The Other Woman

In chapter 17 the liturgical drama continues with the identification of the other woman. John was carried away “in the Spirit,” to a wilderness. As the devil was revealed in the wilderness in the temptation of Christ, so the other woman is revealed in this wilderness. She is the great harlot, Rome, with whom the people had committed fornication, i.e., idolatry, going after another divinity, imitating the Romans and their emperor. She is dressed in brightly colored garments, in contrast to the woman clothed with the sun, and also in contrast with the simple white robes of th faithful. Rome, as the great city of 16:19, is divided. She has many rulers, with a variety of power and authority. She is accused of abominations and fornication, i.e., blasphemy and idolatry. Again there seems buried under the imagery the idea of a struggle between the faithful followers of Christ, and a dissident group that followed the practice of the Romans. The beast again imitates Christ, it is the counter-Christ, but it is not eternal. The beast will fight the Lamb, and will be conquered by the Lamb, the eternal one who rightly bears the name of King and Lord. John seems to indicate the history of rulers of the empire, and to show that Nero is the emperor at the time of writing. John is saying of the battle with the external world, i.e., Rome, that it will be destroyed by its own rulers. God has the power to make them destroy themselves. For that reason the churches are to endure, for they “are called, chosen and faithful.” Once more we get the impression that John is communicating on two different levels two different kinds of warfare, the one physical, with the external forces, and the other spiritual, against the dissidents in the churches. He is encouraging the faithful by disclosing that the Lamb has already been enthroned, the spiritual battle is won, and soon the external warfare will end.

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