Summary: This article was written and published in August 2022. It is important to distinguish in our understanding what God distinguishes in His. It is always good and proper for the believer to come into agreement with what God says and thinks. And this knowledge can only be found in Scripture. Further, every true Christian has received the Spirit of God by which he may know the things of God and possess the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:11-12, 16).  

This is particularly important in comprehending prophetic passages that contain prophetic symbols. Their proper meaning only comes to the believer through divine teaching by the Holy Spirit. I always do my best to eliminate my own thinking and ideas in order to prayerfully receive God’s thoughts and ideas.

 

The book of Revelation is a book of prophecy (Rev. 1:3). Although it is found in the New Testament, it is not like the four gospels, nor like any of the epistles. The gospels tell of the life of Christ; the epistles are letters written from the Father and Son through the Comforter/Holy Spirit to the church. But in the writing of the Revelation God isn’t depicted as the Father of the Christian, the Spirit isn’t seen as our Comforter, and Jesus isn’t ever shown as Head of the body or High Priest for the believer. Instead, God is seen as the Lord God Almighty sitting on His throne of government (Rev. 4:2, 8). The Spirit is depicted as seven Spirits before the throne – the direct agent of God in providential action in His government of the earth (Rev. 1:4, 4:5). Jesus is seen as the ruler over the kings of the earth – the One who was born as destined to rule all nations with a rod of iron (Rev. 1:5, 12:4-5). All these features are part of the distinctive character of the subject of bible prophecy – it is about the earth, Israel, and God’s government of the earth (government mainly involves God’s judgment of evil and sin).

When we get to the later parts of the Revelation, particularly the section of the prophecy from chapter seventeen through chapter twenty-two verse five, one should pay close attention to two prophetic symbols which the Holy Spirit brings before us. These two have a definite association with each other and the Spirit’s intent is, by comparison and contrast, the discovery of the differences between them. The first is the great harlot of chapter seventeen, while the second is the bride of the Lamb as portrayed in chapters nineteen and twenty-one.

Our first clue to their association with each other is found in the way both are introduced into the narrative of the book. Notice the similarities of these two passages:

 

Revelation 17:1

New King James Version

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,

 

Revelation 21:9

New King James Version

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”

 

This is not a coincidence. Likely the same angel is given the assignment to reveal to John the understanding of these two entities. The similarity of the wording suggests an association/relationship exists between the two. However, the statements made by the angel concerning both show great differences by contrast. This we will eventually get to in this article.

To have a fuller picture of the bride, the Lamb’s wife, we need to consider this passage in Revelation nineteen:

 

Revelation 19:7-9

New King James Version

Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”

 

Every believer knows that the body of Christ, the true church, is the betrothed bride spoken of in this passage. Ephesians 2:22-23 confirms the church as the body of Christ, while Ephesians 5:23-32 teaches the church as the wife of Christ yet to be presented to Himself holy and without blemish. The above passage from Revelation nineteen is that very presentation, the marriage supper of the Lamb.

There are important details to note from the context of this passage which help the comparisons we’ll make. First, the marriage of the church to Jesus Christ takes place above in heaven. Notice the verses leading up to the passage have heaven as the location of a great multitude of saints praising God (Rev. 19:1-6). The event which follows the marriage supper, the physical return of Jesus Christ to the earth, also begins in heaven (with heaven being opened – Rev. 19:11). We can say with confidence the marriage takes place above. Also, we can be sure of the timing – the marriage supper takes place between these two passages in chapter nineteen.

Let’s put together some additional information. The other passage about the bride, the Lamb’s wife, begins in Rev. 21:9 and extends through Rev. 22:5. This describes the holy city Jerusalem (Rev. 21:10). The time period associated with the passage is the thousand-year millennium (Rev. 20:6 – please see article #38 https://www.reintgenchristianbooks.com/millennium-or-eternal-state-what-is-revelation-21-refering-to/). The city is heavenly, that is, located above. It is the capital city of the government of God over the millennial earth, although I’m sure this continues in the eternal state (Rev. 21:1-3). It contains the throne of God and of the Lamb (Rev. 22:3). It is filled with the glory of God (Rev. 21:11, 22, 23). This heavenly city is the church, the bride of Christ (or at the very least, the eternal habitation of the church).

