23. Babylon as Seen in Scripture: An Introduction to Rev 17-18
Revelation 17 and 18 are two of the most intriguing chapters of the Bible, yet two of the most difficult and disputed. Both of these chapters deal with the subject of Babylon and form a unit of prophetic doctrine, namely, the destruction of Babylon. However, these are two of the most difficult chapters of Revelation to interpret and expositors vary widely in their understanding of this section of the book. Walvoord writes:
Any interpretation of Revelation 17 and 18 is difficult because expositors have not agreed as to the detail of their interpretations. In general, however, it is helpful to consider chapter 17 as dealing with Babylon as an ecclesiastical or spiritual entity and chapter 18 as dealing with Babylon as a political entity.199
While reasons will be given later to support this, two different aspects of Babylon are contemplated in these chapters, two separate aspects of Babylon and her fall (perhaps suggested by the repetition of the phrase “is fallen” in 18:2 and 14:8). Chapter 17 describes Babylon in its mystery form, as a religious system or spirit of false worship; chapter 18 describes Babylon as a political and commercial system embodied in a city, the city of Babylon of the future. So we have two Babylons: religious Babylon and political Babylon. As mentioned at the conclusion of chapter 16, these two chapters do not continue the chronological sequence of events (they do not follow the seven bowls). In fact, nothing does except the return of the Lord Jesus Christ and the judgments associated with His return.
Instead, chapters 17 and 18 are an amplification of one of the main features of the Tribulation, the place, function, and final judgment of Babylon. Chapter 17, which deals with the destruction of religious Babylon, would have to occur somewhere around the middle of the Tribulation when the beast is finished using her as a means to his rise to power. Chapter 18 describes the destruction of political (economic or commercial) Babylon as it is embodied in the city of Babylon, the headquarters of the beast. The destruction undoubtedly occurs at the seventh bowl when the great city of 16:19, along with other cities, fall in the great earthquake.
Seeing and understanding this concept of the two Babylon— the religious and politico-economic—is the key to understanding chapters 17 and 18.
Some believe there are two prominent cities representing two prominent systems and both are called Babylon. The first is Rome, the head of the religious system in the first half, which is also entrenched in the political realm as she has always been ( 17:18). The other city is the capitol of the great political and commercial system of the last half of the Tribulation after the woman is destroyed (the religious system), and when the beast assumes his great power. This will be his primary headquarters, though a secondary headquarters will be Jerusalem, when he carries out the abomination of desolation. However, since the religious aspect, even as seen in Rome today, had its beginnings in ancient Babylon or Babylonianism, the great city mentioned in 17:18 most likely refers to the rebuilt city of Babylon because this city and this name personifies the whole system religiously, politically, and commercially.
Chapter 17 is in part an amplification of chapter 13 in that it shows us one of the ways the beast and his political system rise to power. He uses the religious influence and power of the woman, the religious system of mystery Babylon. This system will have its tentacles in every part of the world where there is any kind of religion at all, apostate Christendom (the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, Protestant unbelieving churches), the Jewish religion, and the cults. These will all come together in one great ecumenical movement, a super world religion, and the beast will use this to extend his authority and power throughout Europe, parts of Africa and perhaps the Americas. Chapter 18 is an amplification of the last bowl described in 16:17-21.
Babylon is mentioned 260 times in Scripture, and is second in importance only to Jerusalem. Biblically it is viewed as the Devil’s city while Jerusalem is viewed as God’s city. They are always seen in opposition to each other. Babylon is the result of apostasy against God’s plan of salvation, the first international, political and religious ecumenical movement in the history of man, and one which has never ceased to exist in one form or another. Jerusalem is the result of God’s call of a man and a nation to perpetuate His plan of salvation and nationalism for the world.
As mentioned, there seems to be two aspects or faces of Babylon, one is religious and is in existence today, and one is political and commercial. Babylon embodies one great Satanic system. Certain questions naturally arise. Will this last day Babylon encompass different geographical locations or cities like Rome as well as a rebuilt Babylon on the Euphrates? In other words, will there be two literal cities? Or will it be the same city viewed in different ways under different circumstances?
