Let the Word Speak!

Vision 6: The Role and Results of Imperial Power

Introduction: Leading ladies of visions three, six, and seven

In placing this vision in the context of Revelation, it helps to review three women presented as key images throughout these visions. In the third vision, which presented Satan as the root of the evil that was persecuting the faithful, the opening showed a woman clothed in the stars, sun, and moon, representing the faithful followers of God, and out of whom came Christ. The sixth vision parallels the third vision to show that Satan and his followers will be conquered because of their evil, and this vision shows Rome as a gaudily dressed, powerful prostitute. While the contrast between these two women is intentionally dramatic, so is the contrast to come in the seventh vision, where the woman presented there will be the redeemed Church as the bride of Christ.

Opening scene in heaven (17:1 – 17:2)

1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.

It is entirely appropriate that this recap of the judgement is delivered by one of the angels with the bowls, as it serves to reinforce that this was the final judgement. There was also Old Testament precedent to this name for people who had rejected God’s way: Nahum calls the city of Nineveh a harlot in Nahum 3:4, and Isaiah calls the city of Tyre a harlot in Isaiah 23:16. Isaiah even calls Jerusalem a harlot in Isaiah 1:21, explaining why God will punish them. In some cases like this one, apocalyptic references to “waters” represents populations, so the “harlot seated on many waters” means that Rome had dominance over large numbers of people. The kings of the earth, any others who had authority or power, accepted and participated in the evil and the rejection of God.

Vision of the harlot (17:3 – 17:8)

3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.

This same Greek word for “wilderness” is used in Isaiah chapter 21 in the Greek Old Testament to describe Babylon. John is drawing a parallel of good and evil, in the woman in the third vision sent into the wilderness for God to care for her and this prostitute of the sixth vision seen in the wilderness. The word for “sitting” on the beast is the same root word as for “sitting” on many waters, and has a connotation in Greek for residing and belonging there, for being in control. Thus, this woman is pictured as being in control of the first beast, the same beast representing the Roman Empire that Satan called out of the water in Revelation 13:1, with even more emphasis this time on the blasphemy of this beast.

4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
5 And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

The description of this as a “mystery” has been greatly misused through the ages by those looking to make their pet theory fit the scriptures. John’s intent on labelling this a “mystery” is to let his listeners know that he is about to explain it, so that there would no longer be any mystery about it! He does this consistently through the book of Revelation, so his listeners would understand and build up their faith for the struggles ahead of them. When we encounter something we don’t understand in Revelation, it isn’t because John is toying with us, or embedding some code for 22nd century Christians. It is because we no longer understand the context in which John was writing or the colloquial reference that his listeners would have immediately grasped.

The descriptions here of the woman somewhat resemble royalty, with reference to purple fabric and gold jewelry. However, nothing in this scene is regal — the woman is proud of the opulent debauchery of her wealth. The name on her forehead is clearly similar to the names of blasphemy on the heads of the beast and the sign of the beast on the unbelievers, and unambiguously identifies this woman as representing Rome. This name tag also fits with the practice of prostitutes in Rome, who wore a label with their names on their brows. The contents of the golden cup would be strong wine to get her lovers drunk. When the whole picture is put together, we have the description of the finery worn by temple prostitutes in Asia Minor, such as those in the Temple of Aphrodite in Corinth.

6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus …

Even as evil as Rome was in the first century, drunkenness was considered disgraceful, much more so that we consider it today. The phrase “drunk with blood” was common in secular texts of the first century, with authors such as Euripides, Cicero, and Pliny describing those that were eager to torture and kill. John portrays Rome as killing the faithful with lustful abandon.

John’s image of Rome as a wanton prostitute is appropriate, even understated, compared to accounts from the first century of the decadence of Rome, its noblemen, and its rulers. One early secular historian, Tacitus, wrote in his Annals that Rome was “the place into which from all over the world all atrocious and shameful things flow and where they are most popular.”

… and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
7 And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.

John was not awed by the woman, and he certainly did not “admire” her, as the KJV phrases it. He just didn’t understand, so the angel explained it to him — and to us.

