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Eugene W. Prewitt

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Revelation 17 and the Beast-Riding Harlot

A Paper on Revelation 17


Brief Idea: The Confusion that has reigned for three thousand years will soon end.

And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: 17:1

The prior two chapters described the wrath of God as it will be poured out on the inhabitants of the earth. This being finished, John’s angelic instructor turns to the whore herself. Her followers received the plagues (see Re 18:4; 14:11-12). They were warned.

But the whore herself has opposed the Savior and has led men astray. She has encouraged the world’s leaders to unite with her and has confused them fatally.

2  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 fornication.

First, John sees the situation of the whore. She is sitting on a beast that appears very much like the beast of Revelation 13, the beast that was similar to a each of the nations in Daniel 7.

Beasts, of course, represent nations. And women, churches. So the Babylonian whore is presented to John as an apostate church that has control over the dominant civil power of the world.

3  So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

4  And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:


The scarlet color appears to indicate the guilt of the beast in putting God’s people to death. See verse 6 and Revelation 16.  The woman’s garments indicate her control of the state (purple, the color of royalty) and her part in the persecuting work of the beast. They also are the actual colors used by the leading clergy of that church.

The jewels seem to indicate the fact that she has “glorified herself” (Rev 18:7). Holy women should avoid doing the same. Her golden cup reminds us of the book of Daniel where literal Babylon used the golden cups from the sanctuary in her last wine party.

So, the picture indicates, the apostate woman uses religion to confuse the world. (Wine being used to indicate false doctrines – see Is 29:9; 51:21.)


This system has writing in her forehead. We know something about her from Jeremiah 3:3. She refuses to be ashamed of her wrong doing. She has promulgated her errors shamelessly. She sounds much like Jezebel of Revelation 2, that woman who controlled her husband, gave birth to illegitimate children, and that refused to repent:

2:20  Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. 21  And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. 22  Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. 23  And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.


So the woman has killed Christ’s children, and he has promised to kill hers.

17:6  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 admiration.

What follows verses 1-6 is an explanation of the vision, much like the explanations that filled the last half of prophecies in the book of Daniel. The explanation begins with an implied rebuke of John. We ought not to be impressed with the power of the enemy.

7 And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.

8  The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

Before naming the woman, the angel describes the beast. The beast sounds like the beast of Revelation 13 that received a deadly wound. It came out of abussos, nothingness, voidness. This sounds parallel to the beginning of nations in the original tower of Babel. It sounds similar to how the wild scenes of the French Revolution made way for the rise of the atheistic power. So, after its deadly wound 1798, world dominion by a state came to an end. And so as this earth plunges into other wild scenes that will pave the way for the rise of world-dominating national power. That is, the “beast will ascend” from the “bottomless pit.”

The beast will be destroyed eventually. And the picture viewed in chapter 17, apparently a picture taken after the deadly wound of Revelation 13, and prior to the healing of that wound, also shows the beast’s followers.

They are the one’s not found in the book of life. Now who is delivered during the plagues? Dan 12:1. And by Whom? By King Jesus. He delivers those found in the books. Who receives the plagues? Those not found in the book, those amazed by the power of the beast.

So the big picture indicates that a Babylon-like nation has ruled the world since long ago, perhaps even since the time of Nimrod, excepting a period of a deadly wound.

Now here is a little logic: If the beast “is not” existing during the deadly wound, it shows that the heads are in series. Think it through. If they were contemporary with each other, then one head being wounded would in no way cause the beast to not “be.”

The woman was sitting on the beast. The seven heads of the beast are, for those who understand Biblical symbols, “seven mountains.” That is what the Bible means by the “mind which hath wisdom.”

9  And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.

Mountains are, in scripture, kingdoms, whether secular or spiritual. So there is “Mount Zion.” And there is the “Mountain of the Lord’s House.” See Is 2:2; He 12:22. And this idea is explained in the next verse also:

10  And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.

So from Daniel we can identify five fallen kings: Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Papacy. And we can identify from Revelation 13 the one that “is” during the period of the deadly wound: America.

And from Revelation 11 and 17 we find that the European Union will exist briefly as a seventh national support for the woman.

Then we learn that the beast, the Babylonian-Papal beast, is particularly a picture of the papacy. This power will return to power at the end, but simultaneously with the USA and with Europe. This is why the beast only has seven heads even though there is an 8th kingdom. When the papacy rises again it will be permitted by God for one purpose—for it to go into destruction:

11  And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.

What about the ten horns? These horns are not evenly distributed on the heads…they are all on the Roman head. They are the European powers that, while already existing, are not yet part of the dominant civil power of earth. (We can sense them rising.)

