This final section of the covenant structure deals with the method by which the king continues the covenant through to future generations. It outlines specifically who has the right to future access to the covenant and who does not (Meredith G. Kline, “Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant Structure of Deuteronomy”, p. 139-149). Inheritance and disinheritance are the issues the king deals with in this last part of the covenant.
In the case of Revelation 15-22, we will see how Israel is violently disinherited and the inheritance is transferred to the bride of Christ, the Church. The seven bowls of judgment that have been predicted throughout Revelation are at last poured all over Israel, and, as the mother of harlots, she is destroyed by the beast of Rome, upon which she rides. The wedding of the Lamb and the bride is then proclaimed and so the New Covenant begins to advance, freed from the scaffolding of Israel. Finally, we see the original plan of God for the world, a world that is full of priests and kings who have taken dominion over the earth under the authority of God, and that is re-ignited through the medium of the New Jerusalem, the church of Jesus Christ. The conditions of the Garden of Eden are re-inherited by the sons of the second Adam.
THE SONG OF VICTORY (15:1-4)
1. And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished. 2. And I saw, as it were, a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had come off victorious from the beast and from his image and from the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God. 3. And they sing the song of Moses the bond-servant of God and the song of the Lamb, saying: “Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty, Righteous and true are Thy ways, Thou King of the nations. 4. Who will not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou alone art holy, 5. For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE THEE, for Thy righteous acts have been revealed.”
This is the third time we have seen a sign in heaven, great and marvelous in the heavens (Rev 12:1, 12:3). It is as if we are about to the final act of a three-part drama. This third sign initiates the climax of the book of Revelation, with it the anger of God is complete, Jerusalem is destroyed and the Old Covenant is annulled.
John sees what he saw back in Revelation 4:6, a sea of glass. This is the same scene as the pavement of sapphire that Moses saw under the feet of God (Ex 24:10). It is also the expanse, like the awesome gleam of crystal, that Ezekiel saw below the throne of God (Eze 1:22). This time, however, it is mixed with fire and appears red instead of blue. What John sees is literally a Red Sea on the edge of which stand the saints of God.
These saints are also those who are victorious over the beast and his image and name. When these images are added together, we can see that John is building a picture of a second Red Sea crossing out of the hands of a second beastly Egypt. Like the Egyptian army charging up out of the deep to attack God’s people, so this beast that is coming up out of the sea (Rev 13:1) has been defeated. The parallel is perfected with the singing of the song of Moses, a contemporary version of the song that Moses sang in celebration after Pharaoh’s drowning (Ex 15:1-2, Dt 32, Isa 12, Hab 3).
These victorious saints are given harps by God so that they can sing. The harp is the instrument of temple worship (2Ch 5:12, 9:11, 20:28, Rev 5:8, 14:2), and its connection with the saints here reminds us of the celebration, victory, excitement and musical beauty that we will encounter in heaven (and should already encounter in normal church worship). Like Moses and the saints of 70AD, we celebrate the contemporary victory of the Lion over all earthly enemies. He is the King of the nations, and great and marvelous are His deeds throughout the ages on behalf of the saints. Christians who know little or nothing of the great and marvelous deeds of their God need to step out of their comfort zone and confront the beasts of our time, only then will they see the power of God.
John’s statement, “Who will not fear O Lord, and glorify your name”, can be translated into modern terminology as: ‘Who will not be converted? Who will not serve, worship and obey our God?’ This is a clear statement of the future success of the Gospel in time and in history. The next sentence declares this truth more fully and precisely, as it prophetically announces that: “All the nations will come and worship before thee, for thy righteous acts have been revealed.” The conversion of all the nations is the primary purpose of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (1Ch 16:28-31, Ps 2:8, 22:27, 67:1-7, 86:8-9, Isa 2:1-5, Je 16:19-21, Mt 28:19). It is also the ultimate purpose of God’s judgment s, as we are about to find out (Isa 66:22-24, Ro 11:11-12, 15).
