He saw her “drunk with blood,” and gasped (see Rev. 17:1-6).
It was September 2016 when one prominent evangelical unmasked the mysterious scarlet woman of Revelation 17.
You remember 2016, don’t you? The year America elected its forty-fifth president after a bruising, divisive election. The Southern border of the United States took center stage as the centerpiece of candidate Trump’s “Build the Wall” rallying cry. Other issues such as the economy, terrorism, foreign policy, and healthcare were also hotly contested.
Inauguration day promised an end to what the newly elected President termed “American Carnage.” What followed was a series of high-profile incidents that not only exposed the raw racial underbelly of the nation but also the crass transactional politics of American evangelicalism. A tiki torch mob marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, announcing, “Jews will not replace us!” While protesting against this bigotry, a young activist named Heather Heyer was brutally killed during the melee. The FBI called her killing domestic terrorism, but rationalizations abounded as to the source of the simmering racial divide exemplified in Charlotte: “God chooses the most imperfect vessels to carry out His work, does He not?,” some “Christians” said. President Trump was not perfect but he was better than the alternative, they defended. This pattern of “Christians” justifying the unconscionable in service of the expedient has continued unabated, and the reputation of American evangelicalism is in tatters today because of it.
But it was Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham, who best encapsulated the astonishing thinking that came to characterize American evangelicalism that year and hence. In a 2016 interview for the Conservative Chronicle Graham said that if President Barack Obama was the antichrist, then Michelle Obama, for riding in a limo called the Beast and wearing scarlet and purple clothing, must be the whore of Babylon.1
Graham had earlier attributed the deaths of unarmed Black men at the hands of police to their lack of obedience to authority and bad parenting.2 His unbiblical politics and that of other prominent evangelicals is aiding the continuing exodus from American Christianity, especially among the young.
Graham’s absurd theologizing of Revelation’s “lady in red” embodies, perhaps unknowingly, core characteristics that actually define the “scarlet harlot” John saw in vision. Was he aware at the moment he spoke that his inner harlot was showing? Doesn’t he, in such moments, invite the biblically grounded observer to hear him, in eschatological terms, as a proper representative of apostate Protestantism inspired by demons (see Rev. 16:13, 14), a theological infant born of bastardized pseudo-religion and nursed in racism?
Wherever the Bible is prohibited and error is promoted, there is Babylon red
And we have heard such voices before. Consider Amaziah, priest of Bethel: keen on the favor of the head of state, he complains to King Jeroboam against the God-ordained ministry of prophet Amos (Amos 7:10, 11). Not that there is any law against communication between priests and kings. But there surely is ecclesiastical disaster in a church leader finding community with the one God identifies as evildoer-in-chief (see 2 Kings 14:23, 24) against the one God has called to denounce his evil. We wonder how the priest can miss the wretched contradiction of his spiritual and moral alignments. Can’t he see himself? The color of his spiritual garb is red—BABYLON RED.
Where does apostate Christianity learn its abominations? Where else but from the “lady in red” herself—Babylon, the harlot of Revelation 17.3 This is the part of the Bible where the God of justice responds to the enemies of righteousness. Put another way, God is going to procure some “get-back.” When one sports team wallops another in some contest, the losing team sometimes says, “When they come to our house, we’re going to get some get-back!” One day God is going to get some “get-back!” “Vengeance is Mine,” He assures, and He’ll repay (Rom. 12:19).
In Revelation 16 plague after plague has fallen until earth is a horror-filled hellscape, worse than any movie can depict.
God’s punishments now are both plenteous and accurate, targeting those who disregarded the final warnings of the three angels of Revelation 14, worshipped the beast, and received his mark. Now they break out in loathsome sores (Rev. 16:2). For shedding saints’ blood, they now drink blood (verses 5, 6). While they perish, the righteous pray. While they suffer, the righteous are kept safe.
And amid it all God remembers to give great Babylon “the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath” (verse 19).
