Shortly after Watchman Nee was saved, he began to love the Lord and was intensely burdened to preach the gospel to his schoolmates and countrymen in season and out of season. Through his preaching nearly all his schoolmates were led to the Lord...
Witness Lee was born in 1905 in northern China and raised in a Christian family. At age 19 he was fully captured for Christ and immediately consecrated himself to preach the gospel for the rest of his life. Early in his service, he met Watchman Nee, a renowned preacher, teacher, and writer.
The Great Prostitute, Life-Study of Fifty-One, Message Fifty-One, pp. 530-532
In this message we come to Revelation chapter seventeen, where we see a woman sitting on a scarlet beast (v. 3). It is important that we all have a clear understanding of what is revealed here.
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls spoke to the Apostle John, saying, "Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who sits on many waters" (17:1). In verse 3 the Apostle John says, "And he carried me away in spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns." Verse 1 speaks of the great prostitute, and verse 3 speaks of a woman. As the prostitute riding on a scarlet beast, this woman has power and authority. This beast, the same as that described in chapter thirteen, has seven heads and ten horns. All Bible students agree that the beast here refers to both the Roman Empire and to Antichrist, the last Caesar of the revived Roman Empire. However, there has been debate concerning the identity of the woman, the prostitute.
Who is this great prostitute sitting on many waters? Before we answer this question, we need to say a word about the woman. According to verse 18, the woman is the great city, the city of Rome, which was built on seven mountains signified by the seven heads of the beast (v. 9). Although the woman is Rome, the prostitute cannot also be Rome, because the beast will eventually hate the prostitute, make her desolate, and burn her with fire (v. 16). Antichrist, the last Caesar of the Roman Empire, will certainly not burn his own capital. Therefore, that which is burned by the beast must not be the city of Rome, but something else. Now we must ask this question: According to the Bible and according to world history, who is the prostitute riding on the Roman Empire? Who is the one so intimately related to the Roman state? The prostitute is so closely related to the city of Rome that the two are almost identical. In verse 1 the angel called her the prostitute, and in verse 18 he called her a woman. The prostitute is the apostate Roman Catholic Church. History reveals that only one figure, one character, matches the description of the female in this chapter, and that figure is the Roman Catholic Church. A prostitute does not have a husband. This indicates that God has never admitted having any relationship with the apostate Roman Church.
In message thirteen of this life-study I gave a strong word concerning the Roman Catholic Church based upon this chapter. According to the Scriptures, the great prostitute in this chapter is the Roman Catholic Church. If the female in Revelation 17 is not the Roman Catholic Church, then who is she? Surely, according to history, only the Roman Catholic Church fits the description of the woman given here.
Eighteen years ago I spent some days in Rome for the specific purpose of seeing the Vatican. In order to have a full view of that apostate thing, I took eight tours. The more I saw, the more I was convinced that the Roman Catholic Church is the great prostitute in Revelation 17, about which I had studied years before. Revelation 17:4 says, "The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet." The color red abounds in Catholicism. The cardinals, for example, are clothed in red robes. When many Catholics hear that the Roman Church is the great prostitute, they will be offended and not be able to believe it. Some may say, "How can you say that the Catholic Church is the great prostitute? Don't we worship God and believe in Jesus? Don't we also have the Scriptures?" The answer is in verse 4 of this chapter.
Notice that verse 4 says that the woman has in her hand "a golden cup full of abominations and the unclean things of her fornication." In typology gold signifies the divine nature. Although this woman is called the great prostitute, she holds a golden cup signifying the nature of God. This gold, however, is merely the outward appearance of the cup, not its contents. Outwardly, it appears to be divine, but inwardly it is filled with abominations and uncleanness. Although the apostate Roman Catholic Church does have certain holy things, it adds filthy things to them. Consider, for example, the worship of Mary. The Mary in the Roman Catholic Church is actually the goddess Venus. Catholicism has absorbed from paganism the demonic legend of Venus. In his book, The Great Prophecies, G. H. Pember points out that even Buddha, under the name of Saint Josaphat, has entered into Catholicism. In the Catholic calendar there is a saint named Josaphat, whose story is actually that of Buddha. Babylonianism entered into Buddhism, and Buddhism, a further development of Babylonianism, was assimilated into Catholicism. Let us now read in full the relevant paragraph from The Great Prophecies (p. 104) by Pember:
In less than a century after the death of Belshazzar, a new...faith was spreading in India, the Buddhist religion, which is but a slightly changed Babylonianism....Indeed...Buddha himself is actually a saint in the Roman Catholic Calendar under the name of Saint Josaphat. For the story of Josaphat and Barlaam, which first appears in the works of John of Damascus, a theologian of the early part of the eighth century, and became extremely popular in the Middle Ages, has now been certainly identified with that of Buddha.
Thus, the story of Buddha was taken into Catholicism. This is one example of the assimilation of paganism into the Roman Catholic Church.
