Jeremiah 13:27.

This harlot is said to "sit on many waters;" a rather strange expression whose meaning, however, is not subject to debate. The apostle John is told by the angel that "The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues" (Rev. 17:15). In other words, this lady of the night is busy and effective. Her harlotry is worldwide in scope. Her activity encompasses all lands, languages, and peoples.

And this lady of the night is no respecter of persons. Kings of the earth are said to fornicate with her (Rev. 17:2) for political benefit. "And the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies" (Rev. 18:3) - that is, through economic benefit.

The prophet Jeremiah prophetically wrote of her, "Babylon hath been a golden cup in the LORD'S hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad" (Jer. 51:7).

What a tragic but accurate description of our world today. Men and nations boast of their accomplishments without the slightest self-awareness that they are mad. To speak in such terms is to invite severest criticism and moral indignation from people who are themselves spiritually dead. But, let God be true and every man a liar.

B. Her Cohort

"So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns" (Rev. 17:3).

This harlot, whose identity still has not yet been revealed, does not operate alone. She has a companion who aids her as long as it is convenient and beneficial. John is said to be carried away into a wilderness place to behold the coming judgment of the harlot. The wilderness is a fitting place to behold her judgment.

Twice, in the Book of Revelation, John is said to be in the spirit (1:10; 4:2), and twice it is said that he was carried away in the spirit (17:3; 21:10). The idea is that he was put into a state of ecstasy, and while in that condition he was permitted to look back in time, to the beginning of the harlot, and forward in time, to her demise, and record his visionary experience in the text before us.

As the vision begins to unfold, John sees a woman seated upon a scarlet beast. The woman, of course, is the harlot - the lady of the night. The fact that she is riding the beast does not mean that she is sovereign over the beast with seven heads and ten horns, but that there is mutual benefit in this cooperative arrangement.

The introduction of the beast with seven heads and ten horns should not surprise us. The beast of this vision, on whose back the harlot rides, is the same beast which John spoke of earlier when he wrote, "And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns" (Rev. 13:1). The beast is mentioned here, in Revelation 17, because of its association with the harlot who is now to be judged.

The prophet Daniel wrote extensively about this beast. He said, "After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue [elect] with the feet of it: and it was diverse [different] from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns" (Dan. 7:7). And again he wrote, leaving no doubt as to the identity of the beast; "The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse [different] from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces" (Dan. 7:23 - emphasis added).

Daniel was told that the beast is a kingdom. However, he was also told that each kingdom is represented by a king. "These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth" (Dan 7:17 - emphasis added). According to Daniel, the beast is a kingdom and is represented by a specific king who rules over it.

The beast is said to be full of names of blasphemy. Many rulers throughout history have attempted to deify themselves. They took to themselves titles like Theios, meaning "divine"; Sater, meaning "savior"; and Kyrios, meaning "lord."

Antiochus Epiphanes, who severely persecuted the Jews from 168-165 B.C. and put an image of the god Zeus with a face in his own likeness in the Temple at Jerusalem, gave himself the title Epiphanes which means "the manifestation of God." All of this deification was blasphemous. The ultimate blasphemy, of course, will occur when the Antichrist "sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (2 Th. 2:4).

The beast with the woman riding her is a union of government and religion, each benefiting from the other. The overwhelming majority of conservative Protestant scholars identify the beast as imperial Rome (political), and the harlot riding on its back as papal Rome (religious).

The Reformers were being persecuted by Rome, and so it was easy to make this identification. Later commentators simply followed their lead. This article presents a different viewpoint as to the identification of the harlot and the beast with seven heads and ten horns. Who is this woman of the night?

C. Her Allurements

"And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication" (Rev. 17:4).

How a person dresses says a great deal about their character. In Revelation 12 we are introduced to a woman. She represents the believing remnant of Israel. Throughout the Old Testament period she travailed in labor pain and, in the fullness of time, gave birth to the Son of God. She is described as "a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars" (Rev. 12:1).

In Revelation 19 we are introduced to a second woman. She is a very special woman - she is the bride of Christ. "And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints" (Rev. 19:8).

