Rev. 17:1-7 I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore
"In 1 Nephi 13-14, the prophet Nephi relates a vision in which he saw the future of the world and its kingdoms as it related to his posterity. Nephi's vision is the type of revelation known in biblical literature as apocalyptic, a type represented in the New Testament most fully by the Revelation of John. The two revelations have more in common, though, than apocalyptic form, for they both deal in part with an often misunderstood concept, the great and abominable church of the devil. The visions together give us prophetic information about the matter.
"...the term great and abominable church means an immense assembly or association of people bound together by their loyalty to that which God hates. Most likely, this 'church' is involved specifically in sexual immorality, idolatry (that is, false worship), or both. While the book of Revelation does not use the exact phrase 'great and abominable church,' both John and Nephi use a number of similar phrases to describe it. They call it the 'Mother of Harlots, and Abominations,' 'mother of abominations,' and 'the whore that sitteth upon many waters.' (Rev. 17:1, 5; 1 Ne. 14:10-11.)
"The major characteristics of the great and abominable church described in 1 Nephi may be listed as follows:
1. It persecutes, tortures, and slays the Saints of God. (See 1 Ne. 13:5.)
2. It seeks wealth and luxury. (See 1 Ne. 13:7-8.)
3. It is characterized by sexual immorality. (See 1 Ne. 13:7.)
4. It has excised plain and precious things from the scriptures. (See 1 Ne. 13:26-29.)
5. It has dominion over all the earth, among all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people. (See 1 Ne. 14:11.)
6. Its fate is to be consumed by a world war, when the nations it incites against the Saints war among themselves until the great and abominable church itself is destroyed. (See 1 Ne. 22:13-14.)
"Another symbol used in the book of Revelation to represent the great and abominable church, as well as worldliness and wickedness in general, is Babylon. Five of the six characteristics identified in 1 Nephi are also attributed to Babylon in the book of Revelation:
1. Babylon is drunk with the blood of the Saints, the martyrs of Jesus, and the prophets. (See Rev. 17:6; Rev. 18:24.)
2. She is known for her enjoyment of great wealth and luxury. (See Rev. 17:4; Rev. 18:3, 11-16.)
3. She is characterized by wanton sexual immorality. (See Rev. 17:1-2, 5.)
4. She has dominion over all nations. (See Rev. 17:15, 18; Rev. 18:3, 23-24.)
5. Her fate is to be consumed by the very kings who, because of her deceptions, have made war on the Lamb. (See Rev. 17:14-16; Rev. 18:23.)
"The one characteristic not common to both prophetic descriptions is Nephi's statement that the great and abominable church has held back important parts of the canon of scripture. This omission in Revelation is not surprising since John's record is one of the scriptures Nephi says was tampered with. (See 1 Ne. 14:23-24.)
"In noting the characteristics of Babylon, we should be careful to distinguish between her and the beast in Revelation 17 They do not represent the same things, though the beast supports the great and abominable church. (See Rev. 17:3, 7.) The beast, for instance, is entirely missing in Nephi's description of the great and abominable church.
"Babylon, the 'woman ... arrayed in purple and scarlet' described in Revelation 17-18, is specifically the Satanic counterpart of the virtuous woman in chapter 12 who symbolizes the church of Jesus Christ that was forced into the wilderness (see JST Rev. 12:6)-that is, which became inaccessible to human beings. Symbolizing the counterfeit church as an immoral woman underscores the nature of her evil: she is physically and spiritually unfaithful, representing both sexual immorality and idolatry, the twin abominations of the Old Testament. Thus, she is the 'mother of abominations.'
"It appears in Revelation that while the symbol of the unvirtuous woman represents false religion, the beasts, the image of the beast, and its horns represent other aspects of the devil's kingdom. The 'Mother of Harlots' cannot represent kingdoms or governments-the beast and its horns do that (see Rev. 17:12; also JST Rev. 13:1)-but she can represent the false beliefs and ideologies that often capture and motivate governments. The same evil genius, Satan the old dragon, is behind both, but the beast and the harlot symbolize separate entities with separate functions in the evil empire.
"When the civil governments (the kings of the earth) commit fornication with the false religion-that is, when church and state are joined together-then the wine of their fornication makes all the world drunk, and her sins and plagues reach unto heaven. (See Rev. 17:2; Rev. 18:3-5.) The immorality and idolatry of the great and abominable church, together with the power of the civil states, dominate the economy and the life-styles of all nations and destroy the spiritual equilibrium and discernment of human beings." (Stephen E. Robinson, "Warring against the Saints of God," Ensign, Jan 1988, 34-36)
Rev. 17:5 MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS
Bruce R. McConkie
What a name this is for a church-no, not a church, but rather a particular church-the church of the devil. Names among the Hebrews bore witness of the chief characteristics of those upon whose heads they were placed. This church-glorifying the mysterious and unknown; aping the conduct of those in the great city of Nebuchadnezzar; herself a harlot and also the mother of other apostate churches-this church was the mother of the abominations of the earth. Her theology and her practices fostered sin and encouraged men to walk in a Babylonish path without fear of divine retribution. "Come unto me," she proclaimed, "and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins." (Morm. 8:32.) Wars were fought at her command and converts were made, not by the sweet voice of persuasion, not by inspired preaching, but by the edge of the sword and the point of the spear. Inquisitions took the lives of her heretics, and religion became an arm of the state so that sovereign lords could enforce religious rites and force men to believe approved doctrines. (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 438.)
Rev. 17:7, 16 the woman, and... the beast that carrieth her
The woman and the beast are not the same thing. This verse shows that the woman is supported by the beast. The harlot represents false religion; the beast represents Satan's control of earthly kingdoms. Stephen E. Robinson explains:
"It appears in Revelation that while the symbol of the unvirtuous woman represents false religion, the beasts, the image of the beast, and its horns represent other aspects of the devil's kingdom. The 'Mother of Harlots' cannot represent kingdoms or governments-the beast and its horns do that (see Rev. 17:12; also JST Rev. 13:1)-but she can represent the false beliefs and ideologies that often capture and motivate governments. The same evil genius, Satan the old dragon, is behind both, but the beast and the harlot symbolize separate entities with separate functions in the evil empire." (Stephen E. Robinson, "Warring against the Saints of God," Ensign, Jan 1988, 34-36)
This beauty and the beast story does not have a happy ending. For Millennia, the beast was happy to be the vehicle by which the harlot expanded her dominion. For generations, the beast was her support and protection. However, in Satan's divided kingdom, this relationship will not continue. Finally, the kings of the beast will destroy the whore. "Behold, the judgments of God will overtake the wicked; and it is by the wicked that the wicked are punished." (Mormon 4:5) "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." (v. 16)
Rev. 17:8 the beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition
Satan's kingdom "was and is not," meaning it persecuted the saints until the time that the archangel Michael casts it into "the bottomless pit" for 1000 years. (Rev. 20:1-3) During the time he is bound, the beast "is not" able to tempt mankind.
The spirits who are to receive a telestial glory and the sons of perdition will spend the Millennium with Satan in the bottomless pit. At the first of the Millennium, their spirits will be brought forth. They "are to be judged, and are found under condemnation." They remain with the devil and his angels for a day according to the Lord's time.
However, the bottomless pit and perdition are different places. After the 1000 years are ended, the telestial spirits will be resurrected and Satan will ascend out of the bottomless pit. During the short season, he will persecute the saints again and gather his armies together for the battle of Gog and Magog (Rev. 20:3-10). The Lord will then destroy his kingdom for good, sending him and the sons of perdition into their own place. Hence Satan "shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition." Such is the fate of "the beast that was, and is not, and yet is." He was until the Millennium; he is not during the Millennium, and he yet is during the short season.
Rev. 17:9 The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth
Tradition has it that Rome was built upon seven hills. Are the seven hills of Rome the seven mountains referred to by John?
