The Way It Happened

Revelation 18:24, Who is Babylon? Part II of IV

In [Babylon] was found the blood of the prophets and of the saints.

//Yesterday, I described Babylon, Revelation’s mystery whore, and promised her unveiling today. Most scholars lean toward Rome as Babylon’s identification. I listed several of her qualities, and a couple of them do sound an awful lot like Rome. But at least one seems like it can’t possibly match Rome (all the prophets and saints shed their blood there). Yet there is one identification—again, a city—that matches all the qualifications … if you think like a first-century prophet.

Babylon, I’m absolutely certain, refers to Jerusalem. Remember, we are not at all concerned with modern day Rome or Jerusalem, but what was in John’s mind as he penned the book of Revelation, and how his first-century audience would have interpreted the role of Babylon.

Throughout scripture, the prophets repeatedly condemn Israel as a harlot and end up stoned in Jerusalem. No, not in a good way. To Revelation’s first readers, the image of a harlot would have automatically brought to mind a myriad of prophetic pronouncements against Jerusalem in the Old Testament. Certainly, Matthew would agree: in 23:34-38, Jesus bemoans the desolate state of Jerusalem because she killed the prophets and stoned those sent to her, and declares that upon Jerusalem will come “all the righteous blood that has been shed on the earth.”

Perhaps we need to view the two cities, Jerusalem and Rome, from an early Christian perspective: as hopelessly entwined, in rule and custom, and inseparable. Jerusalem had lived under the occupation and rule of Rome for 100 years, and just as the original Babylon 600 years earlier swallowed up God’s people, the Jews again could not avoid integration.

Roman and Jewish leaders conspired to crucify Jesus, to raise abominable pagan idols and places of worship, to build seaports for trade, and reportedly even conspired with Nero Caesar to bring about the great persecution of the Christians that Revelation talks about. As Babylon rides upon the Beast, so does Jerusalem throw in her lot with Rome. “Babylon” denotes the city of Jerusalem as a city polluted with the influence of Rome.

What makes me so certain of this identification? More tomorrow.

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