But the woman of the night - the harlot of Revelation 17 - has no such comely garments. Her dress is purple and scarlet and made of rare and expensive dyes. She is lavishly adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls - all designed to entice. The lady is a harlot.

In her hand is a gold cup, and within is an intoxicating wine. To the sensual and carnal heart and imagination, the wine represents religion in all of its pomp, splendor, and progress - something bright and glorious - something to be desired - something to satisfy the senses. In reality, what is in the harlot's cup is only abomination and uncleanness. An affair with this counterfeit lover will lead to disaster and eternal separation from God. Sadly, multitudes have been seduced by her charms. God's Word says "the just shall live by faith"; but most men prefer the outward, gaudy trappings of organized religion.

D. Her Identification

"And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH" (Rev. 17:5).

As John continues to describe the woman, he notes that on her forehead a name was written. References to markings on the forehead occur seven times in the Book of Revelation. On three occasions the mark is the mark of the beast, the Antichrist (13:16; 14:9; 20:4), and men are warned to reject identification with him at all costs - even unto physical death. Four times the mark is the seal or name of God (7:3; 9:4; 14:1; 22:4), and in each instance the mark is for great good.

This name written on the forehead identifies the harlot. She is "Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth."

The word "mystery" is not part of the title itself. It is a descriptive reference to the title. There are many "mysteries" in the Bible: the mystery of Israel's blindness (Rom. 11:25); the mystery of the Church (Eph. 5:32), the mystery of iniquity (2 Th. 2:7), and the mystery regarding the time of the rapture (1 Cor. 15:51).

A biblical mystery is something which had been concealed in the Old Testament and is revealed in the New Testament. The mystery before us and now revealed is that Babylon the Great is the mother of harlots and source of all false religion.

The woman is identified as "Babylon the Great." This is not a reference to Babylon as a city along the Euphrates River or Babylonia as a nation. It is intended to be a religious designation. What ancient Babylon was religiously, this woman is religiously. For that reason, she is given the designation "The Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth."

The woman seated upon the beast had only one golden cup in her hand. And from it sprang all the false religions of the world. Every religious abomination throughout history can be placed at her feet.

All the way back in the earliest days of humanity there was a man named Nimrod. He was a great grandson of Noah (Gen. 10:8). It is said of this man that "He was a mighty hunter before the LORD" (Gen. 10:9); perhaps a hunter of the field, but preeminently a hunter of the souls of men. It may well be that the very name Nimrod means "Let us revolt."

According to Joseph Seiss, in his classic commentary The Apocalypse, The Targum of Jonathan interprets this to mean that "he was a mighty rebel before the Lord, the mightiest rebel before the Lord that ever was in the earth." And The Jerusalem Targum states that "Nimrod was mighty in sin before the Lord, a hunter of the sons of men."

Nimrod established a kingdom and one of its chief cities was Babel or Babylon (Gen. 10:10). He also built the tower of Babel. "And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth" (Gen. 11:4).

The purpose of the tower of Babel was not to literally reach heaven - the ancients knew better than that - but to build a platform from which to better observe the heavenly bodies and practice astrology and worship of the sun. It was also intended to unify mankind into one kingdom, in direct defiance of God. And, may I add, this is precisely what the Antichrist attempts to do at the end of the age as he establishes a one-world government, one-world religion, and one-world economy. The "new age" is nothing more than "old Babylonianism."

They said, "Let us make us a name" - that is, a sem - a banner or mark of confederation and organized unity.

The wife of Nimrod, according to many ancient writings, was Semiramis. She became known as "The Queen of Heaven." It was her image, with a dove upon her head and wings outstretched like the horns of the new moon, which became the sem or sign of the defiance of God and banner of Babylonianism. She was said to have been miraculously impregnated by a sunbeam (a counterfeit miraculous birth). Her husband Nimrod had died and become the sun god, and a sunbeam carried his sperm to his wife. While out hunting, her miraculous son, Tammuz, was killed by a wild boar. Semiramis wept for forty days (the basis of the Roman Catholic observance of Lent), and he came to life again (a counterfeit resurrection) - not only as Tammuz, but now also as Nimrod. After all, Jesus is not only "the Son of God," He is also God in flesh.

