Summary of this article
Another view is that the harlot Babylon symbolizes Roman Catholicism. This view may be justified as follows:
(1) The Papacy’s blasphemous claims, such as that the pope is the head of all churches, the judge of the living and the dead, the true vicar (substitute) of Christ, and the supreme teacher in the church.
(2) The harlot Babylon is “drunk with the blood of the saints” (Rev 17:6). The Papacy’s history was marked with the shedding of the blood of saints, for example, the slaughter of 20000 citizens of Beziers, France on July 22, 1209, nearly 1 million Waldensian Christians between 1540 – 1570 and tens, even hundreds of thousands of people during the Spanish Inquisition.
(3) The harlot “reigns over the kings of the earth” (Rev 17:18). During the Middle Ages, “kings had to … be in communion with the Pope, as essential conditions of their reigning lawfully; if these conditions were broken, of which the Pope was the judge, then … he could … declare their ruler unfit to reign” [Cath Dic, 257].
(4) “The woman was … adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls” (Rev 17:4), indicating her wealth. The Catholic Church, similarly, has untold wealth. It is “one of the greatest fiscal powers in the world” [Nino Lo Bello, The Vatican Empire, p.8].
(5) According to Daniel 7, some power emanating from the Roman Empire will become the antichrist and will continue until the return of Christ. Historians inform us that the Roman Catholic Church descended from Rome and inherited its authority from the Roman Empire.
However, the Babylon of Revelation has always existed and is worldwide. It is the mother of all harlots and abominations of the earth, including ancient paganism, Chinese Confucianism, Asian Buddhism, Indian Hinduism, Shamanism and all the world’s vast complex of “many gods and many lords” (1 Cor 8:5). Roman Catholicism is not “the mother of the harlots” (Rev 17:5).
We must also distinguish between the church of the Middle Ages and the Papacy. The identifications above describe the church of the Middle Ages. But that church no longer exists. It has broken up into many denominations (daughters?).
The church of the Middle Ages has been identified as the beast. In the end-time, when the image of the beast is formed (Rev 13:14), that spirit will be revived but we will be deceived if we expect the attack to come from the Papacy. We need to recognize that all people and denominations, to some extent, carry within them the Babylonian spirit. Given the right circumstances, cruel men will assume leadership positions in Protestant churches and transform the bride of Christ into the blood-thirsty persecutor of God’s people.
– END OF SUMMARY –
Another view held by some is that the harlot Babylon symbolizes Roman Catholicism. See, for example, Who is the Whore of Babylon in Revelation? This view may be justified as follows:
(1) The Papacy’s blasphemous claims
Firstly, the church claims for mortal man what belongs only to God:
Jesus said, “I have the keys of death and of Hades” (Rev 1:18), but the pope claims to be “the keeper of the keys” [Catholic Ency. II, p 666].
Christ “is the head of the body” (Col 1:18), but the pope claims to be head of all churches [Catholic Ency. II, p 666]. [Dogmatic Decrees of the Council of Trent, p.159,160; Also in Teachings of the Catholic Church, p. 143,144]
“Christ Jesus … will judge the living and the dead” (2 Tim 4:1), but the pope claims to be the Judge of the Living and the Dead (Catholic Ency. II, p 666; XV. p 126).
Christ is the “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Rev 19:16), but the pope claims authority above all and to be subject to none (Pius VI Ency. 65; II, p 666); “primacy over the whole world;” “the fullest authority … not only the spiritual but also the material sword, and so to transfer sovereignties, break scepters and remove crowns [Catholic Dictionary, p 258].
Jesus promised, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17), but the pope claim to “hold upon this earth the place of God Almighty”. [Pope Leo XIII, Great Encyclical Letters, 304]. “The Roman Pontiff … is true Vicar of Christ.” The word “vicar” comes from the Latin word “vicarious” which means substitute (Oxford Dictionary).
Jesus said, “do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers” (Matt 23:8), but the church claims that the Roman Pontiff is the supreme teacher in the church [Great Encyclical Letters of Leo XIII, p. 193].
(2) Salvation through the church
Secondly, the Papacy claims that for every human creature it is necessary for salvation to be subject to the authority of the Roman Pontiff.” [Cath. Ency. XV, p 126; Dogmatic Decrees of the Council of Trent, p.159,160; Also in Teachings of the Catholic Church, p. 143,144]
(3) The Papacy changed the law of God.
The church changed the laws respecting the Lord’s supper, set up images, enacted celibacy of the clergy. In 1075 Gregory VII declared all clerical marriages invalid. This was the greatest mass divorce in history.
(4) The Papacy is drunk with blood.
“I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints,
the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus”
The Papacy’s long history was marked with the shedding of the blood of saints. To quote a few horrific incidents from a much longer list in The Secret History of the Roman Catholic Church:
“Under the guise of Christianity, the Papal Church committed more enormities than ever disgraced the annals of paganism” (Fox’s Book of Martyrs, Ch. IV).
Roman Catholic crusaders slaughter approximately 20,000 citizens of Beziers, France on July 22, 1209.
Roman Catholic armies butcher at least 900,000 Waldensian Christians of all ages during this 30-year period (1540 – 1570 Source: Halley’s Bible Handbook).
At the direction of the Roman Catholic inquisitors, authorities torture, burn and slaughter tens, even hundreds of thousands of people during the Spanish Inquisition (Jean Antoine Llorentine, History of the Inquisition; as cited in R.W. Thompson, The Papacy and the Civil Power (New York, 1876); as cited in Dave Hunt, A Woman Rides the Beast).
