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Revelation 17:5

on her forehead
Like the sealed of Israel (Rev. Rev. 7:3+; Rev. 14:1+) and the Beast worshipers (Rev. Rev. 13:16+), the woman is also identified on her forehead. She has a harlot’s forehead and refuses to be ashamed (Jer. Jer. 3:3). The label on her forehead as the mother of harlots is to be contrasted with the engraved golden plate on the turban of the high priest which read, “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” (Ex. Ex. 28:36-37). He is set apart to God, she is set against God. See A Virgin and a Harlot and Babylon and the New Jerusalem.

a name was written
Was written is γεγραμμένον [gegrammenon] , perfect tense participle, having been written. The name was written in the past and she remains so labeled.

MYSTERY
Mystery is μυστήριον [mystērion] , indicating something unknowable by man unless and until revealed by God. The antidote for mystery is not investigation or discovery, but revelation. See commentary on Revelation 1:20. The mystery relates to her identity and relationship to the seven-headed beast with ten horns (Rev. Rev. 17:7+). Fortunately, the angel provides additional information to reveal aspects of her mystery (Rev. Rev. 17:7+). It is unfortunate that “MYSTERY” appears in capitals as if it is a part of her title:

We believe that the English translators have misled many by printing (on their own authority) the word ‘mystery’ in large capital letters, thus making it appear that this was a part of ‘the woman’s name.’ This we are assured is a mistake. That the ‘mystery’ is connected with the ‘Woman’ herself and not with her ‘name’ is clear from Rev. Rev. 17:7+, where the angel says unto John, ‘I will tell thee the mystery of the Woman, and of the Beast which carrieth her.’1

A better translation would be, “And on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, ‘BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH’ ” (Rev. Rev. 17:5+, NASB95). Her true title lacks the term “MYSTERY,” but is merely “Babylon the great” (Rev. Rev. 18:2+). The incorporation of “MYSTERY” as her title has led many to identify two Babylons, one commercial and one spiritual. Yet aspects of the Harlot and the city Babylon are virtually identical—both involving a merger of both spiritual and commercial. See Mystery Babylon?

BABYLON
The woman is not said merely to be Babylon, but there is a mystery connected with her identification as such. She is not Mystery Babylon, but Babylon. However, aspects of who she is are unknown until God reveals them. Here, John is shown that the Harlot is to be identified with Babylon. See Babylon and the Harlot.

mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth
She corrupted the earth with her fornication (Rev. Rev. 19:2+) and was the source of harlots and abominations, not one of the recipients. Her daughters were polluted by her: “But come here, you sons of the sorceress, you offspring of the adulterer and the harlot!” (Isa. Isa. 57:3). Once again we see the impossibility of taking the Harlot to be Jerusalem. Speaking of the harlotry of Jerusalem, Ezekiel relates:

Thus says the LORD God to Jerusalem, . . . “Indeed everyone who quotes proverbs will use this proverb against you: ‘Like mother, like daughter!’ You are your mother’s daughter, loathing husband and children; and you are the sister of your sisters, who loathed their husbands and children; your mother was a Hittite and your father an Amorite.’ ” (Eze. Eze. 16:3, Eze. 16:44-45) [emphasis added]

Jerusalem is said to have the Hittites as a mother and the Amorites as a father. She herself is a daughter. Since Israel did not even exist as a nation until the time of Jacob, it is obvious that she cannot be the mother or originator of harlots and of the abominations of the earth. This dubious distinction must go to an older empire: Babylon in the sense of its origination under Nimrod as Babel (Gen. Gen. 10:8-10). See Babylon is Jerusalem? See Babylon of Old. Neither does the ever-popular interpretation of the Harlot as Roman Catholicism meet the description of this verse:

The name was the name, not of a woman, but of a city, “that great city,” even Babylon. But it signified not merely the material city as such, but the vast system of idolatry connected with it. That is why the explanation of the secret sign follows “the mother of the harlots and of the abominations of the earth.” Not merely of Rome, or even Babylon (as a city), but “of the earth” : i.e., the mother, or fountain head of all the systems of idolatry which have since flooded “the earth” from that one great source; and of which Romanism is only a part. This is the secret or “mystery of iniquity” referred to in 2 Thessalonians 2Th. 2:7. Babylon was the fountain-head of all idolatry.2

To say that [the Harlot] is either Rome or the Roman Catholic Church is to grossly underestimate the agelong global impact of this great mystery. Babylon the Great. Babylon is the mother of all harlots and abominations of the earth. From her have come ancient paganism, Chinese Confucianism, Asian Buddhism, Indian Hinduism, Shamanism, Taoism, Shintoism, animism, astrology, witchcraft, spiritism, Sikhism, and all the world’s vast complex of “gods many, and lords many” (1 Corinthians 1Cor. 8:5). Of more direct concern in twentieth-century America is the direct descent of modern scientism and evolutionary humanism from this ancient mother of harlots. As noted before, modern evolutionism is in no way scientific, being contradicted by all true facts of science, but is merely a revival of ancient Greek (and ultimately Babylonian) evolutionary pantheism.3

See The Great Harlot

Notes

1 Arthur Walkington Pink, The Antichrist (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1999, 1923), s.v. “Antichrist and Babylon.”

2 E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), Rev. 17:5.

3 Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), Rev. 17:5.

Read Revelation 17:5