THE SANCTUARY IS OPENED (15:5-8)
5. After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven was opened, 6. and the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple, clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded around their breasts with golden girdles. 7. and one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever. 8. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power, and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.
John now transfers us to a new scene in which he introduces us to the heavenly temple, which he further describes as the tabernacle of testimony. Contained within the earthly tabernacle were the Ten Commandments which, in Exodus 16:34, 25:16-22, were called the Testimony, a title that emphasised their legal nature as covenant documents. One of the official titles of the tabernacle was, therefore, the tabernacle of the testimony (Ex 38:21). John’s use of this title is deliberate. He is drawing us to the conclusion that both the heavenly pattern and the earthly copy join together in the New Testament age. The Church tabernacles in heaven and the Gospel form the legal testimony document of the New Covenant. Both the Church and the throne of God are the tabernacle of the Testimony.
Seven angels now appear from the temple. Their dress is that of priests, which shows us that their function is as priests of the New Covenant, in the image and likeness of their Lord.
One of the four living creatures appears before them to give them their ministerial task. Seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God are handed out. What are these seven golden bowls and why are they used as imagery here? The answer comes to us from the rituals of the Old Testament temple. The temple rites consisted of the burnt offering, the incense offering, the blast of trumpets and finally the drink offering, in that order. This same sequence has been followed by John as he travels through Revelation (5:6, 5:8-9, 8:3-4, 8:6, 16:1). The drink offering consisted of wine (Ex 29:40, Lev 23:13) and Revelation 14:10 has just shown the decree that the apostate Jews would be forced to drink of the wine of the wrath of God. These thoughts are continuing here through the seven golden bowls full of the drink-offering wine. The implication is that the Jews had the choice of drinking the wine of the New Covenant with Christ (1Co 11:25), or they would be forced to drink the wine of God’s anger. Just as the pouring out of the drink offering finalised the temple service, so the pouring out of these seven golden bowls finalised the judgment s of God upon Israel.
At the dedication of the tabernacle of, Moses and the temple of Solomon, the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and fire consumed the sacrifices (Ex 40:34, 2Ch 7:1-3). With the coming of the New Covenant, the Church became the temple of God. The same phenomenon was displayed on the day of Pentecost as fire came from heaven and filled His new temple (Ac 2:1-3). Peter declared, however, that the Pentecostal outpouring would be closely followed by blood, fire and vapour of smoke (Ac 2:19, Joel 2:31-32) as the temporary temple of Israel was consumed like a sin offering to make way for the definitive temple of God, the Church. In that one visitation, we see the smoke/fire phenomenon used to both comfort and empower God’s new bride and to warn his unfaithful wife. Here in verse 8, we see a second, prophetic preview of the events portrayed in Acts 2. The new bride will see the glory of God, while His unfaithful wife will witness His terrible power. Pentecost and holocaust are rolled into one.
THE FIRST FOUR BOWLS: GOD’S CREATION TAKES VENGEANCE (Rev 16:1-9)
1. And I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels: “Go and pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God into the earth.” 2. And the first angel went and poured out his bowl into the earth, and it became a loathsome and malignant sore upon the men who had the mark of the beast and who worshipped his image, 3. And the second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became blood like that of a dead man, and every living soul in the sea died. 4. And the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters, and they became blood. 5. And I heard the angel of the waters saying: “Righteous art Thou, who art and who wast, O Holy One, because Thou didst judge these things, 6. for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink: They deserve it.” 7. And I heard the altar saying: “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgment s.” 8. And the fourth angel poured out his bowl upon the sun, and it was given to it to scorch the men with fire. 9. And the men were scorched with fierce heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent, so as to give Him glory.