While most of Revelation 16 targets people, God, in Revelation 17, targets the system that misled the people, that hurt the faithful; the system guilty of crimes against God. John is clear about the principles embodied by the “lady in red.” He knew Babylon, Hebrew Babel, as the place where human beings built a tower in direct defiance of God (Gen. 11:1-9); where God confounded the language of the recalcitrant builders and threw them into a mass of confusion (verses 7-9). He knew that any power that defies the clear dictates of God is Babylon, the power wearing red—BABYLON RED!
John would remember Nebuchadnezzar, defiant king of Babylon, who forced everyone in his realm to bow down to an image he built, or die a fiery death (Dan. 3:14-21). John would know that Babylon coerces false worship and corrupts true worship. And any power that coerces false worship while corrupting true worship is wearing red—BABYLON RED!
In Revelation 17:1 one of the seven angels holding the seven bowls invites John to see the judgment of the great harlot. John well understood the illicit sexuality of the “lady in red.” He knew that God often likened Israel’s spiritual apostasy to the breaking of a marital vow (Ezek. 16:15).
Not only the kings of the earth, but all earth’s inhabitants, have become intoxicated with the lady’s fornications (Rev. 17:1). She has led both the powerful and the powerless of earth to trade love for God and His Word for love of the world and its fables (2 Peter 1:16). Wherever people trade the love for God for other lovers, the allurements of the world for the joys of heaven, wherever the Bible is prohibited and error is promoted, there is Babylon red.
The angel takes John to the wilderness to behold the “lady in red”: She’s fine! Lying down with kings while paupers drink her bathwater; regaled in regal purple and scarlet red—Babylon red! Her “limo” is a beast with seven heads and 10 horns (Rev. 17:7). She is bedecked, bejeweled, and ready to befool; tattooed on her forehead is: “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (verse 5). Her tattoos are a direct counterfeit of the slogan that adorned the gold plate God instructed Aaron to wear whenever he ministered before God (Ex. 28:35-37). Her counterfeit slogan marks her as a religious power, the devil’s instrument, as he attempts to make himself God.
Wherever unholiness of thought replaces holiness of thought, there you will find red, BABYLON RED!
John marvels as he sees her “drunk with the blood of the saints” (Rev. 17:6). He marvels at her arrogance to think that she and her 10-horned dragon can rough-ride and trample God’s children with impunity.
The “lady in white” whom she pursues and persecutes doesn’t need jewelry and royal garb, because she is robed in light. She doesn’t need a beast to ride upon—the moon is under her feet. She doesn’t need a forehead tattoo, because God has given her a crown with 1
2 stars—representing the 12 apostles who birthed the New Testament church, and the 12 tribes who stand for the totality of God’s kingdom (see Rev. 12).
For 1260 days (Rev. 12:6), the lady in white suffers the dragon’s persecution and experiences God’s protection. The angel fingers her tormentor. In fact, the tormentor gives herself away. For she is the only human institution that persecuted God’s church for 1260 years, drinking itself drunk with martyrs’ blood: the power under whose rule the woman’s Son was born before He was caught up to heaven (Rev. 12:5). She is Rome, in varied unholy postures both secular and religious, both political and ecclesiastical.
John saw Rome, the lady in red whom God names Babylon, ride herd on all political powers at the time preceding the second coming of Jesus. He saw secular powers adding muscle to the harlot’s hustle, doing her bidding in persecuting God’s people just as Rome earlier persecuted the wilderness church.
John also saw that the tyranny would not last. The secular powers will turn and hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire (Rev. 17:16)! The pleasures of one-night stands with the “lady in red” will not be enough to soothe the pains brought on by the plagues. When the secular powers of the earth discover her fraud, they will turn, and violently so. Don’t be confused by Franklin Graham. The real “Lady in Red” is soon to meet her end!.
Dwain N. Esmond, ordained pastor, writer, and editor, currently serves as associate director/editor of the Ellen G. White Estate. This article is adapted from one of his sermons.