The Reign of the Scarlet Woman
February 17th, 1963 @ 10:50 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-17-63 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television, you are sharing the services the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock message entitled The Reign of the Scarlet Woman.
In our preaching through the Bible, after these many, many years, we have come to the Apocalypse. And in preaching through the Revelation, we have come to chapter 17, one of the most astonishing and amazing of all of the prophecies to be found in the Word of God, and one that can be verified in history and followed closely in the daily newspapers of this present hour.
If you would like to turn to the Book of the Revelation, chapter 17, you can easily follow the message of this morning. Revelation, chapter 17:
And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her adultery.
So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet-colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great wonderment.
And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou wonder? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her.
Then follows the passage interpreting the beast, and we preached of this when he was introduced to us in chapter 13 [Revelation 13:1-10]. So following the angelic interpretation of the woman in verse 15:
And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill His will, and to agree, and to give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
Then follows the identification of the woman in verse 9, "Here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth" [Revelation 17:9]. And verse 18, "And the woman which thou sawest is that great city" – the city of the seven hills – "which reigneth over the kings of the earth" [Revelation 17:18].
And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven bowls of the wrath and the final judgment of Almighty God [Revelation 17:1]. Those seven angels were introduced to us in chapter 15 and chapter 16 [Revelation 15:1-8, 16:1-21]. And at the end of chapter 16, the last, the seventh angel had poured out his bowl of the wrath and the judgment of God upon this Christ-rejecting and sinful earth [Revelation 16:17-21]. And immediately thereafter we would have expected chapter 19 to follow, because chapter 19 brings the personal appearance of Christ into this earth [Revelation 19:1-16]. But instead of chapter 19 coming immediately after chapter 16, there is an interlude here [Revelation 17:1-18:24]. There is an intermission. There is a parenthesis.
And in this parenthesis, one of those seven vial angels of the judgments and wrath of Almighty God, comes to the seer [Revelation 17:1] and he says, "God would reveal to you, God would make known to you, the future of religion in this earth, and the future of its culture."
So, this intermission between chapter 16 and chapter 19 which brings the personal appearing of our Lord, between those two are these: chapter 17 which reveals to us mystery Babylon, the course of religion in this world [Revelation 17:1-17], and chapter 18 which reveals to us the city Babylon, the course of culture and commerce in this world [Revelation 18:1-24].
The vial angel, the bowl angel, one of them, takes John and says,
Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her adultery.
So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness.
When the Lord showed the apostle John the bride of Christ, the New Jerusalem, the city and the people of the Lord, He took Him to a mountain great and high [Revelation 21:10]. But when the Lord shows to John the course and the development of religion in this world, He carries him into the wilderness [Revelation 17:3].
Wherever there is spiritual harlotry, there is desolation, and desert, and dreary, weary waste. So he carries John into a wilderness. And there, John says:
I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet beast, full of names of blasphemy.
And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a golden cup full of the abominations and filthiness of her fornication –
The first part of this vision, he sees this woman with her name on her forehead –
MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
And I saw that woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
Then in the interpretation which follows in the remainder of the chapter, John writes here a word in his language that is extremely strong, "And when I saw that woman drunken with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus, ethaumasa thauma mega" – looking upon her and understanding what she meant – "I was amazed with a great amazement, I was filled with wonder of a great wonder, I was astonished with a great astonishment" [Revelation 17:6].
He never wrote that when he saw the beast, the course of the political empire and governments of this world. He never wrote that when he saw any other thing that God revealed to him of the future.
But when he saw this scarlet whore, and when he was made to understand what she represented, as John looked upon her and saw the development of the course of religion in this earth, ethaumasa thauma mega, "I wondered with a great wonder" [Revelation 17:6].
It is very apparent and is very simply stated why John’s reaction should have been so amazing. For you see, the background of the development of this religious idolatry, this scarlet whore, is seen in the very name written on her forehead. "And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH" [Revelation 17:5].
