One of the people who helped me better understand the book of Revelation is John Ortberg. He preached a series in which he likened the book of Revelation to Studio Wrestling. That may seem like a strange comparison, but I found it very helpful. Perhaps you will too.
All of us know that Studio Wresting isn’t “real”. We understand from the very start that this is different than, say, Olympic Wrestling, and we interpret what is happening in the ring accordingly.
Much the same can be said about apocalyptic literature, of which the book of Revelation is an example. Everyone in Jesus day would’ve known that Apocalyptic isn’t “real”—that is, it’s not to be interpreted in a strict literal sense, and it is meant to be read differently than, say, historical writings (such as the Gospels).
This means that in Revelation, John uses bold and graphic images to remind us of the essential truths. In today’s reading, for instance, John doesn’t mean for us to read of “the great whore” and think that at the end of time Jesus is going to be judging some massive prostitute.
No, his point is that there are always going to be people and forces that will seek to entice us to compromise our moral standards and from being one hundred percent faithful (is there any other kind of faithfulness, really?) to God. They seek to eradicate our integrity. The result is that we are drawn into secret sins, into creating a secret self, which we hide away not only from the public eye but from those who are closest to us.
We’d do well to remember that on some level at least whores have to be attractive, or they’d go out of business. Evil doesn’t look bad, or most of us wouldn’t do it. It looks good—pretty darn good, in fact! But what a prostitute promises—the pleasure of intimacy—is not what she really offers. Beyond the physical connection, there is no intimacy in what is in essence a business transaction.
In contrast to the whore is the bride who has stayed true to the one she loves and thus is “bright and pure.” Whereas the way of the whore will be exposed for the corruption it is, the way of the faithful bride will bring such great joy that it results in the festal shout, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!"
Fans of Studio Wrestling know that they have to make a choice between the good guy and the bad guy. Wise readers of the book of Revelation know the same thing: we are going to have to choose between God and the great whore, and our eternal destinies depend on that choice.
It’s a choice you’ll have to make today as you will every day. Who will you choose? Who will I?