And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And upon her forehead [was] a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. (Revelation 17:1,3,5)
And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth. (Revelation 17:7)
Rome: Sitting on Seven hills
I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast…having seven heads (Revelation 17:3 compressed)
The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.’’ (Revelation 17:9)
The Seven Hills of Rome east of the Tiber form the heart of Ancient Rome. The original city was held to have been founded by Romulus on the Palatine Hill, and the other six hills are now called the Aventine, Capitoline, Quirinal, Viminal, Esquiline, and Caelian. The independent settlements on these hills began to unify into what is now known as Rome as the marshes between the hills were drained, and as inter-settlement religious games began to be held.
The Identity of the Woman
And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.’’ (Revelation 17:18)
William Branham stated that
- A woman in the Bible always represents the church. Christ is coming for an espoused virgin. The old prostitute of the Bible was called "the church setting on the seven hills," the Roman church. Oh, church... 
But contrary to what William Branham stated, the Bible does not always represent the woman as the church. The Bible also does not state that "the church setting on the seven hills" is a false church. What it does say is that "the woman which thou sawest is that great city..."
Jerusalem itself had been pictured as a harlot by both Isaiah and Ezekiel. Likewise Nahum describes Ninevah’s barbarities in terms of “the wanton lust of a harlot, alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nations by her prostitution and peoples by her witchcraft”. Similarly Isaiah’s litany over Tyre calls for her to “take up a harp, walk through the city, you forgotten prostitute; play the harp well, sing many a song, so that you will be remembered.” Lamentations, a lament over the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC, portrays the fallen city as a woman “who has become like a widow” (Lam 1:1).The typing of the city of Rome to a woman and particularly a harlot is, therefore, imagery taken from the Old Testament, something that is common throughout the Book of Revelation.
So William Branham was wrong. A woman in the Bible does not always represent a church - it often represents a city. And that is clearly what it does here, it represents the city of Rome.
Guilty of the Blood of the Martyrs
And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration. (Revelation 17:6)
Rome persecuted the Christian church relentlessly once it turned on them. In fact, Nero ordered the death of believers in Rome using them as living torches for his infamous garden parties. The Neronian persecutions were but a small foretaste of the holocaust that would be periodically unleashed against Christians in the succeeding two centuries.
- BUT.IT.WASN'T.SO.FROM.THE.BEGINNING BLOOMINGTON.IL 61-0411
- See how the faithful city has become a prostitute! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her — but now murderers! (The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Is 1:21.
- The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her detestable practices and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says to Jerusalem: Your ancestry and birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. “ ‘Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew and developed and entered puberty. Your breasts had formed and your hair had grown, yet you were stark naked. (The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Eze 16:1–7.)
- Nahum 3:4
- Isaiah 23:15–18
- Gordon D. Fee, Revelation, New Covenant Commentary Series (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011), 242.
- Philip D. Stern, “Ruth, Book Of, Critical Issues,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).
- Gordon D. Fee, Revelation, New Covenant Commentary Series (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011), 98.