The Origin and
Explanation of Mystery Babylon
As you undoubtedly know, the city of ancient Babylon is in Iraq, about 50 miles south of Baghdad on the Euphrates river. What you may not know is that prior to Desert Storm and the conflict in Iraq, Saddam Hussein had for several years been working to uncover the ancient ruins of Babylon with a view to rebuilding the city and establishing himself as practically the incarnation of Nebuchadnezzar, the great Babylonian king who took Judah captive from 606 to 586 B.C. This captivity by Nebuchadnezzar began the times of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24), the period of gentile domination over Jerusalem and Israel which has and will continue to keep all descendants of David from sitting on the throne of Israel until the return of the Lord Himself.
Babylon’s Biblical Beginnings
Babylon comes from the Hebrew Bab-el which some say is a Hebrew form of the Assyrian Bab-ili, which meant “Gate of God,” and is used of the ancient city on the banks of the Euphrates River. However, in Hebrew Bab-el means “confusion.”
Babylon is first found in Genesis 10 in the table of nations. Here Moses traces the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. We have here the Japhethites, those least connected with Israel, then he traces the Hammites, those responsible for a great deal of sin and trouble in the world, and then the line of Shem, those who became Israelites.
But when Moses traces the descendants of Ham, those responsible for a great deal of trouble for Israel throughout her history, Moses wrote the following:
Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord” And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar (Gen. 10:8-10).
Babel is the first reference to Babylon and its beginnings. Nimrod is recorded as the founder of Babel, later called Babylon (Gen. 10:10; 11:2-3, 5, 9). Nimrod’s nature and character are seen in both his name and in his actions as described in Genesis 10:8-10 and in his origin in Babylon.
His name means “Let us revolt or rebel.” It didn’t have this meaning to the Babylonians, but this is the biblical meaning by context and by the form of the word. In Genesis 10:8 he is called “a mighty one,” and in 10:9 “a mighty hunter before (against) Yahweh.” Genesis 10:10 gives us the result. A kingdom is formed as a result of his tyranny or the exercise of absolute force (10:9-10). God’s ideal of a king is a shepherd who leads his people under God and in God’s plan. Nimrod was against God and His plan and formed his own kingdom by force. This kingdom originally consisted of Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh in the land of Shinar, southern Babylon above the Persian Gulf and along the Euphrates River.
He was the son of Cush, the son of Ham (Gen. 10:6, 8). He was a Hamite upon which no blessing was pronounced in contrast to Shem and Japheth, the other two sons of Noah. This shows us that God recognized in the Hamites a greater proneness toward godlessness and rebellion. Note, however, Canaan was the descendant who was cursed because of even more vile tendencies (Gen. 9:25-27).
Nimrod was a rebel from beginning to end. As the first king of Babylon, he had within him the nature and character that would exist in the Gentile nations throughout history and especially in the final form in the Tribulation—tyranny and apostasy.
Genesis 11:3-4 records the out-and-out rebellion of the people of Shinar against the plan of God, undoubtedly under the leadership of Nimrod (cf. 10:10). Their rebellion is seen in their attempt at building a city and tower that would reach to heaven, i.e., high in the sky. The purpose of this was to make a name in defiance against God’s plan of nationalism (11:4f). Under God’s direct orders, man was to scatter and replenish which meant the establishment of nations divided by geographical boundaries and family ties or races (9:1). Concerning the table of nations described in Genesis 10, Ross writes:
It all appears to be a witness to the fulfillment of the divine commission to fill the earth (9:1); but the present to?l?t section includes also the account of the dispersion at Babel. When we also consider that account, we learn the reason that the nations spread out and filled the earth, separating into different areas with different languages—it was divine judgment on a rebellious people.200
Ancient history reveals that it was common practice to build huge mounds or towers called ziggurats made of sun dried brick. One such ziggurat was discovered at Erech, a place in Nimrod’s kingdom going back to about 3,000 B.C. These were sacred temple towers dedicated to heathen deities often in connection with astrology, the zodiac, and the mother-child cult. “Ziggurat” means “pinnacle, mountain top.”
