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The first woman, described in Revelation 12, represents those who have been God's covenant people in both Old Testament Israel and the servants of Christ in the New Testament Church. The second woman, represented as a harlot, is symbolic of Babylon the Great and the worldly societies that have rejected God.
In this description of the two symbolic women Jerusalem, the holy city, is portrayed as the spiritual home of those who "keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 12:17). They will assist Christ in teaching God's ways to all nations after His return (Revelation 20:6; Micah 4:2).
The other woman, or harlot, represents this godless world and is described as: "... on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH… [She is] drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus" (Revelation 17:5-6).
This harlot, Mystery, Babylon the Great “ reigns over the kings of the earth" (Revelation 17:18), with her influence reaching into the highest political and social circles (Revelation 18:3). Her cultural and religious roots go back to ancient Babylon, the city where mankind rebelled against God soon after the Flood of Noah’s time (Genesis 11:4-9). She will become the relentless persecutor of true Christians.
The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible explains the biblical implications of this Babylonian heritage: "... Babylon, the mother of all harlots, is the great source and reservoir of enmity to God…[Revelation 17:13-17] which gives power and authority to false gods. As such, she is the antithesis of the virgin bride of Christ, the holy city, the new Jerusalem, the kingdom of God" (p. 338; "Babylon").
Rome, the spiritual heir of ancient Babylon's idolatrous traditions, will again emerge as the chief city over a greatly expanded modern-day revival of the ancient Roman Empire.. Citizens of many lands will cheerfully embrace her spiritual harlotry, welcoming her influence and power. An angel explains to the Apostle John that "the waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues" (Revelation 17:15).
God, however, condemns her practices and will destroy her along with every corrupt tradition she has preserved: "... 'Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot… with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication'" (Revelation 17:1-2).
In contrast, the first woman will become the bride of Christ at His return (Revelation 19:7-9). The book of Revelation ends with the people of God dwelling with Christ and the Father forever. "Then one of the seven angels…came to me and talked with me, saying, 'Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife.' And he carried me away in the Spirit…and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God…" (Revelation 21:9-11).
The woman, representing the faithful Christians making up the Church of God will forever radiate the light and truth of God, and the everlasting holy city of New Jerusalem will expand into an immense city of faithful servants of God.