Revelation 17:1-6 – “And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS and ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. And I saw the woman drunken w/ the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered and great admiration.”
My first encounter with the book of Revelation was fear mixed with intense curiosity. Who didn’t get a few chills running down their spine about the number 666, the “mark of the beast,” the seven plagues and a dramatic portrayal of the “end time”? Still I wanted to know more about this book. I studied and taught Bro Irwin Baxter’s material on prophecy called “Understanding the End Time”.
Then I stumbled across a number of studies that made an intelligent versus fanciful media-hyped approach to the book. It addressed Revelation as a coded message, but written to 1st century churches who were part of its history and time. The evidence focused on the date of the writing of the book of Revelation. It raised and answered the question, was Revelation written pre or post A.D. 70? The date A.D. 70 is an important date because it’s when the last Jewish Temple was destroyed by the armies of the Roman General Titus. Also, an investigation of the internal evidence and alignment with other texts as commentary overruled the temptation to rely on imagination and the media. Considering these points was one of the most enlightening and satisfying decisions in my quest to understand the message of Revelation.
Before we embark on this journey let’s answer some basic questions regarding this verse in Revelation chapter 17:
Who wrote the book of Revelation? The answer is John the Apostle!
Revelation 1:1 – “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
To whom was Revelation written to? The answer is seven Churches in Asia.
Revelation 1:11 – “Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”
When was the book of Revelation written? There are two major theories: Late Date Theory – 95 A.D. or the Early Date Theory – A.D. 60s.
I believe Revelation written in the 60s A.D. There are many reasons for this belief. John would have been over 90 yrs old if the 95 A.D. date is used. Paul built nine churches in this area. Three were destroyed by earthquakes. Only Laodicea was rebuilt. There was only a short window of time when there were seven churches. And that was the during the 60’s A.D. The most compelling reason for an early date is the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Revelation 11:1-2 mentions that the temple was measured. Not one verse in Bible speaks of a rebuilt Jewish Temple. What I have discovered is that all scriptures used to support a rebuilt Temple are referring to the return of the Jews from either Assyrian or Babylonian captivity. These are all past events that are not in our future. Also Revelation 17: 1-2 is similar to Luke 21:20-24 (referring to Jerusalem being trodden down). Jerusalem was “trodden down” in 70 A.D. Armies led by the Roman General Titus surrounded the city and utterly destroyed both the city as well as the Temple. History confirms that not one stone was left upon another just as Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24:2.
John’s Purpose in writing Revelation was to encourage God’s people: Revelation 1:1-3, to present everything he was told to say:
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” (Revelation. 1:1-3)
So what about “Mystery Babylon”? What follows are a few keys that were convincing to me.
What Is A Mystery?
A mystery is not something that cannot be known, but simply that which is not known until it is revealed. Many people think of the book of Revelation itself as a mystery. However, the word Revelation in Greek is apokalypsis, which means the “unveiling” or “revelation”. The seven points in this article will help you solve this “mystery”. In Revelation, “Babylon” is a code word for the mystery city.
What is significant about the ancient city-state of Babylon? Babylon is mentioned 250 times in our Bible. It is referred to by Bible writers as being the symbol of pagan idolatry. In the Hebrew language, the name Babylon is derived from the root “Babel”, meaning “to confound or confuse.” It has reference to the confusion of tongues that occurred at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:9). The Genesis account says the ancient prehistoric city of Babylon was founded by Cush and the followers of Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-10). The sins of Babylon were many and paralleled what was proclaimed in Genesis: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Isaiah condemned the city for its sensuality. In Babylon, fleshly lusts could easily be indulged. Babylon followed after the lust of the eyes conquering many weaker nations. Her capacity for bloodshed and violence were unconstrained. Babylon was a prideful kingdom. Nevertheless, she would be overthrown and brought low. Babylon is synonymous with sin, wickedness and rebellion against the one true living God.