12  And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. 13  These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.

That these ten powers will rise should worry us not at all. Here is why:

14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.

We should not be worried unless, that is, we are not faithful. And that is why Matthew 24:13 indicates that faithfulness is an issue today.

15  And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.

This verse explains itself. The people that we are to preach to in Revelation 14 are the same people that are ignorantly supporting the confusion of our times. When these people finally see the light they will be extremely angry at the papacy that has confused them.

16  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.

This is the same picture found in Revelation 16 where the waters under the city are dried up. The same people that have supported the deceivers will destroy physically that nation that has destroyed them spiritually. This has been God’s will, to show that Satan’s system ends in self destruction.

17  For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.

The last verse of the chapter connects it to Revelation 11. The great city there, the spiritual kingdom of this earth (as there is a great city above, God’s spiritual kingdom), is a false church that controls the states under it.

18  And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.

The summary of the chapter is that Jesus will be victor over the civil powers that have ruled this earth. Jesus will judge those powers for their complacency with the papacy. And Jesus will judge the papacy for its corruption of those nations. And those nations will be used by God to punish the papacy for the same.

Let us be faithful, as we have been chosen and called, and thus win with our Savior.

For the Word Version, click here: Rev_17_-_The_Beast-riding_Harlot

(5) Comments

  1. Eugene says: James Tierney wrote me a series of comments about Revelation 17. I am not reposting them here as I consider them to be erroneous. But I will let the viewers take not of one thing, the source of James’ urgency and surety. He believes he is favored with special revelations from God:

    James Tierney says: God has told me that anyone who argues against this and hinders this message will not be prepared for the latter rain. This is a faithful witness.

    Eugene says: That makes a false test out of one’s position of Revelation 17, just as Pippenger has made a false test over one’s position on Daniel 11, and as others in the future will make false tests over other moderately obscure passages. Reader, beware. The world will be tested over the Three Angel’s Messages, and the Latter Rain will fall upon those who earnestly seek the Lord, putting away their sins. There is more, of course. That is why I have an article here on the Latter Rain.

    Oh, and one more thing: I am not dogmatic about my view on Revelation 17. I think I am right, but am not certain about it like I am certain about other more important things. I oppose James and others because I am sure they are wrong in such a way as to make a false time test. If the current pope dies or resigns, James will have a lot of soul searching to do.

  2. Thanks, Eugene, for a neat summary of a challenging chapter! I came to similar conclusions after a week of intensive study, finding the greatest help through concordance/cross-reference searching, the tried-and-true historical-grammatical method. I wonder if you would be more explicit with your two comments on the Rev. 11 and 17 links? Thanks in advance!

    Also, have you ever explored the link between Rev. 17:3 and Mt. 4:1/Lk 4:1, then Satan’s display and offer of world kingdoms to Jesus in Luke 4:5-8? It helped me understand in microcosm how John’s vision scene can show a series of world powers all at once, and showed how Satan “gives” power and dominion to those who worship him. So thankful Jesus didn’t fall for the swindle as did Adam! In our Sabbath School class today, we discussed how the childhood game “King of the Mountain” summarizes the Great Controversy from the beginning (Isa. 14:12-15). But Satan’s guys keep falling off (Rev. 17: 9-11), while God has only one mountain, which ultimately fills the whole earth (Dan. 2:35).

    Books could be written on this one chapter. Very thrilling!

    • Thank you for being a student. Don’t know when I will get back to Revelation 17 to make something more explicit 🙂

  3. There seems to be confusion regarding the Beasts. It is true that the Composite Beast of Revelation 13 that came up out of the sea reflects the beasts of Daniel 7, but is comes up out of the sea. The Beast of Revelation 17 comes from the bottomless pit and whatever that might be, it is not the sea.
    Nor should one overlook that power was given to the Composite Beast to continue for 42 months whereas the Scarlet Beast has no such limitation. It should not be lost on anyone that the beast from the bottomless pit also shows up in Revelation 11:7 to make war against God’ two witnesses and in doing so aligns itself with the French Revolution after the 42 months of the witnesses’ testimony. In chapter 11 we only learn where this beast comes from and its atheistic nature. In chapter 17 we learn far more about it and who rides upon it.

    • If my view is correct, then the heads in ch 17 are sequential (which is why the eighth can be “of the seven”) then the characteristics of the beast would change as one head gives way to another. The head rising from the sea had a deadly wound (“is not”) that will be restored (as the eighth) and the following head would rise from the bottomless pit.

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