The Way It Happened

Revelation 17:5, Who is Babylon? Part I of IV

This title was written on her forehead: Mystery Babylon the Great The Mother of Prostitutes And of the Abominations of the Earth. 

//Is it possible to solve the great mystery of Revelation’s Babylon? Around the turn of the first century, Christians began to equate Babylon in Revelation (and other contemporary apocalyptic writings) with Rome, by associating Babylon with the Beast. But a few centuries later, with Constantine’s help, Rome redeemed itself, and Christians began thinking of Babylon as merely all apostates, even competing Christian sects. It helped Rome’s reputation, of course, that Christianity had established a solid foundation in Rome. Then a thousand years later, with the Reformation, many Christians reversed course and again decided Babylon must be Rome, perhaps because this aided in denouncing the Catholic church. But all this begs the question. Who did John of Patmos mean by Babylon in the first place?

Over and over, it’s called a city. It’s still quite common today for Bible scholars to link Babylon with the Beast, and thus with Rome. There’s little question that, at least in certain passages, the Beast can be identified as Rome. And it’s also true that Babylon and the Beast are forever entwined, because Babylon rides upon the Beast. This doesn’t quite mean Babylon is the Beast … in fact, it probably means just the opposite … but they are clearly allies.

Let’s list some of the qualities of Babylon and see if you reach the same conclusion that most scholars reach.

[1] The Whore of Babylon sits upon seven mountains, just like Babylon rides the Beast. (There are seven famous hills in Rome).
[2] This great city rules over the kings of the earth.
[3] The kings of the earth fornicate with her and weep over her destruction. 
[4] Merchants grow rich buying and selling there and also lament her destruction.
[5] All the prophets and saints shed their blood there.
[6] God calls his people out of Babylon before its destruction.
[7] When she falls, so do the cities of the nations.

[8] Heaven rejoices over her downfall.

Does it still sound like Rome? Except to first-century readers, Babylon’s identity veils itself well. Tomorrow we’ll unveil her.

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