It seems quite clear then, that this tower stood for rebellion against God, rejection of Him, His plan of salvation in the coming Redeemer (Gen. 3:15), and a rebellion against nationalism. It was the first attempt at world unity apart from dependence upon God. Here was an attempt at a man-made world unity by means of force. As Stigers says, “it is the will of God, so long as sin is present in the world, to employ nationalism in the reduction of sin (Commentary on Genesis, p. 129).”201
God judged this act with the confusion of tongues which automatically created nationalism by the linguistic differences. So where nationalism was to be perpetuated by obedience to God’s command (Gen. 9:1), by geography through scattering, and by differences in races or families, now linguistic differences were added to force nationalism on the heathen world to enforce God’s original plan (Gen. 11:8).
Because of God’s judgment, the descendants of Noah stopped building the city (11:8) and its name was called Babel, a short form for Balbel from Balal “to confuse.” Babel really means confusion and again, let me stress, it expresses God’s judgment on internationalism. The Assyrian counterpart Bab-eli meant “Gate of God” but as given by God in the Hebrew Scriptures it meant “confusion.”
This became the central city of Babylonia even beyond the time of Alexander the Great. The Apostle Peter may have written from here (1 Pet. 5:13). However, its greatest glory was during the time of Nebuchadnezzar 600 years before Christ. Cyrus the Mede captured the city from the Chaldeans, Alexander the Great in turn captured it from Medo-Persia, and both made it their capitol. From this you can see its importance to the Gentile world powers and how it stands in opposition to Jerusalem and the purposes of God. Important to the study of Babylon and its origin is the origin of its religion and idolatry which spread from Babylon to surrounding nations and beyond. This will be discussed below.
After we are introduced to Babylon in Genesis 10 and 11, Babylon disappears briefly from Scripture, but appears again in Genesis 14. Here is one of those accounts we have generally missed, but it is a very important account in the overall teaching of the Bible about Babylon and it becomes the beginning of what can be considered as “The Tale of Two Cities.”
Sodom and Gomorra were attacked and defeated by a confederation of kings and taken captive. This included Lot, the nephew of Abraham. Two things are particularly significant here:
First, Sodom and Gomorra were located in the land of Canaan or Palestine probably at a spot that is now under the southern end of the Dead Sea. But where is this? It is a part of the land God had promised to Abraham in the Abrahamic covenant which had its beginnings in Genesis 12:1, recorded for us, significantly so, right after the account of the tower of Babel.
Second, in the beginning of the chapter the kings are described for us. Dr. Charles Dyer points out that historically, the leader of these kings that came in against the land, a land that God had promised to Abraham, was a man by the name of Chedorlaomer, king of Elam. But note who Moses lists first. Amraphel king of Shinar which is the land Babylon.202 The NIV has a notation in the margin regarding the name “Shinar,” “that is Babylonia.”
It seems that by mentioning this king first, we see who Moses viewed as the real leader of this confederacy. Here is God’s perspective on this invasion.
What’s interesting after Abram defeats these kings is what happened when coming back into the land. He stopped at a place called Salem which later came to be known as Jerusalem. There Abram received a blessing from Melchizedek, King of Salem. Melchizedek means “king of righteousness” and in the Bible, he is a type of Christ (Heb. 7:1f). So, beginning in Genesis 14, we see in seed form what Dr. Charles Dyer called, “The Tale of Two Cities.”203
Historically, we can summarize Babylon’s early history in Genesis with the following:
First, we have the rise of the city of the ungodly, Shinar or Babylon which had its beginnings not only in rebellion against God, but in an attempt to be like God.
Second, we see this city intruding on the land which God had promised to Abraham through whom the Messiah would come.
And third, suddenly brought into this narrative is the city of Salem, later to become Jerusalem, with a king who is a type of Christ, whose name means king of righteousness, and who meets Abraham and gives him a blessing.
Fourth, right after this, we have God Himself appearing to Abraham to reinforce His covenant with Abraham with specific boundaries given in connection with the land of promise and victory over the inhabitants of the land (cf. 15:1, 18-21).
Babylon then disappears from the book of Genesis and the next place we find her mentioned in an historic way is in Isaiah 36-37. Here Hezekiah King of Judah is faced with invasion and is threatened by Sennacherib King of Assyria. In this passage we find Hezekiah reading the terms of surrender from Sennacherib, but Hezekiah turned the matter over to the Lord and was delivered.
