Revelation 17: The Great Prostitute

Posted on March 6, 2021


By David Ettinger

What This Is
Back in the mid-to-late 1990s, I taught a Sunday school class verse by verse on the Book of Revelation. This series represents my notes for each class. (I have done some updating as some of my understandings have changed over the years.) I came across them recently and decided to post them. If you wish to use these notes as a study guide, the way to do it is as follows: Read the verse first in your Bible, then look at the corresponding notes here for commentary.

For some reason, I don’t have notes for Chapters 1-3, therefore this series begins with Chapters 4-5. Following the Chapter 4-5 study notes, each chapter will be presented individually.

Read Chapter 4-5 notes here.
Read Chapter 6 notes here.

Read Chapter 7 notes here.
Read Chapter 8 notes here.
Read Chapter 9 notes here.
Read Chapter 10 notes here.
Read Chapter 11 notes here.
Read Chapter 12 notes here.
Read Chapter 13 notes here.
Read Chapter 14 notes here.
Read Chapter 15 notes here.
Read Chapter 16 notes here.

* Much of what is described in this chapter will likely occur in the first half of the final 7 years of this era of human history.

* It is best to regard Chapter 17 as the destruction of Babylon as a religion, and Chapter 18 as the destruction of Babylon as a city and an empire.

* In this chapter, Babylon is viewed from a religious standpoint.

* An extensive study on the religions of Babylon demonstrates that many of them are carried over in part to Roman Catholicism.

* In these 2 chapters, the term “Babylon” applies to Babylonian religion (chapter 17), an actual city (possible rebuilt Babylon, chapter 18), and the empire of Babylon (chapter 18)..

* “Babylon” is a title which describes all false religions claiming to be Christian in content.

* Babylonian influence crept into the early Church, particularly in Pergamum, and many church rituals have been similar to Babylonian religious rites.

* Ever since Babylonianism was introduced in Genesis Chapter 11, its true character was revealed as rebellion against God.

Verse 1
* One of the angels who delivered the bowl judgments – we don’t know which one – will direct John through this chapter.

* “The Great Prostitute”: This is the description given to apostate (desertion of the true faith) Christendom in the end times.

* These will be people who have knowledge of Christ and claim to be Christians, but were never born again.

* This group will dominate world religion during the last 3½ years.

* “Who sits on many waters”: Universal influence is in view here (more on this in v. 15).

Verse 2
* “The adultery” refers to actual apostasy. The apostasy is also referred to as “fornication.”

* “The Kings of the Earth”: Refers to the “marriage” between the world’s political system (the kings) and the false religious system (Babylonianism).

* Most of the world’s population will be totally enthralled by and won over to the false religious system.

Verse 3
* “The desert” probably refers to John being taken to a secluded spot where he could see the behind-the-scenes activities of what is truly going on.

* “The woman” is not Israel, as in Chapter 12, but Babylonianism.

* “The scarlet beast” is obviously the political empire described in 13:1-10.

* That the woman is seated on the beast indicates she is working with the beast to achieve a common goal: The subjugation of the entire world to their authority.

* “Seven heads and ten horns”: See Daniel 7:20.

Verse 4
* The woman wears the trappings of ceremonial religion in which purple and scarlet are prominent and often enhanced with precious stones.

* The cup refers to wine, which refers back to “the wine of her adulteries” in v. 2.

Verse 5
* The title “Mystery” indicates that the ultimate truth of Babylonianism can only be learned by divine revelation.

* The Bible makes clear that any system which denies the deity of Christ is false.

* “The Mother of Prostitutes” is the final worldwide religion which is the culmination of all that has come before it.

* “The Abominations of the Earth” indicates, again, that the worst of all false religions is rolled into this final religion.

Verse 6
* In the first half of the final 7 years leading up to Christ’s return, Babylon – combined with the political system – will become a world religion.

* It will be Christian in name, but not in content.

* Those who know Christ will be subject to persecution as the woman is described as “drunk with the blood of the saints.”

* John cannot believe what he is seeing.