John has already shown us the Egyptian dragon chasing the woman into the wilderness (Rev 12), and the saints standing at the Red Sea celebrating and singing the song of Moses (Rev 15). Now we are about to see seven judgment s poured out on the great city of Jerusalem, just as the ten plagues descended fatally upon Egypt. Layered into this imagery is a strong connection between the seven trumpets of chapters 8 and 9 and these seven bowls being poured out. The curses match almost perfectly, except that here we have total destruction, while earlier there was only one-third destruction. The trumpets are essentially warnings. The bowls are the main event.
We saw in the last chapter that the rituals of the Old Covenant temple are presently in focus, so it is appropriate that these judgment s are poured out just as the priests poured out the blood of the sacrifice around the alter (Lev 4:7, 12, 18,25,30).
The term ‘earth’ has already been shown to be a symbol for the land of Israel (Rev 13:11), so the object of this curse is the Israel of the First Century. This view is strengthened by the further explanation that these cursed people are those who had the mark of the beast and worshipped his image (Rev 13:14, 18). So the Egyptian boils (Ex 9:8-11) are now infecting the Hebrews, in fulfillment of the warning by Moses that they would be infected with the boils of Egypt if they turned away from their God (Dt 28:27).
As the sorry saga unfolds, Israel is now engulfed in blood. Stinking, clotted blood, like that of a dead man. The primary significance of this symbol is as a reference to the uncleanness of contact with blood and death (Lev 7:26-27, 17:10-16, 21:1). Woven into this image is the history of the Jewish wars of 70 AD that saw mass killings of Jews, such as on the sea of Galilee, where: “One could see the whole lake stained with blood and crammed with corpses…the beaches were strewn with wrecks and swollen bodies. (Josephus “The Jewish War”, p.iii.x.ix).
This second blood-judgment, onto the rivers and the springs of waters, directly mirrors the first plague of Egypt (Ex 14:24). It continues the picture of a nation soaked in blood, but it also tells us that what was once clean and usable is now cursed and polluted through apostasy.
John also hears the angel of the waters speak. This is a good example of the degree to which nature is personal. Natural laws of nature are more or less divine habits. God is constantly acting upon his creation through his agents.
The fact that this angel rejoices in human destruction should not be embarrassing to us. These people have poured out the blood of saints and prophets. Jesus declared in Matthew 23:31-36 that the chief reason for the pending doom was because of the murder of prophets and saints. Put it this way: If your government took you to the Supreme Court and you bumped off the prosecution lawyers, you would be in big trouble.
The language of the curse is continuous: “Thou hast given them blood to drink.” They deserve it. This reference is instructive, as it was literally true that the apostate Jews descended to drinking each other’s blood and eating each other’s flesh in the terrible siege of Jerusalem (Josephus: “The Jewish War”, vi.iii.iii-iv). What a tragic situation it must have been, yet just such a situation was once again faithfully prophesied by Moses as one of the covenant curses that would come upon rebellious Israel (Dt 28:53-57). If only they had listened!
Whereas the fourth plague upon Egypt resulted in darkness upon the land of Israel, here the fourth angel decrees scorching heat upon Israel. This sounds like a strange reversal, but it makes sense in the light of the following scriptural references to God’s protection.
“The Lord is your keeper. The Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.” (Ps 121:5-6).
“They will not hunger or thirst, neither will the scorching heat or sun strike them down.” (Isa 49:10)
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is in the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream, and will not fear when the heat comes.” (Je 17:7-8)
“They will hunger no more, neither thirst anymore, neither shall the sun beat down on them, nor any heat.” (Rev 7:16)
As can be seen from these scriptures, shade and protection from the sun were used as images of God’s covenant protection right from the days of the cloud during the exodus from Egypt (Ex 13:21-22). Therefore, the symbolic picture of a scorching, hot sun now beating down upon the apostate Jews is appropriate. And what is the response to all these curses? They blasphemed the name of God and did not repent. Israel now has the heart of a Pharaoh.
