The Time of Jacob’s Trouble
Arlen L. Chitwood
The End of Israel’s Harlotry
I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement [with great wonder] . . .
And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth. (Revelation 17:6, 18)
The “woman” is mentioned first in the introductory material (Revelation 17:1-7), but the order is reversed in the identification (vv. 8-18). The “beast” is identified first, and the woman is then identified. And, as the identity of the beast is contingent on previous revelation, so it is with the identity of the woman.
One must reference that which has already been revealed (which would include not only the preceding chapters in the book of Revelation but revelation preceding this book as well, particularly that which is seen in the Old Testament). And, interpreting chapters seventeen through the first part of nineteen in this manner (which is the only biblical way to properly interpret them), both the woman and the beast can be easily identified, leaving no question concerning the proper identity of either one.
The Woman and the Beast
The “beast” is identified as the ruler of a ten-kingdom federation of nations during the Tribulation (v. 12). The reference to his being the eighth but of the seven (vv. 8-11) is apparently a reference to this man coming into power as the seventh head, receiving the deadly wound by the sword, and then being healed (previously stated in 13:3, 14) — becoming the eighth in this manner, but still of the seven.
In verse nine, the “seven heads” are said to be seven mountains. And, in Scripture, a “mountain” is often used in a metaphorical sense referring to a kingdom (e.g., Isaiah 2:1-4; Daniel 2:34, 35, 44, 45; Matthew 17:1ff), which is what verse ten goes on to say.
These “seven mountains,” used in a metaphorical sense, in this particular instance refer to the kings themselves — seven kings of a kingdom (or kingdoms). Verse nine should literally read, “And they [the seven mountains previously mentioned] are seven kings . . . .” These verses form an ultimate description of the kingdom of the beast (after the seventh king, the beast, comes into power), “on which the woman sits [or, ‘where the woman resides’].”
The thought of the woman residing within the kingdom of the beast is identical to and in complete keeping with the woman residing in the midst of the nations in verses one and fifteen. Residing in the midst of one would really be part and parcel to residing in the midst of the other, for the kingdom of the beast in that coming day will encompass all nations (cf. vv. 1, 7, 9, 15).
The “woman” is then identified. And, in the light of the way that the woman is depicted in relation to both the nations and the kingdom of the beast (residing in their midst), the thought in verse seven of the beast carrying the woman must, contextually, be understood in a similar sense — the beast bearing the woman in the sense of the woman being identified with the beast (cf. John 19:15; note the way that this same word in the Greek text is used in Luke 14:27 and John 16:12 [translated, “bear”]).
The identity of the woman is given following a sequence of event that brings the reader to at least the middle of the Tribulation, when the beast has come into power as world ruler (all seven heads crowned [cf. Revelation 12:3; 17:7]) and turns on the woman in all his fury, seeking to destroy her from off the face of the earth (v. 16; cf. 12:13-16).
This man will be seated on Satan’s throne, exhibiting power and authority given to him by Satan (Revelation 13:2). And God, at this time, will allow that which is depicted in Revelation chapters twelve, thirteen, and seventeen through the first part of nineteen to occur in order to bring about the destruction of the harlot (not the destruction of the woman, as this man will attempt, but the doing away with the woman’s harlotry [Revelation 12:13-17; 17:16, 17; cf. Matthew 24:15ff; Luke 21:20ff]).
That is to say, God will use the most corrupt form of Gentile world power that this world has ever known or ever will know to ultimately bring to pass His plans and purposes regarding the woman.
Then, in Revelation 17:18, the woman is identified beyond question, by and through two different means:
And the woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.
The woman is first said to be “that great city.”
And comparing Scripture with Scripture, allowing Scripture to interpret itself, the identity of “that great city” has to be understood in the light of the way in which it has already been given in the book. As previously stated, it appears evident and can be shown both textually and contextually that “Babylon” is used as a metaphor in both 14:8 and 16:19 when referencing “that great city,” which had previously been associated with two similar metaphors (“Sodom” and “Egypt”) and identified as Jerusalem (e.g., note in 16:19 the distinction that Scripture makes between “great Babylon” and “the cities of the nations” [cf. Numbers 23:9]).
In this respect, solely from a contextual standpoint, the reference to “that great city” in 17:18 can be understood only one way — as a reference to Jerusalem, to the Jewish people (cf. Matthew 23:37), previously identified with “Sodom,” “Egypt,” and “Babylon.”