However, in chapters 38-39 we have a lapse of faith by Hezekiah. Because of this, Isaiah the prophet predicted that all he had stored would be taken to Babylon where some of the King’s sons would become officials of the palace of the King of Babylon. This was a prophecy of the Babylonian captivity which took place about 100 years later.
Hezekiah’s descendants represented the Davidic kingdom and the line of Messiah. Their city, Jerusalem, was the place of the temple with the Shekinah glory. This represented the presence of God and was the place of God’s worship. All of this represented God’s reign and kingdom on earth. What does this mean?
(1) Through the Babylonian captivity, Nebuchadnezzar invaded the land, destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the temple, and deported Judah’s king.
(2) This was a product of God’s judgment against Israel for her continued disobedience as He had predicted through the prophets, but nevertheless, the first kingdom that man had started, Babylon, literally attacked and destroyed the kingdom of God on earth. From this point in history, there has not been a king from the line of David sitting on the throne of David in Jerusalem.
In a sense, though temporary, this is the triumph of mankind over God’s kingdom. The book of Daniel pictures this in the statue with King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon as the head of gold. This statue as described for us in Daniel 2 represents what our Lord referred to as “the times of the Gentiles” spoken of earlier.
So historically we see three things about Babylon:
(1) It begins as the place of man’s rebellion through tyranny and a united world effort which God judged by the confusion of languages.
(2) It’s also the instrument that seeks to take away the land promised by God to His people, the Israelites,
(3) and it is the kingdom that destroys or at least disrupts God’s kingdom here on earth and starts the times of the Gentiles, the time of Gentile domination.
The Origin of Babylon’s Religion
Ancient records indicate that Nimrod had a wife named Semiramis who was the founder and first high priestess of the Babylonian mystery religion. She gave birth to a son named Tammuz, whom she claimed was conceived miraculously. This son was considered savior of his people and in effect was the first false Messiah—a counterfeit of Genesis 3:15 and God’s promise of a Savior. The son was to have been killed by a wild beast, but brought back to life.
The religious system of Semiramis had many secret rites in the worship of its idols. These were called mysteries (secrets) into which new members had to be initiated. When the initiates were initiated they were given a cup containing a mysterious drink made of wine, honey, water and flour. This represented the doctrines of the cult, but these also made the participant intoxicated and prepared for what the participant was about to see, hear and do. These rites involved consecrated male and female prostitution and the most sordid sexual immorality carried out in connection with its idolatrous worship. The fornication is both physical and spiritual (Rev. 17:2-5).
The rites incorporated the worship of the mother (who was called “the queen of heaven”) and the child. While the rites varied, and the idol images often varied from country to country as the cult spread from one location to another, they all contained one central feature, the worship of the goddess mother and her child. Often the names changed, but no matter where you went, pictures and images of a mother with a child in her arms were found. (See the study on Rev. 14.)
The religious system which began in Babel (or Babylon), became the mother, the source of all pagan religions of the world. This is the reason she is called “Mother of Harlots” (Rev. 17:5). This system spread to Greece, Egypt, Italy, Phoenicia, Israel, India, Asia Minor and Europe. Canaan was full of this iniquity and is one of the reasons God commanded Israel to destroy its inhabitants. Their failure to do so led to Israel’s own downfall and involvement with the Babylonian system.
But what about the present? Now we come to information which will link the past with the present and help us to identify Babylonianism today. This will also help us to identify the religious city of 17:18 which, because of its Babylonianism, is symbolically called Babylon.
Linked with the central mystery of Babylon—the worship of the mother and child—were many other lesser mysteries which will have many familiar sounds. These include:
The Doctrine of Purgatory
The doctrine of purgatorial purification after death was seen first in pagan Babylonianism. It involved the same extortion and theft of the poor to get the dead cleansed and into a higher state. Prayers and supplications were offered by the priest but only after great fees were collected.204
The Doctrine of Extreme Unction
In the pagan Babylonian system the dying were anointed for their last journey. This was done in the name of Bee?l-samen, “lord of heaven” and “lord of oil,” the anointed one.205 In James 5 anointing, by contrast, is to be done medicinally, with a view to health, not death.
The Doctrine of Festivals of Ancient Babylonianism
Yule means “infant,” thus, the day of birth. In Egypt the son of Isis, the Egyptian title for the queen of heaven, was to have been born at the end of December. Long before they were introduced to Christianity, Anglo Saxons celebrated a “Yule Day” and this was preceded by “A Mother’s Night.” The Sabaeans of Arabia likewise celebrated a birth festival on the 24th of December. This was the birth of their moon god, “Lord Moon” which in the East was called “Meni” (Isa. 65:11). A special tree and a yule log were both involved with this festival. The yule log represented Nimrod, the dead stock of Nimrod, cut down by his enemies, and the tree represented Nimrod come to life.
Long before the birth of Christ pagan Rome honored Cybele, the mother of the Babylonian Messiah, with a special day, March 25th, nine months before December 25th. Today in Rome this is called “the Annunciation of Mary.”
Easter was another name for Astarte or Istar, which were other names for the queen of heaven. This festival in ancient Babylonianism was a 40-day weeping period for Tammuz just prior to the festival of Astarte (or Istar or Easter), who was said to have received her son back from the dead; for it was taught that he was slain by a wild beast (boar). To him the egg was sacred, depicting the mystery of resurrection.
Fifteen hundred years before Christ the hot cross buns of Good Friday were used in the worship of the queen of heaven, the goddess of Easter. They were even called “the boun,” i.e., “bun” (Jer. 7:18). They were first offered, then later eaten.
The egg can be traced back to the fable of the mystic egg of the Babylonians. “An egg of wondrous size” is said to have fallen from heaven into the River Euphrates. The fishes rolled it to the bank where the doves having settled upon it, hatched it. Out came Venus who afterwards was called the Assyrian goddess or Astarte, the queen of heaven. So the egg first was a symbol of Astarte or Easter, the queen of heaven.
Thus you can see the background for lent, the 40-day period prior to Easter, and the Easter festival. Some simply adopted the egg and applied it to the resurrection of Christ. In the very early church there was the celebration of the Passover on Friday before the resurrection, but it was not called Easter.
The Nativity of John the Baptist
One of the grand and original festivals of Tammuz, the child of Semiramis, was observed in June. In fact, June was called by his name in some places. Other periods had been devoted to the commemoration of the death and reviving of the Babylonian god for various reasons in different countries, but the month of Tammuz appears to have been the primitive date of this festival. As a result, this date and festival still had a firm hold on the people in various parts of the Roman world, so the papacy came up with a solution. John the Baptist was born six months before Christ, which according to their festival for Christ’s birth was December 25, so June would be John’s birth month. One of their many sacred names for Tammuz was Oannes. This was just perfect because in Latin, the sacred language of the church, John was Joannes. Thus, this festival was continued and suited both Christians and pagans alike.
The Feast of Assumption
This is the teaching that Mary saw no corruption, but was in body and soul carried up to heaven and is now invested with all power of heaven and earth. This too, goes back to Babylonian mystery.
The Doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration
This doctrine of Rome did not come out of mistaken use of Scriptures such as Acts 2:38, but from Babylon itself. The baptism was by immersion and was a part of the initiation rites of Babylonianism. It was a rather rough process along with the other parts of the initiation and if one survived, then he was admitted to the knowledge of the mysteries. It took real courage to submit to these rites. The motivation, please note, was regeneration and pardon of all sins! Babylonianism spread all over the world and it touched all nations. Thus, as you would expect, baptismal regeneration was even found in Mexico before Roman Catholic missionaries ever arrived, as well as in India and among our Anglo ancestors.
The Sign of the Cross
The sign of the cross as used in Rome, did not originate with Christianity as many assume, but came right out of mystery Babylon. It represented the mystic Tau, the letter “T” and the initial for the name Tammuz. It was seen as follows:
These symbols were used on the official garments of the priests of Babylonia and worn around their necks on chains, just as in Rome today.
Bacchus, another name for Tammuz, was represented with a headband covered with crosses.