And thus began a counterfeit religious system. A harlot, no, more than a harlot, the mother of harlots. All of it revolving around the worship of a counterfeit mother and son.

The chart below traces some of the manifestations of this false mother/child system throughout history.


The names and places change, but it is always the same mother and son.

How subtle it is. Even in our own culture Cupid is pictured as a young man with a bow. We associate him with love, the heart, and Valentine's Day. In reality, he is Nimrod, always seen with his bow and arrow - the mighty hunter of the souls of men. He is the one who revolted against God.

Do not think for a moment that this is all fanciful and totally outside of the terrain of the Bible.

During the Babylonian captivity, the prophet Jeremiah, who ministered to a remnant of Jews down in Egypt, had to condemn them for worshiping "the queen of heaven." He rebuked them with these words, "The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods, that they may provoke me to anger" (Jer. 7:18; see also the extended passage in Jer. 44:15-30).

And Ezekiel, a contemporary of Jeremiah ministering to the Jewish captives in Babylon, recorded this vision given to him by God. "Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD'S house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these" (Ezek. 8:14-15).

In Egypt, the Jews were worshiping the mother Semiramis. In Jerusalem, at the Temple of God itself, they were worshiping Tammuz the son.

Is it any wonder that God sent the nation into Babylonian captivity? In essence, God was saying, "If you want idolatry, I will give to you seventy years worth right at its source." Whatever sins my people have embraced since their return from Babylon, idolatry has not been among them.

Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots, has brought to her bosom the Roman Catholic Church. And she has drunk deeply from the gold cup filled with abominations and fornication. The evidence of papal Rome's direct association and perpetuation of Babylon's mother/child system is overwhelming. To hear some evangelical leaders suggest from time to time that Bible-believing Christians should find ways to unite or fellowship with Rome is distressing. I cannot help but wonder what the Reformers, some of whom gave their lives to break with Rome's idolatrous practices, would say if they were here.

Throughout our land, one can find shrines to "Mary, Queen of Heaven" or "Queen of the Universe," but to identify the harlot as Rome is wrong. The harlot carried her golden cup filled with abominations and fornication into all the world when they were scattered at the tower of Babel. Every religion, every idolatrous observance, every attempt at man-made worship can trace its ancestry to Babylon and the harlot. Her brew was bottled and labeled long before Romanism came on the scene. And even since the advent of Rome, this harlot continues to "sit on many waters" - often far beyond the sphere of Rome.

Men's concept of this harlot is far too limited. Liberal Protestantism, Muhammadanism, Buddhism, Shintoism, animism, and a thousand other false religions and cults have drunk deeply from the cup of her abominations.

The harlot encompasses all man-made religion which had its origin in Babylon when Nimrod "rebelled" against God. And it will be judged by God at the end of the age.

Every man-made religion requires that its adherents perform some kind of work to be accepted by its deity. Biblical Christianity alone says, "Just as I am, without one plea but that Thy blood was shed for me." That which distinguishes all man-made religions from true biblical Christianity is bound up in one word - grace.

A careful comparison between ancient Babylon and Mystery Babylon is fascinating and instructive.


E. Her Competition

"And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration" (Rev. 17:6).

This woman who has caused so many to become intoxicated with the abominations in her gold cup is now said to be intoxicated herself. It is an intoxication brought about by her persecution of the followers of Jesus.

She is not only portrayed as the source of all false religion but as the one who is actively engaged in the persecution of all who love the Lord. The shedding of their blood intoxicates her. How could it be otherwise? The harlot is jealous of the true Bride of Christ.

Throughout history, the elect of God have always been persecuted by false religion in union with godless government. This persecution will reach its peak during what is commonly called The Great Tribulation (Mt. 24:9-21; Rev. 6:9-11). It will be of such severity that "Except those days should be shortened [amputated or diminished in duration], there should no flesh [believers] be saved" (Mt. 24:22). Is there then any wonder that the woman is drunk with the blood of the saints?

See The Lady of the Night: Rides the Beast! for the continuation of this article.


The Lady of the Night: She Seeks to Seduce Your Soul!
Revelation 17:1-6

From the Writings of Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion’s Fire Magazine in May/June, 2000