Mystery Babylon: idolatry began in the building of the city of Babel, or Babylon, and the raising of a tower toward God, an attempt by men by their own works to reach heaven [Genesis 11:1-4]. And the Bible calls the use of images and sensualities in worship, the Bible calls ordinances, and sacraments, and rites, and rituals that are contrary to the revealed Word of God, the Bible calls that harlotry. It calls it whoredom. It calls it spiritual adultery and fornication. That’s a universal nomenclature used throughout the whole Word of God. And this idolatry, this use of images in approaching the great God of heaven began in the city of Babel, or Babylon. And it was established by Nimrod [Genesis 10:8-10], whose wife was named Semiramis.
One of the most amazing and astonishing of all of the books that has ever come into my hands is this one by a great British author, Alexander Heslop, entitled The Two Babylons. And he follows and traces the development of this mystery Babylon, the idolatry of Babylon, through the years and centuries to this present day.
Nimrod’s wife – Nimrod who founded Babel and the kingdom of Babylon – Nimrod’s wife was named Semiramis. In Assyria’s Nineveh, she was called Ishtar. In the Phoenician pantheon she was called Ashtaroth or Astarte. In Egypt she was called Isis. Among the Greeks she was called Aphrodite. Among the Latins, the Romans, she was called Venus. She became the first high priestess of an idolatrous system. In answer to the promise made to Eve that the Seed of the woman would deliver the race [Genesis 3:15], she gave birth to a son. She said he was miraculously conceived by a sunbeam, and she offered that son as the promised deliverer of the earth. When he was grown, a wild boar slew him – his name, Tammuz. But after forty days of weeping he was raised from the dead.
And therein began the cult of the mother and child that spread throughout the whole world. In Assyria, she was called Ishtar, and her son still Tammuz. In Phoenicia she was called Astarte or Ashtaroth, and her son Baal or Tammuz. In Egypt she was called Isis and her son called Osiris, or Horus. In Greece she was called Aphrodite, and her son was called Eros. Among the Romans, she was called Venus, and her son was called Cupid.
But the cult of the worship of mother and child spread throughout the whole earth. She was worshipped by the offering of a wafer – a little cake – to her, the queen of heaven. And there was always forty days of Lent, of weeping over the destruction of Tammuz before the feast of Ishtar, at which time his resurrection was celebrated. The sign of Tammuz was an Ishtar egg, a symbol of his resurrection to life. And the secret of the Babylonian mystery was to be found in priestly ablutions and in sacramental rites and rituals, in the dedications of virgins to the gods, in purgatorial fires, and in a thousand other things that are familiar to us today.
The prophets inveigh against that mother and child cult. In the forty-fourth chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, Jeremiah describes the idol worshippers among the children of Israel, who burn incense to the queen of heaven and who offer cakes – little wafers – to the queen of heaven [Jeremiah 44:15-19].
And in the eighth chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, God takes Ezekiel and shows him the inner life of the people of the Lord who are now idolatrous. "He said also unto me, Turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these" [Ezekiel 8:13]. "Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord’s house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz" [Ezekiel 8:14] – the forty days of Lent in which they afflicted themselves and wept for Tammuz, the child that was slain by the wild boar. But after those forty days was raised from the dead and the end of weeping, is the feast of Ishtar in which they exchange Ishtar eggs.
That cult of the worship of the mother and child spread throughout the whole world, from Babylon to Assyria to Phoenicia to Pergamos and finally to Rome itself. And the Roman emperor was elected Pontifex Maximus, the high priest of all of the idolatrous systems of the Roman Empire. And when the Roman emperor passed away, that title of the high priest of the rites and mysteries of the cult of mother and child, the Babylonian mystery of idolatry, was assumed by the bishop of Rome.
There is no such a thing in the Word of God as the exaltation of a female deity. Nor is there any hint or any suggestion that Mary was other than what she is presented in the Word of God. The last time she is seen, she is a humble fellow pray-er in the prayer meeting in the first chapter of the Book of Acts [Acts 1:14]. Then she is never mentioned again. She is never seen again. She is never referred to again. And this cult of the idolatrous worship of the mother and child is pure and simple Babylonian mystery. "Upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS" – of idolatries – "AND THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH" [Revelation 17:5].
