THE WOMAN AND THE BEAST (Part VI)
11th article in a series based on the book, Out of the Abyss … can the number of the beast be solved, 666?) This is also the final article in a six part series of the Woman and the Beast
The Woman Identified by Her Clothing
I never cease to be amazed by the meticulous detail found in so many Biblical passages. Most of three full chapters (Revelation 17, 18, & 19) talk about the Beast who reappears from the Abyss and the Woman who sits on the Beast. As we’ve seen in the five articles on the Antichrist and now the six articles on the Woman, the Beast is Nero and the Woman is both ancient Rome and the subsequent Holy Roman Church. Specifically I’m referring to the actual articles of clothing worn by the woman in John’s vision. Let’s see how this apparel matches precisely with the attire of the Roman Catholic Church … literally.
“The woman wore purple and scarlet clothing and beautiful jewelry made of gold and precious gems and pearls….” (Revelation 17:4a). Why would the vision given to John include a description of the woman’s apparel? Answer: For the same reason that most of the visions in Revelation provide specific portrayals of people, places, and things—for the purpose of explaining exactly what will happen, what to look for, or what can be expected during the unfolding of the last days, including the Great Tribulation. Because, however, the visions of Revelation were given to John in the first century, all that has transpired to the present day is historical, to us. It is this history of the woman that we have been examining in the past few articles.
For example: “The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses” (Revelation 19:14). The “him” of this verse is Christ; the “armies” are all believers in heaven who will accompany Jesus during the final battle of Armageddon. It’s true that the white linen symbolically represents purity (cleansed by the blood of Christ), but the color white is also literal in this verse and other passages in the Bible. Same thing with the woman on the beast: The colors purple and scarlet are literally what adorns the woman, although they represent royalty and power/importance respectively.
Notice the sequence of the colors in Revelation 17:4; purple first, then scarlet. That is not just a random order of the colors. It’s far beyond mere coincidence that only the Roman Emperors were permitted to wear the “trabea” which was a deep purple toga; because purple was the color of both royalty and divinity in the Roman Empire and with other nations/monarchs. The Woman (that great city that rules over the kings of the world) was first embodied by the Roman Empire. When the Roman Empire fell, the Holy See filled the vacuum that had created an unstable, unguided, uncertain future for most nations within the realm of the Roman Empire.
The main color of the Roman Catholic Church was and still is red or scarlet; even though there are four main colors used in Catholicism … white, purple, red, and green … depending on the specific celebration or occasion. Not only was the Roman Empire recognized for its vast wealth (“beautiful jewelry made of gold and precious gems and pearls”), but so was the Roman Catholic Church known for its lavish prosperity and display of precious metals in/on clothing, edifices, artifacts, and instruments involved in the sacraments.
Of more than passing interest is the fact that for the first three centuries, the only color worn by church officials was the color white. Not until the Roman Catholic Church began to assert her authority and prominence over individual churches did purple and scarlet begin to replace white as the dominate liturgical colors.
Coat of Arms: For those not familiar with Coat of Arms, it’s simply an insignia normally in the shape of a shield worn (as clothing) or carried on flags or banners by kings/queens, nobility, and soldiers to represent a nation’s heraldry. Webster’s Dictionary defines heraldry as, “the practice of devising, blazoning, and granting armorial insignia…” Not long after kings and nations began to use insignia in the middle Ages, the Holy See soon followed with its Coat of Arms. And, for the last 800 years or so, each Pope has designed his own coat of arms in addition to the traditional symbols found on the Apostolic See’s Coat of Arms, such as two crossed keys, one gold and the other silver. Again, this demonstrates a pattern throughout Roman Catholic Church history to rival and exceed the authority of kings, whether these kings endorsed Catholic dogma or not.
The current Pontiff is Pope Francis who recently succeeded Pope Benedict XVI (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger), who inexplicably and suddenly resigned. Pope Benedict XVI chose a coat of arms (in keeping with past Popes) with symbols that best represented what was important to him—historically, theologically, personally, and traditionally. Time does not permit discussion of the individual symbols, except to say that the three emblems on the front of the shield (a Moor’s head, a bear, and a scallop shell) have a strange, enigmatic history. The dominant color of the shield is red, with gold as a strong second color.
