A Study On The Great Whore

by M. N. Jackson
July 29, 2021
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So, a disclaimer: This essay introduces significant eschatological ramifications. However, I was not aware of these ramifications when I first studied this text and pondered these conclusions. Although conclusions is not the right word, perhaps observations is more fitting, or even musings. Anyway, the point is that I did not then and do not now draw your attention to this matter as an end run towards a different eschatological framework than that which is common to many of you. I simply am fanning the hand as it was dealt, and letting the chips fall as they may. 

A personal difficulty I have with the evangelical interpretation of prophecy, especially the book of Revelation, is that it seems to be a radical departure in methodology. All other interpretation is Biblical to its core. And by Biblical, I mean that all points are substantiated with texts–proof-texts at times, but texts all the same. So an example would be an interpretation of “water” in John 3:5. The literalists, who say that Jesus refers to the carnal birth, will give a list of texts that use water as a metaphor for carnal birth; such as Isaiah 48:1. The spiritualists, who say that Jesus refers to the role of God’s word in conjunction with the Spirit, will give a list of texts that use water as a metaphor for the word; such as Ephesians 5:26. And so it is with their entire theology. The one glaring exception is the interpretation of Revelation, or at least large swaths of it. This book is interpreted on the basis of history, geography, etymology, mythology, and many other disciplines, but often little, if any textual evidence. A prominent example of this is the identification of The Great Whore of Revelation 17.

The common identification of the Great Whore is Rome. For evangelicals it would be modern Rome, and for Catholics it would be ancient Rome. While there are many who identify her differently, the common stream that I, and probably most of you, swim in would decidedly favor Rome. But, what Scriptural evidence is there for this? Many will point to the characteristics in the text. She sits on seven mountains. She has seven kings; five fallen, one current, and one to come. She is that great city which reigneth over the kings of the earth. She is clothed in purple, scarlet, gold, gems, and pearls. She has a golden cup in her hand. She is full of abominations and filthiness of fornication. The kings of the earth have committed fornication with her. She is tattooed with the name “Mystery Babylon”. And she is drunk with the blood of the saints and the martyrs of Jesus. There are other details, but that suffices for this discussion. That is actually quite a lot of detail. It seems like a slam-dunk. We can look at the geography of Rome, the city on seven hills. Score! We can look at the history of Rome, the persecutor of the church. Score! We can look at the liturgical order of the Roman church. A golden cup featured prominently at the center. Score! The colors of the Vatican. Purple, scarlet, gold, gems. Score! At this point it seems that we are just running up the score. 

That is all fine and good, but we get a half-dozen cross-references for identifying “water” in John 3, where are the cross-references for these? Well there aren’t any. But why not? And, doesn’t that bother you? We might acknowledge that since this is all future to the time of writing of the New Testament, then there wouldn’t be any cross-references. However, that is merely restating the initial difficulty I originally expressed. But, what if there are cross-references, but they just aren’t amenable to the conclusion? Let’s consider a few potential Biblical references to these characteristics (there are many more):

Revelation 17.1 “the great whore” 

Anyone familiar with the Old Testament knows that Israel and specifically Jerusalem is the place most indicted for fornication. However, as a concrete example, let’s look at Ezekiel 16:

“Cause Jerusalem to know her abominations…”

“I decked thee also with ornaments… bracelets… chain… jewel… gold… silver… fine linen”

“playedst the harlot because of thy renown”

“hast opened thy feet to every one that passed by”

“I will gather thy lovers… round about… and will discover they nakedness”

“I will judge thee”

“burn thy houses with fire”

Revelation 18.2 a cage of every unclean and hateful bird

Jeremiah 5:27 “as a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit”

Revelation 18.4 “Come out of, my people” 

Mark 13.14 them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains

Revelation 18.6 “the cup which she hath filled fill to here double”

Matthew 23.32 “Fill ye up the measure of your fathers… O Jerusalem that killest the prophets”

Revelation 18.8 “Therefore shall her plagues come in one day”

Isaiah 9.14 the Lord will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day

Jeremiah 19 I will make this city desolate… everyone shall be astonished… because of all the plagues thereof

Revelation 18.24 “in her was found the blood of prophets…” 

Acts 7.51, 52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?

1 Thessalonians 2.15 who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets

Luke 13.33 it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem

Matthew 23.35 upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth

Luke 11.47-51 the blood of all the prophets… required of this generation

Perhaps the correct interpretation of The Great Whore is Rome, the Vatican, or the Roman Catholic Church, but I don’t think anyone can show compelling Biblical evidence for that interpretation. And as for the geographical; the “seven hills”: There are quite a few cities that have been said to sit on seven hills, including Constantinople, Lisbon, Providence, and several cities in Massachusetts. But, Point of Order: Vatican Hill is not one of the Seven Hills of Rome; so if we are identifying The Great Whore with the Catholic church we should probably count Vatican Hill also, so now we have eight. Oh, and Jerusalem has seven hills: 1) Mount of Olives, 2) Mount Scopus, 3) Mount of Corruption, 4) Mount Ophel, 5) Mount Zion, 6) New Mount Zion, 7) Antonia Fortress Hill. So there is that.

M. N. Jackson is a founding elder and teaching pastor of Free Born Church. He was a missionary in Mexico for over 20 years where he was part of a team of church planters. After being deported from Mexico for preaching the gospel, he returned to San Antonio, and continued ministering the word.

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