The Two-fold Destruction of the Harlot and the Great Falling Away

I would love to read your thoughts about the Harlot. I know it is a complicated subject, but any help in understanding Rev. 17 would be greatly appreciated! M

I know I have written on this question somewhere before, but was unable to find anything among the archives of past emails, so I’ll try to give you a brief summary of my present view. Though I believe the Lord has given light on the subject, I’m just as sure that much more remains, and I’ll be grateful for the opportunity to adjust my present view as the Lord grants more light, or correction through the body, as we labor together to faithfully compare scripture with scripture. At the annual conference in Ohio this year, Mark Klafter gave a discourse that agrees very nearly with my view. Travis Bennett is another brother who makes the case very well for the view I hold. I’ll invite him to see if he has anything he can send you.

If you’ve been tracking with some of our exchanges for very long, you may have run across my proposal that the ten kings of Dan 7 and Rev 17 may well prove to be an Arab / Islamic block that will unite as a counter measure to check western dominance. Apparently 7 give willing support to the Antichrist, while 3 are brought into the alliance through force. For example, Dan 11:25-27 may hold a clue to how non-compliant nations are forced to unite with him in his plot to invade Jerusalem.

A careful review of those verses leading up to the abomination of Dan 11:31 will support my view that a common hatred of the ‘holy covenant’ is the principal unifying force that brings these warring factions into common cause against the “holy covenant” (Dan 11:27-30). I take the reference to the “holy covenant” in those verses to represent Jerusalem and her recently restored institutions of temple and sacrifice (cf. Isa 63:18). It is this covenant that the ‘coming prince’ confirms in Dan 9:27. The “league” or treaty made with him in Dan 11:23 appears to be only one part of a much larger international peace arrangement.

I believe the ten kings who “hate the whore and burn her flesh with fire” are fulfilling the divinely ordained covenant discipline upon Jerusalem (Rev 17:17). This takes place in the middle of the week when the false security of the first half of the week is broken by the ten nation confederacy of the Antichrist. This invasion comes suddenly when Israel is dwelling in a short-lived delusion of false security (Isa 28:14-15, Eze 38:8, 11, 14; Dan 8:25; 11:23-24; 1Thes 5:3). Note how the prophets compare Jerusalem’s final desolation to an overwhelming flood (Isa 28:2, 14-15, 17-18; 59:18; with Eze 38:8-9; Dan 9:26; 11:22, 31; Mt 24:15-16; Lk 21:24; Rev 11:2).

We are not saying that the harlot is strictly synonymous with Jerusalem. On the contrary, it is very clear that the harlot represents something much more expansive in power and influence (Rev 17:15). Still, Jerusalem is nonetheless contemplated as ‘that great city,’ which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt. How can this be? In her apostasy, the ‘faithful city” is described as belonging in spirit and practice to the “city of confusion,” the symbol of world rebellion. The contradiction of the faithful city’s conformity to the spirit and practices of the surrounding nations was a constant lament of the prophets.

This is why I believe in what might be called a “two-fold” destruction of Babylon. The first stage of destruction is inflicted upon Jerusalem (and possibly her western allies) by the ten nation alliance under Antichrist at the start of the tribulation. This comes suddenly and without warning on the boastful leaders of Jerusalem who have arrogantly dismissed the prophetic warning of imminent disaster (Isa 28:14-15; 1Thes 5:3). The second stage is the great day of God Almighty when greater world-wide Babylon is destroyed with finality.

The ten kings are the divinely appointed instruments of God to inflict the first stage of judgement on the whore (Rev 17:17), but notice; they are not exempt from the second stage of divine wrath that comes upon greater world Babylon at the very end of the tribulation (Rev 16:10, 19). Therefore, in keeping with the prophets, Revelation seems to depict a mysterious intersection between mystery Babylon and Jerusalem in her apostasy.

Because of her high and privileged calling to represent the kingdom of God on earth, Jerusalem’s shame is so much the greater for adopting the character of the world. Thus, there is nothing that could be remotely construed as antisemitic about our view. It is the view of the prophets who continually pressed God’s warning that the elect nation would never be permitted to imitate the surrounding nations (Amos 3:2). It is language specific to the high calling of covenant election and privilege in full view of their exalted millennial destiny to be God’s servant to the nations.

I cannot, of course, prove it from scripture, but a great deal of scriptural evidence leads me to personally expect that at the same time the Antichrist invades Jerusalem, the west will also come under nuclear attack.

With brotherly love, Reggie

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A response to the above from another reader:

Shalom Reggie,

In Rev. 18:4 we read “come out of her my people” and that seems to indicate that not everyone in the environs of the “Great City” is actually a part of the faithless system seated in Sodom and Egypt – Babylon the Great.

It seems Revelation depicts two opposite, extreme poles of faith in Israel related to Messiah Yeshua – one very faithful and following the Lamb wherever he may go, and one apostate and hating God and killing Yeshua and his prophets. Between these two extreme poles there is an undecided mass. The two faithful prophets, and the single false prophet, attempt to convince the undecided mass, all the while the final terrible disasters come on the land and people, and the entire region and world, until the coming of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, who is the Word of God.