Verse 7
* The angel is telling John that there is no need to be astonished because he (the angel) will explain to him the meaning of the vision.

* The woman and the beast with the 7 heads and 10 horns upon which she rides will be a mystery to the world, but not to those who know God’s Word.

Verse 8
* The beast is described as the one who “once was, now is not, and yet will come.”

* Who is he?


1) A previous world ruler who will be raised again to rule.

2) A restored Roman Empire.

3) The spirit of Adolf Hitler.

4) Most likely, this ruler in the end times will rise to power and suffer an assassination attempt and will be miraculously healed by Satan.

*Regardless, the miraculous nature of the man’s very existence will cause the world to worship him and take his mark,

* However, be assured, he will “go to his destruction.”

Verse 9
* That this passage has had so many explanations indicates that indeed much wisdom is needed.


1) The city of Rome, which is known as “The City of Seven Hills.”

* The ancient city of Rome was located on the left bank of the Tiber River, and 7 hills were part of it: Palatine, Aventine, Caeline, Equiline, Viminal, Quirimal, and Capitoline.

* However, as Rome grew in power and in size, it took on another hill, Janiculum, with replaced Capitoline. Later, another hill, Pincian, was added and replaced a previous hill.

* A major problem with the Ancient Rome theory is that the 7 heads are specifically called “seven kings” in verse 10.

Verse 10
* That “five have fallen” shows that hills cannot be what are referred to.

2) Another theory of the 7 hills is that they represent Israel’s primary persecutors:

1) Egypt

2) Assyria

3) Babylon

4) Medo-Persia

5) Greece

6) Rome

7) The future empire of the Antichrist

* “Must remain for a little while”: The final kingdom will be in power for just 3½ years.

Verse 11
* Based on theory 2, the 10-nation kingdom of Chapter 13 is the kingdom of the Antichrist, who I believe will be of Muslim background.

* This Antichrist will be the 8th king who will win power away from the others and establish his supreme control.

* Again, note that he “is going to his destruction.”

* Also in doubt in relation of the first theory is that Rome will be the headquarters of the false religious system.

* Again, many Bible teachers see a rebuilt Babylon or perhaps an existing, refurbished Saudi Arabian city as the central city during the first 3½ years of the final 7-year period.

Verse 12
* Based on Daniel 7 and Revelation 13, the 10 horns represent 10 kingdoms banded together to form the nucleus of the final beast empire.

* These 10 kings will not be known until that final period.

* They will receive authority to rule at that time.

* “One hour”: A very short period of time.

Verse 13
* It seems that the only purpose of these kings’ existence is to give authority to the beast (the Antichrist).

* These king will rule simultaneously, not successively. They are always viewed as 10 kings in a unit.

Verse 14
* The 10 kings, along with the Antichrist, will lead the final world battle against Jesus.

* Both the beast and the false religious system are utterly opposed to God and those who put their trust in Him.

Verse 15
* This indicates that the false religion promoted by the woman as well as the political power promoted by the beast will be worldwide.

Verse 16
* After 3½ years, when the Antichrist comes into his full power, he will no longer need the religious entity to support him.

* In fact, the apostate church will be in the Antichrist’s way as it will be of absolutely no use to him.

* Accordingly, the 10-nation confederacy will destroy the woman and terminate her power and position.

* Her end will be brought about violently and viciously as the Antichrist will seek to wipe her of the face of the earth.

Verse 17
* NOTICE: The Antichrist as God’s tool to punish and destroy the false religious system.

* It is God who will put the hatred of the woman into the hearts of the 10 kings.

* The Antichrist will claim to be God himself. The final 3½ years will be characterized by the worship of the world ruler and of Satan who will be recognized as the power behind the world ruler (13:4).

Verse 18
* This represents the religious character of Babylon depicted by the prostitute.

* Some people believe “the great city” is the Vatican, which in history has ruled over much of the world’s religious beliefs.

* However, the “city” is more figurative than literal in that we don’t actually have a city any more that we have an actual prostitute.

* Most likely, “the great city” is the false religious system.