8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall [”is about to”] ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

Part of this explanation underscores the beast as the “false Messiah” by distorting the three-fold description of God. However, it also specifically identifies Nero as an emperor who ruled, died, and was rumored to come back to life, then will be eternally condemned, clearly paralleling the one head with a mortal wound on the first beast. The recurring theme in a number of these visions of Nero back from the dead represents the absolute worst that Satan can do to Christians, but even then, there is certain defeat for Satan and his followers.

The overcoming power of the lamb (17:9 – 17:18)

The following section uses the chiasmus format that also was used in the letters to the churches. This ”crossing” form is used to emphasize the middle point of the section, by having the surrounding points mirror each other. In this case, the section proceeds like:

  • A: the seven heads are the seven mountains (= Rome)
  • B: the seven kings will rise up against God
  • C: the ten horns represent the power against God
  • D: but the Lamb will conquer all
  • C’: the waters represent all the people against God
  • B’: the ten horns will hate God
  • A’: the woman represents the great city (= Rome)

The structure practically jumps right off the screen when we break it down this way.

9 And here is the mind which hath wisdom …

Other Bible translations interpret this phrase as “This calls for a mind with wisdom,” but in our infatuation with our mental skills, we might interpret this verse as saying what follows is a difficult mental challenge. Not so! Instead, what follows is explained more clearly than much of the rest of the apocalyptic literature. What is required is not intelligence to figure out the puzzle but wisdom to apply that lesson, and the lesson is the judgement directed to the Roman Empire and all other human authorities that would set themselves up in opposition to God. To make this point, John’s descriptions obviously link Rome with judgements to past cities, especially Babylon, Tyre, and Nineveh, so John’s descriptions equally apply to future cities.

… The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.

Rome was known then and now as the city on seven mountains, but symbolically, seven mountains would indicate the ways that human rulers would set themselves up as powers.

10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.

If we want to match this statement to seven Roman emperors, a literal application, we find it difficult, because we can’t be certain with which emperor this image starts. The eighth emperor, who is one of the seven, would likely refers to the Nero legend, but that’s all we can tell for certain.

For those who try to interpret this literally against first Century rulers, there has been a strong sense that Domitian, who was worshipped widely across the Empire, must have been meant as the reincarnation of Nero, therefore the eighth king. This would place the writing of Revelation earlier than 92 A.D., in fact, during the reign of Vespasian in 69 – 79 A.D. But this interpretation of Nero revisited as Domitian conflicts with the images of Nero leading the armies of the Parthians against Rome – you can’t have both!

I find as much problem with interpreting figurative apocalyptic literature literally in the first century as I do interpreting it literally in the 20th century. It is sufficient to see in the seven emperors a completeness of the Roman Empire, and so any other earthly power, arrayed against God.

Notice that John tells his listeners that they are just now with the sixth emperor, so they still must wait through the short reign of the seventh before Nero comes back again. The message to this delay in the eighth emperor is that the Christians must continue to be patient — they should not assume that the end is too near, nor too far in the future. This interpretation of “soon” is a common theme in apocalyptic literature, as in 1 Enoch where the readers are in the seventh period of ten periods of time, and as in 2 Esdras where the readers are 9 1/2 periods into the 12 periods of time.

12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.

As the angel explains the coming final battle to John, he first identifies the risen Nero as the leader of the opposition to God, then adds lots (”ten”) of power (”horns”) to the opposition. These ten are intentionally left unidentified, simply representing power and might coming from the earth in places other than the Roman empire, uniting with Nero, Rome, and Satan. This power should not be limited to rulers of kingdoms — later on in Revelation, wealthy merchants will be referenced as “princes.” Even with all the power from across the earth, this force will be conquered by Christ.

15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
16 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.
17 For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.

There is a strong message in the aftermath of the defeat of evil, that evil can never be “of one mind.” Those evil powers who were allied with Nero and Rome later turn on Rome and destroy it, and God will use their evil and their divisiveness to carry out His will.