What I want to focus on is the fundamental shape of the entire shield itself, which is the most universally used form in Roman Catholic heraldry: a chalice. Synonyms for chalice are: cup, vessel, and goblet. Most of us know about the Holy Grail, from King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. The legend of the Holy Grail (the cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper) began some 1500 years ago; though the actual cup used by Jesus has no literal or symbolic importance in Scripture whatsoever. Yet, the Catholic Church places great significance on this relic, and the composite chalice shape of the Coat of Arms is not simply a coincidence. Nor is utilization of the word, “goblet” in Revelation 17:4 and the goblet shaped Coat of Arms a random correlation; rather, there is an unmistakable connection between the chalice imagery of Roman Catholicism and the golden goblet held in the hand of the woman on the beast. It’s one of many identifying features of the woman of Revelation 17 & 18 that can be seen explicitly throughout Roman Catholic history and in the modern-day world.
The Woman Identified by Her Morality
“…In her hand she held a gold goblet full of obscenities and the impurities of her immorality” (Revelation 17:4b). The Greek word for obscenities (or abominations as found in other Bible translations) is: bdelgma, pronounced bdel-oog-mah. It means foul or detestable. Since we’ve already touched on this subject, and because the primary purpose of these articles is to disclose and document the dual features and identity of the woman who sites on the beast, there is no purpose in elaborating on the myriad events that can be found throughout the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Except to say that many incidents involving the Catholic Church can only be seen as “immoral” and “detestable”; not the least of which is the recent and ongoing world-wide scandal of Catholic priests and the abuse of children. Both social and religious leaders attribute this abuse primarily to the vow of celibacy required for all Catholic priests. Nowhere in the New Testament does it command that church leaders take a vow of celibacy for any purpose whatsoever, other than personal preference … which doesn’t require a vow. Even the so-called first Pope of the Catholic Church, Peter, had a wife!
Regrettably, there have been reprehensible scandals involving Protestant and even Evangelical church leaders, but nothing approaching the enormity of distasteful incidents throughout Catholic Church history. Nor is this a comparison based just on the number of offenses; rather, it’s a matter of simply matching the historical development and record of the Catholic Church to prophetic passages found in the book of Revelation. Furthermore, I am not bashing individual members of the Catholic Church. Rather, I hope and pray that they will do as Revelation 18:4 pleads with them to do: “Come away from her, my people. Do not take part in her sins, or you will be punished with her.” Revelation Chapter 18 provides more descriptive details of the great city (woman) Babylon, which as we’ve studied is an encryption for Rome. Such as, “For all the nations have fallen because of the wine of her passionate immorality. The kings of the world have committed adultery with her. Because of her desires for extravagant luxury, the merchants of the world have grown rich” (Revelation 18:3).
The Woman Identified by Her Persecution
“I could see that she was drunk—drunk with the blood of God’s holy people who were witnesses for Jesus. I stared at her in complete amazement” (Revelation 17:6). Sadly, the history of the Catholic Church is replete with periods of repression, persecution, torture, and killing of those Catholicism classified as heretical, dissident, unorthodox, or even uncooperative, non-conforming trouble-makers. Who hasn’t heard or read something about the Crusades, Joan of Arc, or the Spanish Inquisition; just to mention the major periods of oppression against anyone who would dare defy the Supreme Pontiff and Roman Catholic divine right of rule. Wars (both cold and hot) were fought between Catholics and Protestants, between the Papacy and Monarchs, and within the Catholic Church itself.
Nowhere in Scripture do we find that the Kingdom of God on this earth (which is currently in the hearts of individual believers) is to be defended or extended by suppressive force, i.e. overt or covert persecution, repressive tyranny, or by warfare. Only when Christ returns will there be the need to conquer the enemies of Christ, of Israel, and of tribulation saints. “Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war” (Revelation 19:11). As the text states: this will be a just and righteous campaign … contrary to the unjust and unrighteous subjugation of dissenters to the Catholic Church.
The Future of the Woman
Although the comprehensive world-wide influence of the Catholic Church has somewhat declined in the last 200 years or so—more so in the political and economic arenas of the world—she will once again rise to power during the Great Tribulation. After all, the Catholic Church claims around 1.2 billion members in today’s world, so there has been no substantial decline in the sheer number of people. In fact, we have seen a resurgence of interest in recent Popes, particularly the previous two, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and the current Pope Francis. Recently Pope Francis reached the number one position of the most “talked-about” person thus far in 2013.
Soon after the Rapture, followed by reappearance of the beast (Nero) she will “sit on the beast” for both support and control. But, as so often happens with incompatible bedfellows, especially with ungodly alliances, will also happen to the Woman as graphically depicted in Revelation. “The scarlet beast and his ten horns all hate the prostitute. They will strip her naked, eat her flesh, and burn her remains with fire” (Revelation 17:16).
