Revelation 17:16 and the Harlot Burns

(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.


                   The leaders which are under the control of the empire will hate Jerusalem and make her desolate. While Jerusalem would be literally made desolate, naked and burned with fire, and while these kings were unified with Vespasian and Titus in the downfall of the Judea, we should consider this statement also in light of the former verse. These are all the kings under Vespasian who are over all “the waters” upon which the woman sits. The destruction of Jerusalem would be a worldwide cause and it would have a worldwide effect.


I once viewed the harlot as the city of Rome. I know of many who still take this view, and many who have since neglected this idea. There is so much evidence all throughout Revelation that both rejects Rome as the harlot and confirms Jerusalem as the harlot that I am ashamed that I was so blind. I confess that I had tunnel vision, though not purposefully. This verse was really the turning point for me and I began to see all the other evidence. How can this be Rome? How can this verse describe Rome? This verse would have to speak of the fall of Rome, but many inconsistently jump to talk of the fall of the western empire in 476 A.D. There are a number of issues with this. First, by the time that the western empire fell, Rome was no longer the capitol city, it was not the mecca of the empire and its leaders, Constantinople was. Secondly, and most importantly, this idea is not in harmony with the central thrust of the book of Revelation which is to reveal to the saints the things which must shortly take place (1:1, 22:6). The fall of the western empire was around 400 years later, could anyone consider this shortly to take place? With tunnel vision… maybe. To put this into perspective, as I write this comment the United States of America is 240 years old, but no one would dare say that the signing of the Declaration of Independence was only a “short” time ago, because that’s just not true. Now what if we doubled the age of America, because that is a closer time frame example to the writing of Revelation and the fall of the western empire. Is that a short time span? Can we say we are a good Bible student and treat God’s word this way? If God had communicated that these events in Revelation were to shortly take place then it would true, and our interpretation of the book must be in perfect harmony with those parameters.


Others have attempted to keep this more consistent and believe it to refer to the sack of the city of Rome. This happened over 400 years before the date of Revelation, but it also happened in 410 A.D. and 455, 546, 1084 and 1527 A.D. None of these dates are in harmony with Revelation’s purpose to explain to the churches that which must shortly take place. Besides all this, Rome is never destroyed like the city described in Revelation 18, and to this day it stands famous as “The Eternal City.”


Another problem I must address is how this verse describes the horns of the Roman Empire hating the woman and destroying her. If the woman is Rome, how is it that Rome hates Rome? How is it that the Roman Empire hated the city which represents the empire? And for those who believe this verse to refer to the fall of the western empire, why is the city of Rome the subject matter when Constantinople was the capital of the empire? Nothing fits! Nothing is in harmony! Unless the city hated by the horns of the beast is Jerusalem. Jerusalem fits every detail! And most importantly, God has said all throughout the Old Testament that Jerusalem is the harlot. Jerusalem has always been the harlot.

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