It can be puzzling that the harlot is destroyed not by the power of the Lamb but by the powers of evil with which she had been associated. Part of this reference is a parallel to Ezekiel 23, in which God compares the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah to prostitutes who sell themselves to neighboring countries, and who in the end fall to these countries. There is a harmony to that comparison, that God will hold others accountable for the same faithfulness that he required of Israel and Judah.

Still, there is the question on who actually defeats and punishes the prostitute. On the one hand, John is drawing all punishment to the final Judgement, but on the other hand, other evil forces are still active and powerful to conquer Babylon. The key is that it doesn’t matter — God works through the purposes of evil empires within the limits He establishes for their power, and through direct intervention. In the end, God is in control of all, including the judgement of this wicked city.

18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.

The angel reminds us once more than Rome is the harlot. See how intent John is on resolving the “mystery” in the minds of his listeners?

Announcement (18:1 – 18:3)

1 And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.

Once again, a mighty angel is chosen to deliver a pivotal message. The glow coming from this angel is evidence that the angel came directly from the presence of God with this message.

2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, …

The message repeats the message of Revelation 14:8 delivered by one of the first three angels of the set of seven angels, and quotes Isaiah 21:9.

This declaration of the angels is a “doom song,” borrowing heavily from doom songs of the Old Testament prophets. Specifically, Isaiah 13:19-22 announces the destruction of Babylon. Isaiah 34:11-15 announces the destruction of Edom. Jeremiah 50:39-40 and 51:37 describe the destruction of Babylon. Zephaniah 2:13-15 announces the destruction of Nineveh.

… and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.

Birds in this region weren’t our sweet singing chickadees and robins. These birds would have been those explicitly listed in the passages above, such as ostriches, ravens, hawks, owls, and vultures. In the parallels with Babylon, Edom, Tyre, and Nineveh, John is telling his listeners that the God who brought down these earlier oppressive nations is certain to do the same to Rome.

3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.

In this passage, the angel makes clear that Rome is condemned for setting itself up as an alternative religion to God, and using the might of both its government and its economic system to perpetuate this false belief to the rest of the world.

In this portrayal of Rome, there is a precursor to the challenges for 21st century Christians. Rome was more of an economic power than a military power, in contrast to Egypt, Assyria, or Babylon. There are similarities in the descriptions of Tyre inEzekiel 25-27, so in the combination of references to Tyre and Rome we see warnings for our society in taking comfort and security in our wealth.

Mourning and rejoicing (18:4 – 18:20)

4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.

This call to believers shows that God shows restraint in handing out justice to Rome, so that His faithful have a chance to avoid the punishment.

There are a number of parallels in the Old Testament to the call to come out of an evil location. Some of these are a victorious release from slavery, others are a call to escape the evil and resulting punishment, and both fit this instance. In Isaiah 48:20and 52:11, God calls the overcoming believers out of Babylon to go back home again. In Genesis 12:1, God calls Abram to come out of his homeland to the land promised to him and his descendants. In Jeremiah 50:8 and 51:6, God warns the faithful to come out from the evil land and escape the punishment intended for the unfaithful. In Genesis 19:15-17, the angels call, then literally drag Lot and his family out of sinful Sodom before it is destroyed. In Numbers 16:23-26, Moses calls the Israelites out of the camps of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram before God causes the earth to swallow them up for their evil.

6 Reward her even as she rewarded you, and double unto her double according to her works: in the cup which she hath filled fill to her double.

Barclay translates this closer to the spirit of the text as “Repay her in the coin with which she paid others, and repay her double for her deeds.”

The word used here for “render” is the same Greek word, apodidomi, used in Matthew 22:21 when Jesus says, “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” In this parallel we see the full story presented of Rome. The government that Jesus affirmed earlier in the century became the government that set itself up as a religion by the end of the century, and the government that in the end would receive what was due in punishment for its sins.

The concept of a double measure emphasizes justice, rather than vengeance. Exodus 22:7 and 22:9 give in the Levitical law that the punishment for theft is double restitution for what was taken. This concept appears frequently in the prophets. Isaiah 40:2 comforts Jerusalem after having received double for her sins. Jeremiah 16:18 promises double punishment for sin.

