Home > Miscellaneous > A Prostitute, A Bride, and Two Cities

A Prostitute, A Bride, and Two Cities

Revelation is a wonderful book of Scripture. I keep going back to it because its images strike me in different ways almost everytime I read. Honestly, I’m still not quite sure what to do with the book and how to piece together a cohesive holistic interpretation of the book, which is the reason I haven’t written much about any of it. For the most part it is difficult to interpret any specific portion of a book well without first having a strong understanding of what the book as a whole means and how that specific portion fits into the meaning of the whole. There’s a brief hermeneutic lesson for you. Anyway, here is a brief pertinent interpretation of one small portion of Revelation despite not having a strong grasp on the whole.

In Revelation 17* we are introduced to a “great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers of earth have become drunk.” This woman has been with kings and the common person is inebriated by her. She is like an epically powerful mythological being.

I saw the woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.

And as it turns out, this woman is actually a city. The city of Babylon, the symbolic city of timeless abhorrent evil used as a metaphor to describe cities and national powers who dishonor God and destroy his people.

She does just that. The prostitute is described as being “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” She is the one responsible for the death of the people of God. The Prostitute City is responsible because she is seated on the seven mountains, which are the seven heads, which are also the seven kings. The description of being on top of the kings is obviously about the prostitutes power and authority over these kings. So, the evil city of Babylon is to blame for their actions toward the saints. The good news is that this evil city of sexual immorality will not prevail.

New kings, evil in themselves, will rise up and destroy the prostitute. “They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire.” Her greatness, her power, her adornment, her beauty, her dominion, and her sin will all be utterly destroyed and she will be shown for what she is. Revelation 18 says,

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!
She has become a dwelling place for demons,
A haunt for every unclean spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.
For all the nations have drunk
the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality,
And the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her,
and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”

Her prostitution and greed have doomed her to a violent devastation.

Babylon in Revelation is a pretty close representation of Rome in the period Revelation was written. There is another nation that the metaphor of a prostitute works quite well for. One where sexual immorality runs rampant. One where high schoolers are taught to have safe sex rather than to not have sex. One where nearly everyone as a child has seen sexualized nudity. One where pornography is making billions of dollars and every new wonderful and imaginative technological development seems to increase the hold of sexual images on the nation. One where sexual immorality is tearing apart marriage and families. This is a nation where the prostitute reigns over the rulers and the people are drunk with lust for her. This is the nation where I reside.**

Isn’t this true? Aren’t the parallels astounding? So much has changed in 2000 years and so little has changed in 2000 years. It looks different, but the kings and cities and nations of earth are still under the power of this woman and the beast she rides on. Her deceptions still work. Her ultimate destructiveness has been shown time and time again, but her allure remains. And the people of Jesus, with few exceptions, have been no exception to her deceptive enticement.

Back to Babylon. Many of the people of Jesus were living in this city. They were living as a part of this prostitute Babylon. They were presumably a normal functioning part of this city and its culture. That is why a “voice from heaven” tells them,

“Come out of her, my people,
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
for her sins are heaped as high as heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities.”

I don’t believe that the passage is necessarily talking about these people leaving an actual location to go move to some other actual location. The Prostitute City is a metaphoric one. A metaphoric departure is what is implied. God’s people are to leave the rule and reign of Babylon through faithful purity. Repeatedly in Revelation the author explicitly describes the people of God as those who are sexually pure and heavily implies in other places (such as this one) that sexual immorality is not consistent with being a member of the people of Jesus, but right in step with the evil of the beast and the world that lives in enmity toward God.

God doesn’t just call them out of the city; He calls them into another one. This city sits in direct contrast with the prostitute. It is a bride. In Revelation 21 this city is seen “coming down out of heaven from God.” The city comes from the place God reigns. It is the “New Jerusalem,” Jerusalem being the metaphoric city of God’s people, presence, and reign. It is a holy city. The city is called “a bride adorned for her husband.” Like the prostitute, it is a beautiful adorned woman, but for a totally different purpose. For marriage instead of prostitution. Pure beauty. The holy city is the one God is calling his people into. His people are to live together in beautiful purity under his reign and rule.

So much has changed in 2000 years and so little has changed in 2000 years. Many of us are still living in Babylon under the reign and rule of the prostitute. And God is calling us into his holy city. God is calling us into the New Jerusalem to live under his reign and rule. We cannot live in two cities. There is no straddling of the borders between them. Either we live in the place that is destroying us and is doomed to be destroyed or we live in God’s city where,

“He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away”

Let’s leave Babylon. Her allure cannot compare to God’s city where we are His bride. Let’s leave children, come out of Babylon with me and let us move into the New Jerusalem where God reigns. Come out of the prostitute and enter the bride. Let us depart from this city of blasphemies and move into the holy city, entering it wearing fine white linen, washed in the blood of the Lamb.

*All quotations are from Revelation 17 and 18 unless otherwise noted”

**I’m talking about the United States of America

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  1. June 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Great post, Jeremiah. And who says the Bible isn’t relevant to this day and age?!! Babylon is a great metaphor for the USA. I vividly remember feeling “drunk for lust for her.” Man, was that ever a hellish way to live. I praise Jesus for the new city He set up for us.

  2. Joel Morgan
    June 15, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Oh yes. Let’s leave.

  3. June 17, 2011 at 6:05 pm

    Thanks Ernie. I know that I didn’t say anything like that. Praise Jesus for our New Jerusalem, the gathering of believers.

  4. September 1, 2011 at 3:37 am

    Right on my man!

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