The prostitute/harlot represents evil and the manipulations of forcing and tricking people to compromise—forsaking faith to embrace the devil. Such groups in the early church and throughout history sought to hide God and prevent people from knowing about true salvation. It is paganism, godlessness, false religions, and manipulating religion for personal gain and false teachings which are all extreme corruption and hiding of the real God in the shadow of man’s pride and corruption. Governments will seek this harlot so they can manipulate and dominate their people, such as totalitarian regimes and corruption. Corruption destroys everything as it prevents goodness, cooperation, and growth. It tears down rather than build up. People try to use it as an easy way to their goals, but it never works; rather, it causes breakdowns of self and society whereas Christ cleanses us with His blood and equips us with His Word to help build up the world. Thus, “building” is a primary theme of Christianity that creates community and cooperation with the goal of faith and the building of the Church. The devil destroys and tricks people to think that self destruction, the poverty of personal faith, and the breakdown of societal development are good things!
This passage is also referring to how the Emperor-worship cults were strangling the Church, tricking Christians away from Christ to its evils, saying it was OK and compatible with compromise, and not taking real, effectual faith seriously (1 Cor. 6:12-20; 1 Pet. 2:12; 4:3-4).