THE LAST THREE CHALICES: IT IS FINISHED (Rev 16:10-21)
10. And the fifth angel poured out his bowl upon the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became darkened, and they gnawed their tongues because of pain, 11. and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and they did not repent of their deeds. 12. And the sixth angel poured out his bowl upon the great river, the Euphrates, and its water was dried up, that the way might be prepared for the kings from the east. 13.And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs, 14. for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of that great day of God, the Almighty. 15.(“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lest he walk about naked and they see his shame.”) 16. And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Ma-Gedon. 17. And the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done.” 18. And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder, and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. 19. And the great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. 20. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. 21. And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men, and the men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.
Whereas the first four bowls were clothed in terminology that reflected the natural world, such as earth, sea, rivers, springs and the sun, these next three bowls speak directly about the political events involved in the destruction of Jerusalem. All seven bowls talk about the same series of events, but the terms used differ.
The kingdom of the beast is now thrown into darkness. We know already that the beast in this drama is the Roman Empire, so John is telling his readers that the Romans will go through many troubles because of their role in pursuing God’s elect. The political event that is most probably predicted here is the great turmoil that Rome went through after the death of Nero in 68AD. In the mad scramble to be top dog, several emperors came and went, provincial governors rose up against the state in civil war, and the city was constantly racked by political mass murders (Tacitius, “The Histories”, iii.48 & Josephus, “The Jewish War”, p.iv.x.v.). Events reached a climax in late 69AD, when the Roman equivalent of the Jewish temple, the Temple of the Capitoline Jupiter, was burnt to the ground less than a year before the same fate befell the Herodian temple in Jerusalem (Tacitius, “The Histories”, iii.71-73, Josephus, “The Jewish War”, p.iv.xi.iv.). All this suffering only results in more human cursing of God. Suffering without character change produces great bitterness.
Upon the sounding of the sixth trumpet in Revelation 9:13-16, four angels are released from the river Euphrates to kill one third of mankind. Similarly, here we see the river dry up to allow an invading army to enter Israel. The Euphrates was a logical point of invasion that had been used for thousands of years by successive armies to invade and conquer the Covenant nation when they were in need of discipline. The imagery of the drying-up of the river comes from the tactic used by Cyrus the Great, who diverted the Euphrates and marched into Babylon up the riverbed (Je 50:35-38, 51:12-13, 32, 36). Rebellious Israel now replaced rebellious Babylon. Superimposed on this imagery is the picture of the Red Sea and the Jordan River drying up, allowing God’s people to cross in victory. Again, the message must have been simple and savage, Israel, the ancient conqueror, was about to become the conquered as God opened up the access routes into the nation to allow the heathen armies to rout the Jews. A few years after this record was made, John’s readers saw Titus return to Israel via the Euphrates with reinforcements, and march on to Jerusalem to lay siege a second time (Philip Carrington, “The Meaning of the Revelation”, (London, SPCK, 1931) p.265).
Bearing in mind that the dragon is Satan, the beast is Rome and the false prophet is Israel, this next passage becomes a narrative of invasion initiated by God but motivated and encouraged by Satan. The frog image is meant to remind us of the frogs that God sent to swarm over Egypt. However, this time the frogs are demons. This use of demons is explained in the notes on Revelation 9:1. Some other examples of this type of manipulation can be found in 1 Kings 22:19-22, where a demon volunteers to go and deceive King Ahab on God’s behalf, and 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12, where God sent the Jews a deluding influence so that they might believe that which is false. God is sovereign, and ALL of creation is used for his glory.
Verse 14 tells us the end to which God has unleashed these demons. They are to entice the Roman armies, as well as the many nationalities of mercenaries that fought with the Romans, into war as an act of judgment on the great day of God Almighty.
Christ, in this verse, is reiterating the warnings he made to the church at Sardis (Rev 3:1-6). They are to be spiritually awake, spiritually clothed and watching for the thief. The verse begins with the interjection: “Behold, I come like a thief!” What Christ is saying is that the coming of the demon-inspired armies is in reality the coming of Christ in judgment. This is an echo of Daniel 9:25-26, where the prophet declares that the prince will come, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.
