In the great controversy of the ages, as revealed and outlined in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, two women play a prominent part on either side of the thrilling drama. These two women are in deadly conflict, and the struggle between them will end only in the complete triumph of the one and the absolute destruction of the other.
The first of these two women to be introduced is unveiled in chapter twelve and is said to be a "sign," or a "great wonder." That is, she is not a literal woman, and yet she is more than the ordinary prophetic symbol. The other woman is revealed in chapter seventeen and is declared to be a "mystery." Both the sign and the mystery are resolved as their relationships and appearances are considered in the light of the Scriptures.
The picture which the prophetic artist paints of the woman of chapter twelve shows her dressed with the sun, clothed "with light as with a garment," as is the Lord Himself. Ps. 104:2. The sun, therefore, is the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2), the Dayspring from on high (Luke 1:78), yea, the Lord God Himself, who is a sun and shield (Ps. 84:11). Christians who have been baptized into Christ are said to have put on Christ, are clothed with Him, with His righteousness (Gal. 3:27), hence, the woman may at once be identified as the church (Eph. 5:25-32), the city of God, and the bride, the Lamb's wife (2 Cor. I :2 ; Rev. 21:9, io). She is Christ's agent in His warfare against Satan.
The other woman, the woman of chapter seventeen, is in complete contrast to her rival of chapter twelve. She is dressed in purple and scarlet, with the clothes and colors of royalty, and she is bedecked with gold, diamonds, pearls, and all the riches of the world. Such display of wealth and manner of dress are designed to enhance her personal beauty and glory. She has all the finery and precious things of earth, but nothing of heaven. She is Satan's agent in his war against Christ.
The first woman (representing Christ's church) had on her head a crown of twelve stars. The crown of an organization is the great and good men it produces who exemplify its principles and works. The crown of the church is the holy apostles, who, after Jesus, founded her, and spread her influence in the earth.
The second woman has on her forehead no crown, but her name of mystery: Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and of earth's abominations. Her shame is her crown. No one need really be deceived by her, for she proclaims her preference for the things of the flesh rather than the things of God.
The church is standing on the moon. Now the moon has no light of its own, and shines only with light borrowed from the sun. The moon is also shown as the foundation of the woman, as her support, as something on which she stands, and these two relationships (to the woman, and to the sun) suggest the function of the Word of God and its place in relation to the church. The law is a lamp (Prov. 6:23), and prophecy is a light (2 Peter :19), as is indeed the nature- of the Word in all its parts (Ps. 119:105). But it is a borrowed light, a reflection of Him who is the light of the world. The Word is also a sure foundation, a basic rock, to all who hear it and do it. (Matt. 7: 24, 25.) The Old and New Testaments, their oracles and ordinances, shine to the church with the light of Jesus, while He is absent in person. These are the true and sure foundation, on which she shall be established forever.
Babylon is seated on the scarlet-colored beast. This beast is identical with the great dragon of chapter twelve, and he is that old serpent called the devil and Satan (Rev. 12 :9) ; so this woman is "the synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 2:9), the city and bride of the prince of this world (John 14:30). She sits on the seven heads of the dragon, the seven kings or kingdoms, and she sits upon "many waters," the peoples and nations and tongues of the world. (Rev. 17:15.) She is carried by the beast, rules over the kings of the earth, and is supported by the peoples of the world. The governments support her, the peoples sustain her, and the prince of darkness upholds this lady of his choice. This is her foundation and "light."
Now, Zion, the church, was a widow and childless, and she was desolate and forsaken. She was as a wife of youth who had been refused, and she wandered to and fro. (Isa. 54 :1-6 ; 49:21.) But her Redeemer came and bought her back, and her Maker became her husband. "The God of the whole earth shall He be called" (Isa. 54 :5), and she received a new name, Hephzibah, "My delight is in her."
Her children keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus, and they are therefore persecuted. (Rev. 12 :17.) These children are virgins (Rev. 14:4), and they are undefiled with women ; that is, with the woman of chapter seventeen and her daughters. They overcame their persecutors by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony, and they are called the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord. (Isa. 62 :I2.)
Babylon assures herself that she is happily married and that her husband and children will remain with her. She feels herself a queen, and no widow, and safe from sorrow. (Rev. 18 :7.) But all is not harmony in her house. The ten horns that you saw, said the angel to John, they and the beast will hate the harlot ; they will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her with fire. (Rev. 17 :16, R.V.) As a house divided against itself cannot stand, she is going to sure destruction. Strong is the Lord who judges her.
Her children are, like their mother, harlots. She is the mother of the abominations of earth. But she is not ashamed of it, and never has been. ( Jer. 3:3.) She holds in her hand a golden cup, full of her filthiness, and she offers it to the kings and presidents and the great men of the world. They are infatuated with her, and they drink with her till they are drunk. The woman herself is intoxicated. Her drink has been the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus. The nations drink with her out of this cup, and they are fallen with her, because they have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. They have united with her against the other woman and her children, and they will be destroyed with her.
These two women are two cities—the city of this world and the city of the world to come. The one is called Zion (Isa. 66:7, 8) ; and the other is named Babylon, the great city that rules over the kings of the earth (Rev. 17:18). Zion is pure and undefiled, but Babylon is a harlot. Of right she belongs to God, for He created her, but she has given herself to Satan. Zion will be established forever, but Babylon will be destroyed. (Rev. 21: 2, 3 ; 18:21.)
This story of the two women is of personal interest to everyone. All of us are children of the one, or of the other. We are citizens of Zion or of Babylon. Which of the two women do you claim as your mother? Whose .clothing and adornment do you wear? To which city do you own allegiance? Who is your prince—that ruler of the darkness of this world, or the Sun of Righteousness? This is a question not to be -valued in dollars. Life itself is at stake. Everyone desires life and liberty, and they are his right. The story of these two women shows plainly where life and liberty are to be found. They are certainly not in Babylon, the murderess of the saints. They are found in Zion, the city of God and the fountain of truth. Let us put on her robes, be established on her foundation, and walk in her light, that we may live with her and enjoy her liberty and share her glory forever.