But this verse doesn’t stop with the identification of the woman with “that great city.” Rather, the verse goes on to provide a second means of identification, pinning matters of identification down beyond any possible question. The verse continues by adding the words, “which reigns over the kings of the earth.” A better translation of these words would be, “the one having kingly authority over the kings of the earth” (ref. Wuest’s Expanded Translation — “which possesses [imperial] power over . . . .”), limiting matters in the light of Exodus 4:22, 23 to Israel/to Jerusalem alone.
And, with this addition, Scripture in this verse has, so to speak, validated the identity of the woman in the mouth of two witnesses — something required within the Mosaic Economy (cf. Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 19:15).
(Regarding Israel in possession of regal authority over the Gentile nations, note that which Moses was instructed to make known to the Egyptian Pharaoh when God sent him to deliver the Israelites [make known to an Assyrian ruling Egypt, typifying the coming Assyrian who will rule the world (cf. Isaiah 52:4; Micah 5:5)]. Moses was instructed to say to Pharaoh:
Thus says the LORD: “Israel is My son, My firstborn. . . . .”[Exodus 4:22, 23]
“Sonship” implies rulership. Only sons can rule in God’s kingdom [past, present, or future], and in the human realm, only firstborn sons can rule [only firstborn sons find themselves in a position to exercise the rights of primogeniture within a family, with regality being one of these rights]. In short, Moses, announcing to Pharaoh that Israel was God’s son, even His firstborn, was an announcement to Pharaoh that God recognized Israel in the regal capacity among nations implied by sonship, not Egypt.
And this recognition was made known while Israel was still in Egypt. Israel, following the observance of the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread in Exodus chapters twelve and thirteen, was to be led out of Egypt under Moses. Then, following certain events occurring while enroute to Kadesh-Barnea, Israel was to enter into and occupy the land previously covenanted to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and once the Jewish people had become established in this land, they were to rule the nations as God’s firstborn son, within a theocracy.)
Again, note the latter part of Revelation 17:18. There is only one nation on the face of the earth that this can be referencing — the nation that is not to be “reckoning itself among the nations” [Numbers 23:9]. Only one nation on the face of the earth possesses a position of regal authority over the kings of the earth [over all the Gentile nations]. This nation was identified in Exodus 4:22, 23, immediately prior to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt; and this nation is identified in Revelation 17:18, in exactly the same fashion [previously introduced after this fashion in Revelation 12:1], immediately prior to Jesus leading the Israelites out from a worldwide dispersion yet future.
Dating from Moses’ day, Israel has never lost the nation’s standing as God’s firstborn son. Israel has been God’s firstborn son since the announcement was made in Exodus 4:22, 23, remains God’s firstborn son today [though a disobedient son, scattered among the nations], and will one day exercise the rights of the firstborn [following repentance].
This is why, for the past 3,500 years, since the time this announcement was made, the one who has held the scepter since prior to the creation of Adam [Satan] has done everything within his power to destroy Israel.
(Also, note that Israel is spoken of in both masculine and feminine respects in Scripture — as a son, and as a woman [cf. Hosea 2:2; 11:1], with both having regal implications. Only sons can rule, and man cannot rule alone. A man must rule in conjunction with a woman, or a woman in conjunction with a man — the man as king and the woman as consort queen. This is a principle established in the opening chapter of Genesis, which can never change [Genesis 1:26-28].
And exactly the same thing, for exactly the same reasons, is seen relative to the bride of Christ. The one who will rule as consort queen with the Son is spoken of in Scripture in both masculine and feminine respects, with both having regal implications [cf. Romans 8:14, 15, 19; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 5:23-32; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 19:7-10].)
Explaining the identity of the “woman” as synonymous with a city (“And the woman whom you saw is that great city . . . .” [17:18a]) has caused problems for some within our Western way of thinking. But note that the same thing is done in Revelation 21:9b, 10 relative to Christ’s bride and the New Jerusalem (“. . . Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the Spirit . . . and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem . . . .”).
That is, in these sections of Scripture (Revelation 17:18a; 21:9, 10), “Israel,” the wife of Jehovah, is identified with and spoken of synonymously with the earthly Jerusalem; and “the bride of Christ” is identified with and spoken of synonymously with the heavenly Jerusalem.
Thus, in the preceding respect, in Revelation chapters eleven through eighteen, the name “Jerusalem” is used more than one way. It is used referring to a literal city (11:2, 8), and it is also used referring to the Jewish people (e.g., “the woman,” “the great whore,” and “the mother of harlots” in chapters 17, 18), referencing the central place in the nation’s own land (17:1, 5, 18; 18:10, 16ff; cf. Jeremiah 44:13; Limitations 1:7, 8, 17; Matthew 23:37).