"The allusion to seven hills best fits Rome, which was called the city of seven hills and certainly manifested the spirit of the great beast in John's day. However, Rome itself stands as a symbol of the archetypal Babylon. As the number for completeness, seven not only symbolizes the power exercised by Rome in John's day, but it also denotes the political powers of the latter days." (Richard D. Draper, Opening the Seven Seals: The Visions of John the Revelator [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1991], 193.)
John seems to be describing the vast extent of the harlot's dominion. She is everywhere-among all "peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues" (v. 15). In general, John is not referring to his day; he is referring to the future. During the seventh seal, the harlot will have dominion over all the earth, a dominion even greater than Rome at its height. Perhaps, then, the seven mountains are representative of the seven continents upon which she reigns. Certainly, there will be a last day harlot which will fit this description better than the Roman Empire.
Rev. 17:10-11 there are seven kings
The beast John described in chapter 13 had seven heads, representing seven kingdoms. Daniel chapter 7 describes beasts with a total of seven heads, representing seven kingdoms. The seven kings in this verse likely refer to the same seven wicked kingdoms (see commentary for Rev. 13).
If the timeline of this vision is strictly followed, then John is seeing the final destruction of Babylon. This helps us to understand the next phrase, "five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come." By the consummation of the battle of Armageddon, the first 5 kings will have fallen. The sixth king will be reigning in power, and the seventh will come later.
It would appear that the seventh and eighth kings will have their power after the Millennium. During the short season when Satan is released, the seventh king "must continue a short space." He will gather the forces of evil for yet another battle, the battle of Gog and Magog. Then will come the eighth, who "is of the seven, and goeth into perdition" when Satan and his sons receive their final judgment in perdition.
Rev. 17:14 these shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them
See commentary for Rev. 13:7.
Bruce R. McConkie
We should here observe that Armageddon is a holy war. In it men will blaspheme God. They will be in rebellion against Jehovah. The armies that face each other will have opposing philosophies of life. It will be religious instincts that cause them to assemble to the battle. And the plagues poured out upon them will not cause them to repent.
... There will be political overtones, of course. Wars are fought by nations, which are political entities. But the underlying causes and the moving power in the hearts of men will be their views on religious issues. The grand desideratum will be whether they are for Christ and his gospel or against him and his cause. (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 398, 477)
Rev. 17:15 the waters... are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues
Who is Babylon? I have already explained that Babylon is a great power that should be in the earth under the name of a church, a woman-that generally represents a church-full of blasphemy. She had the inscription of her name upon her forehead-"Mystery Babylon, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth." What is to become of her? Where does she sit? Upon many waters, says John; and to interpret this to the understanding of the people, the waters are many people, nations, kindreds and tongues where the woman hath her seat. These churches are scattered over the wide face of the earth, and this is called Babylon. Another angel is to follow the one that brings the Gospel, after it has been sufficiently preached, and proclaim the downfall of this great and corrupt power in the earth. Well, will all the Christians that are there perish, or will they be gathered out? Hear what John says-"I heard a great voice from heaven, saying, 'Come out of her, oh my people, that you partake not of her sins, that you receive not of her plagues, for her sins have reached to the heavens, and God hath remembered her iniquities.' " Then there is only one way to escape, is there? We can't stay in Babylon and be spared from these judgments, can we? Not at all. Why not? Because her sins have reached to the very heavens. Look at her abominations, her whoredoms, her murders, her priestcraft, her false doctrines, her forms of godliness without any power; look at them, all the nations are following after and consider it popular to follow and embrace these doctrines. "Come out of her, oh, my people." (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints' Book Depot, 1854-1886], 18: 179 - 180.)
Rev. 17:18 the woman which thou sawest is that great city
The great city is Babylon, whose destruction will be complete. "Because of the wrath of the Lord it shall not be inhabited, but it shall be wholly desolate: every one that goeth by Babylon shall be astonished, and hiss at all her plagues." (Jer. 50:13)