Thursday, February 22, 2018

Revelation 17:15-18 Beauty and Beast Identified


KEY TEXT: Revelation 17:15-18 And the angel said to me, "The waters that you saw, where the prostitute (NKJV: harlot) is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her IP with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth." 

KEY THOT: Initially, this Great Harlot will be in collusion with the Beast. She is pictured in Revelation as sitting on the Beast. which many bible commentators speculated is some form of revived Roman/European political union of the seven kings, five of whom are already dead. But when the eighth king arises he manages to get 10 other kings to yield their authority to him as Supreme Ruler over this revived European empire. And at that point, the Beast will turn on the Harlot to destroy her: "they (ten horn kings) and the beast will hate the prostitute (harlot)... make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire" (v.16). But who is this harlot? And who is the Beast that will ultimately destroy her?

Many commentators agree that the harlot refers to some kind of world religion headed by an apostate church. The imagery of harlotry suggests it was once a Christian religion but has now gone astray. To identify this Harlot, we need to enumerate some of her characteristics:
  1. World Religious Order: The Harlot is said to have dominion over "peoples, and multitudes and nations and languages" (v.15). She even has "dominion over the kings of the earth" (v.18). So, she is a global religion that spans the whole earth.
  2. Wealthy Institution: The Harlot is said to be "arrayed with purple and scarletand adorned with gold and jewels and pearls" (v.4). It is a wealthy religious institution and its religious orders are clothed in purple and scarlet.
  3. Spiritual and Moral Corruption: It is an institution permeated by spiritual and moral corruption in its rank and file: "holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality" (v.4).
  4. Persecution of True Believers: This religious institution persecutes true believers, because it has political power as she colludes with kings to put to death true believers: "And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (Revelation 17:6). 
  5. Political Power: Clearly, this Harlot, while not having political power of her own, derives her political power by sitting on the Beast, the revived European power. But this alliance will finally lead to the Harlot's own self-destruction.
So, which global religious system fits the descriptions above? Many bible commentators have identified the harlot with the Roman Catholic Church. It clearly meets all the above criteria. Having said that, we must be careful to distinguish between the religious institution and the many Catholics inside who are true believers and followers of Jesus Christ. They would also be persecuted by the religious orders. 

Firstly, the RC church is a truly global religion with 1.2 billion adherents across all continents: Europe, North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. They all owe their allegiance to the Pope in Rome. 

Secondly, despite Pope Francis as the champion of poverty, the Vatican city is a wealthy economy relative to its size. While actual data is impossible to get, the published revenue of the Vatican City in 2013 was $315 millions. With a population of only about 800 people, its nominal GDP per capita of about $390,00 makes it the richest state on the planet by this measure. 

Thirdly, recent exposure and attempted cover-up of paedophilia among its clergy rank, while not unique to the Catholic Church, is nothing new either. The Roman Church history is filled with such sexual abuses in its long history. Even Martin Luther was aware of this sexual abuse going on among the clergy of his time. It was one of the reasons he rejected celibacy. 

Fourthly, in terms of persecution of true believers, the Catholic Church has a major part in this evil. David Hunt in his well-documented book, A Woman Rides the Beast, describes the persecution of Roman Church on believers in the Middle Ages:
  • Thus Roman Catholicism became "the most persecuting faith the world has ever seen… [commanding] the throne to impose the Christian [Catholic] religion on all its subjects. Innocent III murdered far more Christians in one afternoon… than any Roman emperor did in his entire reign." Will Durant writes candidly: "Compared with the persecution of heresy in Europe from 1227 to 1492, the persecution of Christians by Romans in the first three centuries after Christ was a mild and humane procedure.
Finally, Pope Francis' attempt at dialogue with various world religions may be indicative of his plan to unite all major religions under the banner of a one-world religion. Note that currently, the Catholic Church has no political power base as they once had during the late Roman Empire/Medieval age. But recently, Pope Francis has been reaching out to the Muslim world and Islam is a political ideology. The Islamization of Europe may be the beginning of rise of a new religious/political movement that may result in uniting Europe under the banner of Islam. This new Islamized Europe (a.k.a. Eurabia) may initially collaborate with the Roman Catholic Church but it will ultimately turn upon the Church to destroy it. 

So the Beast may be an Islamized Europe. The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has recently warned about the Islamization of Europe in a speech given in Sep 2017. He attributed it to the mass immigration policy of Europe that allows Muslims to enter Europe freely. So, an Islamized Europe is not just a possibility; it is becoming a reality. The declining birth rates of native Europeans, the increasing secularization of European societies and the high birth rates of the immigrant Muslims will ensure that Islam will soon be the dominant religion in Europe. It's purely a matter of mathematics in the changing demographics in Europe. While the Catholic Church may try to ride on this rising Islamic political power, it will one day turn around to consume it. 

My identification of the Roman Catholic Church as the Woman on the Beast is not something I've invented. This has been the view of biblical commentators down through centuries, including Martin Luther and John Calvin. But the rise of Islam in our century and the possible Islamicization of Europe introduces a new perspective on the Beast and also why it would ultimately destroy the Harlot.

But I stand to be corrected if events turn out to be different.

Abba Father, we can only know in part, for we prophesy in part. May Your Spirit grant us wisdom and revelation to know the times and the seasons. Amen.

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