I’ve been puzzling over Revelation, chapter 17, and realized the “great harlot” (Rev 17:1) and the “mother of harlots” (Rev 17:5) are two different cities.
For example, Revelation 17:16 says that, after turning their authority over to Satan*, the ten kings and Satan will hate the Great Harlot, “leave her desolate and naked; they will eat her flesh and consume her with fire.”
But Revelation 18:9 says God will destroy Satan’s capital city, the Mother of Harlots, and that the kings will then “weep and mourn over her.” (Rev 18:9).
Obviously, these can’t be the same two cities.
*To save time, I am using “Satan” as a catch-all for both the fallen angel Lucifer and for the Anti-Christ he imbues with his power.
Below are other clues given in the Scriptures that show obvious contrasts between the two places.
Differences in the Purposes and Functions of The Great Harlot vs. The Mother of Harlots
The Great Harlot will have “intercourse” with the kings of the Earth (Rev 17:2) who will agree to give their power and authority to Satan (Rev 17:17, Dan 17:13). The kings and inhabitants of Earth will become drunk on the “wine of her harlotry” (Rev 17:2).
The Great Harlot appears to be an organization like the United Nations, where leaders who are sovereign within their own nations meet to discuss world issues and arrange treaties beneficial to the world order. The Great Harlot will be important in the moral corruption of the peoples of the world, but the kings will merely dally with her, while maintaining their own sovereignty.
The Mother of Harlots will be a “great city that has sovereignty over the kings of the earth” (Rev 17:18). She will be ruled over by Satan, who will “devour, trample down and crush” “the whole earth” (Rev 17:7-8; Dan 7:23). She will make war on the holy ones (Dan 7:21); she will become drunk on the blood of the “holy ones” and “witnesses to Jesus” (Rev 17:6a).
It looks to me as if, at some point, the “kings” who were coordinating their activities via the Great Harlot will decide unanimously to grant all of their power and authority to Satan. He will then become a cruel dictator of the whole world, ruling from his capital city, “Babylon, Mother of Harlots.”
Where the Great Harlot merely corrupted the peoples of the Earth with worldly temptations, Satan will carry out on a global scale the same kind of anti-God genocide that Hitler, Stalin, Mao and others like him perpetrated in the 20th c.
Differences in the Physical Characteristics of The Great Harlot vs. The Mother of Harlots
The Great Harlot will live near the “many waters” (Rev 17:1). An angel says this represents “large numbers of peoples, nations, and tongues” (Rev 17:15), but it seems possible, even likely, that it also literally means many waters. New York City, where the United Nations is headquartered, works for both interpretations.
- Large numbers of people: New York City has the largest population and highest population density of any city in the U.S.
- Large numbers of nations: New York City has long been a major point of entry for international immigration. City residents trace their ancestry to virtually every other place on the planet and about 36% of the city’s population is foreign-born.
- Large numbers of tongues: About 170 languages are spoken in NYC, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world.
The Mother of Harlots will be sited in a “wilderness”, “desert” and/or “deserted place” (Rev 17:3). I checked parallel translations of this line:
- 17 selected “wilderness” (including NIV, NASB, the KJVs, Aramaic, LDS and Young’s Literal Translation);
- 4 selected “desert” (including Holman, Darby, Weymouth and Douay-Rheims;
- 1 selected “deserted place” (NABRE)
Barnes’ Notes on the Bible gives the same general picture: “This scene is laid in a wilderness or desert.” It’s hard to imagine a place less like the Great Harlot’s “many waters” and “large numbers”!
According to Revelation 17:9, Satan’s capital will sit on seven hills; Revelation 18:17-19 says the city will be a major sea port. I’m guessing the focus of Satan’s regime will be in the same areas of the world where Judaism, Christianity and Islam started.
I checked the existing cities in these areas that are built on seven hills; none of them are sea ports. I’m wondering if maybe deserted-wilderness-desert means Satan will build his great capital from scratch in a desert region. Just for kicks, I grabbed a map of deserts and stuck some place names on for general reference.