What an amazing and an astonishing thing that out of Babylon, according to the Word of God, should arise this idolatrous systems that should have spread over the entire face of the civilized world! And when John saw it, ethaumasa thauma mega, "and I wondered with a great wonder" [Revelation 17:6].
Not only that, but the woman is portrayed as riding the beast [Romans 17:3]. The beast is the symbol in the Word of God for government, for political power. "And I saw the woman sit upon a scarlet beast. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, decked with gold and having precious stones and pearls for embellishment, and a golden cup in her hand" [Revelation 17:3, 4]. She is arrayed in royal and luxurious and haughty power. She is rich, and she rides, she controls, the political turn of the government.
And when John looked upon that woman, "ethaumasa thauma mega" [Revelation 17:6], for to John the only church he knew was despised, and poor, and hunted, and hounded, and hated. For a man to be a Christian was to take his life in his hands. For a man to name the name of Christ was to be brought before a Roman provincial judge and there to be sentenced to be burned at the stake, or to have his head chopped off if he were a Roman citizen, or to be crucified if he were an ordinary peasant like most of them were. The church John knew was poor, and persecuted, and hunted, and hated.
But this, this, she is rich. She controls government. She is dressed in scarlet and in purple, and her embellishments are precious stones and pearls [Revelation 17:4]. And she rides the beast, she snaps the whip, she crowns and uncrowns kings, she says "yea" and "nay" to legislation. And when John looked upon her, ethaumasa thauma mega, astonished with an indescribable astonishment [Revelation 17:6].
But oh, and further, as the angel interprets this scarlet whore to the sacred seer, "And I saw the woman drunken" – methuousan, a present, active linear participle, "continuously drunk," not that one time she made a mistake and slew God’s servants, but continuously drunken – "I saw that scarlet whore drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" [Revelation 17:6].
John could not believe his eyes, for it was pagan Rome that was persecuting the Christians. When they laid down their lives, it was a heathen judge that condemned them. When his head was chopped off or he was crucified, or he was thrown into a boiling caldron of oil, or he was fed to the wild beasts, it was pagan Rome that crucified or that slew or that fed to those wild and ferocious animals these humble Christians of Jesus.
But in this vision that God gave to John, the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus are shed by that rich and scarlet-robed idolatrous church. And John ethaumasa thauma mega, he wondered with a great wonder [Revelation 17:3-6].
Who invented the Inquisition? Who invented the torture chamber and the rack? Who burned at the stake uncounted thousands and millions of God’s faithful servants in the earth? This scarlet whore, dressed in purple, decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, riding in control of the governments of the world [Revelation 17:4].
And John "wondered with a great wonder" [Revelation 17:6]. Who would ever have dreamed that those humble, persecuted, outcast little ekklēsias, those little communities of Jesus, would ever have risen to be so rich, and so bedecked, and so merciless, and so cruel, and so filled with the blood of the martyrs of the Lord? It has been estimated she has slain more than 50,000,000 of the servants of Jesus Christ. Ethaumasa thauma mega, "and I wondered with a great wonder" [Revelation 17:6].
Then the angel reveals to the apostle John the end of this scarlet whore. How shall she fare, so rich? How shall she fare, so bedecked? How shall she fare with her skirts so filled with the blood of God’s people? How shall she fare riding the beast, controlling the governments, saying "yea" and "nay" to legislation? How shall she fare?
That in itself is an astonishing thing. "And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast are the ten kingdoms" [Revelation 17:12] – remember the great image of Daniel, the gold, the silver, the brass, the iron, and the ten toes? [Daniel 2:31-45]. The end of this world, the Bible says, shall end in the governments separated into different kingdoms. And finally, all of those kingdoms will willingly, yieldingly give their authority to the great "emancipator and final deliverer," the Antichrist [Revelation 17:17]. These kingdoms of the world shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire [Revelation 17:16].