7 How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.
8 Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.

Rome’s arrogance increases the punishment, and Rome’s strength is completely useless against a power so much stronger that the destruction comes suddenly. This passage is almost an exact quote of Isaiah 47:7-9, where Babylon’s arrogant pride was met with God’s swift and overwhelming justice. Other similar passages from the prophets include Ezekiel 28:1-10 in reference to Tyre’s arrogance and wealth, and Zephaniah 2:15 in reference to the arrogance of Nineveh that was met with destruction. Because God is faithful, destruction of Rome is certain.

9 And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,
10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.

Of all the punishments inflicted on Rome, the one John refers to in these parallel passages is fire. This had great significance to the Christians of that time, in just retribution for Nero blaming and persecuting the Christians for his own burning of Rome in 64 A.D.

The reaction of these kings will be the same for the next two groups. They feel selfishly sorry for themselves because they can no longer take advantage of what Rome provides. They clearly never loved Rome, although Rome tried through every means available to be loved — in the end, all Rome did was to appeal to the selfishness of those she seduced. They stand far off, justifiably afraid of the justice given to the city, and unwilling to take any action to help the city. This is the same as what the earlier passage portrayed with the ten horns turning on the harlot after the defeat. Evil will do anything to save itself.

11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:
12 The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine [”scented”] wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble,
13 And cinnamon, and odours [”perfume”], and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves [literally “bodies”], and souls of men.
14 And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.

The opulence of the Roman empire was greater than any society since, including the present U.S.A. The Roman empire used a profound number of slaves — at the time of John’s writing, half of the residents of the city of Rome were slaves. The parties thrown by residents of Rome outdid each other in extravagance, such that some mere millionaires killed themselves in despair at their poverty and inability to keep up. One example of this unbelievable extravagance was the common practice of drinking pearls dissolved in wine. In our time, the closest gesture we have of similar opulence would be the image of a rich businessman lighting cigars with $100 bills.

These descriptions of the goods brought by the merchants show the international scope of Rome’s control, with goods from North Africa, India, and China listed. This list, while appropriate for Rome, comes first from Ezekiel chapters 26 and 27 in describing the downfall of Tyre, a might seaport. The message to this quotation from Ezekiel is a reminder that God is not awed by wealth.

15 The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,
16 And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!
17 For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. …

Notice the close parallel to the grief expressed by the kings, with the emphasis being material goods.

… And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,
18 And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city!
19 And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.

The phrase “as many as trade by sea” was a common idiom that included sailors and fishermen. There is a parallel in the reaction of sailors to Tyre’s destruction in Ezekiel 27:28-34.

There is a parallel in the historical destruction of Rome. Secular historians tell us that the beginning of the end for Rome happened as early as during the reign of Augustus Caesar, when the pursuit of pleasure started competing as a mindset with the discipline and loyalty that had made a great power of Rome. Over the centuries to follow, Rome relinquished her grip on more and more outlying countries, and had to spend more military might controlling uprisings. The end, however, came suddenly in 410 A.D., when in the period of one week in August, Alaric and his army of Goths (evil against evil) attacked, conquered, pillaged, and completely wasted the city of Rome.

20 Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.

John here adds his comments for the benefit of his listeners, with an emphasis on rejoicing because of God’s righteousness.

The great millstone (18:21 – 18:24)

21 And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, …

There is a separate Greek word for the “great millstone,” which was so large that it took a yolked animal to turn it, and the smaller millstone, operated by a person preparing a meal. There are several similarities to this phrase in the scriptures. InJeremiah 51:63-64, the prophet is told to tie the scroll to a rock and throw it into the Euphrates, symbolizing how Babylon will disappear from the earth. Once a rock (or millstone) drops below the surface, it is as if the rock never existed. Another significant parallel is Jesus’ teaching in Mark 9:42: “If any of you puts a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.” The sin in this passage is similar to Rome’s corruption of the entire world, so the symbolism of the great millstone reinforces the similarity.