Further, if Scripture is compared with Scripture, Jerusalem alone — referring to the Jewish people — is guilty of the blood of the prophets and of all slain upon the earth (Matthew 23:34-37), which is said of the harlot in Revelation 18:24. The Jewish people alone carry this guilt. It is not possible for any other city, nation, or segment of society to be looked upon in this manner. This fact is clearly stated in Luke 13:33b:
. . . it cannot be [lit., ‘…it is not possible’] that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem.
And it is clear from the subsequent verse that “Jerusalem” is used in verse thirty-three referring to the entire nation — the Jewish people — exactly as it is used in Revelation 17:18.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! (v. 34a)
Thus, according to Scripture, Israel alone can be considered guilty of blood in this respect. And in keeping with this thought, Christ died in the capital of Jewry at the hands of the Jews (Matthew 16:21; Acts 2:23, 36; Revelation 11:8); and the apostle Paul, as well, was prepared to die at Jerusalem at the hands of the Jews (Acts 21:11-13).
Then, as previously seen, the woman in chapters seventeen and eighteen is also identified as “. . . that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” (17:18b). This identifying statement reflects back upon and draws from a similar statement about the woman earlier in the book:
Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland [KJV: crown] of twelve stars.” (12:1)
“Twelve” is the number of governmental perfection. The “sun” and “moon” (along with “stars”) are used in a metaphorical manner in the book of Revelation to describe governmental powers (from a greater [the sun] to lesser powers [the moon, stars; e.g., 6:12; 8:12]); and the matter, as seen in Revelation 12:1, draws from Joseph’s dreams in Genesis chapter thirty-seven (vv. 5-11, 19).
This verse from chapter twelve, seen in its complete fullness, as previously and succinctly described, forms part of the contextual foundational material in the book upon which the identity of the woman in 17:18 rests.
The word used for “garland” [KJV: crown] in the Greek text of Revelation 12:1 is stephanos, not diadema, indicating that the woman, though possessing regal power and authority, was not exercising that power and authority at the time seen in the text (which is a time yet future, near the middle of the Tribulation). An individual presently exercising regal power and authority would wear a crown depicted by the word diadema, not a crown depicted by the word stephanos. This is seen two verses later (v. 3), where the Greek word diadema is used — showing an exercise of regal power and authority in the kingdom of Antichrist by the one to whom Satan will one day give “his power, his throne, and great authority” (Revelation 13:2b).
(In a respect, Revelation 12:1; 17:18 forms the latter-day, New Testament parallel to Exodus 4:22, 23. An announcement pertaining to Israel’s status as firstborn was made during Moses’ day to the Assyrian Pharaoh ruling Egypt, and these two verses in the book of Revelation form the announcement concerning Israel’s status as firstborn for the future Assyrian ruling the world during the days of the coming of the Son of Man.
Refer to Appendixes 1, 2 in this book for additional information on Revelation 12:1; 17:18 and for information on the use of stephanos and diadema in the Greek New Testament.)
An Apex, Then an End
Note the buildup in the book of Revelation to that section beginning in chapter seventeen and extending through the opening verses of chapter nineteen. All the way through (from chapter 6ff) it has been Israel and the nations, with the government ultimately centered in the kingdom of the beast and Israel residing in the midst of both the government and the nations. Israel must be viewed in this central respect relative to everything occurring, for this is “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” the fulfillment of Daniel’s Seventy-Week prophecy.
Events throughout Revelation chapters six through the opening verses of chapter nineteen must be understood, first and foremost, in the light of God’s dealings with Israel. Everything else is secondary, though somehow connected with God’s dealings with the Jewish people during this time.
This is the grand climax of God’s purpose for having allowed the Assyrians to come down about 722 B.C. and take the northern ten tribes into captivity and the Babylonians to come over about 605 B.C. and take the southern two tribes into captivity. God allowed what is called the Diaspora (the dispersion of His people among the Gentiles) because of continuing Israeli disobedience extending over centuries of time.
When Israel’s cup of iniquity had become full (cf. Genesis 15:16; Numbers 14:22, 23), God uprooted and scattered His people in this manner to effect repentance, also taking centuries of time (and continuing today), in order that the Jewish people would ultimately occupy the position for which they were called into existence almost 3,500 years ago.
And this grand climax ends with Israel occupying a very similar position to that which is seen in John 19:15b, immediately preceding Christ’s crucifixion — “. . . We have no king but Caesar!” Israel, viewed as “the great whore” — associated more with “Sodom,” “Egypt,” and “Babylon” than with Jerusalem — will be enmeshed in the kingdom of the beast in a similar respect to that seen among the Jewish people and Rome almost 2,000 years ago.
