The Roman hierarchy had been frequently referred to in the preceding visions; but an institution, so interwoven with the history of the nations, required a more full and minute symbolization.
The subject of this vision is announced to the revelator, by one of the angels who had the seven vials; -- very probably, the seventh. The harlot is identified as one "that sitteth upon many waters." Ancient Babylon was thus addressed: "O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness," Jer.51:13. She is also described as "The well-favored harlot, the mistress of witchcrafts, that selleth nations through her whoredoms, and families through her witchcrafts," Nahum 3:4. Therefore the harlot whose judgment is to be more minutely shown, is the city of the previous vision, which received the cup of the wine of God's wrath (16:19), and which probably was shown to John on the waters of the Euphrates, (16:12); for the reference indicates that she had been thus previously exhibited, -- the waters on which she was seated, being the people, nations, &c., which sustained and defended her idolatries, 17:15. In the vision now to be shown John, the Roman hierarchy is symbolized by Babylon; but it is first exhibited as: