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Join us as we study through Revelation verse by verse. Our Bible study guides contain discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, and applications which can help you or your small group get the most out of this book as you grow in understanding and obedience.

Revelation 17 Online Bible Study Lesson With Questions – The Great Prostitute And The Beast

Outline

I. The Prostitute (1-6)
II. The Beast (7-11)
III. The Alliance Against The Lamb (12-14)
IV. The Beast And Kings Turn Against The Prostitute (15-18)

I. The Prostitute (1-6)

Discussion Questions

  • What is she selling?
  • Who does she seduce?
  • How are these same temptations being sold today?
  • Who or what is the scarlet beast in verse 3? Why is she sitting on it?
  • What do the purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls show us about this woman?
  • How is she connected with Babylon?
  • How does she treat believers?
  • How can believers guard themselves against the seduction of the world today?
  • What does God call the things in the golden cup? How would the world call those very same things?

Cross-References

1 Corinthians 6:18 – Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.

Ephesians 5:3 – But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.

Galatians 5:19 – Now he works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Timeline – The seven bowl judgments have been poured out. Jesus’ return and the final judgment upon the world, its leaders, and its system are near. That is what the angel is now about to show John. Chapter 17 is not, however, a snapshot in time. Rather, it shows the progression throughout the tribulation of the relationship between the prostitute, the beast, the ten king alliance, and the world, all of which will finally end in judgment.

2. The Great Prostitute –

Reflect: Who or what is the great prostitute?

Verse 5 identifies this figure as, “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” Babylon represents the evil world order that throughout history has set itself up against the Lord. From the beginning, Babylon was an evil city and an evil symbol. At the original Babel, people united together in rebellion against God’s commands. They created their own culture, own kingdom, and their own religion with the goal of man being independent of God.

Chapter 18 continues detailing the fall of Babylon. It seems that “Babylon” in Revelation is composed of two entities. The first entity (chapter 17) is the evil religious system and the second entity (chapter 18) is the economic system.

The “great prostitute” is a one-world religion that will emerge in the end times. Throughout the Old Testament, prophets often described Israel’s pursuit of other gods (including idols) as harlotry.

Jeremiah 3:6-9 – Then the Lord said to me in the days of Josiah the king, “Have you seen what faithless Israel did? She went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and she was a harlot there. I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.

A prostitute seduces a person away from his commitment and causes him to become faithless. She uses outward beauty to entice. At the same time, she makes many promises about the thrills and fun to come. All prove to be lies and those who believe her will go to their own destruction.

False religions are like prostitutes because they entice people away from the narrow way of God and onto the broad road of destruction. They use all types of methods, including false promises, to seduce people. And the result is destruction. There may appear to be many different religions in the history of the world. These can be reduced to the one true religion (Bible), and all false religions. These myriads of false religions were all spawned by Satan to mislead.

Throughout history, there have been many “little prostitutes,” false religions which have turned people away from the truth of God. During the end times, these will unite under one banner. The great prostitute will be the culmination of all of these. It will be the last and greatest attempt by Satan to lure people away from God and bind them to his false religion.

There have been many movements in history toward a one-world religion. None have been successful as yet, but efforts are gaining steam. In many cultures, “tolerance” and “inclusivity” are popular buzzwords. Of course, we know that Biblical Christianity will not be tolerated because this new one-world religion will seek the total destruction of the followers of Christ (17:6).

Truth, by definition, is narrow. Religions with different beliefs cannot both be true. But the truth will not be considered important. Instead, pleasure and indulgence will be glorified.

What will this new religion look like? Catholicism? Muslim? Something else?

We don’t know the exact path things will take to get there, but we do know the destination.

Application: Believers need to guard the truth. We must stand firm against ecumenism, guarding the purity of the church. While we should seek to preserve unity with other real believers (Ephesians 4:1-3), we must be careful not to follow the modern idea of tolerance to the point of compromising on fundamental Biblical issues. We must guard against the creep of secularism into the church and say as Paul did, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God.”

3. What is the prostitute offering? – Three times in this chapter it connects this harlot with “sexual immorality.”

Revelation 17:2 – With whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.”

The new world religion will be a filthy abomination. It will be a thinly veiled (or more likely unveiled) invitation to every type of sexual indulgence. How attractive that will be for unbelievers. Carnal pleasures are “worship.” The most unholy unions are “holy.” Evil will be called good and good will be called evil.

Isaiah 5:20 Bible verse

Students of history should not be surprised. Many religions in history have encouraged sexual immorality. The great prostitute will only level up the seduction that all of the little prostitutes in history have already engaged in.

“All kinds of immoralities were associated with the [Greco-Roman] gods. Not only was prostitution a recognized institution, but through the influence of the fertility cults of Asia Minor, Syria, and Phoenicia it became a part of the religious rites at certain temples. Thus there were one thousand “sacred prostitutes” at the temple of Aphrodite at Corinth.” – Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993)

Greek mythology is filled with tales of their gods’ sexual promiscuity. Roman cities including Aphaca and Heliopolis contained temples where “sacred sex” or cult prostitution was practiced. Historically, in Hindu temples, young girls are given in ritual marriage to a Hindu god and then work in temples as prostitutes. Aztecs practiced sacred prostitution in their religious rites. And Incas sometimes dedicated young boys for homosexual intercourse with chieftains in their temples. The Canaanite peoples practiced cult prostitution. In addition, there is evidence that Sumer and Babylon also had variations of the practice.

It is not only an ancient world thing. Some modern cults also endorse the same practices.

What is going on here?

It is simple. These are false religions. False religions are spawned by Satan. He is the father of lies. Evil is called good and good is called evil. He seeks to pervert what God intended for good. He uses man’s appetite for sex to bind him to sin and chain him to the kingdom of darkness. What better way than to claim you can be spiritual and holy by satisfying your own sinful desires?

Ecclesiastes 1:9 – What has been is what will be,