Note a number of Old Testament references having to do with Israel’s harlotry:
How the faithful city has become a harlot! (Isaiah 1:21a)
. . . you have played the harlot with many lovers . . .You have had a harlot's forehead; You refuse to be ashamed. (Jeremiah 3:1b, 3b; cf. vv. 6-14)
Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations . . . You also played the harlot with the Assyrians . . . Moreover you multiplied your acts of harlotry as far as the land of the trader . . . . (Ezekiel 16:2, 28a, 29a)
Then the Babylonians came to her, into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their immorality . . . She revealed her harlotry and uncovered her nakedness . . . . (Ezekiel 23:17a, 18a; cf. vv. 35-37).
Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall deliver her from My hand. (Hosea 2:10; cf. vv. 2ff).
Revelation chapter seventeen through the opening verses of chapter nineteen has to do with Israel’s harlotry seen at its apex and then brought to an end. Israel’s principle lover in that day will be the most corrupt Gentile power this world will have ever known. And Israel, through subsequent persecution at the hands of her lover (a genocidal persecution, which will begin in the middle of the Tribulation when the beast breaks his covenant with Israel), will ultimately be brought to the place of repentance. Then, following repentance, Israel’s harlotry will be done away with (Revelation 18:21-19:3; cf. Isaiah 1:21-26; Hosea 2:13-23).
Though the nation will have paid a heavy price, one beyond comprehension, her harlotry will be a thing of the past. Israel’s sins will have been “as scarlet,” “red like crimson”; but, with these sins having been completely removed — “as far as the east is from the west” — where scarlet and crimson once existed, conditions will then be “as white as snow,” “as wool” (Isaiah 1:18; cf. vv. 21-26; Psalm 103:12-22). And a cleansed nation in that day will realize the rights of the firstborn, fulfilling the purpose for the nation’s existence (cf. Revelation 17:16, 17; 18:8-21; 19:2).
(Note that judgments during the Tribulation — seen particularly in the bowl judgments — will be directed primarily toward Israel [cf. Revelation 16:5-7, 12-16], with Israel scattered among the nations and enmeshed within the kingdom of the beast. Judgments befalling the earth-dwellers will reach their most intense state during the trumpet and bowl judgments, with certain previous judgments undoubtedly continuing when the seven trumpets sound and the seven bowls of wrath are poured out. And it will be during this time that the Jewish people, left without a choice, will turn to and call upon the God of their fathers for deliverance.)
Following Israel’s salvation and cleansing, those comprising the nation in that day, as the 144,000 previously comprised a first fruit of the nation, will then be looked upon in the same manner as the 144,000 — as “virgins.” And the nation, as the 144,000 during the Tribulation, will then, in complete obedience, carry God’s message to the ends of the earth during the Millennium.
The matter is brought to an end at the conclusion of chapter eighteen and the beginning of chapter nineteen (18:20-19:3), the festivities surrounding the marriage of the Lamb follow (19:7-10), and Christ then returns with His angels to deal with Israel and to destroy Gentile world power (19:11ff; cf. Matthew 23:38, 39; 24:29-31). Man’s Day will then be over, and the Lord’s Day will begin on earth, with God’s firstborn Sons — Christ, Israel, and the Church (following the adoption) — occupying their proper positions on and over the earth.
(The identifying expression, “that great city [or, ‘the great city’],” appears nine times in chapters eleven through eighteen, pointing to “Jerusalem,” revealing some facet of Israel’s harlotry. These nine references are used in a progressive manner in these chapters and carry the reader from an introduction to Israel’s harlotry [11:8], to a time showing Israel’s harlotry at its apex during the closing years of Daniel’s Seventy-Week prophecy [chapter 17a], to a time revealing the end of Israel’s harlotry [chapters 17b-19a].
Thus, “that great city [or, ‘the great city’],” is used nine times in these chapters of the book referring to Jerusalem — the city identified through the way in which the expression is first used in the book. Then, though probably not genuine, this expression can be found a tenth time in the book in the KJV rendering of 21:10, referring to the New Jerusalem. Note that the book of Revelation refers to both Jerusalem below and Jerusalem above, along with the people associated with each city [the wife of Jehovah (the Jewish people, associated with Jerusalem below), and the bride of Christ (Christians, associated with Jerusalem above)]. However, there is little manuscript support for referring to the New Jerusalem as “that great city” in 21:10, with more recent English translations [e.g., NASB, NIV] not including these words.