The connections are unmistakable. Both the church and the city are referred to in scripture with the same symbols – as the bride, the wife of the Lamb. The church has a heavenly calling and citizenship (Heb. 3:1, Phil. 3:20). Her members are destined to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:6) and to be clothed with the glory of God (compare: Matt. 13:43, John 17:22-23, Rom. 3:23-26, Col. 3:4, Rev. 3:12, 21:11, 23). The holy city is heavenly and saturated with the glory of God (this is the reason there is no temple in it – Rev. 21:22). It is the capital of God’s government over the millennial earth. And the church, the body of Christ, is a large part of the glorified saints who will reign with Christ when He reigns over the millennial earth (Rev. 2:26-27, 3:21, 5:9-10, 12:5, 20:4-6).

Now for the great contrast the Spirit makes in His description of the great harlot. Instead of being heavenly, by comparison, the harlot is always on the earth. Her fornications were with the kings of the earth, and she made the inhabitants of the earth drunk by them (Rev. 17:2). She is labeled by God as “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth.” She is adorned with earthly riches and glory (Rev. 17:4-5). All the events of Revelation seventeen and eighteen, most notably her judgment and destruction by God, take place on the earth. The Harlot is earthly, worldly and corrupt in all her character, while the wife of the Lamb is heavenly, pure, spotless, and without blemish in hers (Eph. 5:26-27, Rev. 19:8).

A second important detail in this comparison involves the timing of the marriage of the Lamb. We mentioned it takes place in heaven between the great celebration of God in Rev. 19:1 and the return of Jesus Christ to the earth beginning in Rev. 19:11. We’ve established that the wife of the Lamb is the body of Christ, the church, already glorified and in heaven before Christ returns. But why does she so enthusiastically praise God in Rev. 19:1?

 

Revelation 19:2-3

New King James Version

For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her.” Again they said, “Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!”

 

The marriage supper of the Lamb had to wait until the great harlot was first destroyed on the earth. Why? Because the two are associated with each other. The true bride of Christ in heaven is waiting until the pretend and false bride of Christ on the earth is judged and destroyed (Rev. 17 and 18). The great harlot is the usurper of the church’s rightful place and relationship with God. She represents what remains of Christendom on the earth after the rapture (in the Revelation, we can place the rapture of the heavenly saints between the end of Revelation three and the beginning of chapter four).

If the Christian, taught by the Holy Spirit, prayerfully studies the first three chapters of the Revelation, he will understand that the seven messages to the Asian churches in chapters two and three, together forming one broad picture, narrates the progressive history of Christendom during the time of the Christian dispensation. It begins in the later part of the apostle John’s life (Rev. 1:9) with the condition of the Ephesus church at that time. The first three churches represent the state of Christendom progressing in time to the full establishment of the Roman church (Thyatira and Jezebel – Rev. 2:18-29). This was approximately the 6th century. Much later (16th century), the Reformation was the impetus for the development of Protestantism – the progressive development of the last three churches (Sardis, Philadelphia, and then Laodicea).

It should be obvious in Christ’s messages that the last four churches maintain their existence on the earth until the end of the dispensation. Of the four, only Philadelphia is promised to be excluded from being on the earth during the coming tribulation (Rev. 3:10). Without being too technical and long-winded, let’s look at Christ’s judgments of the other three final churches:

 

Revelation 2:20-23 (Thyatira)

New King James Version

20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works.

 

Revelation 3:2-3 (Sardis)

New King James Version

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

 

Revelation 3:15-16 (Laodicea)

New King James Version

15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

 

None of this is any good. Judgment and destruction await what remains of Christendom in the tribulation. What is particularly interesting is how much Jezebel in Thyatira resembles the great harlot of Revelation seventeen. They are guilty of the same sins as judged by God. Thyatira is the establishment and propagation of Roman Catholicism during the Christian dispensation.  The great harlot sits on the seven hills of the city Rome (Rev. 17:9) and has her far-reaching influence from there (Rev. 17:1-2). Any spiritually minded believer may see that these two women are one and the same.

 

New King James Version

18 And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.”

 

The association the Holy Spirit makes between the great harlot and the bride, the Lamb’s wife, is fully seen by considering their double meanings. Babylon the Great (Rev. 17:5) is the false bride of Christ and the great ruling city of the world (Rome). The body of Christ is the true bride of Lamb and the holy city Jerusalem above.