Christ requires His readers to be clothed with the robe of righteousness at the time of this coming. The picture He uses here comes from temple procedure. When a watchman at the temple at Jerusalem was found sleeping, he was beaten, if found sleeping a second time, his clothes were ripped off and burnt (Carrington, pp.265f., cf. Alfred Edersheim, “The Temple: Its Ministry and Services As they were at the Time of Christ” (Grand Rapids: William B. Eredmans Publishing Co., 1980), pp.142, 148). As custodians of the true temple, the saints were warned to be on spiritual guard. This fits in nicely with the whole imagery of the seven bowls being part of the temple worship procedure.
John now goes back to the action. He sees the three demonic spirits gathering the kings together to a place called Har-Ma-Gedon. This word, often translated as Armageddon, has worked itself into popular western culture as a symbol for the battle that will result in the end of the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. The word is literally Har (Mount) Magedon (Megiddo). But here is the catch, there is no such place as Mt. Megiddo, it is only a city on a plain in Israel! John is probably using this obviously figurative term to draw the attention of his readers to both nearby Mt. Carmel and the plain of Megiddo, both of which are important Old Testament battle sites. Mt. Carmel was where Jezebel’s false prophets met their doom (1Ki 18). Megiddo was where Deborah defeated the kings of Canaan (Jdg 5:19). It is also where Judah’s King Josiah, in disobedience to God, fought and was defeated by the Egyptian pharaoh Neco (2Ch 35:20-25).
King Josiah’s death marks a downward-turning point in the history of the Jewish nation. The lament written at the time of his death, recorded in 2Ch 35:25, became a commemoration song in the traditions of the Jews, with which John’s readers would have been familiar. The connecting point between this event and Revelation is the use of Josiah’s death and the lament by the prophet Zechariah as a picture of the future lament of the Jews for the death of Christ and its consequences for them: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born son. In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. And the land will mourn.” (Ze 12:10-11). So, there are several interwoven threads that, when connected, would have told John’s more discerning readers that Har-Ma-Gedon is a picture of the defeat of false prophets, the death of disobedient kings, and a place where all the land will mourn for what they have done to the King of kings.
The essence of these two verses is twofold. Firstly, the finality of the judgment s is emphatically proclaimed to the world with: “It is done!” John told us in Revelation 15:1 that these seven plagues were to be the last, and that in them the wrath of God is finished. The official end of the Old Covenant can be dated from this one utterance. Secondly, there is the awesome spectacle of the most violent earthquake in the history of the world. But this is not a physical earthquake. It is the spiritual upheaval, the utter destruction and the shaking of all that speaks of the Old Testament shadows. The term ‘earthquake’ is mentioned exactly seven times in this book, and so is covenantal in nature. If we go back to Hebrews 12:25-29 and 2 Peter 3:9-13 (‘element’ meaning order, i.e. Old Testament order) we can see the background to John’s imagery. Those passages very clearly show us the spiritual nature of this most violent of all earthquakes. The Mosaic order comes crashing down to make way for the indestructible temple of God, the Body of Christ. It is very appropriate that John says it was so great an earthquake.
John now sees the great city split into three parts. We know from Revelation 11:8 and 14:8 that this great city, this Babylon, is Jerusalem. The picture of the city splitting into three parts comes from Ezekiel 5:1-12, where Ezekiel is told to shave and divide his hair into three parts as a way of portraying the coming three-part destruction of Jerusalem.
The outworking of this section of John’s vision most probably came when, during the siege of Jerusalem, the leadership split into three factions that warred against each other as much as with the Romans. The fighting within the city led to a speedy defeat (Carrington, p. 266, cf. Josephus, “The Jewish War” p.v.v.i-v), in fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy in Matthew 24:22.