However, the message in Revelation is not about ancient Babylon. It’s about a city referred to as “Mystery Babylon”. But what city? Is “Mystery Babylon” the city of Rome, New York, Washington, D.C., Moscow, or Peking? Or is “Mystery Babylon” the Catholic Church? The term “Mystery Babylon” was used by John as a sign to disguise, in code, the identity of a city. Why? It’s because this city, which was symbolic of ancient Babylon, was marked for destruction. And furthermore, the political climate of the day made it extremely dangerous to speak openly of destroying this city, especially by Christians who were viewed as its chief enemies. In the Book of Acts we read:
Acts 6:13-14 – “And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place [Jerusalem & the Temple], and the law: For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.”
Declaring that God was going to destroy Jerusalem and the Temple was a good way to get yourself killed in the first century. The preaching of Jerusalem’s impending destruction led to Stephen’s martyrdom in Acts chapter seven:
Acts 7:51-54 – “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.”
Its connection with ancient Babylon was because of its moral decay and idolatry. Ancient Babylon’s fall was precipitated by their pride and disrespect for God, the persecution of God’s people and the profaning of the Temple’s holy vessels. The King of Babylon, Belshazzar’s feast led to the demise of his kingdom. In Revelation, John is referring to another city that would also be destroyed just like the ancient city of Babylon. Hence the term “Mystery Babylon.”
“Mystery Babylon” Filled Up the Cup of Sin
The imagery of the filled cup of iniquity indicates that God’s period of longsuffering had run its course. Genesis 15:16 shows why God expelled the Amorites from the land in order that Israel might inherit Canaan. “But in the 4th generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” The reason he didn’t do so immediately was because the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. Their cup of sin had room for more and did not run its course until the time of the Exodus. God is longsuffering.
Likewise, Jesus spoke to the people of Jerusalem, warning them that they would fill up the measure of their father’s guilt in killing the prophets. Paul says they had filled up the measure of their sins and would experience the coming wrath:
1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 – “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.”
“Mystery Babylon” Guilty of Blood Shed
This city called “Mystery Babylon” was guilty of shedding the blood of the apostles & prophets.
In Revelation 18:19-20 we read – “And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in 1 hour is she made desolate. Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her.”
God avenged the blood of the apostles and prophets. Not only was their blood to be avenged, but God avenged all the bloodshed on the earth on Mystery Babylon. Jesus predicted the same for Jerusalem. In Matthew chapter 23, Jerusalem is charged with the blood guilt of all the righteous blood shed on the earth up to that time.
Matthew 23:34-37 – “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous bloodshed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!”
Jesus would send more wise men, scribes and prophets whom he said they would scourge in their synagogues and persecute from city to city until He (Jesus) destroyed Jerusalem. It, therefore, matches perfectly with this description.
“Mystery Babylon” Was Once a Queen.
The term “queen” implies that she is royalty by virtue that she is married to a “king”. This reference to a “queen” identifies the city as having a covenant relationship with God. Neither ancient Rome nor any other modern city could appropriately be considered as God’s wife. Through the Old Covenant, God was married to Jerusalem, (Jeremiah 2:14). Because of her unfaithfulness, God threatens divorce.
While “Mystery Babylon” claims to be a queen, she is widowed.
Revelation 18:7-8 – “How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.”
“Mystery Babylon” the Opposite of the New Jerusalem
The contrast between the two cities in Revelation is a strong clue to the identity of Mystery Babylon. After the great city, “Mystery Babylon” is destroyed, God blesses a New Jerusalem. That implies an Old Jerusalem. You can’t have a “New Jerusalem” without having an “Old Jerusalem”.
Galatians 4:24-26 – “Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.”
The “New Jerusalem” however is not an earthly city but one which comes down out of heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband:
Revelation 21:1-3 – “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”
Paul writes that the church is the bride of Christ. Here are two scriptures to highlight this fact. However, there are many more.
2 Corinthians 11:2 – “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.”
Ephesians 5:23-29 – “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.”