This is not all. Much of what one finds in Rome can be traced back to the Babylonian mysteries; the holy water, the keys of the Pope, the fables of Mary, the clothing and images, the statues which shed tears or winked, the rosary, the sacred heart, the lamps and candles, the wafer changed into God, the priests and nuns, and the Pontifex-Maximus.
Charles Chiniquy, a man who was 50 years in the Roman Church and 25 years a Roman priest said: “It was certainly our desire, as well as our interest, to believe them (the dogmas, precepts and practices of Rome). But how our faith was shaken, and how we felt troubled when Livy, Tacitus, Cicero, Virgil, Homer, etc., gave us evidence that the greater part of these things had their root and origin in paganism.” Of course he meant by this, mystery Babylon.
He then went on to give an illustration and told how they had been told to trust in the scapulars (the sleeveless outer garment of a priest or monk), medals, holy water, etc., because they would keep them safe and aid in battling the temptations of life. But, how again their faith was shaken when in reading the Greek and Latin historians, they found the same things involved with the worship of Jupiter, Minerva, Diana and Venus (the mother-child cult). He said they asked each other (fellow students) the question, “what is the difference between the religion of heathen Rome and that of Rome today?” More than one student would answer, “the only difference is in the name.” The idolatrous temples are the same, the idols have not left their places, the incense still burns in their honor. Instead of calling this statue Jupiter, we call it Peter, and instead of calling another Minerva or Venus, we call it St. Mary. It is the old idolatry coming to us under Christian names.
What brought about the transference of mystery Babylon over into Christianity and the rise of what we know as Romanism or Roman Catholicism? Remember, we are identifying present day religious Babylonianism. We have already seen the similarities and origin, but what made the transfers.
In A.D. 312, Constantine, Emperor of Rome was marching against Maxentius from France into Italy. The story goes that he had a vision in which he saw a cross, or perhaps the letter, “X” the initial of Christ. With this was the inscription “conquer by this.” He determined that if he was victorious he would make Christianity the legal and official religion of the Roman world. So, taking this as the sign of God, he did as he was told. On his banner and on the soldiers’ shields he put the letters “X” and “R” for the initials of Christ. He was victorious and he issued the Edict of Milam which made Christianity the official religion. All persecution of Christians stopped and being a Christian became the vogue of the day.
What actually happened was the name “Christianity” was given to the pagan Babylonian mystery religion with but a few necessary changes. The temples became the churches, the priests and nuns became the leaders of Christianity. The statues and festivals were given new names, but it was the same system with a new name. Only the names were changed to deceive the innocent. Astarte or Cybele became Mary, and Tammuz, Baal or Bacchus became Jesus, etc.
In the days of Julius Caesar the emperor became the high priest of the Babylonian cult and wore on his crown the name “Pontifex Maximus.” “Pontifex” means “the bridge maker,” i.e., between God and man. “Maximus” means the “greatest.” So this became the title of the high priest of mystery Babylon. Today the Pope wears the same title and calls himself the sovereign pontiff of the College of Pontiffs and the successor of Peter. However, the truth is he is the successor of Babylonian high priests. He is not the successor of the Apostle Peter, but the direct successor of the high priests of the Babylonian mystery cult, the servant of the fish god, Dagon, whose ring (the fish ring) he wears just as did his successors. Even the keys he wears which he claims came from Peter, came instead from the heathen Babylonian gods of Janus and Cybele who bore keys in ancient Babylonianism. Not until 431 A.D. did Roman Catholicism publicly lay claim to the possession of Peter’s keys (Matt. 16:19).
Ancient religious Babylonianism (the mother of harlots) which began in Babel (Babylon), today resides in Romanism which is headquartered in the ancient city of Rome and is spread practically all over the world. This is undoubtedly the religious Babylon of Revelation 17:18.
The Destruction of Religious Babylon
As we study about Babylon, it is important to remember that Babylon refers to more than a city in Revelation 17 and 18. It stands for a system of evil, religiously and politically. Americans speak of “Wall Street” and “Madison Avenue.” These are actually streets, but they also stand for the center of the financial and advertising enterprises of this country.
Revelation 17 describes the apostate religious system as it will come to its zenith in the first half of the Tribulation, but it will be destroyed by the Ten Nation Confederation in the middle of the Tribulation. The true church will have been raptured, but the apostate and false religious systems continue on and become united under the one world system of Babylon, which will may well be headed up by Rome.
