To prostitute something is to take that which has a proper use and to turn it into an improper use. A prostitute takes sex, which has a proper use, and perverts it with an improper use, turning it into something illicit, causing fornication. In this case, the harlot represents “religion,” which has a proper use (Jas. 1:26-27), but here has been prostituted for improper use. Rather than serving, it rules. The false use of religion causes spiritual fornication. The word fornication is used both of physical unfaithfulness and also of spiritual unfaithfulness, as in Hosea 1-2; Jeremiah 2:20; 3:1-9; Ezekiel 16:15-41; 23:5-44, etc. It is with this woman that the kings of the earth commit fornication (Rev. 17:2+), showing this to be a unity of religion and state.2This aspect of the Harlot is identical with that of the city Babylon: “She has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication” (Rev. 14:8+); Those who fornicated with her were also deceived by her sorcery (Rev. 18:23+). Some believe she differs from Babylon itself, but we believe the Scriptural evidence points in the direction of identity. The woman is “that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 17:18+)—Babylon. See One or Two Babylons?Like Tyre of Isaiah’s day, the Harlot has both commercial and spiritual aspects which are opposed to God: “And it shall be, at the end of seventy years, that the LORD will visit Tyre. She will return to her hire, and commit fornication with all the kingdoms of the world on the face of the earth” (Isa. 23:17).and the inhabitants of the earth
1 Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 693.
2 Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 236-237.