One thing though bears repeating — something that must be kept in mind — about the destruction of “that great city” seen in Revelation chapters seventeen and eighteen. Though there will be a destruction of the literal city of Jerusalem in the middle of the Tribulation, the destruction of Jerusalem seen in these two chapters of the book is not that destruction. Rather, the destruction seen in these two chapters is the destruction of the harlot, though not the destruction of the Jewish people per se [an impossibility (cf. Jeremiah 31:35-37)]. This is a destruction revealing the end of Israel’s harlotry — the destruction of “the great whore” [i.e., Israel, following the destruction of the harlot, will exist as a nation apart from any association with harlotry].
[The “harlot” is burned with fire (17:16; 18:8, 9, 18, 21), and the smoke of her burning rises up “forever and ever” (19:3). This is simply the way Scripture describes Israel’s harlotry brought to an end, with the results lasting throughout the ensuing endless ages].
Failing to see and understand the way in which the name “Jerusalem” is used in Scripture is where people have gone wrong over the years. They have sought to see a literal city destroyed in these two chapters, failing to not only recognize that Jerusalem is being referenced but also failing to recognize that the Jewish people rather than the literal city are in view. And, again, the fact that these two chapters deal with the Jewish people in this respect is plainly stated in 17:18 — “And the woman [the harlot, residing among the nations (vv. 1, 15)] whom you saw is that great city…”
The matter couldn’t be stated any plainer than seen in this closing verse of the seventeenth chapter. Beginning with the introductory verse to “the great city” in Revelation 11:8, Revelation 17:18 forms a concluding verse for this complete section. And, relative to identification, this concluding verse spells matters out in no uncertain terms.
Then, as previously shown, this woman is also revealed to be “which reigns over the kings of the earth” [v. 18b], identifying the woman a second time through another means in this concluding verse [cf. Exodus 4:22, 23]. And, relative to identification, this again spells matters out in no uncertain terms.
Then, as also previously shown, this woman is guilty of shedding “the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth” [18:24] — a statement that can pertain to Israel alone [cf. Matthew 23:34-37; Luke 13:33, 34], identifying the woman yet again at the end of the succeeding chapter. And, relative to identification, this again spells matters out in no uncertain terms.)
With respect to Revelation chapters seventeen and eighteen as a whole, “the time of Jacob’s trouble” is seen drawing to a close in the book of Revelation in the only natural way that could be expected — with the destruction of the harlot, with an end wrought to Israel’s harlotry in order that God’s purpose for calling the nation into existence might be realized.
There could really be no other way for one to expect chapters six through the first part of nineteen to end. Again, these chapters cover “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” and the end seen in these chapters is the end toward which all previous revelation surrounding Israel’s disobedience and resulting dispersion among the nations moves; and, as previously noted, it moves in this direction and ends at this revealed goal immediately prior to Christ’s return, the destruction of Gentile world power, and the Messianic Era being ushered in (chapters 19b, 20a).
(Revelation chapter eighteen, concluding matters, dwells somewhat at length on an interchange of worldly wealth between Israel and the Gentile nations [apparently having occurred over centuries of time], resulting from Israel’s harlotry, as the Jewish people found themselves dwelling among and forming forbidden alliances with the nations [vv. 3, 9-16]. The Jewish people, through this means, became rich in worldly goods at the expense of the Gentiles; and the Gentiles in turn, through this same means, became rich in worldly goods at the expense of the Jews. And, to the detriment of both Israel and the nations, great spiritual blessings which were to flow through Israel out to the Gentile nations were withheld.
But all of this interchange of worldly wealth will end with the destruction of the harlot, which will be followed by the destruction of Gentile world power [18:17-21; 19:2, 3, 11-21]. Then, not only will the wealth of the Gentiles belong to Israel [Isaiah 60:5, 11 (translate “forces,” KJV, as wealth); cf. Genesis 30:25-27, 43; 31:1-3], but true wealth — the blessings that God has reserved for Israel and the nations — will subsequently flow out through Israel to the nations after Israel has been cleansed of her harlotry and occupies her rightful, God-ordained place at the head of the nations.
Refer to Appendix 1 in this book for additional information pertaining to merchandising by Israel and the Gentile nations during the Tribulation. See particularly “The Visions of Zechariah,” pp. 43ff, and “Trade, Commerce,” pp 54ff.
Also, for additional information on the contents of this chapter as a whole, refer to Chapters 27-29 in the author’s book, The Time of the End.)