Roman Catholic armies butcher at least 900,000 Waldensian Christians of all ages during this 30-year period (1540 – 1570 – source: Halley’s Bible Handbook).
One might consider the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, Martyrdom of John Calas, John Wycliff, John Huss, Jerome of Prague, Tyndale, Luther, Persecutions in Germany, France, Scotland, England, Ireland, persecution of Quakers.
The historian W.E. H. Lecky wrote, “The Church of Rome has shed more innocent blood than any other institution that ever existed among mankind, will be questioned by no Protestant who has a complete knowledge of history.”
I note that attempts are made to dispute the numbers, but the fact remains that the church of the Middle Ages consistently used violence to silence her opponents. That reflects her true character, namely the very opposite of Christ:
“Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44).
Babylon reigns over the kings.
“The woman … reigns
over the kings of the earth” (Rev 17:18).
During the long dark period of history known as the Middle Ages, the Papacy dealt with a high hand. She made and unmade kings:
Emperors and kings had to … be in communion with the Pope, as essential conditions of their reigning lawfully; if these conditions were broken, of which the Pope was the judge, then … he could … declare their ruler unfit to reign. [Cath Dic, 257]
Sixtus V (Cath. Ency. I729) excommunicated Protestant Henry of Navarre, and sent an army to unseat him. Sixtus promised the Spanish King a subsidy for the Armada, with which England was to be subjugated.
Let’s take a look at how Pope Gregory compels King Henry to freeze three days before he would receive him:
Striped of his royal robes, and clad as a penitent, Henry had to come barefooted mid ice and snow, and crave for admission to the presence of the pope. All day he remained at the door of the citadel, fasting and exposed to the inclemency of the wintry weather, but was refused admission. A second and third day he thus humiliated and disciplined himself, and finally, on 28 January, l077, he was received by the pontiff and absolved from censure, but on condition that he would appear at the proposed council and submit himself to its decision. Cath. Ency. VI, 794
All of this shows how arrogant the Catholic Church was during the dark ages and how she ruled over the kingdoms of Europe. For a further discussion, see The Little Horn of Daniel 7 grew into the Beast of Revelation.
Her doctrines are not Bible-based.
The doctrines of the Papacy are not based on the Bible, but on traditions. In Chiniquy’s book, Fifty Years in the Roman Catholic Church, he says that a young student priest was questioning a superior about this doctrine of Rome and received the following reply:
“You have spoken as a true heretic…you speak of the Holy Scriptures just as a Protestant would, do you appeal to them as the only source of Christian truth and knowledge. Have you forgotten that we have the holy traditions to guide us, the authority of which is equal to the Scriptures?”
This nullifies Scripture on the basis of human tradition (Mark 7:13). Such a position forbids people to carry out their responsibility to function as Berean believers, “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
1 Timothy 4:1‑5 gives us one of the primary doctrines of end-time Babylon, namely celibacy among the priests. That doctrine has led to horrible atrocities in the Roman Catholic Church.
The wealth of the church
“The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet,
and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls”
The Catholic Church has untold wealth. It is “one of the greatest fiscal powers in the world” [Nino Lo Bello, The Vatican Empire, p.8].
The Catholic Church makes most of its money through the doctrine of Purgatory. Many wealthy people over the centuries have bequeathed their estates to the Pope in order to be released from Purgatory sooner, and many over the centuries made large contributions to release their loved ones from Purgatory.
This wealth is reflected in the magnificent churches, golden altars, jeweled shrines, choice paintings, and exquisite sculptures that appeal to the love of beauty. The ear also is captivated. The music is unsurpassed. The rich notes of the deep-toned organ, blending with the melody of many voices as it swells through the lofty domes and pillared aisles of her grand cathedrals, cannot fail to impress the mind with awe and reverence.
This outward splendor and ceremony mock the longings of the sin-sick soul and are evidence of inward corruption. The religion of Christ needs not such attractions to recommend it. In the light shining from the cross, true Christianity appears so pure and lovely that no external decorations can enhance its true worth. It is the beauty of holiness, a meek and quiet spirit, which is of value with God.
The horn of Daniel 7
According to Daniel 7, some power emanating from the Roman Empire will become the antichrist and will continue until the return of Christ. Historicists inform us that the Roman Catholic Church descended from Rome and inherited its authority from the Roman Empire.
A daughter of Babylon
The problem with taking Babylon to be Roman Catholicism is her relatively late appearance. The Babylon of Revelation has always existed and is worldwide. (See, General characteristics of Babylon.) The Catholic Church is neither. Have the kings of Asia and Africa committed fornication with the Papacy? The Italian pontiffs have ruled over a wide territory but there are many lands that have remained untouched by their religious influence.
Babylon the great long antedates the rise of the Papacy and has exerted a far wider influence. The Catholic Church may be the prime example of Babylon in our time, but Babylon itself is much bigger and older and 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, New Age Movement, and all the world’s vast complex of “gods many, and lords many” (1 Cor 8:5).
Texe Marrs in his book Dark Secrets of the New Age lists nearly 30 rituals and beliefs found in ancient Babylon that are practiced today in the New Age Movement! Everything from reincarnation to occult meditation was commonplace 3,000 years ago.
Roman Catholicism is not “the mother of the harlots and of the abominations of the earth” (Rev 17:5), i.e., the mother, or fountainhead of all the systems of idolatry which have since flooded “the earth” from that one great source. Romanism is only a daughter.
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For further reading, I recommend Jon Paulien’s commentary. For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the Pineknoll website.