Who is the harlot of Revelation 17?


By BibleAsk Team

To identify the harlot that is called “Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots” in Revelation 17, we need to turn to the Bible. According to the Bible, a pure woman symbolizes a pure church which is sfaithful to Jesus, so an impure woman represents an impure, or fallen, church which is unfaithful to Jesus (James 4:4). “Thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot” (Ezekiel 16:2, 15). The harlot is an impure church. Revelation 17 presents points that show that mother Babylon is the papacy. Let’s examine these points:

A. She persecutes the saints (verse 6).

Historians estimate that during the inquisition, Middle Ages, and Early Reformation Era, more than 50,000,000 martyrs perished for their faith at the decree of the Papacy (Halley’s Bible Handbook, 1965 edition, page 726). “That the Church of Rome has shed more innocent blood than any other institution that has ever existed among mankind, will be questioned by no Protestant who has a competent knowledge of history.” W. E. H. Lecky, History of the Rise and Influence of the Spirit of Rationalism in Europe, Volume 2, p. 40.

B. She dresses in purple and scarlet (verse 4).

The popes often wear the royal color of purple at important functions, and red is the color of the robes of Catholic cardinals.

C. The seven heads of the beast (verse 3)

The seven heads of the beast upon which the woman is seated are seven mountains (verse 9). It is well known that Rome, the world headquarters of the papacy, is built upon seven hills or mountains.

D. She is guilty of blasphemy (verse 3)

A point which also clearly fits the papacy. Blasphemy has two definitions in Scripture:

  1. Claiming to forgive sins (Luke 5:21).
  2. Claiming to be God (John 10:33).

Let’s first look at the evidence for it claiming to forgive sins: “Does the Priest truly forgive the sins, or does he only declare that they are remitted? The Priest does really and truly forgive the sins in virtue of the power given to him by Christ.”Joseph Deharbe, S.J., A Complete Catechism of the Catholic Religion (New York: Schwartz, Kirwin & Fauss, 1924), p. 279.

The papacy further undermines Jesus by setting up a system of confession to an earthly priest, thus bypassing Jesus, our High Priest (Hebrews 3:1 8:1, 2) and only Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).

Next let’s look at the evidence for it claiming to be God: “We [the popes] hold upon this earth the place of God Almighty.”Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Letter “The Reunion of Christendom” (dated June 20, 1894) trans. in the Great Encyclical Letters of Pope Leo XIII (New York: Benziger, 1903), p. 304. Here is another: “The pope is not only the representative of Jesus Christ, but he is Jesus Christ, Himself, hidden under the veil of flesh.”Catholic National, July 1895.

E. She rules “over the kings of the earth” (verse 18).

Alexander Flick says that by the 13th century, the pope was “at least in theory and claim … the ruler of the whole world in temporal and spiritual affairs.” The Rise of the Mediaeval Church (New York: Burt Franklin, 1959), pp. 575, 576.

It is widely known that there is only one church which claims to be the mother church, the great Roman Catholic Church. A prominent Catholic priest, John A. O’Brien, said: “That observance [Sunday-keeping] remains as a reminder of the Mother Church from which the non-Catholic sects broke away.” John A. O’Brien, The Faith of Millions (Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1974), p. 401.

Many leaders of the Reformation (Huss, Wycliffe, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melanchthon, Cranmer, Tyndale, Latimer, Ridley, and others) all taught that the papacy is the power that is being pointed in Revelation 17. George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Co., 1956), pp. 32-34.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team


The contents of this article and website are not intended to be against any individual. There are many priests and faithful believers in Roman Catholicism who serve God to the best of their knowledge and are seen by God as His children. The information contained herein is directed only towards the Roman Catholic religio-political system which has reigned in varying degrees of power for nearly two millennia. This system has established an increasing number of doctrines and statements that directly go against the Bible.

It is our purpose to lay the clear Word of God before you, the truth-seeking reader, to decide for yourself what is truth and what is error. If you find anything here contrary to the Bible, do not accept it. But if you desire to seek for Truth as for hidden treasure, and find herein something of that quality and feel that the Holy Spirit is revealing Truth to you, please make all haste to accept it.

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