As some of the parables of Matthew 13 suggest, and Paul and Peter explicitly warn us, the church age will be characterized by growing apostasy (see 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:13; 2 Pet. 2:1-3:4). This apostasy will take the form of ecumenicity—the movement of uniting all religions together into a one-world church governed and controlled by Rome. To accomplish its goals, this apostate ecumenical system will of necessity employ a number of practices to bring off its goals of a world-wide, universal church.
(1) Eclecticism: This is that philosophy of religion which refuses to accept any one system of doctrine, but seeks to take the so-called best from all systems of belief. Eclectics, at least outwardly, seek to be fair to all and therefore yield to all.
(2) Latitudinarianism: This is that system of religion which cares little about creeds or doctrine. In this system sincerity is more important than what is believed. But as above, it opens the door for anything.
(3) Syncretism: This system seeks to unite all opposing theological and philosophical positions by arriving at a common denominator or by coming to a new synthesis.
In all of these there will be persecution and rejection of the truth on behalf of establishing a world church. True Christianity is exclusive. It sees that there may be some truth in other religions but only Christianity has The Truth in the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Scripture (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). The world hates this commitment to absolute truth, especially as it is promoted in Scripture (the Written Word) and in the person and work of Jesus Christ (the Living Word). After all, the world is the child of the Antichrist, and as mentioned in previous lessons, while claiming to be eclectic, latitudinarian, and syncretistic, the one-world system of the last days will have no tolerance for true Bible-based Christianity and will seek to persecute and annihilate believers in Christ unmercifully.
Political Babylon to be Rebuilt
on the Euphrates in the Tribulation
The announcement of the fall of Babylon in chapter 18 which comes immediately after the destruction of the harlot in chapter 17, causes many to think that these are one and the same event. However, there are several things which show they are two different events, though described in similar terms. We have here the fall of religious Babylon followed later by the fall of political and commercial Babylon.
(1) The woman of chapter 17 is made desolate, naked, and burned with fire by the beast with the ten horns, whereas the fall of chapter 18 is accomplished directly by God at the end of the Tribulation (cf. 16:19-21). The fall of religious Babylon (chapter 17) occurs when the beast assumes his religious role in the middle of the Tribulation and assumes world political power. The world apostate ecumenical system is destroyed in favor of the new world religion which worships the political dictator of chapter 13 whose capitol city will be in rebuilt Babylon.
The destruction of Babylon in chapter 18 should be compared with the preceding announcement in 16:19 where the great city is divided and the cities of the Gentiles fall. This event comes late in the great Tribulation, just prior to the second coming of Christ, in contrast to the destruction of the harlot of chapter 17 which seems to precede the great Tribulation and paves the way for the worship of the beast (13:8).206
(2) The context of chapter 18 with its many references to the kings and merchants and commerce shows that, in this setting, Babylon is viewed in her political, economic, and commercial character, rather than in her religious role (vss. 11-19).
(3) As Walvoord suggests,
The term “Babylon” in Scripture is more than a reference to the false religious system which stemmed from ancient Babylon. Out of ancient Babylon came the political power represented first in Nimrod and later in Nebuchadnezzar in his great world empire. In some sense this is continued in the commercial system which came from both the religious and political Babylons. It seems that chapter 17 deals with the religious aspect and chapter 18 with the political and economic aspects of Babylon.207
Both aspects have continued down through the centuries. For an Old Testament reference to the commercial aspect, see the vision of the woman with the ephah (a sign of commerce) in Zechariah 5:5-11).
(4) Walvoord points out another significant difference which suggests we have two different aspect of Babylon in chapters 17 and 18.
According to verse 9 the kings of the earth as well as the merchants will all mourn the passing of the Babylon of chapter 18. There is apparently no mourning connected with the destruction of the woman in chapter 17.208
The ten horns and the beast hate the woman (17:16). This would strongly suggest we have two distinct destructions. All of this indicates that the Babylon of chapter 18 is a city that will be rebuilt as the capitol of the world empire in the great Tribulation period and that Babylon in this chapter refers to ancient Babylon which is to be rebuilt rather than to Rome.
