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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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

cindy powers October 6, 2015 at 11:24 am

My husband and I are seeking a gospel of truth and not a watered down version. We have spent 20 years in a church where we didn’t fit in because of tongues but everything else seemed true and we didn’t think we would go to hell for not speaking in tongues. We stayed and were very active in the ministry, cleaning,cooking, teaching etc. We felt like we were doing what God wanted us to do. Then things began to change, sunday night services stopped and small groups started, we were asked to attend the training class for leading a small group, we went to one, we realized after opening the folder that the format came from Saddleback Church led by Rick Warren. We had been involved in a bible study a couple years prior to that and it never phased me one way or the other until someone brought some interesting facts to light about the Purpose Driven Life, I did my own researh and was shocked at what I discovered. I wanted no part of it so I stepped down from the class and my husband took the information to our Pastor who kept it to share with the associate pastor and said he’d get back with us. He never did and that was fine but the changes kept coming. The message changed, the consequences of sin were no longer preached and sin was rampart, homosexuality, sex outside of marriage, etc. the church got a makeover, everything changed and we felt our spiritual light being snuffed out. and after much prayer and lots of tears we left. We are still seeking a church that believes the whole gospel of Christ and who is not willing to compromise in any areas because of being a part of a religeous organization.


Jack Wellman October 6, 2015 at 11:57 am

Good for you Mrs. Powers for you and your husbands desire to be in a biblical church that preaches about the need for repentance, the sinful depravity of mankind, the need for forgiveness, the blood of the Lamb, Jesus as the only way, not compromising with sins that God condemns. Good for you. Wish you were near our church for that is our message each and every Sunday; Bible preaching, verse by verse. If you let me know in what city/town you live in, perhaps I can find a solid church near your location. Thank you for your stand for truth and your comment.


cynthia powers October 7, 2015 at 9:12 am

We live in Jacksonville,Florida about 40 minutes from the Georgia/Florida line. We drive we have been driving 25 miles to the church we are visiting now, it too is of the pentecostal denomination, although we don’t speak in tongues or feel that we should because we don’t, we feel if God wanted us to He would surely make it happen as we asked for it. But aside from that this church preaches against sin, and all truth. But our desire is to be where God wants us, so if you know of any place we would be very greatful. Thank you


Jack Wellman October 7, 2015 at 9:34 am

I know that there are several Southern Baptist churches in your area. These are rock-solid as far as I know.


Alex mukisa April 29, 2020 at 2:09 am

I was so touched to what you have said am pastor in Uganda Africa really am seeking the people who really fearing God partnering with them in the work of the lord


cynthia powers October 7, 2015 at 11:12 am



DocReits December 24, 2015 at 2:37 pm

Nice article Dr. Williams,

I personally believe Babylon, the harlot, based upon the evidence(Scriptures), to be America and specifically New York city with the Libertas(Statue of liberty) as the harlot’s symbol. I could be wrong of course.

If Pastor Jack allows here is a great list of Scriptures from the OT and NT that lend weight to this argument of America being Babylon compiled by Sherry Shriner:





Israel March 2, 2020 at 6:03 pm

All Prophecy is by, to & will be fulfilled by the Hebrews.Rev 16;6& 17;6 & 18;24 tell you it has the blood of the prophets ,saints & Jesus’s witnesses on it. That makes the Harlot JERUSALEM which sits on the crimson beast [because of the blood – especially God’s Messiah Son- on it. Have eyes to see & ears to hear God’s word. As a Jew it is abundantly clear to me. The Jews rule the World’s Reserve Banks & Trade [dominion] & have one man who fulfills ALL prophecy as the man of perdition. His name adds to 666 in Hebrew also & has marked more than 1/2 the world with his Teva Biotec r/hand marking system …Maranatha Shalom.


Jack Wellman March 2, 2020 at 6:38 pm

Hello friend. No sir, it is not true that the Jews rule the world’s reserve banks and trade. After investigation through different sources, what you have wrote about the Jews is false.


Sorin Stefan February 15, 2021 at 2:13 pm

I tend to agree with Dr. Williams: the end-time Babylon is likely the UN-NewWorldOrder, in view of similarity with Tower of Babel and old Babylonian empire.
What unites all nations under NWO is hatred for Christian faith and commandments. The irrational convergence towards NWO points to evil spiritual forces (the old serpent controls the world system). Psalm 2: “Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed.”
Our only hope is to pray to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.


Jack Wellman February 15, 2021 at 3:17 pm

Well said Sorin. Thank you.


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