In the final vision of the apostate Church in Revelation 17, John was shown not only one harlot church, but an entire family, as is depicted in the phrase "Mother of Harlots'' (v.5). This infers that there would be other churches besides the Catholic Mother which would go astray from God. We find the fulfillment of this prophecy in the general movement among Protestant Churches today to turn back to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
During the 16th century, the Protestants broke away from the Catholic Church over disagreements on specific doctrines. Protestant leaders at that time, such as William Tyndale, John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Knox, and many others, recognized the true identity of the harlot church as revealed in Revelation. They publicly denounced the Papal system which often resulted in the persecution, torture, and even death of these Protestants. Since the Catholic Church was so openly exposed it needed a new interpretation of Revelation which would apply the symbols to someone else, and thereby take the heat off the Papal system.
The first one to come up with the solution was Ribera, a Spanish Jesuit Priest, who published his Apocalyptic Commentary in 1585 AD. Ribera solved the problem by applying the majority of Revelation to a seven year period in the future, just before the second advent of Jesus Christ, during which a "future Antichrist' would rule for 3-1/2 years.1 This interpretation purposely left the Papal Church out of the picture and allowed Protestants to once again look favorably upon the Catholic system.
At first, the Protestants recognized the error of Ribera's interpretation, but gradually through the years this GREAT DELUSION of a "future Antichrist'' begun by Ribera has swept through many Churches. Today we find that Protestants have blindly accepted this "future Antichrist" lie without realizing the background of its origin. They no longer know the true identity of the harlot system, but have drastically changed their beliefs so that they are moving back toward the teachings of the Catholic Church which they originally denounced, and are seeking to become associated again with their Mother. Thus the final state of Christianity before the second coming of Jesus Christ is symbolized as a family of harlots who have gone astray from God and his word.
1. The Divine Programme of the World's History, pp. ii-v. 86, 222-224. Horae Apocalypticae, Vol. IV., pp. 464-468.