Peter told Christian women that they should desire inner beauty. By that, he meant that a good, gentle character is beautiful (1 Peter 3:3-4).
On the other hand, people who care only about this world have a different idea about beauty. Certainly, that includes the woman whom John describes in Revelation chapter 17. She was a prostitute (a woman who sells her body for sex). So, she used her wealth to make herself look beautiful.
In the ancient world, it was difficult to make a purple dye (colour for clothes). So, purple clothes were very expensive. Those were, of course, the clothes that this woman chose. She also wore gold and precious stones, so that people could see her wealth. She did not wear these things merely to satisfy her own desires; as a prostitute, she wanted to tempt men.
This woman did not have a beautiful inner character; she was very wicked. Her gold cup may be a word-picture for her character. A gold cup is beautiful - but inside this cup there are only awful and unclean things. So it will benefit nobody to drink from the cup; it will have a terrible effect on them (14:8). She offers to cup to her lovers as a prostitute offers her body (see Proverbs 7:6-23 and Proverbs 9:13-18).
All of this is really a word-picture, as Revelation 17:18 shows. The woman really means a great city - a capital city that rules over the world. It impresses people with a great display of wealth. It tempts people to trade with it. However, really, this city is very wicked. It causes people to act in an evil manner, and it shows great cruelty towards Godís people (17:5-6). It uses its gold and its wealth to carry on its evil acts. God has already declared his judgement against it (14:8).
Next part: Babylon the great (Revelation 17:5)
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© 2016, Keith Simons.