Now, I want you to see a remarkable thing there. In the eighteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, it is God that destroys the city of Babylon [Revelation 18:1-18]. In the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, it is God that destroys the beast and the false prophet [Revelation 19:20]. But do you notice here that it is not God that destroys her? It is man that destroys her [Revelation 17:15-17]. God does not do it. It is man that does it. That’s an astonishing thing! Then when you read history and watch the course of this world, that’s exactly what God has said and what God does. You’re not to think that God is peculiar here in the Revelation. These great eternal spiritual principles by which God directs history and destiny, they’re no different in the Revelation than they were yesterday, than they are tomorrow, than they are today.
You can read these things in the history books. You can read these things in the daily newspapers. And God follows those same great primeval characters by which He governs and acts. You can follow them as they are projected out to the end of time.
Now, God says, it isn’t heaven, it isn’t the intervention of Christ, it’s no appearing from God that destroys this scarlet whore. Men do it. "The ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast" – those kingdoms of the earth – "they hate the whore, and they make her desolate and naked, and they eat her flesh, and they burn her with fire" [Revelation 17:16].
Let us look to see if that is demonstrated, for this is a prophecy two thousand years ago. Men do that. Do you remember reading in history the ferocious onslaught of the terrible Moslem, Mohammedan, Islamic movement and its conquest with the scimitarian hand? Remember that? It began in the seventh century, and it continued through the centuries since. Against what was Mohammedanism a reaction? And against what was the fierce onslaught of Mohammedanism thrust? It was against idolatry. In the fierce conquest of the caliphs of Mohammed who overran the world in their fierce onslaughts as they destroyed idolatry, could you imagine somebody standing before those great armies of Moslems and saying, "Remember, remember, this is an idol of Mary and not Minerva. She’s not to be touched."
Or, "Remember, this is an idol of Joseph, and not Jove. He’s not to be touched"? "Remember, this is an idol of Christ, and not of Krishna"? Could you explain that to a Mohammedan caliph who felt called of God with a sword in hand to destroy idolatry in the earth? The change of the name of that idol does not change idolatry. Whether that idol is named Krishna or Christ, whether that idol is named Minerva or Mary, whether that idol is named Jove or Joseph, it is an idol.
And when the Mohammedan caliph came with his sword in hand, they destroyed the idol temples, the churches of all Africa, of all Palestine, of all Asia Minor and Turkey and of Istanbul, and thrust themselves clear to the Philippine Islands on the east. Idolatry against which the Mohammedan religion rose as a fierce and terrible antagonist. You ought to go into a Moslem temple. Do you good to make a visit to the Levant. You owe it to your soul. Save up your money and go.
Look at these things. They are the fierceness of the wrath and the judgment of Almighty God. Yet the Lord never touched her; man did it. And the prophecy is that the kingdoms of the world some day are going to get weary of the scarlet whore [Revelation 17:16]. They’re going to get tired of being told by a nuncio or a legate or an emissary what they shall do and what they shall not do.
And the prophecy is that the kingdoms of the world shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate, shall rob her of all of her riches, and shall make her naked, strip her of her beautiful scarlet robes, and her purple gown, and her bedecking and embellishment with pearls and precious stones [Revelation 17:16].
And the world, these kingdoms, shall eat her flesh. That is, they shall appropriate all of her riches. The richest institution in the earth outside of the United States of America is this scarlet whore. "Shall eat her flesh," shall appropriate all of her wealth, and shall burn her with fire" [Revelation 17:16], a social, a political, an economic outcast.
That, God says, shall be a development in human history, not be of the Lord as when He comes again, may not be of God’s judgment as upon Babylon. But it will come at the hands of men. And John, when he saw it – this vast, illimitable, immeasurable system of idolatry that grew and grew to cover the earth, rich and powerful – saw its tragic and despicable end, ethaumasa thauma mega, "and I wondered with a great wonder" [Revelation 17:3-6].