Best wishes in Messiah Yeshua, H

As always, very valuable input. Your view is certainly rich with analogy from the OT and that speaks well for it. However, I am seeing more of the ancient dualism of the two seeds (natures) that divide all of humanity, going back to Gen 3:15. This doesn’t diminish the very Jewish background and framework of John’s Revelation, since the battle lines of that ancient enmity run right through a necessarily Jewish Jerusalem at the end.

Actually, for my reading, Rev 18:4 is another reason I think the concept of mystery Babylon is intended to transcend any particular city. Jerusalem is the exception, because of the anomaly that the called and elect city should so much embody the spirit of the age. That spirit is expressed by its engagement to build up the kingdom of man, even religious man, on the basis of what is “in man.” For this, Jerusalem doesn’t have to be anything more than humanistic, because in biblical perspective, the spirit of self determinism, whether religious or secular, “IS” the ultimate affront.

There is a growing number that are taking a more localized view of Revelation, making much of how Rev 1:7 should be properly translated, “the tribes of the Land,” etc. This view, very popular among preterists, is no longer confined to them, but has growing acceptance in scholarly circles everywhere. I am still convinced of a more universal and cosmic reading.

The metaphor of Babylon, the great harlot, while it certainly includes apostate Jerusalem (as the astonishing anomaly of painful contradiction), cannot be limited to a single city. That is why “coming out of her” is not a simple matter of leaving the environs of any particular city. That is too easy. It is more profoundly a matter of the heart, since its essence is fearful dependency on man in all its forms. That is why the first thing that Cain did when he went out from the presence of the Lord was to build a city, the city of man. That is why I see the metaphor to work so well both ways. It is not ‘either / or’. It speaks of the spirit of Babylon in both its localized and universal presence.

If we compare closely the language that John borrows from the prophets when they speak of the great city centers of the world, not only Babylon, but no less Nineveh and Tyre, etc., it becomes apparent that Mystery Babylon has become a metaphor for man centered civilization. It is the rebellion of Babel come to full.

It has been too little noticed that the full ripening of divine wrath is significantly distinguished in the prophets by what Isaiah calls, ‘the controversy of Zion’ (Isa 34:8; Zech 12:2-3). It is the controversy of the covenant, the ancient covenant, older than the law, that is everlasting, not only with a remnant called the church, but a nation of destiny whose historic apostasy must be cleansed away forever before the age can give way to the kingdom of God on earth.

The church has tended to interpret all prophecy in terms of itself. The question of the nature of the great falling away is one such example, as this has been interpreted as an internal affair within professing Christendom. This is not the view of the prophets, and it is NOT how Paul and his contemporaries would have understood it. They were looking for an imminent world rebellion against the covenant of God with Israel, of which the church was only a part, as the elect remnant bound in hopeful travail to a still elect nation scheduled for unequaled judgment.

The great rebellion is the rebellion of the nations against the holy covenant (Dan 11:28-32). It is also the final stage of the discipline of the covenant outlined in Deut 28-32, as it pertains to God’s dealing with Israel to the end of the age. Not only does the time of the great rebellion coincided with the final wrestling of an elect Jacob on his way to becoming a transformed nation for all nations, it is also the time of God’s great reckoning with the nations concerning their regard for His irrevocable covenant bond with Israel. This explains why an assault on Jerusalem is an assault on the throne of God.

We should be careful to notice why it is that God’s long patience expires precisely when the nations under Antichrist come down to divide the Land and to take possession of a nation that has been only recently, and against all odds, regathered from many generations of exile and sword (Eze 38:8). This is VERY significant! The church has too little inquired why it should be here, at this particular point that “God’s fury comes up on His face” (Eze 38:18). Divine patience has reached its final threshold. Why here? What is this line that has only now been crossed in a way that is different from all former destructions of God’s covenant chastisement of Israel?

If we will be careful to observe the context and the time, as the events leading to the great transition of the day of the Lord. If we will observe the manifest connection of things, we will be compelled to consider that the great rebellion is about much more than the church. It is the rebellion of the nations against the God who elects. It is much more than deceit in the church or antisemitism in the church and the world; it is a rebellion against the covenant claims of the prophetic Word of God, which in turn forces every other issue.

The church, with its arrogant replacement hermeneutic, is responsible for how little the nations have even heard, let alone considered that line and why it means what it means to God. Certainly the great rebellion will divide and expose the false from the true, but the idolatry of man, as it will be embodied in the Antichrist is a phenomenon that goes well beyond ecclesiastical boundaries, though it is particularly appalling when it arrogantly asserts itself into the set apart things of God (Mt 24:15; 2Thes 2:4).

You will know, Hanoch, how that many of the apocalyptic writers who wrote in the period between the testaments would often conceive of the great rebellion in this way. For them, the great rebellion was conceived along the lines of a repetition of Antiochus’ violence against the temple and worship of covenant Israel, only they would portray the ultimate rebellion against all the finality of the earth shaking events of the unequaled tribulation and day of the Lord. The rabbis of the middle ages would see it this way too. All is to say that the ‘great divorce’ of the church from its OT / Jewish roots has taken a much greater toll than we tend to imagine on our interpretation of scripture. We are too illiterate of the OT. This is due to the application of a false dichotomy which has come from a false hermeneutic that would have been unthinkable to the early church. Thus was lost the context, not only of NT revelation, but an entire world view.