Jerusalem was the spiritual capital of the world and was chosen to represent mankind, and therefore the nations, before God. Without knowing it, the whole world was involved in the Old Covenant, and Jerusalem covenantally represented all nations. When Jerusalem collapsed, they all collapsed. This is the meaning of John’s statement: “And the cities of the nations fell.” Their proxy covenant with God, their spiritual world order, was collapsing and about to be replaced.
In Revelation 6:16, we see the Jews pleading for the rocks to fall on them so that they may die and escape these awful judgment s of God. Here is God’s scary reply: “And every island fled away and the mountains were not found.” There is no hiding from God.
Finally, John alludes to Ezekiel’s prophecy of the giant hailstones that would destroy the flimsy walls of Jerusalem (Eze 13:1-16). Perhaps he is also alluding to the seventh plague of Egypt, which was a hailstorm. In any case, it is a fitting description of the 100-pound boulders that Roman catapults launched into Jerusalem during the siege. Josephus claims they weighed a talent (34kg) and flew two furlongs or more (400m). When they were seen flying through the air the defensive guards would shout: “The son is coming” (Josephus, “The Jewish War” p. v.vi.iii.). The blasphemous taunt of these guards was most probably a dangerous joke directed toward the Christians, who, it is assumed, had warned their fellow Jews that this war was the fulfillment of Christ’s threat to return as Judge. It is also a fitting example of the concluding remarks for this chapter: “And men cursed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.”
THE IDENTITY OF THE HARLOT (Rev 17:1-7)
1. And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying: “Come here, I shall show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, 2. with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.” 3. And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. 4. And the woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, 5. and upon her forehead a name written: a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” 6. And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. And when I saw her. I wondered greatly. 7. And the angel said to me, “Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the women and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.”
This chapter opens up the meaning of the seventh bowl that was poured out in verse 17 of chapter 16. We now get a detailed description of the prostitute, her escort and her destruction.
In previous chapters, Jerusalem has been described in detail as Babylon. John now goes on to portray this great city as a prostitute so that there would be absolutely no mistake in the minds of his readers about who was being punished here.
Old Testament references to Israel’s spiritual prostitution were common knowledge to early Christians, but not so to us. Isaiah 1:21 tells us: “See how the faithful city has become a harlot!” Jeremiah told his readers: “As a nation under every green tree you have lain down as a harlot.” (Je 2:20). Hosea told his compatriots: “In that you have played the harlot, forsaking your God, you have loved harlots’ earnings on every threshing floor.” (Hos 9:1) The most damning descriptions come from Ezekiel 16 and 23, and not much is left to the imagination in his pronouncements. He describes Israel as masturbating with home-made male images (Eze 16:17), lusting after the Egyptians because their penises were like those of donkeys (Eze 23:20), and paying her customers instead of being paid (Eze 16:32-34). These descriptions were designed to shock Israel into realising the enormity of her sin. The covenant had been violently broken when Israel had followed other gods, formed unethical political alliances, and put trade and materialism, sex and lust before God, committing acts of immorality with the kings of the earth. Israel was so drunk it could not even recognise the arrival of God on earth.
The culprits in these betrayals were the leadership of the nation. The priesthood had failed to present a pure bride to the bridegroom. The New Testament parallels the experiences of the prophets, and the sins of the leadership are extended to their ultimate expression. The Pharisees were hell-bent on deceiving the bride and killing the bridegroom. (Mt 21:33-44). This was indeed THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS.
John sees this great prostitute sitting on many waters, an image taken from Jeremiah’s description of Babylon (Je 51:13) that depicted the river Euphrates going through the city, and its many irrigation canals. The term ‘many waters’ is also used in scripture to describe God’s voice (Eze 1:24) and Christ’s voice (Rev 1:15, 14:2, 19:6). The term has connections to both God’s spoken revelation to his people and Babylon, revelation and rebellion were bot