Now, pick up your Bible, turn to 1 John. Everybody turn to 1 John – the same author that wrote the Revelation, 1 John, last chapter. First John, last chapter, chapter 5, 1 John, last chapter, almost toward the end of your Bible. First John, chapter 5, the last verse; and all of us are going to read it together. First John 5:21; this is the earnest and last admonition of the seer. He had said nothing about this in this entire book. But look at his last verse. Everybody, let’s read it together: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." Now let’s read it once again. First John 5:21, everyone together out loud: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. Amen."
For the worship of God is spiritual. God desires that those who worship Him worship Him in spirit and in truth [John 4:23]. It’s between you and your soul, and no mediating priest in between. It’s between you and God for yourself. Talk to Him for yourself. Confess to Him your sins. He alone can forgive us [Mark 2:7].
Give your heart and life to the blessed Jesus. Walk by His side. Be filled with the glory of His presence. Love our Lord in spirit and in truth, for God seeketh such to worship Him [John 4:23]. And "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen" [1 John 5:21]. This is the word and the revelation of God to our souls.
Now, we sing our invitation hymn. And while we sing the hymn, somebody you today give your heart and your soul to the Lord Jesus. You come stand by me. A couple you this day, coming into the fellowship of the church, come and stand by me. A family you, "Pastor, these are our children and we are all coming today." Make it now. Make it this morning. Make it this holy and precious hour. As God shall say the word and as the Spirit of Jesus shall open the door, make it now. Make it now, while we stand and while we sing.
THE REIGN OF THE SCARLET WOMAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Chapter 16 would ordinarily be followed by 19, but God revealed to John the future of this world’s religion and commerce
1. Chapters 17 and 18 are a parenthesis depicting the fall of mystery Babylon and the city Babylon
B. When John is taken to see this scarlet woman, mystery Babylon, he is taken to a wilderness(Revelation 17:1-3)
C. The vision is of a woman, seductive, alluring(Revelation 17:1-6)
D. The reaction of John – ethaumasathauma mega, "astonished with great astonishment"(Revelation 17:6)
II. What the scarlet woman represents(Revelation 17:7-18)
A. Her name, "Mystery, Babylon, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth", portrays her background – the development idolatry, false religion in the world(Revelation 17:1, 5)
1. Consistent designation of the Bible is that idolatry and the substitutions of administrations, rites, ceremonies contrary to Bible are called whoredom, spiritual adultery
2. Alexander Hyslop’sThe Two Babylons
a. Follows development of idolatry in the earth, beginning with Nimrod, founder of Babel, and his wife Semiramis
b. The cult of the worship of mother and child
i. Vigorous denunciation of the prophets(Jeremiah 44:17-19, Ezekiel 8:13-14)
ii. Finally Roman emperor made the greatest high priest of this idolatrous system; when emperor fell, bishop of Rome assumed title of Pontifex Maximus
B. In her last form she rides the beast
1. She is rich(Revelation 17:4)
2. She reigns over multitudes of people(Revelation 17:1, 15)
3. She is in control; guides the realm of state(Revelation 17:3, 7)
C. She is continuously drunk with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus(Revelation 17:6)
III. Her destruction
A. It is by human hands(Revelation 17:16-17)
1. God destroys the city Babylon, and the beast and false prophet (Revelation 18:8, 20, 19:19-20)
2. The government and kingdoms turn to destroy this harlot
B. This isn’t peculiar to the Revelation (Hebrews 13:8)
1. This woman is not destroyed by direct intervention of God – He lets her continue, and the governments of earth destroy her
a. The onslaught of Muslim movement in seventh century was directed against idolatry
2. For a time the government will yield to her, but there always comes a time when religion depends on government – always a reckoning
a. Russia – the turn viciously against the dominating church
C. The beast will hate the whore, weary of her, and make her desolateâ€¦burn her with fire (Revelation 17:16-18)