When studying any subject there is a need to define the terms used. Without agreed upon definitions we can have a conversation where everybody smiles and shakes hands, and no one understands what the other person was talking about! Or they think they know, but in reality they were talking about totally different subjects!
Many non-Christian organizations like the Mormons, the New Age movement, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, use biblical terms, but redefine those words to mean something entirely different from the original biblical definition.
The term “Harlot” or “Mother of Harlots” spoken of in Revelation 17 is the one I wish to focus on today. The entity in question, Babylon, is spoken of as both a harlot herself, and a “Mother of Harlots”. The questions that immediately come to mind are “Who is this Harlot” and, “It can’t be me, or my church, can it?” Her condemnation is so severe that we immediately want to disassociate ourselves from her.
What is a harlot? Websters dictionary defines a harlot as:
Harlot /Har´lot/ (-lŏt), n. [OE. harlot, herlot, a vagabond, OF. harlot, herlot, arlot; cf. Pr. arlot, Sp. arlote, It. arlotto; of uncertain origin.]
1. A churl; a common man; a person, male or female, of low birth. [Obs.]
“He was a gentle harlot and a kind.” Chaucer.
2. A person given to low conduct; a rogue; a cheat; a rascal. [Obs.] Chaucer.
3. A woman who prostitutes her body for hire; a prostitute; a common woman; a strumpet.
While the first definition does not necessarily apply in this case, the second two definitely do.
A better way to define this word is to read the first chapter of Hosea, however. In this chapter we find the man of God, Hosea, is instructed to marry a woman who is a prostitute. He does so, and she has three children. The fatherhood of these children is in question and the second two are named Lo-ruhamah and Lo-ammi, or “not having obtained mercy” and “not my people”. There is a parallel in this passage to the woman of Revelation 17. The mother, in Hosea’s book, is compared to Samaria, the northern kingdom of Israel, which is the wife of God who has taken other lovers. The Harlot in Revelation 17, similarly, claims to be the bride of Christ, but she too has taken other lovers.
It may seem a strange question, but what is a daughter? My wife is not my daughter, however, she is someone’s daughter. A daughter is a woman who comes out of her mother. She is also a woman, just like her mother. A daughter, therefore, is the same type of entity as her mother. She has characteristics of her mother. If the Mother of Harlots is actually a church, then we should expect that her daughters are also churches. Women who belong to the Mother church are not her daughters, they are a part of the mother.
Most Protestants identify the Harlot of Revelation 17 as being Rome, or the Roman Catholic church. I personally believe that the Harlot will actually include the Roman Catholic church, although she is much bigger than merely this church. The Roman Catholic church claims to be the bride of Christ, and His representative on earth, yet she is heavily involved in ecumenism, in spite of the many biblical admonitions to separate from unbelievers. In fact this church has been fooling around with paganism since its creation in the fourth century AD. Celebrations like Christmas, Easter, Lent, and many others, are famous for having pagan origins.
So who are the daughters? If a daughter is a woman who comes out of a woman, then the Daughters of the Harlot, are churches who came out of the mother church… the protestant churches! This is not to say that there are not some truly saved people in these denominations, but the characteristics of the denominations themselves is that of harlots. I think God tolerates these daughters because sometimes people actually get saved as a result of their ministry.
Why would I call the Protestant denominations harlots? Aren’t they preaching the true gospel of salvation by grace through faith alone? Well they were, but even at the beginning they clung to false doctrines of Rome. Under Luther, the Lutheran churches clung to infant baptism, and a form of transubstantiation, doctrines not taught in the bible. The Presbyterians, and Anglicans, are also guilty in this same respect. Luther also believed that Christ was somehow present in the bread of the communion service, a form of transubstantiation.
We also see that from the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, many of these churches were closely involved with the governments of the nations, just like their mother. Many of these churches were happy to take the title of “State Church”, and to persecute other Christians who could not join them for conscience sake.
Do you remember the story about when Jacob left his father-in-law, Laban? There is an interesting sub-plot involving one of his daughters taking some of the idols from her father’s house.
17 Then Jacob rose up, and set his sons and his wives upon camels; 18 And he carried away all his cattle, and all his goods which he had gotten, the cattle of his getting, which he had gotten in Padan–aram, for to go to Isaac his father in the land of Canaan. 19 And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father’s. 20 And Jacob stole away unawares to Laban the Syrian, in that he told him not that he fled. Genesis 31:17-20
Evidently Rachel had developed a fondness for her father’s idols, and when she knew she was to leave them behind, she stole some of them. She was leaving her father, with the man-of-God, Jacob, but she still clung to certain areas of error. The exact same thing happened when the protestant churches left Rome. Many of the ideas and doctrines of Rome had their origins in paganism. When these churches left their mother they clung to ideas that did not come from the bible, and will ultimately lead them back to Rome.
It’s easy to point to Lutherans, or Presbyterians, as being compromisers, but the truth is that even Baptist, and the Plymouth Brethren churches, have their weaknesses. This is not to say that there aren’t true bible-believing, born again Christians in all of these Churches, but rather the doctrines they teach are a mixture of truth and error. We need to exercise discernment to tell the difference between truth and error. Our lives depend on it!
Depending on our traditions can be hazardous to our souls! When there is a conflict between the Word of God and our traditions, we need to learn to go with God, and leave the traditions behind!
I’m going to leave it here for today. Over the next few posts I will examine some of the erroneous teachings of these Churches. I’m no expert, but it doesn’t take an expert to compare the teachings and practices of Churches to the Word of God.