Some argue against the rebuilding of Babylon and claim that we must not take the references to Babylon in Revelation too literally. They say this chapter refers to a spiritual Babylon, a city which will become the incarnation of ancient Babylon, but will not be a literal Babylon. They maintain Babylon has already been destroyed and Old Testament prophecy teaches us it will never be rebuilt. But let’s consider some prophetic facts about Babylon.
(1) The Bible predicts the destruction of Babylon will be final and complete (Jer. 50:35, 39-40; Isa. 13:1, 19-22). These verses show that it will no more be inhabited and that its destruction will be as Sodom and Gomorrah with absolutely nothing left (Jer. 51:24-26).
(2) Scripture also predicts that the destruction would be sudden, quick (Jer. 51:8).
(3) The Old Testament predicts this destruction will come in the “Day of the Lord” (Isa. 13:6-11; 13:1; 14:1-3; Jer. 50:1-6).
(4) At the time of her destruction there will be a disturbance in the sun and moon (Isa. 13:10).
(5) Universal peace will result from the overthrow of Babylon (Isa. 14:7-8).
(6) A literal interpretation of Zechariah 5:5-11 demands a restored and rebuilt Babylon. These verses involve the vision of the ephah. A woman called “wickedness” is seen sitting in an ephah measure, covered with a round piece of lead. An ephah to a Jew was a perfect symbol of commerce and was the largest dry measure of the Jews. The ephah is then borne away by two women with wings of a stork “to build for it an house in the land of Shinar” (the land of Babylon). This vision anticipates a final concentration of wickedness and commercialism in a great center in the land of Shinar (Babylon) which would reach out over the whole earth. This is the exact portrayal of Babylon as seen in Revelation 18.
(7) The historical situation concerning Babylon shows much of the prophecies mentioned above have not been fulfilled and must await a final and complete fulfillment. The prophecies regarding Babylon are an illustration of dual reference with a partial (near) fulfillment versus a complete (far) fulfillment.
When the Medes and Persians conquered the city they came suddenly and gained immediate control, but they did not destroy the city. Instead Cyrus the Mede beautified the city in 540 B.C. Hundreds of years later many Jews still lived at Babylon and a Jewish Talmud actually originated from there. In the twelfth century A.D. Babylon had grown and several mosques had been erected. Later a city by the name of Hillah was built there and in 1900 it had a population of ten thousand. The land around Babylon is fertile today and dates are grown in abundance (Isa. 13:21f).
Other cities around the area of Babylon were built from the ruins of ancient Babylon; in fact the city of Hillah was built entirely from the ruins of Babylon. Bricks with the word “Babylon” stamped on them have been found as far away as Bagdad.
It is obvious from this historical information that the city was not destroyed suddenly nor completely. Instead, it continued to be inhabited after it was conquered and the land around her did not become desolate, but continued to be populated and fertile. This is a fact of history. Her ruins were used in building other cities and there was no disturbance in the sun or moon, nor did universal peace follow.
The Word of God is true and these prophecies still await a future fulfillment.
The description of Babylon’s destruction in Revelation 18 declares it will be destroyed suddenly (“in one day her plagues will come” [vs. 8]; “for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste” [vs. 17]). The destruction will be complete and final, “it shall be found no more at all” (Jer. 51:63-64); “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer” (Rev. 18:21). Babylon will be destroyed with fire from heaven as God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Rev. 18:18; 16:17-21). Universal peace will follow the destruction.
All of this coincides exactly with the prophecies of the Old Testament and shows that Babylon must be rebuilt in the Tribulation in order to be destroyed as prophesied in “the Day of the Lord.”
Rome may well be the religious Babylon of the world in the first half of the Tribulation, but I am convinced that Babylon on the Euphrates will be rebuilt and will be the political and commercial capitol in the last half of the Tribulation.
199 John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Moody Press, Chicago, 1966, p. 243.
200 Allen P. Ross, Creation and Blessing, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1988, p. 221.
202 Taken from a tape by Dr. Charles Dyer, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.
204 Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, Loizeaux Brothers, Second Edition 1959, p. 167f.
Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come)