From chapter 17:1 through 19:10, the topic is the judgment and destruction of Rome. The descriptions of the woman and the beast leave no doubt. The taking of Jerusalem had been concluded in chapter 11.
Descriptions of the woman: “The great harlot,” also a symbol of idolatry, is the usual case in prophetic scripture. “With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication…” etc. This statement and those following would eliminate Jerusalem as the identity of the harlot, as do the descriptions of the merchants and commerce in the next chapter. The woman is sitting upon a scarlet beast. So, we can say the woman is obviously very “close” to the beast; and unfortunately for end-time theorists, Jerusalem was never close to Rome (not at all – never), as three major revolts in 66–70, 115–117, and 132–135, excluding the assault on the Masada fortress in 73 AD. The identity of the beast mentioned seems to be the same as the beast from the sea introduced in chapter 17: 7 – 10. This sign is another good reason to conclude that both beasts refer to Rome and to the Empire. It was all about making the leaders of Rome rich and powerful, as most of the religious and political pitches since then and down to our own day are so designed: to maintain power, to make the brokers of the house rich and to secure unquestioned loyalty from the humbled and duped populace. Clothed in purple and scarlet (etc.) indicates royalty. Then comes this clue: “The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits.” We have already covered this one. It is unreasonable to suppose any city other than Rome is in view. But, for the sake of making a straw man and setting him afire, let us consider Rome, Jerusalem, or Antioch of Pisidia, as all were ancient cities “founded” or set upon seven hills (mountains or mounts – all come from the same Greek word). Antioch would be the first to be dismissed as it does not fit at all within the text. Antioch was not a center of persecution, nor had it ever ruled over any kings of the earth in any sense or at any time. So long Antioch. Jerusalem gets the same treatment as it never ruled over anyone except Israel. It fits into some of the symbols as easily as Rome – but certainly not at all in the remainder. Then to prefer Jerusalem over Rome is unreasonable. So, let me put it in print: To pick any other city is absolutely and completely pointless. Rome fits the context – hand in glove. Case closed.
For those who hang on Jerusalem, we should note that Jerusalem never had anything but a tenuous relationship with Rome from the earliest days of the empire. We have mentioned (to the point of repetition) that there were three major revolts which resulted in invasions by Rome within 70 years, not to mention the initial conquest of Judaea and Samaria in the half century prior to the birth of Christ. The advent and millennial theorists have impossible and insurmountable problems here and with the other descriptions of Jerusalem in chapter 18:12-17 and verse 15, 18, & 19. Some of the early portions of the book without any doubt dealt with the pending destruction of Jerusalem. But, the roughly parallel events now being considered deal exclusively with the projected fall of Rome and its Empire. The woman’s figurative name is “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the abominations of the earth.” This city is called Babylon and is said to have given birth to idolatries. It is clearly the apostatized, falling and failed city of Jerusalem.