Revelation 17:1-3 False religion has done more to keep people from eternal life than any other single thing by its deception. False religion promises life, salvation, peace, security, and hope in some kind of life after death. This is what Babylon of the end time is. An angel approaches John and tells John to “come here, and I will show you the future judgment of false religion in the earth.” John walks over and sees the description and judgment of the false religious systems of the world. Babylon (false religion) is described as harlot. In the Bible harlotry stands for false gods, false worship, false religion, it stands for idolatry; worshiping something other than the only true and living God.
Idolatry includes following one’s own thoughts about God rather than what Scripture reveals. Besides Babylon, several cities in Scripture are designated harlot cities because of their idolatry and pursuit of false religion. Nineveh (Nahum 3:1, 4), Tyre (Isaiah 23:15–17), and, sadly, Jerusalem (Isaiah 1:21) are all examples of cities that committed spiritual fornication.
To comprehend the Babylonian false religion of the future requires an understanding of Babylon’s role in the false religion of the past, which begins with the Tower of Babel, recorded in Genesis 11:1–9. God judged the nations for its rebellion and false religion by confusing their languages which forced them to scatter across the earth as God had commanded Noah after the flood.
The phrase many waters is not a reference to its location as Genesis 11:15 tells us but rather to ethnically diverse peoples. The harlot will influence and dominate a diversity of peoples so refers to the government and religion of the Antichrist. Babylon will be supported by the kings, or rulers of the nations and governments of the world. This will involve the worship of the state as well as the religious system of the Antichrist. We need to remember that the argument for worshiping the state religious system is rooted in the Antichrist’s ability to bring peace and economic recovery to the earth. He will also provide massive aid to help the nations and peoples of the earth during the natural disasters that are increasingly striking the earth.
The angel is not describing people who are physically drunk with literal wine having sexual relations with an actual prostitute. Instead, he is talking about those who are intoxicated with Antichrist’s false world religion. The imagery derives from Jeremiah 51:7. The false religion of the state will receive its power from the Antichrist.
Religious Babylon sits on a scarlet colored beast. Sitting means that the false religion is supported and dependent on the state. The scarlet colored beast is the antichrist. Scarlet is the color associated with luxury (2 Samuel 1:24), splendor, and royalty. It is also the color associated with sin (Isaiah 1:18).
Antichrist will be full of blasphemous names (Revelation 13:1) taking the names and titles that belong to God. He will “will speak out against the Most High.… and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods” (Daniel 7:25; 11:36). This demonic scarlet beast is further described as having seven heads and ten horns, showing the extent of his alliances. As will be seen in the discussion of verses 9 and 10 below, the seven heads “are seven mountains on which the woman sits, and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while” (Revelation 13:9–10).
They represent seven mountains, seven past, present, and future governments. The ten horns represent ten kings (Revelation 13:12), who will rule as subordinates to Antichrist (Revelation 13:13). The beast with seven heads and ten horns is the core rule of the antichrist. The seven heads are the seven nations that will voluntarily surrender to the control of the antichrist. He will have conquered three nations. He will have the power of the ten nations to support him in enforcing the state religion.
Revelation 17:4-5 – The false religion of the end time will be extremely wealthy. This is also alluded to by the purple and scarlet clothing and the gold and precious stones and pearls. The false religion of the end time will be corrupt. It will offer a cup to help the people of the world, but the cup is full of abominations and filth. That is, what the false religion offers is idolatry, a polluted and corrupt worship.
As a further indication of her wealth, the harlot had in her hand a gold cup. Getting their victims drunk makes it easier for the prostitute to advantage of them. (Jeremiah 51:7). The gold cup was full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality. She is identified by the name “mystery BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” “The expression mystery Babylon”
This gives us the impression that this is not ancient Babylon, but rather a spiritual kingdom, like the mystery of the church. This is still another example of the counterfeits of the Devil and his unholy trinity. Just as Satan is the father of lies his congregation is the harlot, as opposed to the Father of Truth and His bride the Church who is a pure virgin.
Religious Babylon will be the mother of many false religions and abominations on the earth. She gives rise to many false teachings and deceptions, to many corruptions in the worship of God. Religious Babylon goes back to the building of the tower of Babel in the Old Testament. Nimrod decided to build the ideal state leading men to turn away from God and offer a religious shrine or temple by building a tower straight up to heaven.
The tower of Babel is the core of the founding of the city of Babylon, the very first time the word Babylon is mentioned in the Bible; from then on in Babylon came to mean either godless religion (Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:1; Ezekiel 16:15; Hosea 2:5; Hosea 3:3; Hosea 4:15), or godless government and society (Isaiah 23:17; Nahum 3:4). It stands for all the religions that seek after heaven by man’s own works and self effort, by man’s own goodness and self righteousness, by man’s own rituals and ceremonies.
This is how Babylon is the mother of all false religion. Some commentators believe Babylon to be a literal city while others do not. All the evil and wrong that exist in false religion will be combined into one religion in the end time, and it will sweep and consume the world. It will be joined to a world government and represent the ultimate humanistic dream.