Another example is Christmas. Christmas is a blasphemy to Christ, and no Christian with a pure conscience should have anything to do with it. As the book, The Two Babylons, proves, Christmas originated from European paganism. Centuries before the Christian era, on December 25 the European pagans celebrated the birthday of the sun. When Constantine embraced Christianity, he encouraged the Roman citizens to become Christians, and he even rewarded many thousands for being baptized. Thousands who knew nothing of Christ were baptized and came into Christendom, bringing their pagan customs with them. Later, the name of Christ was attached to the birth of the sun god celebrated on December 25. In principle, the celebration of Easter is the same. Although some Christians in Orange County condemn us as heretical, they themselves still practice the pagan festival of Christmas. To be sure, during the three and a half years of the great tribulation all Christians will abandon such things as Christmas, Easter, the worship of Mary, and all paganism.
In message forty-eight I shared with you my belief that the United States is the nation of the eagle and that in the coming years the local churches will exert a positive influence among Christians. I further believe that the Lord's recovery will spread to the leading cities throughout the world. Already there are some churches in Europe and at least seventeen churches in Brazil. Moreover, there are churches in Ghana, Nigeria, Australia, New Zealand, and many throughout all the countries in the Far East, including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Japan, and the Philippines. The Lord's recovery is spreading. In many leading cities the local church stands as a testimony to both believers and unbelievers. We must sound our trumpet and testify of Christ and the Body. Eventually, all the Christians in the world will be influenced. Presently, some argue with us, fight against us, and oppose us. But the day is coming when every mouth will be shut, for all we have been ministering will be fulfilled. The overcomers will be raptured, and Antichrist will be manifested. Furthermore, the Roman Catholic Church will be utterly burned and destroyed. As Antichrist and the ten horns are destroying the Vatican, do you think that people in the United States will still attend the Catholic Church? Certainly not! By that time many genuine Christians in Catholicism will turn to the way of the Lord's recovery.
I strongly believe that the Lord is using His recovery to produce the living firstfruit. This is the first function of the Lord's recovery. After the rapture of the firstfruit, the local churches will be used by the Lord to help all the remaining Christians. This will be the second function of the recovery. During the great tribulation, Christians will have a proper place to which they can go. Christmas, Easter, and all the traditional things of Christianity will be discarded. There will be no more arguments, all the divisive names of the daughters of the great prostitute will be abandoned, and the Lord will absolutely vindicate His way of the church.
No one can deny that there is something real in the Roman Catholic Church. She holds a golden cup in her hand, and she is gilded with gold, precious stone, and pearls (v. 4), the same materials with which the New Jerusalem is built. The outward appearance of the great prostitute and the New Jerusalem is similar. But there is a vast difference inwardly: the prostitute is filled with abominations, uncleanness, and spiritual fornication. This is the actual situation, and we need insight in order to perceive it. It is not a small thing for me to say these things. Oh, how we all need to have a clear view!
The more I have been with the Lord regarding this matter, the more burdened I have become to sound the trumpet so that the Lord's recovery with the proper church life may spread throughout the world. Here and there, in all the leading cities, there needs to be a lampstand shining in the dark night. If not today, then at least during the years of the great tribulation, whoever loves the Lord with a pure heart and seeks Him in sincerity will see this light. By that time a lampstand will be shining brightly in every leading city. The rapture of the firstfruit will cause the local churches to shine more brightly than they do today. Suppose fifty-five brothers and sisters in the church in Anaheim were raptured first. Certainly all the remainder would be stirred up and seek the Lord desperately. This will take place throughout the world. When Christians begin to see prophecies fulfilled in front of their eyes, they will no longer care for the confusing divisions, the religious traditions, or all the sinful and worldly things. Rather, they will flee to the proper and pure church life. I am fully assured that this will take place.
We are not dealing with an insignificant matter, but with a matter that is very crucial for the coming age. We do not care for men's arguments and opposition. The more they argue and oppose, the more our ministry is confirmed. Many times, after saying something uncomplimentary about Christianity in a message, I wondered why I was so strong, and I resolved to be a little softer. Nevertheless, what I say in the ministry is not my decision. It does not depend on me—it depends on the speaking Spirit. If in my ministry I do not speak boldly regarding Christianity, I have no peace, and I lose the anointing. If I fail to do this, my ministry will be weakened. When I do speak out, the opposition is aroused. But I am confirmed even by the opposition. The deeds and reactions of the opposers fully expose them. I am burdened that we would be enlightened, see through all the veils, and enter into the inner chamber to perceive the reality of today's situation in Christianity.
It is not a matter of the doctrine of the Trinity or of the teaching concerning the local church. It is absolutely a matter of Babylon. To call a pastor "reverend"—that is Babylonian. To set up a Christmas tree and to honor Santa Claus—that is Babylonian. To call yourself by a denominational name, such as Lutheran, Methodist, or Episcopalian—that is Babylonian. All denominational names are Babylonian factors of division and confusion. When Christians see the destruction of the great prostitute at the hands of Antichrist, they will be convinced about the church. Then they will see what the church is and where the church is. They will realize that the church has nothing to do with anything Babylonian. Any group that still practices Babylonian things or holds them is not the pure church.
You must beware of divisions because divisions are another form of Babylonianism. It was at Babel, which means confusion, that the language of mankind was confused and confounded. Babel is the Hebrew term for Babylon. Anything divisive causes confusion, and confusion denotes Babylonianism. Today there are hundreds of free groups; they are everywhere. But what they are practicing is divisive and confusing; hence, it is Babylonian.