The book of Revelation uses pictures to show us how God sees our world. The great enemy of all that is good is called the Devil, or Satan, and he's pictured as an evil dragon (Revelation 12.9), and he has three evil assistants. The first two are pictured as beasts (Rev 13), which are pictures of oppressive government and false religion. But we meet the devil's third sidekick in Revelation chapter 17, and she is deeply seductive.
1. Her dress
We're told she 'was dressed in purple and scarlet and was glittering with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand' (v4). She oozes wealth and success and power. She's a picture of any society where people care more for getting rich than for God and people. Money and comfort are the most important things in her life.
2. Her desirability
'This title was written on her forehead…Babylon the Great, The Mother of Prostitutes,' (v5). In other words, tattooed on her forehead is 'Biggest slut in the world'. According to verse 2, the rulers of the world have all slept with her, and 'the inhabitants of the world were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.' The Devil uses vicious persecution from the beasts to terrify people away from following Jesus in countries like North Korea or Iraq, but he's been even more successful in using wealth and pleasure to seduce people from Jesus in countries like the UK.
3. Her drink
When I worked behind a bar for a few months I realised that the fastest way for a woman to make herself really ugly is to get drunk. This woman 'was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus' (v6). She's disgusting – she's drunk and what's dribbling down her chin is the blood of people who love Jesus. Despite her glamorous appearance, she rips to pieces anyone who dares to say that there's more to life than being comfortable, and getting a bigger TV, a nicer car, and a better house.
4. Her destruction
In Chapter 18, we jump forward in time and see worldwide mourning over how suddenly Babylon has been destroyed. 'In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin.' (Rev 18.17). God will one day destroy the Dragon and his sidekicks (Rev 20.10), and everything they stand for, in less time than it would take for a house to burn down. The whole message of Revelation is that 'Jesus wins in the end.'
But there is another female character in Revelation, and she really is beautiful. She's the bride of Jesus (a picture of God's people, made beautiful by Jesus), loved and precious to her husband (Rev 21.2). We can choose between being seduced by a woman who is literally 'as ugly as sin', or being protected by the greatest Man in the universe.