The new holy city Jerusalem, takes the position as bride, while the former adulterous wife receives death by fire.
“Mystery Babylon” Get Away While You Can
The call to God’s people to come out of Mystery Babylon” further aligns with the ancient city of Jerusalem.
Revelation 18:4 – “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
Prior to its destruction, Jesus warned that his disciples should flee the city to avoid its plagues of destruction, famine and death. (Matthew 24:15-17; Luke 21:20-22).
Luke 21:20-22 – “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”
“Mystery Babylon” Trodden Down of the Gentiles
In Luke 21:24, Jesus remarks that Jerusalem would be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled.
Luke 21:24 – “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, [Roman Army] until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
Unfortunately, today, many believe the Gentiles are rulers over the people of God. This is impossible as that period ended in A.D. 70 when Rome destroyed Jerusalem. It was the time when all things written were fulfilled, coming to pass before that generation passed away, (Luke 21:22, 32). As old Jerusalem was once called the faithful and holy city, John prophesied it was measured for destruction:
Revelation 11:2 – “But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under for forty and two months.”
Forty-two months equals 1,260 days or 3 1/2 years. This period in Daniel 7:25 symbolizes a limited period during which the wicked are triumphant. It also speaks of a period of wrath and judgment due to apostasy. Whereas the number seven is used to represent “wholeness” and “completion”, the number 3 1/2 appears to be a broken seven; symbolizing sadness, death and destruction.
“Mystery Babylon” The Great City” – Where The Lord Was Crucified
Further identifying “Mystery Babylon” as “The Great City”, leads us to clue number seven.
Revelation 17:18 – “And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.”
Revelation 18:10 – “Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come.”
The “great city” of Revelation is the city that is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified:
Revelation 11:8 – “And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.”
Besides the actual city of Sodom, there’s only one city in the Bible ever referred to as Sodom. And that city is Jerusalem. Jerusalem was “the great city” where our Lord Jesus was crucified.
Isaiah 1:10-11 – “Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.” [animal sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem]
Deuteronomy 32:32 – “For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter:”
The description, where also our Lord was crucified is strong evidence pointing to Jerusalem. Jesus Christ certainly wasn’t crucified in Rome! Further, it would be unusual that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem. In other words, Jerusalem was THE place where the prophets of the Old Testament perished.
Luke 13:33 – “Nevertheless I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.”
Adam Clarke’s Commentary gives us more insight into this subject: “Perish out of Jerusalem” —A man who professes to be a prophet can be tried on that ground only by the Grand Sanhedrin, which always resides at Jerusalem; and as the Jews are about to put Jesus to death, under the pretense of him being a false prophet, therefore his sentence must come from this city, and his death take place in it.”
Jerusalem was called the city of the great King:
Matthew 5:35 – “Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.”
To the Jews, Jerusalem was the greatest city in the world. Therefore, “Old Jerusalem” is A Perfect Match for “Mystery Babylon.” Everything said about Jerusalem in the gospels, is symbolically described as “Mystery Babylon” in the book of Revelation.
There are more contrasts and parallels, but these should at least get one thinking. Fanciful and colorful charts, like those presented by John Hagee and others, will forever fail to identify properly “Mystery Babylon”. As long as they are pointed in the future and toward some city or nation that has no antithesis with old Jerusalem. Furthermore, a modern or present day Jerusalem, doesn’t descend from heaven and can never be the holy city of Revelation chapter 21.
The message and meaning of Revelation seem best understood when one values the phrase “shortly to come to pass”, “time is at hand” time parameter. And keeping the message within a contemporary, historical setting of its 1st century hearers:
Revelation 1:1 – “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent & signified it by his angel unto his servant John:”
Revelation 1:3 – “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, & keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”
It may not frighten us as much, but it certainly encourages us with the message of faith, confidence in God’s sovereign power and victory over the forces of evil. The “Mystery Babylon” of the book of Revelation is clearly the ancient city of Jerusalem.