… saying,
Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all.
22 And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee;
and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee;
and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee;
23 And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee;
and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: …

The poetic construction of this passage, with the repetition of the emphatic Greek double-negative “no more” emphasizes the end of normal life and the utter silence and desolation caused from the just punishment on Rome. This passage is almost an exact quote from Jeremiah 25:10, and to a lesser degree, Jeremiah 7:34 and 16:9 — except Jeremiah’s statements are about Jerusalem after the Babylonians conquer the southern kingdom.

… for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived.
24 And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.

The Greek word for “sorcery” has the same root as our word “pharmacy,” in the sense of “snake oil” and other trickeries, illusions, and manipulations. In the midst of all the condemnations of the Roman Empire, don’t miss that the harshest and strongest is that she killed God’s faithful.

Celebration in heaven (19:1 – 19:5)

1 And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, …

This was likely assumed to be a choir of angels, similar to the choir of angels in Revelation 5:11.

… Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God:
2 For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.

The word “hallelujah” is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew phrase halal, meaning praise, and Jah, God or Yahweh. The emphasis and repetition of “hallelujah” is reminiscent of Psalms 113-118, a praise passage called the Hallel, which was required learning for every Jewish boy. Notice that only three attributes are assigned to God, rather than seven as in earlier praise passages in heaven. The emphasis of this passage, the holiness of God, is better served by the symbolism of three.

3 And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever.

The account of the eternal smoke from the ruin of Rome borrows from Isaiah 34:9-10, declaring that the smoke from the ruins of Edom would be seen forever, as a constant reminder of God’s righteousness.

4 And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia.

These closest to the throne represent the peoples of the old and new covenants and all of the creation, and they now join the song started by the angels.

5 And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great.

This time, an angel in the presence of God summons all the faithful to join in the appropriate response of praise to God for his eternal faithfulness to us, as John’s descriptions of the End Time become more glorious with each vision.

Interpretation for the End Times

Another common interpretation of the “seven kings” represented by the seven heads of the beast is that these are past kingdoms and kingdoms to come. This interpretation is like the interpretation Daniel made of the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar about the giant statue (Daniel 2:31-45). From these interpretations, both of the seven heads and the composition of the statue, we in the 21st century should be ready for the final worldwide power before the End Time. At the same time, foretelling interpreters thought the same in past centuries.

The danger in this method of interpreting apocalyptic literature is that it requires the passage to speak its primary message of hope to the first century Christians in colloquial terms, while simultaneously speaking a foretelling of the end time in 21st century vernacular. The seven heads representing the completeness of the authority of Rome is essential to the message of hope, in that it assures the listeners that God is more powerful than any combination of Roman authority. Any interpretation that tries to weaken that message misses the purpose of the book.

Applicability for today

There is so much more for our modern era in this vision than figuring out God’s timeline!

We cannot ponder this account of Rome’s sinfulness and judgement without coming to grips with its materialism and our own society’s materialism. The judgement on Rome is similar to the story in Mark 10:17-22, where Jesus meets the rich young ruler. The passage shows the piety of the young man, and the favor which Jesus showed to him, but when Jesus “drew the line” and required the man to choose between Jesus and his possessions, the man faltered and left.

In what ways to do we let our materialism interfere with our service of God? There are obvious ways, like cutting on our giving to the church in favor of spending on ourselves. The more insidious are cases where we confuse wealth with faithfulness. Dawn gives an example of an extravagant, beautiful wedding, in which the holiness of the union before God was lost in the pageantry and elegance. Likewise, the perpetuation of wealth often leads to injustice and exploitation, as in the problems of the Corinth church in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 where the act of communion had been distorted into a celebration of wealth of the members.

In this respect, we should be open to applying the writings about this harlot to our world today. What applied to Babylon, Tyre, and Nineveh in the Old Testament, and to Rome in the first century, applies to more than just one city today. Our egalitarian political and economic system means that every city is a source of temptation, of greed, of exploitation of others for our gain. We must be vigilant against anything in our lives — finery, fun, music, security — that interferes or supersedes our love for God and for our fellow man.

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