Who Is The Harlot Mentioned in Revelation 17?

by Dr. Michael L. Williams · Print Print · Email Email

Many Bible scholars are aware that the book of Revelation is about prophecy. One of the most studied areas of prophecy is concerning Babylon in the end times. More specifically, Revelation 17 and Revelation 18 describe a coming one-world religious system and a one-world economic system respectively that is given the name Babylon. As part of a one-world Babylonian religious system in Revelation 17, mention is made of a woman known as the Mother of Harlots. Who is the harlot mentioned in Revelation 17? A short Bible study will provide the answer.

Who Is The Harlot Mentioned in Revelation 17

What is a one-world Babylonian religious system?

For greater detail of Babylon in prophecy, read the article: “A Study of Babylon From The Book Of Revelation” found on this site. In summary, Babylon can be described in Revelation 17 as a proclaimed literal and prophetic representation of the Anti-Christ’s one-world religious system during the end-times. Babylon represents the epitome of religious idolatry that goes all the way back to the Tower of Babel as described in numerous Old Testament passages in Jeremiah 44 and Ezekiel 8. This system is made up of religious organizations that pass themselves off as authorities of truth that has no tolerance for Biblical teaching. They promote a watered down version of spirituality that teaches that all faiths are equally valid in light of man’s evolution and anyone who believes otherwise is hateful and intolerant. Salvation by grace through faith in Christ is seen as an arrogant, offensive perversion of the truth and, in many cases, the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is taught as never happening or a humanistic failure.

How does this one-world religious system operate?

As we focus on the harlot of Revelation 17, we find that she is called, “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (Revelation 17:5). This “harlot,” also known as a prostitute, describes how this one-world religious system works. In simple terms, this system embraces unity of effort while ignoring theological differences for personal gain. They accept everyone’s beliefs, except those who hold to the notion that one must be born again to enter the kingdom of heaven (John 3:1-8; 1 Peter 1:18-23). They do this for personal gain, fame, and unknowingly at first, for Satan, who hates the truth.

Who is historically believed to be this mother of harlots?

This is a question that has been asked since it was written. For most of modern history, numerous authorities identified the Catholic Church, along with her Protestant denominations as the Harlot of Babylon and her daughters. A study on how the state of Maryland, among other states and commonwealths came to be is an example of how this belief affected history in American colonial times. Along with this, the Pope was often promoted as the anti-Christ by many famous theologians and religious leaders. However, this belief is an attempt to put a specific face on the harlot. Some have even suggested the seven hills mentioned in Revelation 17:9 refers to Rome, the location of the Catholic Church. However, a deeper study of Judaic teaching on mountains representing spiritual powers along with many cities having seven hills dispels this (Matthew 17:14-21). The Bible gives several descriptions of nameless women that represent religious systems:

  1. Israel is mentioned as the wife of Jehovah who becomes a harlot (Isaiah 54:5; Hosea 2:1-23; and Hosea 3:1-5)
  2. In the tribulation period, Israel is seen as a persecuted woman (Romans 11:1-27; Revelation 12)
  3. The church is mentioned as the bride of Christ that returns to earth with Him at His second coming (Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 19:5-14)

Who is this harlot?

We are told that the kings of this earth commit fornication with this harlot (Revelation 17:2). This refers to many rulers and world governments that embrace this one-world religious system. This harlot also is very wealthy (Revelation 17:3-7) and uses her influence, demonic power, and world powers to promote this system. Likewise, an endorsement of sexual perversion and murderous acts are boldly displayed to the whole world and excused as acceptable through deception and lies (Revelation 17:7-18). Eventually, she assumes power through governments and the masses of the people to aggressively go after and destroy anything or anyone that is faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 17:14-15).

Much more can be examined that supports this conclusion, but the truth is this harlot, as described, is spiritual Babylon, made up of diverse peoples, multitudes, nations, religions, and tongues that unite in a one world government that embraces a spiritual oneness of self-adulation and accomplishment. Its very being has no tolerance for the gospel of Jesus Christ (Revelation 17:14-15). This world domination and persecution of a remnant of believers, awaiting rescue by Christ, will result in the return of Jesus Christ, along with the church, from heaven to destroy her (Revelation 19).


A one world religious system will eventually rule the world during the end-times. This system has two parts, a religious part, and an economic part, commonly referred to as Babylon. Religious Babylon, referred to the mother of harlots, has long been recognized by many theologians and religious leaders as the Catholic Church. However, it is clear from Scripture that this harlot is not one organization. It is made up of diverse peoples, multitudes, nations, religions, and tongues that unite in spiritual oneness against Jesus Christ. Christ will destroy this harlot at His second coming.

More reading for you: End Times: Are We in the Last Days?

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version

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