These are very strong words/images to declare the demise of the Woman, the Great City. But there’s more: “How terrible, how terrible for that great city! She was clothed in finest purple and scarlet linens, decked out with gold and precious stones and pearls! In a single moment all the wealth of the city is gone! And all the captains on the merchant ships and their passengers and sailors and crews will stand at a distance. They will cry out as they watch the smoke ascend, and they will say, ‘Where is another city as great as this?’ And they will weep and throw dust on their heads to show their grief…” (Revelation 18: 15-18).
*Note– Although Rome is inland from the Mediterranean Sea, if the entire city went up in flames, the smoke could be seen by those on ships in the Mediterranean. Not so with Babylon (Iraq). Just another passage to validate that the great city is Rome and all that Rome contains, including the Vatican.
And, so the bedfellow relationship between the woman on the beast and the kings of the earth will reach its climatic zenith during the Great Tribulation. The Roman Catholic Church (and other ecclesiastical systems with similar false gospels and hierarchical control over their members) will seek an alliance with the Beast (Nero) who reappears from the Abyss, and his ten-kingdom coalition. For a period of time this unholy union will succeed; but with great indignation and fury the Beast will turn on the woman and destroy her. And, this time, God himself will orchestrate first the destruction of Babylon the Great (Rome), then total victory over the Beast and all nations who would dare oppose Messiah Jesus. “For God has put a plan into their minds, a plan that will carry out his purposes…” (Revelation 17:17a).
For a short time, probably 42 months following the Rapture, the Holy Roman Church will achieve its never-ending objective: religious and political restoration of the mighty Roman Empire. And for a period of time, the revived Roman Emperor Nero will be a willing accomplice. Ironically, those left behind that belong to the world will direct their worship to the risen beast, which means that the Woman on the beast will have no alternative but to “go along with the ride.”
But let’s not leave it here. Let’s look at the ending that resounds with the final victory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Revelation Chapter 18 begins and ends with a stunning description of Rome’s destruction. Then Chapter 19 begins with, “After this I heard what sounded like a vast crowd in heaven shouting, ‘Praise the Lord! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God. His judgments are true and just. He has punished the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality. He has avenged the murder of his servants’” (Revelation 19:1-2). Then in verse three we read, “And again their voices rang out: ‘Praise the Lord! The smoke from that city ascends forever and ever.’”
Later in this same chapter we read, “Then I saw the beast and the kings of the world and their armies gathered together to fight against the one sitting on the horse and his army. And the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet … Both the beast and his false prophet were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur” (Revelation 19: 19-20).
Thus, Satan’s two-front war consisting of hostile annihilation of believers in Christ through kings and governments along with Satan’s more subtle strategy of infiltration through a religious system that distorts the truth of the Gospel and seeks to capture and destroy the very souls of men and woman, will be utterly defeated by the King of all kings (empires) and the Lord of all lords (ecclesiastical).
Hallelujah to the Lamb of God! My Redeemer Lives! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!
Things to Ponder
Though it’s evident that the majority of Catholics have been misled by the false gospel and church traditions taught by their leaders, we must understand that there are those among them who have, indeed, accepted Jesus as their personal Savior. This would include some priests, bishops, cardinals, and hopefully even the Pope, himself. The problem is the stranglehold of the Catholic system itself, with the ultimate sword of excommunication dangling over their heads.
This is no different from the Jewish religious leader’s intimidation through the Pharisees and Sadducees over religious and non-religious Jews alike … before, during, and after the time of Christ. The New Testament tells us that many Jews, including priests, teachers, and even a member of the Sanhedrin (Nicodemus) believed in Jesus; but were reluctant to publicly express their faith in Christ, for fear of being expelled from Judaism—with all the privileges afforded by membership in this hierarchical system of extra-Biblical rules and regulations.
Unfortunately, many who bear membership in the Catholic Church and other organizations like it will miss the Rapture and suffer through The Great Tribulation. Unless, that is, “they call upon the name of the Lord to be saved” … by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone! Nothing else is needed, certainly not a baptismal entrance to and membership in any formal religious system. Baptism is like the wedding ring. The ring doesn’t marry us, it only shows that we are married. Neither baptism nor church membership saves us; instead it demonstrates to the world that we have been born-again from above … a rebirth that is as permanent as our physical birth!