So does the great falling away happen in the church? Certainly! It must! Its line will run right through the church (Christendom), just as it runs through the earthly Jerusalem. It will certainly shake the church, as judgment must begin at the house of God. It is ordained to touch everything everywhere. This is why we need to so carefully reflect and consider what God has invested in this issue of covenant with Israel, and how He intends to employ it to drive home His great point / points. It concerns so much more than the exposure of the false church. It will accomplish that too, certainly, but God is requiring something of all nations and He is using the issue of the Land to do it. Not because the Land is anything by itself, not because Zion’s hill is anything by itself, but because God is God and when He speaks clearly, all flesh becomes accountable to hear and bow.

We should reflect much on this. Not only Jacob, but everyone in all places will be caused to wrestle with the great questions evoked by covenant and prophecy, since the testimony of Jesus ‘IS” the Spirit of prophecy. This will be the great tribunal that will shake all things. At issue will be His covenant claims, and the prophetic declarations of His mouth.

I don’t know how He will do it. I can imagine a few things, but I am sure that God intends to use the growing crisis of Israel, and issue of Jerusalem in particular, to first press and then expose everything that pertains to the final ripening of His indignation. Truly, a line has been crossed that has never been crossed in just such a way before (Isa 24:5). It is the point of no return that is the ultimate exposure of “man.”

Yours in the Beloved, Reggie

Filed under
Bible Study, Judgement, Revelation
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  1. itinerantmom
    In chapter one of Revelation, John says that he "bare record...of all things that he saw." I can match every interpretation John is given with something John records having seen: except the waters where the whore sits. In 17:1 the angel tells John that the whore sits upon many waters. Then in verse 15, the angel tells John that John saw these waters. However, between verses 1 and 15, John NEVER says that he saw waters. Why is this the only interpreted sign that John never records having seen?
  2. davidrickman
    Reggie, I soberly agree with your statements regarding the church's interpretation of prophetic scripture so self-centeredly and we have a lack of OT context to provide a framework for understanding NT statements concerning the outworking of God's plan. Alongside Daniel 11:28-32, would you say Paul is deriving his understanding of 'the falling away / rebellion" from Daniel 8:13 as well? : 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, THE REBELLION that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?” In light of Paul's frame of reference, do you think 1 Tim. 4:1-3 has any connection to this? Its often used as support for a doctrine of a great falling away (in the church). Could you share some of your thoughts on this passage in light of seeing the OT background of the great falling away? Thanks so much.
  3. Thanks, brother, for your interest and feedback. I completely appreciate your suggestion concerning Dan 8:13. When all things related are understood in true perspective, I believe you are quite correct to see the 'transgression of desolation' as an ultimate act of rebellion and insult against the 'holy covenant' at Jerusalem (Dan 11:28-32; 12:11). Regardless of Jewish unbelief, THIS ACT of ultimate hubris stands for much more in the sight of God than the modern church (so removed from the original context of OT eschatology) tends to imagine. Just moments ago, I wrote a friend how the assault by the AC on the restored institutions at Jerusalem is looked upon by God as an ultimate provocation and insult that crosses an unprecedented line whereby His fury comes up on His face (Eze 38:18 with Joel 3:2). I'll forward that to you now. On 1Tim 4:1-3, I am not inclined to understand this in direct connection to the world rebellion of 2Thes 2:3, though not unrelated in time. One can certainly sympathize with how compellingly 1Tim 4:1-3 would seem to support the 'historicist' view of prophecy, since it sounds so much like the apostasy that was historically embodied in the church of Rome. However, I am inclined to see in 1Tim 4:1-3 another aspect of the unequaled deception that will terrifically threaten the faith of God's elect towards the very end, during the tribulation, specifically after the abomination of Mt 24:15 (Dan 11:31; 12:11) has already been placed, as described in Mt 24:24. This I believe to be something more threatening to the true body of Christ than the more obvious deception of the Antichrist. I believe the Spirit has warned me that the deception that will sift the church, even AFTER the rise of the Antichrist, will be the deception in its own midst through charismatic leaders that will seduce many to a Christian form of Judaism, a form of the Galatian heresy that mixes the purity and simplicity of the gospel with a false sanctification through the law. I can only infer that after the church has been humbled and corrected in much of its presumption concerning the divine purpose concerning Israel, the next great danger will be the way that some will begin to use the law to bring the consciences of believers back under a false principle of sanctification, perhaps even justification. The result will not be the promotion of true holiness of the Spirit by faith, but a false holiness of the flesh that inclines to bondage. So while concurrent with the world rebellion and the great temptation to bow to the demands of the 'king of fierce countenance,' I believe this last deception will be the far more subtle test that will more perilously threaten God's elect than even the rise of the Antichrist.
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